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STATE CHAMPS!!!  Massillon Runs the Table to Take Home the Crown

Game Statistics

Division 2 Bracket

Say goodbye to the proverbial monkey, for it’s been lifted from the backs of the Massillon community, never to be seen again.  That, after the Tigers defeated Akron Hoban 7-2 to capture their first state title in the playoff era. The OHSAA trophy now takes its honored place next to the 24 other state title trophies that Massillon won prior to the playoffs, a mark often ridiculed by outside parties, who discount the poll championships.

The home side filling up as the game approached.

A crowd of 13,329 mostly Massillon fans packed Canton’s Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium to witness history in the making.  They came early to get the choice seats.  They wore their orange and black.  They were loud.  And they supported the Tigers without a break from the pre-game warmup to the game’s end.  And they didn’t leave until their victorious team had left the field.  But it didn’t end there.  Several thousand headed to a noisy, horn-honking downtown Massillon to welcome the team back and then celebrated the achievement with them at Duncan Plaza well into the night.

It was a defensive struggle unlike that seen by Massillon fans in many years, with just a single touchdown on the scoreboard by the end.  Both teams were billed as having outstanding defenses and they didn’t disappoint, forcing eleven punts between them and holding opposing offenses to less than four yards per carry on the ground and 7 of 21 in the air. But in the end, it came down to which team made the fewest mistakes.  Although Hoban held the advantage in the statistics, they also held the edge in crucial errors and that ultimately cost them the game.  Not to take anything away from the magnificent performance turned by the Tiger defense, which kept the Knights out of the end zone the entire night with a “bend but don’t break” attitude and allowed only two drives to enter the red zone, one at the beginning and one at the end.  They were also turnover-free, with just four penalties for 25 yards.

Mylen Lenix

Midway through the second quarter the Knights were forced to punt from their own 29.  The punter couldn’t cleanly catch the ball and it fell forward onto the carpet.  He immediately ran forward and picked up the ball, while again attempting to punt.  Only, Chase Bond now had time to close and block the kick, with the ball quickly pounced on Malachi Card.  Massillon took over in good field position, but couldn’t advance against the stingy Knight defense.  Only, problems continued for Hoban when, on 4th and 10 from the Massillon 28, a defender grabbed Da’One Owen’s facemask while he was stepping into the pocket to throw and didn’t let go until the upended Owens was on the ground.  The penalty: fifteen yards and first down, with the ball now resting at the Knight 14.  In comes the jumbo package, with Mylen Lenix and Mike Wright Jr. in the backfield.  Lenix got the first carry and he picked up three yards.  Wright was next and he advanced it to the six.  But Lenix’s second carry was golden; right up the middle for a touchdown, behind some great blocking by every member of the offensive line.  Vinny Keller’s PAT was good and the Tigers had a lead they would never relinquish.

But that wasn’t the only crucial mistake made by Hoban.  On their first possession of the game they went on a 10-play, 58-yard drive deep into Massillon territory.  But it came to an end when quarterback Tylar Boykin fumbled the snap and Pringle was right there to pounce on it to halt the threat.

The most crucial mistake came right at the end of the game after Massillon was stopped on downs.  The Tigers were facing a 4th and 3 from their own 40 when the coaches elected to run a fake punt.  Unfortunately, Shon Robinson’s run came up just short and Hoban took over at the Massillon 42 with 7:33 remaining in the game.  The smart play would have been to punt, but a successful fake would have resulted in more time being taken off the clock, given that the Knights were out of time outs.

Nine plays later Hoban was sitting pretty at the Tiger ten with a 3rd and 1.  Only, the next snap sailed past the quarterback’s right ear and a Hoban player was fortunate enough to fall on the ball at the 17, with Wright also on the play.  Now it was fourth down and a pass was called for.  Boykin dropped back to the 25 and looked over the middle for an open receiver.  But all were covered.  So he looked to his right and found a secondary receiver, who was running an outside curl rout toward right side of the end zone.  Pringle, who was on a blitz, recognized the threat at the same time and reversed direction 180-degrees to provide coverage.  As he closed the gap the receiver was racing across the front of the end zone toward the boundary.  Boykin rolled to his right and while on the run lofted a pass some 35 yards in his direction.  But it was coming in just a tad low and the receiver did not have time adjust his route to the ball flight.  So he went low for for the catch.  Meanwhile, Pringle was now in position to make a play, jerked his right elbow away at the same time the ball arrived, opportunely preventing the completion.  The ball then bounced off the receiver’s chest and fell harmlessly to the ground.  That was it.  The game was over and the Tigers had won.  There was 1:22 left on the clock, Massillon had the ball and the Knights were out of timeouts.  Two knees later the game was over.

Dorian Pringle

In between all that action the defenses dominated.  After Hoban was stopped on their initial possession, Massillon drove 59 yards in nine plays, but ran out of downs at the Knight 22, with Owen’s long 4th down pass to Braylyn Toles was just off his fingertips in the end zone.  During the drive Owens carried the ball five times for 54 yards, with runs of 11, 29 and 14 yards.  It was what Tigers fans were expecting.  But after that, Hoban adjusted and Owens rushed for just 28 yards the rest of the way.

After an exchange of punts, two by Hoban and one by Massillon, the Tigers got their touchdown.

Later in the second quarter a Knight punt was downed inside the one yard line and Massillon could not push it out, surrendering a safety.  Interestingly, on the first try from scrimmage, Owens found daylight on the right side of the line, aided by a great seal block against the inside linebacker by Mike Wright Jr.  Owens was in the clear and might have taken the ball to the house, except the whistle blew just after he crossed the line of scrimmage and the play was called back for motion on the ever so slightly leaning running back.  In hindsight, the safety might have been advantageous to the Tigers, since a punt from the end zone would have given Hoban great field position with which to tie the score.  As it was, the Knights returned the ensuing kickoff to their own 48 and were subsequently intercepted by Vito McConnell at the Tiger 43 to quell any threat.

The second half was a mirror of the first as the teams took turns trading punts, up until Massillon’s fake punt and Hoban’s missed touchdown opportunity.  With two plays left and the Knights out of timeouts, Owens twice took a knee to secure the victory and the state title.

The subsequent celebration by both the players on the field and the fans in the stands was one of the greatest experiences for the Massillon community in a long time.  For it’s been 53 years since the last state title and only a small minority of present-day fans were around then.  But this one will be cherished for a long time, while an energized Tiger team will gear itself in the off-season to prepare for another deep playoff run.

A shout-out should go to both punters.  Massillon’s Tyler Hachenbracht punted five times for an average of 36.2 yards and a long of 42.  Hoban’s 1st Team Inland District 1st Ryan Burns punted six times for an average of 38.8 yards and long of 49 yards, with the big one stopping at the one and setting up the safety.

On defense, Pringle, while playing injured, led Massillon with seven solo tackles and seven assists, with three tackles-for-loss.  Cody Fair had four solos, six assists and one TFL.  Adonis Marshall had six and three, while Ryan Page had three and six.

It was a great day to be a Tiger!!!