CANTON -- The Mansfield Senior football team took north central Ohio on an epic ride this fall.
The Tygers boldly traveled where no Senior High football team has gone before, reaching the Division III state finals in Canton. And, for the third consecutive week, coach Chioke Bradley's ninth-ranked squad pushed the game into overtime.
This time, however, Mansfield Senior fell just short in a 14-7 loss to seventh-ranked Trotwood Madison. Still, the journey to a state runner-up finish created a memory that should linger over the community for years to come.
Friday afternoon's attendance of 5,700 was overwhelmingly peppered with Tyger pride. The orange-filled side of Tom Benson Stadium proved to be loud and proud.
Jason Mitchell took a rare day off so he and his family could see the capstone to the historic season.
"It's amazing," he said. "I took off work so me, my wife and daughters could be there. You can't miss this. We're here and we're excited."
For Mary Reese, it was an honor to watch her son Chioke Bradley coach the game and her two grandsons, Mahki and Miles play.
"I am so excited. It is so here to be in this amazing state championship game," she said.
Other Tyger and Lucas fans (the Cubs play for a state title Saturday morning) submitted their comments online all week to Richland Source through the Open Source forum.
"I have watched this community come together to support two sets of young people (from Lucas and Mansfield Senior)," said Michele Miller. "It has been wonderful to see everyone doing everything they could to let these young men know how special they are. It just shows what we can do when we all work together."
Rob Beasely said he believes the Tygers have long had the talent to get this far, but this year it all came together.
"It’s great to see an unselfish team with a coach who has the heart of lion, the grit and passion for the game like Chioke," Beasely said. "Go get a 'ship, bring one home for the alumni and for the city. After it’s all said and done, all you’ll have is babies and memories, babies and memories."
Wanda Massey is twice proud this weekend.
"Clay Caudill, of the Mansfield Tygers, and Logan Niswander, of the Lucas Cubs, shared Thanksgiving dinner here at my home," she said. "Much love and encouragement was shared as these two grandsons, their parents and siblings looked forward to the games last Friday and Saturday nights. On to the State Championship! A proud Grandma here!"
Mansfield Senior attendance officer Kari Cawrse said energy filled the halls at the school this week.
"As a staff member at Mansfield Senior High school, it has meant seeing school spirit return to our building," she said. "It is also seeing our community come together and support this team. This is a very special group of young men.
"I have been around long enough to see other teams come and go, but this one has something special. I'm guessing it's the JUICE! Coach Bradley and his staff have done a tremendous job preparing this team and getting them to believe! Wishing my TY Tygers all the best for Friday's state championship game!"
Rod Zahn said the Tygers and Cubs both made history this season.
"It is great for our community. It is great for those young men playing in the two games. Win or lose, they are all winners. Remember, Mansfield Senior won the state championship in 1949, beating Massillon Tigers," Zahn said.