Massillon Wins Regional Championship, Continues to Roll
Massillon (14-0) defeated Green (10-4) to capture its 16th regional playoff title in the 52-year history of OHSAA state tournament. The mark is the second most among all large Ohio schools, with only Cincinnati Moeller having more, with 19. The Tigers entered the season as a heavy favorite to win the region and they didn’t disappoint, with the players hoisting the award with great enthusiasm following the game. Next up is a state semi-final match against Cincinnati Anderson (13-1), their only loss being 56-35 to Milford (11-1). The game will be played at Crew Stadium in Columbus.
Small craft advisories were up on Friday night at Hoover Stadium with a strong wind howling out of the north end zone continually throughout the game, wreaking havoc on the passing and kicking games of both teams. But in the end, the Tigers simply had a bigger boat, plowing their way through the white-capped waves, as opposed to the small-masted dinghy of the Bulldogs, which were quickly left behind, stranded at sea, bucking the strong blow.
Placing the passing game in the drawer, Massillon reverted to a throwback, run-only offense, utilizing two massive fullbacks with just two wide receivers. The playbook was reduced to quarterback Da’One Owens and running backs Ja’Meir Gamble and Mylen Lenix sharing the load, with an occasional jet sweep tossed in. In fact, only four passes were thrown the entire night. The attack was devastating to Green and the Tigers never once punted the ball.
Massillon scored its final touchdown with just under five minutes remaining in the third quarter, sending the game into a running-clock situation. After that, the backups were inserted on both sides of the ball. Up until that time, however, they had rushed 45 times for 325 yards (7.2 ave). That, in spite of Green stacking the line to stop the run by changing from an odd-front to an even-front and using three linebackers. The Tigers ended up converting 7 of 12 third down conversions and 2 of 2 on fourth down using the “jumbo” package of Lenix and Mike Wright Jr. Owens left the game with 107 yards rushing. Gamble had 97 and Lenix added 54.
Meanwhile, the first-team defense held the Bulldogs to negative 12 yards on the ground on 12 attempts and 5 of 24 passing for 57 yards. The quarterback was under pressure the entire night, forcing many errant passes, compounding the difficulties posed by the wind. And he was sacked twice, once by Chase Bond and once by Malachi Card. Tyler Hackenbracht also picked off a pass off a Zach Liebler deflection.
But again, the Tigers missed some opportunities and took just a 14-0 lead into the locker room. There was a fumble into the end zone that was recovered by Green. There was a kickoff that was knocked down by the wind that a Bulldog receiver elected to field on the bounce. Only it hopped straight into the air. Several Massillon players had their hands on it, but it eventually was covered by Green. Then there was the fumble at midfield after forcing a wind-hampered punt by Green. Even the backups lost a good chance. After blocking a punt and taking over at the Green 11, they gave the ball back three plays later on a fumbled handoff.
The one thing Massillon wanted most was a fast start. And they got that by scoring on each of its first two possessions. After receiving the opening kickoff, the Tigers engineered a 7-play 75-yard march, with Da’One Owens lighting it up on the first play with a 43-yard run, right through the middle of the Green line. After a Bulldog punt, Massillon took over at its own 21. Ten plays later the Tigers were in the end zone. During the drive, Gamble carried the ball five times for 50 yards, picking up three first downs. At no time during the two series did the Tigers attempt a pass.
On the third possession Massillon fumbled at midfield and on the fourth try they fumbled into the end zone.
Nevertheless, they found themselves in the third quarter and posted 17 points, starting with a 35-yard field goal by Vinny Keller. Next came a jet sweep by Jacques Carter, who is one of the fastest players on the team. On second and seven from the 50, Carter took the handoff from Owens, turned the corner near the right sideline and then swiftly sped through several would-be tacklers. Once clear, there was no stopping him until he reached the end zone.
The final score came on the next series when the Tigers drove 40 yards in six plays, with Gamble toting the pigskin on each play, with the exception of the final 3-yard run, which belonged to Owens. At that point the starters were through for the night, owning a 31-0 lead.
Green scored in the fourth quarter against the Tiger backups when quarterback Samino Manson found favored receiver Zachary Bagilo wide open far down the middle of the field owing to a missed coverage for a 66-yard score.
Now it is off to Columbus as Massillon, the Number 1 rated team in Ohio, continues its quest for a state title.