By Gary R. Rasberry
MASSILLON -- "M-A-C! M-A-C!"
The chant got plenty of air time in Stark County on Saturday.
With Coldwater and St. John's both winning state titles on Saturday, the Midwest Athletic Conference made even more history than normal.
For the first time, the MAC had two state champions crowned the same weekend, raising the total of 14 state titles for MAC teams.
St. John's earned its fourth state title and the second of the day for the MAC. It was MAC 61, Foes 9 on Saturday.
Not only a great honor for the MAC, but it appears it's a first for any conference in the state.
In the current run of titles, only Versailles in 2003, Coldwater this season and Marion Local in 2001 have done the double of winning the MAC title and the state title in a season.
St. Henry (the 2004 D-V champs) lost to Coldwater last season and in 2000 Coldwater beat state champ Marion Local. St. John's did the double all three years of its first three state titles from 1997-1999. Before that, St. Henry did the double in 1995.
One of the credits the MAC coaches give to its success in the postseason is simply just playing in the MAC.
"Every week in the conference, and our first game was against Bellevue, so we have seen playoff-caliber teams every other week or three weeks in a row," said St. John's coach Todd Schulte. "Our kids are used to that style of play we'll get in the playoffs. We see it all in our league. For a small school league, it's darn tough. You have to learn to compete in the MAC. The kids get used to the level they have to raise to when competing in the league. It carries over.
"It's neat to have two schools from our league to claim the state championship."
"The MAC prepares us well for the postseason," said Blue Jay standout Curtis Laudick. "That's what helps us."
It's just not the competition, it's the support the other MAC schools give to MAC schools in the playoffs. It's not unusual to see other MAC school jackets watching area teams in the playoffs. A number of St. John's fans made the trip to Canton before their team's game to watch Coldwater.