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Winton Woods roars from behind to end Massillon’s run

Chris Easterling – The Independent

COLUMBUS Massillon couldn’t have asked for a better way to start its Division II state semifinal Friday night. The Tigers, though, would love to forget the way it ended.

Despite a three-touchdown lead in the second quarter, Massillon couldn’t keep explosive Cincinnati Winton Woods from coming alive. The Warriors did just that, racing past the Tigers 56-21 to end Massillon’s playoff run at Columbus St. Francis DeSales’ Alumni Stadium.

“They played well,” Massillon coach Nate Moore said. “We had some mistakes in there. We just couldn’t get it back on track.”

Game action vs. Winton Woods 2017

The win sends Winton Woods, now 13-1, into next Thursday night’s Division II state championship game in Canton against Hoban, which is looking for its third consecutive state title, but first in Division II. Massillon, meanwhile, ends its season at 10-4 after its first state-semifinal appearance since 2009.

Winton Woods scored 56 points in a row, turning a 21-0 Massillon lead with 8:36 into a 56-21 advantage with 58 seconds remaining. The Warriors scored on six of their final seven possessions, not including a punt return for a score and an interception return for a touchdown.

“That’s just who we are,” Winton Woods coach Andre Parker said. “A lot of times, we take things the hard way. We made it hard. We gave them a couple of plays early, and they made some plays early and they jumped out to a 21-0 lead. There was no panic on our sidelines. We’ve been here before.”

Three plays into the game, Massillon was sitting exactly where it would hope it would be sitting. The Tigers were in possession of a 7-0 lead.

The game started with Anthony Ballard intercepting Winton Woods on the first play from scrimmage. After an incomplete pass on Massillon’s first play, Aidan Longwell hit Austin Kutscher on a slip screen to the left.

From there, Kutscher did the rest, racing 67 yards for a Tiger touchdown 28 seconds into the game.

Winton Woods appeared poised to answer with a score of their own. However, the Warriors fumbled the ball at the Tiger 1 and Massillon recovered in the end zone for a touchback.

After Massillon’s third possession ended with a pair of penalties and a punt which rolled dead at the Tiger 26. The Massillon defense, though, bowed up and limited Winton Woods to just three net yards and forced it to try a 40-yard field goal.

The field-goal try never got past the line of scrimmage, getting blocked. While the Warriors just stood around look, Ballard wisely picked up the football and ran untouched into the end zone for a 73-yard touchdown.

Klay Moll’s second point-after kick of the night made it 14-0 Massillon with 2:11 remaining in the first quarter.

That score would grow to 21-0 in favor of the Tigers with 8:36 remaining in the half. Massillon broke into the bag of tricks to do so, as Tyee Broyles took the pitch, then flipped it back to receiver Jayden Ballard coming back toward the right.

Ballard then threw the ball to a wide-open Kutscher for a 50-yard touchdown.

“We had some things that we liked,” Moore said. “We made some good calls at some good times. We got on the board and got some stops.”

Winton Woods, though, would come alive to end the half. The Warriors answered on their next drive, as Navar Gannaway pulled in a 15-yard touchdown pass from Kenny Mayberry – a ball which just slipped past a Tiger defender – to pull wiuthin 21-7 with 4:47 remaining in the half.

It was 21-14 just over two minutes later. This time, it was a 42-yard punt return by Cornell Beachem for a Warrior score with 2:32 left in the half after the Tigers went three-and-out.

Massillon had a chance to add to its margin before the half, but a fourth-and-10 pass from the Winton Woods 29 was just out of the reach of a Tiger receiver in the end zone.

Winton Woods would tie the game on its first possession of the third quarter. After a Tiger three-and-out and a big punt return by Beachem – with 15 more yards tacked on for a horse-collar tackle – the Warriors started at Massillon 22.

Two plays later, Miyan Williams was running it in from five yards out for the touchdown. Yeri Velasquez’s PAT kick tied the game at 21-21 with 9:50 left in the third.

Chris Oats intercepted a deflected pass on Massillon’s next possession and returned it 52 yards for the touchdown. Velasquez’s PAT kick made it 28-21 Warriors with 7:26 left in the third.

A blocked quick-kick try by Massillon put Winton Woods at the Tiger 23. Next play, Beachem raced the necessary yardage for a 35-21 Warrior lead with two minutes left in the third.

Williams and Gannaway would work together to make it 42-21 Warriors. Williams ran for the first 20 yards on a running play, then lateralled it to Gannaway at the Tiger 3. Gannaway would run it in from there for the touchdown early in the fourth quarter.

Mayberry’s 8-yard run with 8:02 remaining made it 49-21 Winton Woods. Anthony Clark’s 4-yard run with 58 seconds left closed out the scoring.

GAME STATS