MASSILLON The concern going into Friday night’s Division II Region 5 playoff opener for Massillon was two-fold
There was the concern about a potential letdown coming off of the previous week’s emotional win over archrival McKinley. There was also a worry about potentially coming out lacking in focus due to the 42-point Week 3 regular-season win the Tigers had registered back over their first-round opponent, Warren Harding.
Those concerns proved to be unfounded. Very unfounded.
Massillon would use big plays and stifling defense to roll to a 55-0 victory over the visiting Raiders in Friday night’s regional quarterfinal at Paul Brown Tiger Stadium.
“Obviously, you have to come out playing hard against a team like Warren,” said Massillon senior defensive lineman Manny McElroy, who forced a fumble which was returned by Caiden Woullard for a third-quarter touchdown. “They’re a great team. They’ve got great players and they’re able to make big plays. When we all do our jobs, we can make big plays. Everybody did their one-11th.”
The Tigers improved to 11-0 on the season. They will advantage to next Friday’s regional semifinal against Perry, a 37-27 winner over Hudson Friday at a site to be announced Sunday afternoon by the Ohio High School Athletic Association.
It will be the first time the two schools, located less than three miles apart, have played since the 2015 season opener, Nate Moore’s first game as head coach at Massillon. It will be the fourth playoff meeting between the two, the first since a 41-20 Tiger win at Perry in the 2006 first round.
“It’s Week 12,” Moore said. “It’s Week 2 of the playoffs. It’s the next step. We’re happy to still be in it.”
After leading 27-0 at halftime, Massillon would use a 28-0 third-quarter advantage to take a 55-0 lead into the fourth quarter. The Tigers would force fumbles on three consecutive Raider possession to help create that bulge, including a 20-yard fumble return for a touchdown by Woullard.
For the game, Massillon would force five turnovers, while limiting the Raiders to just 107 total yards, including three net rushing yards. That included one on Warren’s first possession, which helped kick-start the Tiger rout.
“It definitely boosts our confidence more,” Woullard said of the turnovers. “It definitely gets us more confident. We just want to get back at it.”
On the fourth play of the game, Massillon’s Isaiah Roberson deflected a Raider pass and teammate Luke Murphy came up with the interception, which he brought back to the Tiger 46. Seven plays later, Terrance Keyes Jr. ran 11 yards for a touchdown to give Massillon a 6-0 lead – the point-after try failed after a misplayed snap – with 8:13 left in the first quarter.
Keyes would make it 13-0 with 1:17 remaining in the first quarter when he took off on a 75-yard jaunt on the first play of the Tigers’ fourth possessions. His third touchdown run of the night, a 3-yard jaunt, would make it a 34-0 Massillon lead with 8:27 left in the third.
Keyes would rush for 154 of his 188 yards on just eight first-half carries. Zion Phifer and Raekwon Venson would each add a second-half rushing touchdown.
“We like picking up yards,” Moore said. “We like scoring points. How that happens doesn’t really matter.”
Aidan Longwell would tie the Massillon career completions record when he hit Jayden Ballard for a 58-yard touchdown 17 seconds into the second quarter to make it 20-0. Longwell, who would go 5-of-11 for 110 yards with a score in the game, broke the mark on a screen pass on the next possession.
Longwell now has 440 career completions. The old mark was 437, set by Justin Zwick in 2000-01.
Zach Catrone added a 30-yard touchdown pass to Eric Thurman in the third quarter.
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