POLAND, Ohio (WKBN) – Poland’s playoff win over top-seeded Perry last Saturday night may have been a surprise to some across the state. However, it certainly was not a surprise to the Bulldogs.
“I’ve been proud of this senior group, to kind of put blinders on and focus on just what we need to do to be the better team,” Head Coach Ryan Williams said.
“We just knew that, inside our locker room, that if we played our brand of football and did our assignment, that we were gonna be able to come out with a win,” said Senior Linebacker Zach Ellis.
The Bulldogs’ formula for success is a potent rushing attack that all starts in the trenches. Poland features none of the biggest and best offensive lines in the entire area.
“It’s not really a play that we do, it’s an attitude,” Senior Lineman Alex Feliciano said. “That’s what our coaches tell us every single day. It’s not what we do, it’s how we do it. So yeah, we just like to be aggressive and that’s it.”
Standing in the Bulldogs’ way of a trip to the state championship in Canton is undefeated Licking Valley. The Panthers have won eight regional titles in program history but no team in Ohio has made as many final four appearances without winning a state title.
“This team has a ton of tradition,” Williams said. “Their coach has been there 35 to 36 years, something like that. Sixteen or 17 regional championship games and playoff runs. They’re a tremendous program. They’ve won all kinds of different ways.”
With a victory on Saturday night, the Bulldogs would clinch their first trip to the state championship game in 20 years.
“It’s been my goal since I was six years old…looking up at my older siblings. It would mean everything to us,” Ellis said.
“Any team that’s done right now would love to be in our shoes. It means the world to us. It’s a blessing, really,” Feliciano said.
“You know, that’s the highest thing that you can accomplish, is playing for a state title,” Williams said. “So to do that would mean everything. It would mean everything to these seniors and the coaching staff, and it would just kind of cap off kind of the magical season that this group has put together.”
Poland and Licking Valley will kick off Saturday at 7 p.m. at Massillon’s Paul Brown Tiger Stadium.