MASSILLON Massillon’s undefeated season remains intact. The Tigers, though, head into their biggest game of the year with a couple of big injury concerns.
Massillon emerged Friday night with a 24-0 win over visiting Louisville. However, in the process, both Tiger quarterback Aidan Longwell and center Cole Jones departed the game in the third quarter with injuries.
After the game, Massillon head coach Nate Moore declined to comment on the nature of either injury. Instead, he focused on the performance his team put forth in improving to 9-0 for the second consecutive season entering the annual rivalry game at McKinley.
“It’s a good ballgame against a good team,” said Moore, whose team has won 20 consecutive regular-season games. “We just kept playing ball.”
The injuries came in the midst of a penalty- and injury-filled third quarter that saw the Tigers pick up seven flags for 57 yards and the Leopards draw four for 30 yards. Louisville also saw running back Nathan Guiley leave the game with a leg injury as well in the quarter.
Massillon had fought its way to a 14-0 lead after it took the second-half kickoff and marched 48 yards to the end zone, with Terrance Keyes Jr. rushing the final 11 yards for the touchdown with 9:44 remaining in the third. The Tigers got the ball on the Louisville side of the 50 after it had unsuccessfully tried an onside kick.
It was on Massillon’s second third-quarter possession in which Longwell was injured as was hit while delivering an incomplete third-down pass. He left the game, with Zach Catrone coming in to play the final quarter and a half.
Catrone would throw a fourth-quarter touchdown to Andrew Wilson-Lamp, a 22-yarder, to give Massillon a 24-0 lead with 2:41 remaining. He was 2-of-4 passing with 33 yards in relief of Longwell.
Longwell was 11-of-19 for 114 yards with an interception in his time.
“I’m proud of him,” Moore said of Catrone, who had also come in for Longwell in last season’s regional-semifinal win over Columbus Whitehall-Yearling. “He did a great job.”
Louisville’s defense, while it would give up 17 second-half points, was stout for much of the game in not giving Massillon too many big plays. While the Tigers finished with 377 yards in the game, the Leopards were able to force a pair of missed field goals – one of which was blocked – while also limiting Massillon to just 5-of-11 on third-down conversions.
The biggest area where Louisville was able to succeed was at the line of scrimmage. Defensive ends Jason Goard and Tony Brahler combined for nine solo and six assisted stops, with Goard recording the Leopards’ lone sack.
“Our kids played hard,” said Louisville coach Jeff Twiddy, whose team falls to 5-4. “They’re really fast. I thought we were physical. I thought we played a good ballgame.”
The problem for Louisville was it was unable to take advantage of any opportunities it had to put points on the board. The Leopards had three drives inside the Tiger 40, two of which ended on downs and the third squelched by an interception by Massillon’s Preston Hodges.
Massillon’s defense limited Louisville to 192 total yards on 62 attempts. The Tigers held the Leopards to just 43 rushing yards on 30 carries.
“We played really well defensively,” Moore said. “I would’ve liked to get off the field a little sooner on a couple of drives. Other than that, it was a great ballgame by our defense.”
While Louisville couldn’t sustain its running game, Massillon’s running game thrived to a tune of 230 yards on 44 carries. Keyes finished with 157 yards on 26 carries for his fourth consecutive 100-plus-yard game.
Zion Phifer added 78 yards on 14 carries. He gave the Tigers a 7-0 lead with a 1-yard run with 9:41 remaining in the second quarter.
“Both of those guys grounded out a lot of really tough yards,” Moore said. “Zion is a great back and did a heck of a job.”
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