Massillon Demolishes Central Crossing in First-Round Playoff Action
The state playoffs got underway Friday with Massillon, the Number 1 team in Region 7, hosting Number 16 Grove City Central Crossing. Using an overwhelming passing attack and a devastating defense, the Tiger rolled past the Comets, 41-6, with a running clock in place for the entire fourth quarter. With the win, Massillon advances to the second round, where they will host No. 9 Westerville South (7-3), a winner over No. 8 Columbus Briggs, 49-30.
Grove City perhaps knew that they couldn’t take away the entire Massillon offense due to the many weapons at their disposal. So, they elected to focus on stopping the run by using constant blitzes, very similar to the strategy employed by Warren Harding in an earlier Tiger game. While they did hold the Massillon running attack to just 100 yards and produced eight tackles-for-loss, they opened themselves up to the pass. That’s when quarterback Da’One Owens and his bevy of swift receivers clocked the Comet secondary to the tune of 341 yards passing and four touchdowns. The Tigers also scored the first four times they had the ball in rolling up nearly 250 yards of offense through the first quarter and a half.
Meanwhile, the defense was once again a dominating force, this time holding the opponent to a net 47 yards of offense, 14 on the ground and 33 in the air. They also recorded three quarterback sacks, although it seemed like more, and eleven tackles-for-loss. Linebacker Dorian Pringle was all over the field and ended the night with nine tackles and three TFLs. The only time Central Crossing was able to get in the board was on a 5-yard drive following a blocked punt, when stellar running back Malik Kamara (Navy) scored on a sweep to the left. It was the first running touchdown surrendered by the first team defense the entire season.
Massillon received the opening kickoff and drove 64 yards in ten plays to take an early 7-0 lead, with Pringle powering in from the three. The key play was a third down, 24-yard pass from Owens to Emy Louis Jr. Vinny Keller then kicked the first of his five successful PATs.
After holding the Comets to a 3-and-out, the Tiger offense returned to the field at their own 33. This time it took just three plays to cover the 67 yards, with the finish a perfectly thrown, 49-yard bomb from Owens to Braylyn Toles, who had beaten the defender down the middle of the field.
Once again Central Crossing was stopped, having started a drive at their own 25, then punting from the 18. Owens passed 12 yards to Jacques Carter and then went deep to Carter for a 49-yard score and Massillon’s third touchdown, while still in the first quarter.
Another 3-and-out for the Comets. Another punt. This time it took eight plays to cover 56 yards. An 18-yard run by Mylen Lenix for a first down. A 14-yard pass to fullback Deangelo Zimmerman for a first down. A 15-yard run by Lenix for a first down. A 13-yard run by Lenix for a first down to advance the ball to the six. On third and goal at the nine, the “jumbo” package entered the game, with Pringle and “Big” Mike Wright, one of the heroes of the McKinley game, lining up at running back. Wright gained four and then Pringle bulled the rest of the way. Score, 28-0. Game over.
The Tigers had a chance to tally a fifth touchdown before halftime, but it was a near-miss at the end zone on a skinny pass to Carter.
In the third quarter, Owens fumbled at his own 41. Central Crossing lost ground in three plays and was forced to punt, with Tyler Hackenbracht returning the ball 38 yards to midfield. But a questionable block in the back (it was more a shove against his right shoulder), brought the ball back to the Massillon 30. A holding penalty on the first play negated an 18-yard run by Owens and eventually Hackenbracht was forced to punt for the first and only time of the night. That’s when the Comets blocked it and took over at the five, setting up their lone score.
A renewed energy was evident in the Massillon offense after that event and, following an onside kick that was recovered by Pringle, the Tigers needed just four plays to cover the 51 yards. A 21-yard pass to Toles, an 11-yard pass to Toles, a 4-yard run by Owens and a 15-yard pass to Louis did the trick. The Tigers then tried for a 2-point conversion to send the game into running-clock, but they came up just short. That would need to wait for the next possession.
The final score came when Owens connected with Toles on a 20-yard pass. It was set up by a 20-yard completion to Jadyce Thigpen. After that, the backups took over.
Owens finished the night completing 20 of 27 passes for 341 yards and four touchdowns. The 341 yards is ranked sixth all-time in the Massillon record book. Toles caught eight passes for 125 yards and two touchdowns. Carter grabbed six for 100 yards and a score. Lenix led all rushers with six carries for 47 yards. Hackenbracht had four kick returns for 73 yards. Pringle had nine tackles and Cody Fair had seven. Massillon was penalized seven times (traditional average) for 80 yards.
For Central Crossing, quarterback Luke White completed six of twelve passes for 33 yards. White also led the team with eight tackles. Kamara rushed 14 times for a net 26 yards and a touchdown. Dyhlan Phillippi had a good night, punting eight times with an average of 38.1 yards per attempt.
On a comical note, Owens was flagged for a block in the back while he was on the bench, Zach Liebler was called for holding while he was returning a kick and some “red team” was called for an off-setting personal foul. That third call sent the fans into a laughable frenzy, for there is no “red” in Massillon. Shame! Indeed, refereeing sports is a challenging profession.