1st – 2019 – MASSILLON (12-0) vs. AKRON HOBAN (11-1) – 17-14
- Coaches – Massillon: Nate Moore; Hoban: Tim Tyrrell
- Prelude –It was a playoff regional finals game involving an undefeated Massillon team and an Akron Hoban team that had only a 1-point loss, at the hands of Cleveland St. Ignatius. Hoban, the 2-time defending Division 2 state champions, had defeated the Tigers the previous year in the state finals and held a 27-game winning streak. But the game couldn’t proceed without first having some drama. The Tigers’ 1,000-yard running back Terrence Keyes had an outstanding legal issue in Akron that was taking a considerable amount of time to resolve. But, during the week of this big game, a Hoban alumnus magnified the issue, which nearly caused Keyes to miss the game. It wasn’t until the day before that an Akron judge put a stop to the ploy, freeing Keyes to participate.
The Game – Attendance: 9,875 at the University of Akron’s Infocision Stadium. All of the points were scored in the first half, with Aidan Longwell (Kent State) throwing touchdown passes of 53 yards to Andrew Wilson-Lamp (West Virginia) and 9 yards to Zion Phifer, and Alex Bauer (Baldwin-Wallace) kicking a 13-yard field goal. The Knights scored on a 40-yard pass and a 4-yard run. Terrence Keyes (JC) led all rushers 87 yards, while Hoban’s Deamonte Trayanum (Arizona State / Ohio State) was held to 79. But the biggest excitement was saved for the end when Massillon stopped the Knights on downs near the end zone with two minutes remaining to preserve the win. The determining play was a 4th down sack of Hoban QB Shane Hamm (Dayton) by Ben Krichbaum, on a scheme coach Moore referred to as the Miami Blitz.
- Postscript – The Tigers won the following week against Avon, but lost in the state finals to Cincinnati LaSalle. Hoban would finish 11-2. Longwell was named 1st Team All-Ohio.
2nd – 2018 – MASSILLON (6-0) vs. EAST ST. LOUIS, IL (5-1) – 46-40
- Coaches – Massillon: Nate Moore; East St. Louis: Darren Sunkett
- Prelude – The Tigers were facing a Top 100 national power and trying to re-establish themselves as a formidable Ohio team after several years of substandard football.
The Game – At halftime Massillon was behind 20-7 to the very athletic Flyers. They also trailed 34-24 late in the third quarter. But the Tigers stormed back to score touchdowns in their final three drives to pull it out, two runs by Jamir Thomas (JC) and a 39-yard pass from Aiden Longwell (Kent State) to Jayden Ballard (Ohio State). Then they held off ESL’s final attempt with a Max Turner interception at the Massillon 6 yard line. Longwell completed 16 of 26 passes for 260 yards and 3 touchdowns, with eight passes and two scores going to Tre’von Morgan (Michigan State / Kentucky / Miami of Ohio). Thomas rushed 24 times for 116 yards and tallied twice. Treven Swingler (Iowa Western) rushed for 204 yards for the Flyers. The two teams combined for 960 yards of total offense.
- Postscript – Massillon remained undefeated and maintained that streak until the Division 2 state finals, while making headway on re-establishing itself as a state power. ESL finished with a 9-3 record and lost in the Illinois Division 7A state semifinals. Thomas and Morgan were named 1st Team All-Ohio.
3rd – 2018 – MASSILLON (13-0) vs. Cincinnati Winton Woods (12-1) – 41-20
- Coaches – Massillon: Nate Moore; Winton Woods: Andre Parker
- Prelude – Cincinnati Winton Woods had beaten Massillon convincingly the previous year in the state playoff semifinals, 56-21. In this rematch, the Warriors featured Miyan Williams, a future Buckeye running back.
- The Game – The Tigers fell behind in the first quarter 10-0, but then regrouped and took a 19-10 lead into the locker room, with Jamir Thomas (JC) scoring twice on short runs and Max Turner returning a 38-yard pass interception for a TD with 21 seconds left in the half. That pick seemed to break the opponent’s back as it led to complete domination by Massillon in the second half. Thomas and Zion Phifer combined to rush 34 times for 171 yards and four touchdowns. Aidan Longwell (Kent State) added 210 yards through the air, including a 58-yard TD pass to Tre’von Morgan (Michigan State / Kentucky / Miami of Ohio). For Winton Woods, Williams was held to just 82 yards. So, from 2017 to 2018 it was a 56-point turnaround.
- Postscript – The win advanced Massillon to the state finals, where they lost to Cincinnati LaSalle. But the win put a legitimate stamp on the Tigers’ status within Ohio football.