PARMA Massillon coach Nate Moore believes in a workmanlike approach to a game.
To the fifth-year Tiger mentor, it’s all about punching the clock on game night and putting in a full 48-minute effort. That’s regardless of who the player is or what may be their perceived role.
On Friday night in a Division II state semifinal against Avon at Parma’s Byers Field, those business-like approaches helped the Tigers run their way to a 35-10 win and a second consecutive berth in the state championship game.
Massillon, 14-0, will face Cincinnati La Salle on Thursday night in Canton for the state title.
The approach started with senior running back Zion Phifer, who stepped into the starting role due to an injury to Terrance Keyes Jr. Phifer clocked and helped to knock out the Eagles thanks to a 146-yard, four-touchdown performance on 20 carries.
“He went out there and did his job,” Moore said. “I’m proud of him for it.”
Phifer’s four touchdown runs came in a variety of styles. There were runs where he was virtually untouched and others where he ran over defenders.
Then, there was his final run, a 25-yarder in the third quarter, in which he spun out of the pile and ran into the end zone. That provided Massillon with a 28-10 lead.
The final score came thanks to Raekwon Venson, a one-yard run with just over seven minutes remaining. Venson ran for 54 yards on nine carries.
“They’re physical, obviously,” Avon coach Mike Elder said of Massillon’s running game. “If you’re going to win these games, you do it in the offseason, you do it in the weight room. You do it with genetics, that’s part of the deal. They’re a physical football team.”
That physicality started up front with a Massillon offensive line which was forced to shuffle a bit when guard John Kouth went down with an early injury. Dylan Garretson, however, came in to fill the void.
It wasn’t the first time Garretson has been called upon to help fill in a vacancy. Like Phifer and Venson, though, the performance was exactly what Moore expected to see when he went in the game.
“He did his job when called upon,” Moore said. “That’s not something, that’s the expectation. That’s the expectation. I’m not going to make it into something it’s not.”
That line helped Massillon rush for 185 net yards on 32 carries. Both Phifer and Venson averaged at least 6.1 yards a rush.
“I’m proud of them,” Moore said. “I’m super proud of them. But I’m proud of everybody.”
Reach Chris at 330-775-1128 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
On Twitter: @ceasterlingINDE