WHBC recently announced its all-county team and six Tigers received honors. The group was selected by vote of the area coaches. Da’One Owens was also named MVP.
The Massillon all-county players include Nolan Davenport and Dorian Pringle, repeat honorees from 2022, and first-timers Chase Bond, Tyler Hackenbracht, Brady Jones and Mike Wright Jr. Three seniors and three juniors. Massillon Head Coach Nate Moore was very proud to acknowledge these players at the Booster Club meeting. It is unfortunate that just six from Massillon received this honor, since at least ten others off this national Top 15 team deserve recognition.
Da’One Owens – Senior quarterback (6′-1″, 200). Has completed 82 of 135 passes (61%) for 1,322 passes and 16 touchdowns. Leads the team in rushing with 90 attempts for 874 yards (9.7 ave.) and 12 TDs. Passed for 277 yards and 3 TDs against Warren Harding and 341 yards and 4 TDs vs. Grove City Central Crossing. Rushed for 241 yards and two TDs against Valdosta, GA, 134 yards and 1 TD against Austintown Fitch and 130 yards and 2 TDs against Mansfield.
Chase Bond – Senior defensive lineman (6-4, 245). 2-year starter. 11.5 tackle points. 5.0 tackles-for-loss. 2.5 quarterback sacks. Committed to North Carolina State.
Nolan Davenport – Junior offensive lineman (6’-6”, 260). Played tight end last year, earning all-county honors. Moved to tackle due to loss of an injured lineman. Instrumental in helping the offense average 228 yards rushing per game and 6.5 yards per attempt. Has received several Division 1 offers.
Tyler Hackenbracht – Junior defensive safety (6’-2”, 195). Lost sophomore year due to an injury. 18.0 tackle points. Two pass interceptions returned for 29 yards and one touchdown. Eight pass breakups.
Brady Jones – Senior offensive lineman (6’-3” 245). 2-year starter. Plays center. Instrumental in helping the offense average 228 yards rushing per game and 6.5 yards per attempt.
Dorian Pringle – Senior inside linebacker and running back (6’-0”, 215). 2-year starter. Leads the team in tackles with 50.5 tackle points, 21.5 tackles-for-loss, 114 lost yards, 8.0 quarterback sacks and 73 lost yards. Recovered two fumbles. Blocked a kick. Recorded 8.5 tackle points in the victory over Lakewood St. Edward. Rushed 50 times for 246 yards (4.9 ave.) and 12 touchdowns. Rushed six times for 54 yards (9.0 ave.) against Canton McKinley. Leading scorer with 64 points. Several Division 1 offers.
Mike Wright Jr. – Junior defensive lineman (5’-10”, 280). 2-year starter. 19.0 tackle points. 11.0 tackles-for-loss. 80 lost yards. 7.5 quarterback sacks. 61.5 lost yards. Two pass breakups. Had a monster game against McKinley with 3.0 quarterback sacks (No. 2 single game all-time; No. 1 single-game all-time vs. McKinley).
Chase Bond, Nolen Davenport, Tyler Hackenbracht, Brady Jones, Dorian Pringle and MIke Wright Jr.
2023 Booster Club Report – Week PO2 – Post-Westerville South Game; Preview of the Uniontown Lake Game
Massillon (12-0) defeated Westerville South (7-4), 50-7. This week the Tigers travel to North Canton to face Uniontown Lake (8-3) for a Friday, 7:00 pm kickoff in the third round of the playoffs. The Tigers are No. 1 in Division 2, Region 7, while the Blue Streaks come in at No. 4. Massillon leads the all-time series, 1-0, with the last game played in the 2022 playoffs when they defeated the Lake 24-6 in the “ice bowl.”
It was win No. 944, which keeps Massillon in the No. 3 position nationally for all-time wins.
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, and led 42-0 at the half. A fourth TD 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. The defense has now held nine of the last ten opponents to less than 100 yards rushing. Only St. John’s College surpassed that mark. Quarterback Da’One Owens rushed for two touchdowns and passed for a third. Ja’Meir Gamble rushed for 99 yards and scored once. South tallied their lone touchdown against the backups.
“I’m proud of the way our guys played,” said Massillon Head Coach Nate Moore at the Monday Booster Club meeting. “The defense had a great day. The offense did a great job; 42-0 at halftime. And we were able to get some younger guys in during a playoff game.” Moore also noted that there were three freshmen on the kickoff team.
The guest player was defensive back Ryan Page. “We had a pretty good game overall,” he said. “We locked in and locked it down.” Looking ahead to Lake, Page singled out running back Nate Baker as their primary threat.
The scout team players of the week were four freshmen: R.Celle Hill, Briar Mattox, Deontay Malone and Isaac Maxheimer.
Ja’Meir Gamble: 13 carries for 99 yards and 1 touchdown
Da’One Owens: 3 of 6 passing for 90 yards and 1 touchdown; 3 carries for 46 yards and 2 touchdowns
Mylen Lenix: 10 carries for 56 yards
Emy Louis Jr and Ricardo Wells: 1 touchdown reception each
Lake plays in the Federal League. The Wildcats are currently 9-3 with a 5-2 conference record. Their big win of the year came in Week 8 when they defeated North Canton Hoover, 21-7. Scores to-date:
Alliance (6-5): 7-12 L
Boardman (1-9): 42-31 W
Brecksville (6-6): 17-14 o.t. W
Canton GlenOak (7-5): 10-7 W
Louisville (1-9): 49-0 W
Massillon Jackson (5-6): 19-7 W
Canton McKinley (9-3): 22-29 L
North Canton (6-6): 21-7 W
Massillon Perry (4-7): 37-14
Green (9-3): 0-28 L
Massillon Perry (4-7) (PO): 35-14
BigWalnut (6-6) (PO): 21-20 3 o.t. W
The Lake offense operates out of the spread, with mostly 10 and some 11 (tight end) alignments. They also have a heavy package that they use in the red zone. The best player is senior running back / wide receiver Nate Baker (5′-11″, 175), whom they try to get the ball to as much as possible. An all-county player, he is a hard runner, can break tackles and follows his blocks well. As a wide receiver, he is the quarterback’s favorite target. During the regular season, Baker rushed 211 times for 1,183 yards (5.6 ave.) and scored nine touchdowns. He is also the leading scorer with 60 points.
The Blue Streaks play two quarterbacks. Senior Cale Jarvis (5′-11″, 185) has an average arm, but is a threat to run. During the regular season he completed 52 of 89 passes (58%) for 477 yards (9.2/compl.) and two touchdowns. Junior Noah Jeb Kubasky (6′-3″, 215) is the better passer and at times will line up at wide receiver. He completed 34 of 55 passes (62%) for 472 yards (13.9/compl.) and five TDs. At times, both will be in the game. Lake will play seven different receivers, including Baker and former Massillon Tiger senior Kam’ron Fouty-Koonce (6’0″, 165).
The offensive line has a couple of sizeable book-end tackles in junior Cohen Stuli (6′-5″, 290) and senior Anthony Miller (6′-0″, 290). Stuli plays with good technique and is physical. Miller is all-county. He plays aggressively and physically.
The defense aligns in an even front with cover-3. It presents like a 4-4. The strength of this unit is the linebacker corps. The best player is junior middle linebacker Charlie Christopher (6′-1″, 220), an all-county selection. He is a physical, downhill player and reads keys well. Through ten games he recorded 11.0 tackles-for-loss. Will play running back in the heavy package. Senior Evan Brady (5′-11″, 215) is also a physical, downhill player and tackles well. At outside linebacker is senior Joseph Garro (6′-1″, 210), who has 14.0 TFLs.
The line is one of the smallest the Tigers have faced this year, averaging 6′-2″, 220 lbs. The best of the group is senior Dane Jarvis (6′-2″, 220). He has a quick come-off, is strong and is very active. Also, keep an eye on junior Ryan Lippe (6′-4″, 220), an all-county player who leads the team with 19.0 TFLs through ten games.
Baker is the best defensive back. He is very athletic and tackles well.
The punter is senior Celton Dutton (6′-1″, 190), who doubles as an outside linebacker. He has a good average at 36.6 yards per kick.
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.
Massillon’s Complete Team Effort Keeps Them Undefeated
Through eleven games this year the Tigers continue to be unblemished in the win-loss column. But from a statistics standpoint, it’s a bit strange. Normally, on an unbeaten team there are a small handful of players that make the biggest difference. A big-time passer, or a big-time runner, or a defender that literally takes over the game. But not on this team.
There is no 1,000-yard rusher. There is no 1,500-yard passer. And there is no one defender that makes most of the tackles. That’s because this Massillon team has outstanding players at every position on the field. Offensively, they spread the ball around several running backs and speedy receivers. And defensively, they play as a single unit, with each player responsible for a different facet during the game, with inevitably all of them making plays.
And it’s not like the schedule was favorable for this success. Massillon this year has faced one of the most difficult slates in their long history, with the likes of Valdosta, GA, Lakewood St. Edward, St. John’s College, DC, Middletown, DE, Austintown Fitch and Canton McKinley. And nine of their ten regular season opponents have qualified for the playoffs. In addition, Massillon’s 45.76 Harbin points is the highest amount in the history of the playoffs, regardless of division. Finally, all of the national rating services have the Tigers ranked in the Top 20.
Here’s a look at the performance statistics for this year, with some comparisons to prior years.
Averages 40 points per game. This is the 18th time this has happened in Massillon history.
Averages 410 yards per game, exceeded only by six other teams.
Averages 7.6 yards per play, surpassed since the time of Paul Brown by only the 1959 team, which averaged 8.4 yards per play. That team finished first in both Ohio and the nation.
Averages 16.8 yards per pass completion, the most since 1981.
Da’One Owens and Jalen Slaughter split time at quarterback throughout the first half of the season, until Slaughter suffered an injury. Since then, Owens has become the primary signal caller. He has an efficiency rating of 175.2, completing 79 of 129 passes (61%) for 1,232 yards and 15 touchdowns. Slaughter has an efficiency rating of 188.7, completing 34 of 60 passes (57%) for 685 yards and 9 touchdowns. Both are currently ranked all-time in the Top-5 for single-season pass efficiency.
The Tigers have most often used four wide receivers who all possess great speed and good hands. The group is led by Braylyn Toles, who has 33 receptions for 471 yards and 7 touchdowns, and Jacques Carter, who has 32 receptions for 709 yards and 7 touchdowns. Kyler Wiggins, last year’s leading receiver, has 13 catches for 152 yards and 2 touchdowns and Emy Louis Jr. has 12 catches for 273 yards and 5 touchdowns. Carter and Louis are the best deep threats, averaging over 22 yards per reception. On occasion, fullback Deangelo Zimmerman will be on the receiving end of a pass. He has one touchdown to his credit.
Owens has also rushed 87 times for 828 yards (9.5 ave.) and 10 touchdowns. Ja’Meir Gamble has rushed 84 times for 566 yards (6.7 ave.) and 3 touchdowns and Peyton Mitchell has rushed 56 times for 383 yards (6.8 ave.) and 1 touchdown. Dorian Pringle, inserted in short yardage situations, has rushed 50 times for 246 yards (4.9 ave.) and 14 touchdowns. He is also the team’s leading scorer with 84 points.
But all of this couldn’t be done without a stellar line. This group includes Jaezen Lewis (6’-6”, 400) and Nolan Davenport (6’-6”, 245) at tackle, Sam Snodgrass (6’-2”, 285) and Mike Looney (6’-0”, 245) at guard and Brady Jones (6’-3”, 245) at center. Gavin Kappes (5’-11”, 260) also sees significant time on the line.
The Tigers are converting first downs 86% of the time, which is the best mark in over 60 years.
Gives up an average of 8 points per game, the fewest since 1986.
Gives up an average of 1.6 yard per rushing attempt, the fewest since 1979.
The first unit has surrendered just one rushing touchdown (on a 5-yard drive).
Has held 8 of 11 opponent to under 100 yards rushing.
Has forced 65 punts, nearly six per game.
What makes this unit so good is the front seven, which has been simply dominant against the run. The three down linemen include Mike Wright Jr.(5’-10″, 280), Malachi Card (6’-2”, 195) and North Carolina State bound Chase Bond (6’-4”, 255). These three very talented players control the middle and force double teams from opposing offensive lineman, which leaves the linebackers free to do their job. Many teams have tried then to test the outside, but this group has been the best seen in awhile in setting the edge and funneling running backs toward the inside linebackers. The linebacking group includes Dorian Pringle and Cody Fair on the inside and Maverick Clark and Vito McConnell on the outside. Help is also provided by a speedy secondary that includes Zach Liebler and Adonis Marshall at cornerback and Ryan Page and Tyler Hackenbracht at safety.
Pringle has 49.5 tackle points, 8.0 sacks and 21.5 tackles-for-loss. Right behind is Fair, who has 44.0 tackle points, 4.0 sacks and 12.0 tackles-for-loss. Page has 27.5 tackle points and cornerback Marshall has 26.0 tackle points. Marshall also has three pass interceptions. Wright has 6.5 sacks and 9.0 tackles-for-loss, Card has 4.5 TFLs, Bond has 4.0 TFLs and McConnel has 4.0 TFLs.
Opponents are converting first downs just 57% of the time, which is the best mark in the last twenty years.
The kicking game is manned primarily by Vinny Keller, who has converted 33 of 35 extra points. Also kicking is Mateo Herrera, who has made all 22 of his PAT attempts. Hackenbracht handles the punting shores, averaging 30.1 yards per attempt. Of course, the Tigers have punted only 23 times this year.
2023 Booster Club Report – Week PO1 – Post-Grove City Central Crossing Game; Preview of the Westerville South Game
Massillon (11-0) defeated Grove City Central Crossing (4-7), 41-6. This week the Tigers host Westerville South (7-4) for a Friday, 7:00 pm kickoff in the second round of the playoffs. The Tigers are No. 1 in Division 2, Region 7, while the Wildcats come in at No. 9. Massillon leads the all-time series, 4-0, with the last game played in the 2021 playoffs.
It was win No. 943, which keeps Massillon in the No. 3 position nationally for all-time wins.
Massillon scored the first four times it had the ball in routing the Grove City Central Crossing, 41-6. A running clock was in place for the entire fourth quarter. With the Comets blitzing on nearly every play to stop the run and pressure quarterback, the Tigers resorted to the passing game with great success. Da’One Owens completed 20 of 27 passes for 341 yards and four touchdowns. The 341 yards is ranked six all-time in the Tiger record book. On the receiving end were Braylyn Toles with 8 receptions for 125 yards and two touchdowns and Jacques Carter with 6 receptions for 100 yards and a TD. Dorian Pringle was in on nine tackles and recorded three tackles-for-loss. The Comets’ only score came in the third quarter on a 5-yard drive following a blocked punt.
“Last week we struggled running the football,” said Massillon Head Coach Nate Moore. “Central Crossing went with the Warren Harding plan, loading the box. You have only so many guys that can block that. And they did a lot of UFO stuff. So we threw it. So, that’s the answer. And it went really good. But it doesn’t feel good (not being able to run the ball).”
Nevertheless, Moore thought the offense had a great day and the defense played “lights out”, holding the Comets to a net 47 yards of total offense. But he also pointed out some miscues on special teams. Some dumb mistakes that will get corrected.
Prior to the game Moore said that Central Crossing was fundamentally sound and well-coached, but lacked athletes in numbers. All of that was true, but the Comets still came to play. “I thought their kids played really hard,” he said. “It was a good quality win.”
The guest players were linebacker Cody Fair and quarterback Da’One Owens. “It wasn’t the cleanest game, but we will fix it,” said Fair. “They played pretty physical, but we got on them,” added Owens. “Westerville South will run the same defense. The offense is a little undersized. They have a good running back. And the quarterback is OK. Good size at receiver.”
Da’One Owens: 20 of 27 passing for 341 yards and 4 touchdown
Mylen Lenix: 6 carries for 47 yards
Braylyn Toles: 8 receptions for 125 yards and 2 touchdowns
Jacques Carter: 6 receptions for 100 yards and 1 touchdown
Emy Louis Jr.: 3 receptions for 48 yards and 1 touchdown
Westerville South plays in the Capital Division of the Ohio Capital Conference. The Wildcats are currently 7-4 with a 5-2 conference record. Their big win of the year came in Week 6 when they defeated previously undefeated Westerville North, 21-13. Scores so far:
Dublin Jerome (3-8): 15-20 L
Westerville Central (2-9): 33-30 W
Olenttangy (10-1): 14-31 L
Dublin Scioto (2-9): 42-10 W
Big Walnut (6-5): 22-7 W
Westerville North (9-2): 21-13
Delaware Hayes (8-3): 33-36 L
Canal Winchester (10-1): 14-35 L
Franklin Heights (2-8): 37-13 W
Worthington Kilbourne (0-10): 26-0 W
Columbus Briggs (7-4): 49-30 W
The Wildcats have good athletes at the skill positions in their spread offense, but the lines struggle a bit. On offense they will mostly use 10 and 11 personnel, with occasional empty backfield. They will pass as much as they run.
The quarterback is senior Dominic Birtha (5′-11″, 185), a 3-year starter. As such, he has a good command of the offense. Birtha has a strong arm, but has struggled with consistency. He can scramble and his number will be called at times to run the ball. Massillon faced Birtha as a sophomore two years ago in the playoffs. In that 50-19 win he completed 17 of 27 passes for 151 yards and two touchdowns. Although, his favorite receiver at the time was Penn State-bound Kaden Saunders, who caught half the passes.
Running the ball is senior Nasire Phillips (5′-9″,190), a 3-year starter. He is a fast and quick runner. He tries to get vertical and can break tackles. The Tigers will need to wrap up. In the 2021 game he rushed 14 times for 98 yards and one touchdown. He also caught a 26-yard pass.
The best wide receivers are senior Jeramiah McDuffie (6′-3″, 180) and sophomore Isaac Patterson (6′-1″, 175). McDuffie appears to be the targeted receiver, while Patterson owns the best stats. But also keep an eye on junior Tyler Kielmeyeer, a rangy player who goes 6′-7″, 230 lbs.
The offensive line averages just 6′-1″, 235 lbs., but does have a couple of good players in junior center Xavier Flemister (5′-11″, 250) and senior Manny Swaray (6′-1″, 255).
Defensively, South aligns in a 3-man odd front with four linebackers. The backfield uses almost exclusively man-to-man coverage, with cover-0 or cover-1. Expect the Wildcats to put eight in the box when the Tigers have three receivers in the game in an attempt to stop the run. That will put the onus on the Massillon receivers to shed the coverage.
The strength of the defense is in the secondary. Both safeties are good in Patterson, a 2-way player, and senior Jordan Wheeler (6′-0″, 175), also a 2-way player. Patterson has decent speed and is a good tackler. Wheeler has good size. Senior cornerback Cam Garcia (5′-10″, 165) is the best corner and plays aggressively.
Should Massillon prevail in this one, they will then face the winner of the game between Uniontown Lake and Big Walnut.
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.
The 2023 OHSAA football playoffs gets underway this Friday with 448 teams having qualified, distributed among seven divisions, with four regions within each division. That translates into sixteen teams in each region, which will compete during the next four weeks to determine the regional champion. That will be followed by two more weeks of semi-final and final games to determine the ultimate champion in each division. That’s a lot of teams and a lot of games. A bit of overkill? Perhaps. But that’s the OHSAA world we live in right now.
Number 1, unbeaten Massillon will open with Number 16 Grove City Central Crossing (4-6) in a game that appears to be a mismatch on paper, not unlike the last three years when the OHSAA expanded the playoffs, first due to the Covid situation and then further to reap additional revenue through ticket sales. In 2020 during the first round the Tigers defeated Perry, 48-7. The next year they beat Columbus Independence, 76-22. And last year Columbus Walnut Ridge, 56-0. Expect more of the same this time around and the junior varsity team, which had their final two games canceled, may finally get some time on the field.
Below is a look at each of the teams in Massillon’s Region 7, with a look at their scoring, their results against notable opponents and the various computer ratings and rankings. Please note that the number next to each team is their final position in the OHSAA computer regional ranking. Also note that any rating shown within parentheses is negative. The rankings are for the region only.
1 – Massillon (10-0)
Scoringoffense – 40; Rank: No. 1
Scoring defense – 8; Rank: No. 1
Scoring differential – 32; Rank: No. 1
calpreps.com strength of schedule – Rating: 49.2; Rank: No. 1
calpreps.com ranking – Rating: 73.1; Rank: No. 1
Drew Pasteur ranking – Rating: 198.0; Rank: No. 1
Notable wins – Valdosta, GA (7-2), Lakewood St. Edward (9-1), Middletown, DE (6-1), St. John’s College (4-4), Austintown Fitch (6-3), Canton McKinley (7-3)
Notable losses – None
2 – Canal Winchester (9-1)
Scoringoffense – 28; Rank: No. 3
Scoring defense – 11; Rank: No. 2
Scoring differential – 17; Rank: No. 3
calpreps.com strength of schedule – Rating: 13.8; Rank: No. 10
calpreps.com ranking – Rating: 35.4; Rank: No. 3
Drew Pasteur ranking – Rating: 147.8; Rank: No. 3
Notable wins – Westerville North (8-2), Delaware Hayes (8-2)
Notable losses – Big Walnut (5-5)
3 – Green (7-3)
Scoringoffense – 27; Rank: No. 5
Scoring defense – 16; Rank: No. 6
Scoring differential – 11; Rank: No. 5
calpreps.com strength of schedule – Rating: 23.8; Rank: No. 4
calpreps.com ranking – Rating: 35.5; Rank: No. 2
Drew Pasteur ranking – Rating: 153.8; Rank: No. 2
Notable wins – South Range (9-1), Lake (7-3)
Notable losses – Canton McKinley (7-3); Perry (4-6)
4 – Lake (7-3)
Scoringoffense – 22; Rank: No. 14
Scoring defense – 15; Rank: No. 5
Scoring differential – 7; Rank: No. 7
calpreps.com strength of schedule – Rating: 21.3; Rank: No. 6
calpreps.com ranking – Rating: 29.8; Rank: No. 4
Drew Pasteur ranking – Rating: 145.7; Rank: No. 4
Notable wins – None
Notable losses – Canton McKinley (7-3); Green (7-3)
5 – Columbus Northland (9-1)
Scoringoffense – 38; Rank: No. 2
Scoring defense – 11; Rank: No. 2
Scoring differential – 27; Rank: No. 2
calpreps.com strength of schedule – Rating: (20.5); Rank: No. 16
2023 Booster Club Report – Week 10 – Post-Canton McKinley; Preview of the Grove City Central Crossing Game
Massillon (10-0) defeated Canton McKinley (7-3), 35-0. The Tigers now hold a 76-53-5 advantage in the series. They have also won eight consecutive games and twelve of the last thirteen. This week Massillon hosts Grove City Central Crossing (4-6) for a Friday, 7:00 pm kickoff in the first round of the playoffs. The Tigers finished No. 1 in Division 2, Region 7, while the Comets come in at No. 16. Massillon has never played Central Crossing.
Freshmen (9-2): Defeated Canton McKinley, 44-0. Season is over.
Junior Varsity (3-3-1): Season is over.
Review of the Canton McKinley game
It was win No. 942, which keeps Massillon in the No. 3 position nationally for all-time wins.
It’s not unusual for the game against Canton McKinley to be chippy, given the passion each team has to win in this great rivalry. But, it was a little more than normal in this one and it unfortunately spilled over afterwards during the handshake. Partly through, the two teams started to mix it up. The Tiger players quickly retreated to their own bench at the urging of the coaches, but the Bulldog players followed them enmass to the Massillon side of the field, in spite of both coaches trying to separate the two groups. Within a few minutes the teams separated and exited the field to their respective locker rooms, sans any victory celebration and award ceremony for Massillon winning the game.
“What happened at the end of the game was really sad,” said Massillon Head Coach Nate Moore. “I hope everyone learned a lesson. It was disrespect to the rivalry.”
Then it was time to talk about the game. “I couldn’t be more proud of our guys,” said Moore, who with the win became the all-time leader as a head coach in the series, ahead of Paul Brown, Mike Currence and McKinley’s Thom McDaniels. “We played with speed. We dominated in all three phases. The defense had an historical performance (limiting the Bulldogs to 65 yards of total offense, sacking the quarterback five times and pitching a shutout). “Big” Mike Wright Jr. just destroyed the center and sacked the quarterback three times. The offense played really well. We only punted once and we scored 35 points.”
After Massillon opened a 14-0 lead they perfectly executed an onside kick that led to a third score. Moore credited Special Teams Coach Jason Jarvis for the call. In film study, he saw that on kickoffs McKinley was back three yards from the fifty and immediately retreated as the kicker approached the ball. The play called for the ball to be dribbled directly ahead by kicker Vinny Keller, with the player on either side of him tasked with blocking the two players from the receiving team that had the best chance of recovery. The next two players provided protection for the kicker or recovered the ball themselves in the event the kicker was taken out. Five plays later the Tigers were in the end zone with a 21-0 lead and the game was essentially over.
The guest players were quarterback Da’One Owens and offensive lineman Sam Snodgrass. “It was exciting for my first rivalry win,” said Owens.” Snodgrass added that “the offensive line did a great job. Fired on all cylinders. Pringle had a great game (running the ball).”
Da’One Owens: 9 of 13 passing for 108 yards and 2 touchdown; 8 carries for 52 yards
Ma’Meir Gamble: 15 carries for 71 yards
Dorian Pringle: 6 carries for 54 yards and 2 touchdowns; 2 (1-2) tackle points
Braylyn Toles: 4 receptions for 61 yards and 1 touchdown
Jacques Carter: 3 receptions for 14 yards
Emy Louis Jr.: 30-yard touchdown reception
Michael Wright Jr.: 4 (4-0) tackle points; 3 quarterback sacks; 3 tackles for loss; 2 carries for 11 yards and 1 touchdown
Central Crossing plays in the Buckeye Division of the Ohio Capital Conference. The other teams in the division are Pickerington Central, Newark, Reynoldsburg, Groveport Madison and Lancaster. The Comets this year finished 4-6 with a 2-3 conference record. Their scores so far:
Columbus Independence (5-5): 21-14 W
Westerville North (8-2): 21-42 L
Columbus Westland (1-9): 27-17 W
Grove City (5-5) 63-0 L
Olentangy (9-1): 35-0 L
Lancaster (5-5): 21-24 L
Pickerington Central (7-3): 0-48 L
Newark (2-8): 33-27 W
Reynoldsburg (1-9): 30-22 W
Groveport (6-4): 0-31 L
Central Crossing Scouting Report
The comet offense operates out of the spread with a single running back and occasional tight end. The best player is senior running back Malik Kamara (6′-1″, 190), a 2-star recruit who has committed to the U.S. Naval Academy. He is a good, physical runner, a down hill runner, who can break tackles. Malik also lines up at safety.
The defense lines up in an odd front with cover-3. They will blitz often. The two safeties are very good. Central Crossing also has a good kicker.
According to Moore, they are well-coached and play a traditional brand of football; i.e., very fundamental, not a junk offense. Five players go both ways, on a team with many underclass starters.
Central Crossing may not be the best team the Tigers have faced this year, but Moore emphasized the Massillon program “needs to focus on the prize. Our goal is to win the state title.”
The 134th game between Massillon and Canton McKinley went to the Tigers by the score of 35-0. Simply put, Massillon dominated play on both sides of the ball and sent the game into a running clock situation midway through the third quarter. Offensively, they moved the ball with a multitude weapons, both running and passing, and only punted once throughout the game. Meanwhile, the defense held the 7-3 Bulldogs to a net 65 yards, with negative yards on the ground. McKinley never snapped the ball in the red zone.
The victory for Massillon marks the eighth consecutive win in the series and the twelfth in the last thirteen years. The margin of victory, 35 points, is the greatest on the Massillon end since 1960, when the Tigers defeated the Bulldogs 42-0. It also ranks fourth overall in Massillon’s long history. Finally, it was the 24th time that McKinley was shut out in the game. Massillon now leads the series 76-53-5.
Statistically, no individual Tiger player stood out, although they all had great games. They do what they do. Da’One Owens completed 9 of 13 for 108 yards and two touchdowns. He also ran eight times for 52 yards. Braylyn Toles caught four passes for 61 yards and a touchdown. Jacques Carter caught three passes and Emy Louis Jr. scored on a pass of 30 yards. Ja’Meir Gamble rushed 13 times for 71 yards. Dorian Pringle rushed for 54 yards and scored twice. And Adonis Marshall intercepted a pass and recorded five solo tackles.
But if there was one player who rose above with his outstanding play it was “Big” Mike Wright Jr. The 280 lb. junior played on both sides of the ball and was an impact player the entire day. Playing on the defensive line, he harassed the McKinley quarterback again and again and managed to catch him three times for sacks that resulted in a loss of 22 yards. Then on offense, when Massillon was in the “jumbo” set, he rushed twice for 11 yards and scored a touchdown. He also tallied a PAT. And he was the lead blocker for Pringle when he found the end zone twice. “Big” Mike stepped up and what a game he had.
McKinley fumbled the opening kickoff, recovered and then lost seven yards in three rushing attempts to start the game. It was an omen of things to come for the entire day. After punting into the wind to their own 41, Owens on the first play from scrimmage unloaded a rainbow pass to Toles, who had comfortably beaten the defender on a post pattern. Toles easily secured the ball in the end zone and the Tigers were on their way. The PAT, which came following 30 yards in penalties, was wide.
On the next Bulldog possession, they fumbled at the Massillon 44 and the Tigers went right back to work. However, they were stopped on downs at the Bulldog 14. McKinley was playing good aggressive defense throughout the game and that meant Massillon needed to use the entire arsenal to move the ball effectively. This Massillon drive was halted on downs, but not the next four. For Massillon was able to find the right plays to beat this defense and move the ball effectively, while also overcome numerous technical penalties.
The next time the Tigers had the ball, they drove 39 yards in six plays with Pringle taking it in from the 18 off a great block by Wright. Wright then ran in the PAT to make the score 14-0. Now came a perfectly executed onside kick by Vinny Keller to kickstart yet another scoring drive. This time Wright ran the ball in from the eight at the end of a six play 49-yard effort that was keyed by a 21-yard, third down run by Owens. Finally, Owens hit a wide-open Lewis on a skinny post for a 30-yard score, upping the margin to 28-0 headed into the locker room. The drive was kick-started by a 24-yard burst up the middle by Gamble, with a facemask penalty tacked on at the end. Two plays later Gamble raced for another 28. Those two runs accounted for most of his yardage, as the Bulldog defense was taking that part of the game away.
The final score came following the second half kickoff when Massillon engineered a masterful 16-play, 74-yard drive that consumed most of the third quarter. It culminated in a 4-yard touchdown run by Pringle, again with a great block by Wright, and sent the game into a running-clock mode. Each time the Tigers were faced with short yardage during the drive the “jumbo” set entered the game. And they never failed to pick up the first down.
Interestingly, on McKinley’s final possession toward the end of the game, the referees huddled for at least two minutes to determine whether Massillon had recovered a fumble. Meanwhile, the clock continued to run. Perhaps, the referees had enough of the unsportsmanlike play that was evident throughout the game and they just wanted to get it over with. Once they agreed that the Tigers had the ball, Owens took a knee twice to end the game.
McKinley quarterback Keaton Rode was the catalyst of the offense and the Tigers did a great job of minimizing his production. He ended up completing 8 of 12 passes for 80 yards, with one ball intercepted by Adonis Vaughn. But nearly all were thrown under the coverage. He was also sacked five times. Four completions went to Keith Quincy for 35 yards. Backup running back Stephon Thomas was the leading ball carrier for the Bulldogs and he gained just 19 yards.
Unfortunately, the game turned into a flag fest, with 18 thrown on the Tigers and 14 on the Bulldogs. For Massillon, sixteen were of the execution variety, while two were for personal fouls. Eleven of the technical penalties were on the offense, but fortunately not enough to slow down the powerful Tiger offense. But several of the defensive penalties did aid the Bulldogs to the tune of five first downs. For McKinley, seven were technical and seven were 15-yarders. Six of the seven major ones occurred in the second and third quarters, after Massillon had essentially salted the game away. Losing is tough.
Overall, the penalty part of the game wasn’t pretty. But show me a team that played penalty-free and I’ll show you a team that lost. The physicality of play is not absent in this game and sometimes it spills over into extra-curricular activities. But both sides have that passion to win. And if that passion goes by the wayside, then this rivalry is surely gone forever. For the passion within a rivalry greatly outweighs any domination in the win-loss column.
That being said, the negativity spilled over into the handshake and continued when the Bulldog players chased the retreating Tigers to the opposite side of the field. Most of it was posturing, although a handful of players were looking for some action. Eventually, the coaches were able to separate the two groups and all departed to their respective locker rooms, foregoing the victory celebration and award ceremony. It was a sad ending to such a great rivalry and something both schools will need to address.
Massillon will now head into the playoffs where they will first host Grove City Central Crossing (4-6) next Friday at 7:00 pm. McKinley will host Strongsville (3-7).
Entering the McKinley Game Unbeaten is No Guarantee of a Victory
The Massillon Tigers have produced a stellar season this year while fashioning a perfect 9-0 mark, with only Division 1 front runner Lakewood St. Edward keeping the final score close. And it’s not like the schedule was weak. In fact, with the likes of Valdosta, St. John’s, Austintown Fitch and Middletown, and of course St. Eds, it ranks right up toward the top compared to other Massillon slates of the past thirty years.
This week is the annual rivalry game against Canton McKinley. But entering the fray unbeaten is certainly no guarantee of a victory, as history has shown.
Including the time of Paul Brown, Massillon has been undefeated going into the finale thirty times. Twenty-two of those games occurred in the 1930s through the 1970s, during which the Tigers have a record of 18-4-1. The average margin of victory was 27-4, with ten shutouts recorded. Eight times both teams were undefeated and the Bulldogs were able to win just two of those games. It was a good trend.
But during the forty-some years since that time, Massillon has been undefeated just eight times. So, it’s a much rarer situation today. And the record against McKinley in these games is even, with four wins apiece. The Tigers won on average by a 22-6 margin, while the Bulldogs won 24-7. So, it has been quite balanced in the results of those games.
But those four setbacks also have their own stories:
In 1980 Massillon lost 16-7 at home in a game that McKinley completely dominated, holding the Tigers to a total offense of just 86 yards. But it was also the first year of the playoffs that the number of qualifiers per region was increased from one to two. Surprisingly, while the Bulldogs took first, Massillon was able to grab the second spot, which set up a rematch the following Saturday. In one week’s time the Tiger coaches were able to make the necessary adjustments and then turned the tables on McKinley, coming away with a hard fought 14-6 victory at Faucett Stadium. After getting by Willoughby South 21-6 the following week, Massillon advanced to the state championship game, where they faced Cincinnati Moeller.
In 1993 the Tigers had one of their best rushing attacks in their long history, recording a season average of 6.5 yards per carry, although the passing attack wasn’t the greatest. Unfortunately for Massillon, the Faucett Stadium grass turf that Saturday was a quagmire due to a week’s worth of rain and it neutralized the smaller Tiger running backs, who never got untracked in a 21-13 loss to an 8-1 Bulldog team.
In 1996 Massillon lost 17-0 to 8-1 McKinley, which advanced in the playoffs to the state semifinals.
In 2005 the Tigers suffered five turnovers and were dominated on the scoreboard by the undefeated Bulldogs, 38-8. Three weeks later these two teams would meet again in the playoff regional finals. This time it was the Tigers that owed the day, coming away with a 21-3 victory. The following week, Massillon defeated Lakewood St. Edward, the best team in the state, and punched their ticket to the state finals, where they lost to Cincinnati St. Xavier.
But there were also four really great wins.
In 1982 Chris Spielman scored the only touchdown in the game to give the Tigers a 7-0 victory. That team would later face Cincinnati Moeller in the state championship game played at OSU Stadium.
In 1999 the Tigers ran McKinley out of their own stadium, winning 34-7. Quarterback Dave Irwin passed for 130 yards and three touchdowns, while the defense held McKinley’s passing attack to just 32 yards.
In 2018 Massillon won 24-17. Jamir Thomas carried the ball 35 times for 269 yards and scored two touchdowns. The Tigers would advance in the playoffs to the state finals, where they lost to Akron Hoban.
The following year the Tigers bested the Bulldogs 24-14. Terrence Keyes rushed for 141 yards and scored a touchdown, while quarterback Aidan Longwell completed 17 of 26 passes for 206 yards and two scores. Nine of the completions and both TDs went to OSU-bound Jayden Ballard. Again, Massillon parlayed that success into a trip in the playoffs to the state finals, where they faced Cincinnati LaSalle.
Again, being undefeated and winning the game against that team to the east is certainly no sure thing, as history shows. But with the proper preparation by our players and coaches and the overwhelming will to win these young Tigers should do just fine. Former Massillon Coach Lee Owens captured it best at the Touchdown Club last Tuesday when he said there were three things the players need to focus on to win the game. The first is to play physically, for the more physical team usually comes away with the win. The second is to play smart and keep the penalties to a minimum. And the third is to handle adversity. Because there will be adversity. No plan ever goes according to script. Handle the adversity smartly and then move on. If all that happens, then it should be a great afternoon of football.