Greatest Victories of All-Time – The 2020s

1st – 2023 – MASSILLON (15-0) vs. AKRON HOBAN (13-1) – 7-2

  • Coaches – Massillon: Nate Moore: Hoban: Tim Tyrrell
  • Prelude – With a wealth of talented players returning from last year’s 12-2 season, Massillon set its sites on advancing through the playoffs to the Division II state finals.  The Tigers also anticipated that the opponent would be Akron Hoban, a team that bested them twice previously in this venue.  Both of these predictions came true and the matchup of the century was set.  Their only common opponent this year?  Division I champion Lakewood St. Edward, a team that lost to Massillon 15-13, yet defeated Hoban 14-7.
  • The Game – The crowd size was announced at 14,846, but it was surely larger as 20,000-seat Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium appeared at near capacity. The game was defensive struggle throughout, with both teams yielding rushing yardage grudgingly and negating the passing attacks.  The two teams combined for eleven punts and there were only two penetrations into the red zone, one by each team.  The Tigers scored their touchdown in the second quarter following a blocked punt by Chase Bond that gave Massillon the ball at the Hoban 28. Six plays later Mylen Lenix, lining up in the “jumbo” package, ran six yards through the middle of the Hoban line for the score.  Vinny Keller added the PAT. Later in the quarter the Knights punted to the one, then scored a safety when quarterback Da’One Owens could not get the ball across the goal line.  On Hoban’s final drive of the night they attempted a 4th down, 17-yard pass to take the lead.  But the receiver could not secure the ball, with Dorian Pringle on coverage.  The Tigers then ran out the clock. .
  • Postscript – Massillon finished the season undefeated for the first time since 1978 and captured their 15th state championship, the first in the playoff era.  They continue to lead all Ohio schools in that category.  The win also propelled the Tigers into a tie at the Number 2 position for all-time wins, behind Valdosta, Georgia, a team that the Tigers defeated in the season opener, while maintaining their national Top-25 ranking.  After returning to Massillon, the team, coaches, band and cheerleaders were greeted by several thousand boisterous Tiger fans, who celebrated the achievement into the night.  The following week, a celebration parade and rally were staged.

2nd – 2022 – MASSILLON (3-1) vs. LAKEWOOD ST. EDWARD (4-0) – 31-28

  • Coaches – Massillon: Nate Moore; St. Edward: Tom Lombardo
  • Prelude – Massillon was facing the 2-time defending Division I state champion St. Edward Eagles and were considered as a decided underdog.  It didn’t help matters that the Tigers were stocked with a lineup that was comprised of mostly underclassmen, including a sophomore at the quarterback position.
  • The Game – The Tigers fell behind early due to an opening kickoff return for a touchdown and second score following a fumble at their own 18.  But after that, team settled down and scored three consecutive touchdowns, while running just seven plays, to take a 19-14 lead into the halftime locker room.  The comeback was keyed by a Jalen Slaughter-to-Ardell Banks passing combination that netted 156 yards in three receptions and two runs by Willtrell Hartson that accounted for another 65 yards.  In the second half the teams traded points until the Eagles were leading 28-25 with less than two minutes remaining in the game and all that was needed for them to win was to run out the clock.  But Dorian Pringle stripped the St. Ed running back of the ball and then fell on it at midfield to give the Tigers new life.  After passes of 14 yards to Kyler Wiggins, three yards to Braylyn Toles and six yards to Wiggins, plus a 5-yard run by Hartson, the ball was resting on the Eagle 24 with just seconds left in the game.  That’s when Slaughter tossed a perfect rainbow across the field to Toles, who had beaten the defender by a step.  Toles gathered in the on-target pigskin in the end zone without breaking stride for the go-ahead score, with just eleven seconds remaining in the game. to the delight of the many fans in attendance.  The Tigers then held off St. Edward, as they missed a long-range, game-tying field goal attempt.
  • Postscript – With the legitimacy of the victory the Tigers were propelled into statewide prominence.  The win also further energized the program and Massillon didn’t lose again until the state semifinals.