Newark Catholic senior defensive end Caden Canning holds the American flag before the Green Wave's Week 3 victory against Columbus Academy. (Credit/@newarkcatholichighschool, Facebook)
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Just one year ago, Coach Ryan Aiello and his team were walking home after losing to John F. Kennedy High School just one step from a State Championship Birth.
Yet, the Green Wave came back this season determined culminating in last week's victory over JFK 14-7.
Aiello said this win was a great achievement for both the team and the fans.
"I'm so proud for all my kids," Aiello said. "This football team, our community, it was just a great accomplishment. collaborative effort for sure."
Now, the No. 3 Green Wave has reached that coveted final round, but they are not done yet.
Aiello and his team now play No. 1 Marion Local at 10:30 a.m. on Saturday at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium in Canton to decide who the best team in Ohio Division VII football is.
Newark Catholic comes into State Championship weekend as the lone central Ohio team playing for a title.
Aiello said this, along with the talented teams his team has played, are why they deserve to be in this position.
"I think it's a testament to why we're here," Aiello said. "The type of teams that we face and styles of offenses that the teams that we see, I think, is a big reason for why we're here."
The Green Wave is no stranger to success going 8-4 in 2020 and 9-3 in 2019.
Newark Catholic's 14-1 record is its best record in years, yet it comes just three years after Aiello and his team went 3-8.
That losing record forced the Green Wave to adjust and improve in the coming years.
Aiello said that the lack of success drove his team to reach higher standards year after year.
"It was a learning experience," Aiello said. "I think the expectations just continue to increase with the historic program like we were at Catholic."
These expectations culminate in this Saturday's State Championship in which Newark Catholic will be playing one of Ohio's toughest teams.
Marion Local is 15-0 and comes off winning each of its four playoff games by three possessions or more including a 34-7 blowout Hopewell-Loudon in the State Semifinals.
The Flyers have six shutouts on the season and have only allowed over eight points three times. On offense, they have consistently shined averaging 39 points per game.
Aiello said that it is Marion Local's discipline that makes sure that he will need to get his team ready for the game.
"One thing that jumps off the tape as you watch it is just how fundamentally sound they are in their executions," Aiello said. "It starts with our preparation, making sure we clean up our mistakes from last Saturday and make sure we continue to move forward in a positive way."
By the end of Saturday's game, one team will be crowned victor of Ohio Division VII football.
No matter what has occurred before this game, all that matters is that both teams want to end this season on a win.
Will Marion Local stay perfect, or will the Green Wave bring a State Championship back to Newark Catholic?
All will be decided Saturday, Dec. 4 at 10:30 a.m. at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium in Canton.