Massillon Downs Westerville South, Advances in Playoffs to Round 3
It didn’t take long for Massillon to put this game out of the reach of visiting Westerville South, winning 50-7. With machine-like precision, the offense scored the first three times it touched the ball, on drives of 93, 59 and 49 yards. A fourth that followed came via a fumble return, making the score 28-0 early in the second quarter. Meanwhile, the defense was its usual self, this time holding the opponent to a mere 75 yards of total offense, with most of that coming in the second half against the backups.
With the win the Tigers next face Uniontown Lake, a 21-20 triple-overtime winner over Big Walnut. The site of the game will be announced on Sunday. The other half of the regional bracket involved Canal Winchester defeating Watkins Memorial, 7-3, and Green besting North Canton, 23-21.
Massillon received the opening kickoff, but returned it only to their own seven, as the call was for a return to the opposite side of the field. Only, they failed to secure a block against South’s Isaac Patterson, who made a fine stop at the Tiger seven. But, after a 7-yard run by Ja’Meir Gamble, quarterback Da’One Owens kept on the next play and rumbled all the way to the Massillon 35, giving the offense some breathing room. And they took full advantage. Two plays later the Tigers were in the endzone when Owens hit Emy Louis Jr. with a precise sideline pass and Louis then outraced the defender to the goal line to complete a 40-yard score. Vinny Keller kicked the extra point, his first of six straight.
The Wildcats showed their only promising offense of the night against the Tiger starters on their first possession when they managed to pick up consecutive first downs and advance to the Tiger 41. But they were stopped on downs following a run for no gain and three incomplete passes.
Massillon responded with a 9-play 59-yard touchdown drive. The key play was a 20-yard pass from Owens to Braylyn Toles that placed the ball at the South 21. From there it took just three plays: a 12-yard jet sweep by Kyler Wiggins, a 5-yard run by Gamble and a 4-yard run by Owens.
The third score came on the first play of the second quarter when Owens faked the handoff and sprinted 21 yards into the end zone. Then came the fumble. On first and ten from the South 36, running back Nasir Phillips was stripped of the ball in the backfield by a hard-charging Mike Wright Jr. Vito McConnell was right there to pick it up in stride and he then raced 30 yards to the end zone. With Massillon leading 28-0, the game was essentially over at that point.
Later in the quarter, the Tigers engineered a 7-play 54-yard drive, which ended when Gamble scored from the seven. Gamble carried the ball in all seven plays with runs of 15, 12, 8, 3, 9, 0 and 7 yards. As expected South, similar to several previous Massillon opponents, was in blitz mode the entire game. But it was mostly ineffective, as Gamble was able to find the seams to get the big yards.
With 46 seconds remaining in the half, the Wildcats tried one more time to find some points. But on 3rd and 6 from their own 22, quarterback Dominic Birtha unloaded an errant pass that was promptly picked off by Tyler Hackenbracht and returned 29 yards for a touchdown, making the score 42-0.
The backups played the entire second half, under a running-clock situation. The Tigers scored when quarterback Eli Moore fired a 25-yard pass to Ricardo Wells, who won a wrestling match with the defender for possession of the ball and came down with it in the end zone for the score. The 2-point conversion try was successful when Moore faked a handoff and strolled untouched across the goal line.
South responded with a 6-play, 62-yard drive, with Birtha converting a 20-yard touchdown pass to Tyler Keilmeyer.
Massillon racked up 343 yards of offense, with 221 rushing and 122 passing, while averaging 7.8 yards per play. South had a net 75 yards, with 19 in the first half against the Tiger starters and 56 in the second half against the backups. Massillon punted just once, with Hackenbracht booting a wind-aided 40-yarder. The Wildcats punted five times.
Gamble led all rushers with 13 carries for 99 yards and a touchdown. Mylen Lenix added 56 and Owens 46. Owens completed 3 of 6 passes for 90 yards and one TD. Linebacker Shon Robinson, who filled in for the injured Dorian Pringle for the nearly the entire game, led all defenders with five tackles. Wright and Deangelo Zimmerman recorded two tackles-for-loss each. Wright also had a sack.
For South, the speedy Phillips carried 19 times and 43 yards. Birtha completed 5 of 16 passes for 31 yards and one TD and avoided all but one of the many sack attempts. Safety Jordan Wheeler had eight tackles and linebacker Kawa Preston had six, with one TFL.