Big plays by Whitmer end Massillon’s season
By CHRIS EASTERLING
TOLEDO, OH — In a fourth quarter of big plays, the biggest play ended up being made by the Whitmer Panthers. Because of that, the Massillon Tigers find themselves heading into the offseason much earlier than they had expected.
Jody Webb’s second touchdown run of the fourth quarter – a 44-yarder – gave the Panthers a 28-24 lead with 2:48 remaining, and they were able to hold off the Tigers twice after that as they won a Division I Region 2 quarterfinal game in front of about 8,000 at Whitmer Memorial Stadium.
“They hit a couple of big plays, big runs,” said Tiger coach Jason Hall, whose team bows out at 7-4. “You can’t give up big plays.”
Webb rushed for 137 of his game-high 220 yards in the final 12 minutes of the game. Of those, 103 yards came on his two touchdowns runs – the other being a 59-yarder – in the final 5:09 of the game that twice gave Whitmer the lead.
“No. 1, we have a lot of respect for their defense,” said Whitmer coach Joe Palka, whose 10-1 team will meet Twinsburg in a regional semifinal next Saturday.
“They’re a good defense, no matter what anybody says. I wasn’t surprised they kind of bottled us up (until the fourth quarter). They have some kids going two ways, and we really don’t. I think we kind of wore them down as the game went along.
In between those two runs, Massillon was able to retake the lead when Kyle Kempt hit Justin Olack down the right sideline for a 55-yard touchdown with 3:16 left to momentarily give the Tigers a 24-21 lead. That was one of two touchdown passes for Kempt, who also hit Devin Smith for a 69-yard touchdown in the first quarter that gave Massillon an early 7-0 lead.
“With three minutes to go in the game, we’re up,” Hall said.
Kempt finished 16-of-30 for 298 yards in his first-ever playoff start. He was also hurt by three drops in the fourth quarter that could have helped the Tigers move down the field, as well as an interception that bounced off the hands of a receiver with 2:40 remaining.
“Kyle’s improved every week,” Hall said. “He’s gone up against a couple of special defensive lines the last couple of weeks (in McKinley and Whitmer). I think from day one until today, I think he’s gotten better.”
Part of the Tigers problem was giving Kempt time to throw the ball. With a pair of highly-recruited defensive ends in Kenny Hayes and Chris Wormley, Whitmer was able to record eight sacks for the night, which hampered Massillon at times. Still, despite the Panthers’ defensive pressure, the Tigers were able to take a 14-7 first quarter lead with scores on their first two possessions. Jake Reiman’s 1-yard run with 6:21 remaining in the quarter provided that margin.
Whitmer’s first touchdown was set up by a 54-yard run by Webb on its first play of the game, a run that put the Panthers on the Tiger 9. Three plays later, Tre Sterritt powered in for the first of two first-half touchdowns to tie the game at 7-7 with 9:03 left in the quarter.
Sterritt also ran it in from the Tiger 2 on the second play of the second quarter to tie the game at 14-14.
Massillon was able to take the lead at halftime when it capitalized on a scoring chance that it couldn’t the previous week late in the half against McKinley. In last week’s game, the Tigers failed to score on multiple chances from the Bulldog 8 late in the half.
On Saturday night, the Tigers reached the Whitmer 10 with less than 30 seconds remaining. This time, they converted with a 27-yard Anthony McCarthy field goal with 9.2 seconds remaining to take a 17-14 halftime lead.
That would remain the score until the fourth quarter, when the big plays took over and swept the Tigers out of the playoffs.
at Whitmer Memorial Stadium
Massillon 14 3 0 7 24
Whitmer 7 7 0 14 28
M – Smith 69 pass from Kempt (McCarthy kick)
W – Sterritt 1 run (Kenczewicz kick)
M – Reiman 1 run (McCarthy kick)
W – Sterritt 2 run (Kenczewicz kick)
M – FG McCarthy 27
W – Webb 59 run (Kenczewicz kick)
M – Olack 55 pass from Kempt (McCarthy kick)
W – Webb 44 run (Kenczewicz kick)
First downs 13 12
Rushes-yards 23-41 44-247
Comp-Att-Int 17-32-1 11-14-0
Passing yards 319 141
Fumbles-lost 0-0 3-0
Penalties-yards 6-59 4-30
Records 7-4 10-1
Massillon – Reiman 9-35 TD.
Whitmer – Webb 22-220 2 TDs.
Massillon – Kempt 16-30-298 2 TDs, INT; Smith 1-1-21; Olack 0-1-0.
Whitmer – Palicki 11-14-141.
Massillon – Smith 5-100 TD; Olack 6-128 TD.
Whitmer – Lucas 6-82.