CANTON Two passes by two teams with two different results.
However, there was just one ultimate result from both of them: A 24-14 Massillon victory over McKinley in their 130th meeting, at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium on Saturday afternoon, giving the Tigers their second consecutive 10-0 regular season.
The first pass came with just over three minutes remaining and the Tigers clinging to a 17-14 lead. McKinley had moved the ball to the Massillon 17, where the Bulldogs faced fourth-and-4.
Elijah Wesley threw toward tight end Jasper Robinson. However, Andrew Wilson-Lamp, who played his season high in defensive minutes, deflected the pass to turn the ball over the Tigers on downs.
“(Cornerbacks coach Jason Jarvis) always talks to us about staying ready,” said Wilson-Lamp, who did not have a pass break-up all season entering the game. “I stayed ready. My time came today.”
The fourth-down stop still left Massillon with three minutes to burn off in order to preserve a fourth consecutive win over its archrival. The Tigers managed to burn about half that off, but still were left with about 80 seconds and a third-and-6 from their own 21.
With both teams still owning a timeout, conventional wisdom suggested running the ball to force McKinley to use its final timeout. The Tigers, though, threw conventional wisdom — and the ball — into the wind.
The result was a 79-yard game-sealing touchdown pass from Aidan Longwell to Jayden Ballard. It provided Massillon with the first two-score lead of the day at 24-14 with 1:13 remaining.
“We’ve got matchups,” said Longwell, who shook off an injury both in last week’s win over Louisville as well as in the second quarter Saturday to throw for 206 yards and two TDs. “We had Drew and Jayden on that play, just looking for the better matchup. Jayden was the one who had the matchup. We trust him to go make the play.”
It was the perfect book-end on the day for the Tiger passing combo, who had connected on a 12-yard score with 2:21 remaining in the first half to tie the game at 7-7. Ballard finished with nine catches for 114 yards and the two scores.
McKinley, which saw its six-game win streak come to an end to finish the regular season at 8-2, gave Massillon everything it could handle throughout the game.
“It was a great environment,” first-year head coach Marcus Wattley said. “The fans were great. We did some stuff that was out of character and made some mistakes, but the atmosphere was electric. It’s nice that it’s not over, that the season didn’t end on that note. We’ve got to get over it and move forward.”
The Bulldogs, who likely will host Solon in the Division I playoffs Friday, capitalized on a pair of Tiger turnovers for each of their leads.
After a punt bounced off the back of a blocking Massillon player, McKinley recovered at the 50. Seven plays later, Wesley threw a perfect 34-yard strike to Xavier Black in the end zone for a 7-0 lead with three seconds left in the first quarter.
After Massillon had milked the first 7:20 of the third quarter, Harold Fanin came up with a fourth-down interception at the McKinley 20. Eight plays later, Lameir Garrett ripped off a 48-yard TD run to give the Bulldogs a 14-10 lead with 1:28 remaining.
That lead lasted all of 16 seconds. That’s how long it took for Terrance Keyes Jr. to get loose for a 63-yard TD run on the first play of Massillon’s next possession, giving the Tigers the lead back for good at 17-14.
“It was just getting a feel of it,” said Keyes, who rushed for 141 yards and a score on 21 carries. “Like I said, the atmosphere, it was just crazy. It was kind of nerve-wracking. … I just had a mindset that, I don’t care if I score, I don’t care about the stats, I just want to get the win.”
Garrett’s 48-yard run helped him rush for 159 yards on 25 carries, the most rushing yards by an individual against Massillon this season. Of McKinley’s 300 net yards, 179 came on the ground, which also was a season high allowed by the Tigers.
However, it still wasn’t enough to prevent the Tigers from extending their hot streak in the series to 8-1.
“We did some things that were out of character a little bit,” McKinley senior linebacker Joseph Saipaia said. “The effort was there, but we just didn’t execute.”
Massillon has won 21 consecutive regular-season games as it heads into the Division II state playoffs.
“Our mentality has always been there’s going to be big plays,” Massillon linebacker Benjamin Krichbaum said. “This is a big game. Big plays are going to happen because these are both two good teams. When they do, we focus on next play. Go to the next play.”
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