MASSILLON—The Canton McKinley Bulldogs ventured into Paul Brown Tiger Stadium huffing, puffing, wolfing, and looking for a fight.
The Massillon Tigers were more than amicable to oblige their foes in combat in the 122nd renewal between two of Ohio's storied Division I programs.
The host Tigers turned the Bulldogs attitude into a sick and wounded deer-in-the-headlights mentality as Massillon took advantage of three lost fumbles by the visitors and used two Kyle Kempt touchdown bullets in the half to bolster Massillon to a nearly insurmountable 24-0 lead and withstood multiple Bulldogs scoring charges in the second half and used a late interception in the end zone by cornerback Brody Tonn to stifle a late fourth-quarter Canton McKinley rally.
The translation of all this led to an eruption of Massillon fans storming the field along with players to repossess the Victory Bell by virtue of a volcanic 37-29 victory over the Bulldogs that ended a three-game regular season winning streak for the Bulldogs in the rivalry and solidified the Tigers' 9-1 regular-season record, their first nine-win regular season since the 2005 season, when Massillon advanced to the Division I state championship game.
For Massillon fifth-year commander Jason Hall, he is now 3-3 against Canton McKinley with a 1-0 record in the postseason. Canton McKinley first-year head coach Todd Filtz is 0-1 against Massillon as the Tigers won their third straight game against Canton McKinley first-year head coaches coaching their first Massillon game at Paul Brown Tiger Stadium. Filtz is also now 1-2 at Paul Brown Tiger Stadium, backtracking to two Division II state championship contests when he was the head coach of Maple Heights.
It was vindication for Massillon in a enormous manner. Three years ago, Hall watched a disgusting feeling envelop him and his team when the Bulldogs opened up the 118th contest at Fawcett Stadium with a 14-0 first quarter lead and used it to vault their way to a 35-21 win and their seizure of the bell.
Only this time, Hall caught a first-hand view of just how Massillon fans feel when the bell is reclaimed.
“This game today was all about Massillon. I said it last night that if we came out and just be ourselves, we would be ringing the bell Saturday afternoon,” he said. “This was another Massillon-Canton McKinley classic in which both teams fought hard all day to the end of the game. We just finished at the end.”
It seemed like such a finish was not going to be necessary. The tone for the day was set on the second possession Massillon had the football that they drove to the Canton McKinley seven-yard line. What was shaping up to be an Andrew David 25-yard field goal instead ended up a fake that caught the Bulldogs by understandable astonishment as Tonn threw a seven-yard touchdown pass to Leslie Dudley. Andrew David added the extra-point and with 4:35 remaining in the inaugural quarter, the Tigers possessed a 7-0 lead.
The momentum only grew for the hosts from there. Canton McKinley's second possession was wasted when quarterback Eric Glover-Williams lost one of two fumbles on the day and needing one play, Kempt found Tonn for a 35-yard touchdown pass and Massillon had a stunning 14-0 lead.
Canton McKinley's turnover illness progressed in the second quarter. A muffed punt led to a David field goal and Canton McKinley turned it over on their fourth straight possession and that is when Kempt for the second consecutive time beat a blitz and tossed a 37-yard touchdown to Marcus Whitfield, who split past two Bulldogs defenders and darted into the end zone. David's extra-point sandblasted Massillon's advantage to 24-0 with 7:42 left before intermission.
Massillon now had a three-touchdown lead and Canton McKinley was not only facing the Tigers but the unequivocal Massillon crowd at it's loudest.
“Those turnovers hurt us in the first half,” a cross Filtz said.
Any thoughts that Massillon had of completely squashing the Bulldogs at their feet were put on hold during Canton McKinley's fifth possession when Glover-Williams directed a much needed drive highlighted by a 66-yard run that resulted in an eventual 14-yard touchdown strike to Chris Prowell-White and much needed confidence with 3:40 before halftime to make the game manageable for the visitors at the intermission trailing 24-7.
“We just needed to make adjustments there at the half and I was proud of the way that we came out there and into the second half,” Filtz said.
When asked if he felt that in the Bulldogs emaciated state if his team was ready to step on and crush the windpipe of Canton McKinley, Hall was quick to point out that his defense had done their job and still had to do it.
“It was 24-0 and we played good defense there and came up with stops. We just had to keep making big plays,” he said.
Massillon received the second half at the Canton McKinley 40-yard line after a botched punt knowing that a touchdown effectively will have salted away their rival. But for the first time all afternoon, Canton McKinley's defense rose up and held Massillon to a field goal but were relieved that Kempt missed an opportunity to really decapitate the Bulldogs when his pass for the end zone ventured through the hands of Zach Volzer and Massillon's advantage was 27-7.
Both teams ended up trading touchdowns. Glover-Williams rewarded the Bulldogs defense with a 10-yard touchdown run after a nine-play drive. But the Tigers stormed back three plays after the Canton McKinley scoring drive when Kempt diffused a McKinley blitz for the third time on the day and hit a streaking Gareon Conley, who shredded past two McKinley safeties for a 66-yard touchdown pass to put the hosts back up by 20 at 34-14. Canton McKinley was not done. Sandwiched between a third Davids field goal, Jeff Richardson caught a 32-yard touchdown pass and Prowell-White scored on a five-yard pass and Richardson's two-point run caused a nervous feeling to shroud the Tigers fans with 5:04 remaining and holding a 37-29 lead.
And it all came down to the final five minutes. After Kempt's pass was intercepted with 4:11 to go, Canton McKinley had a chance to find the end zone deep in Massillon territory. That is when Tonn made the critical play to preserve Massillon's lead when he wrestled the ball away from Jeff Richardson in the end zone for a touchback with 3:15 remaining.
“The ball was up in the air and I remember Richardson coming down and having one foot down but I was not going to be denied. I was not going to let him have the ball,” Tonn said.
Canton McKinley was unable to mount a last scoring drive and Massillon improved their record to 9-1 while the Bulldogs record descended to 7-2.
Kempt was 16 of 32 passing with three touchdowns and one interception while Ryne Moore carried 28 times for 98 yards for Massillon. Glover-Williams threw for 196 yards and three touchdowns and rushed for 141 yards for Canton McKinley and a TD but was liable for three of the Bulldogs five turnovers.
“Turnovers today were the difference of this game. Massillon took advantage of them and they deserved to win the game today. We got down 24-0 and it was too much of a hole for us to dig out of,” Filtz said. “We needed to control the ball better in the first half but again, you have to tip your hat to Massillon. They played better than us. I was proud of our team of the way we fought back but I hate to lose and they hate to lose. We just have to come back and get ready for the playoffs.”
For the Tigers, they will have a shimmering opportunity to punctuate an undefeated home season next Saturday by winning their first playoff home game since the 2009 season. Since the OHSAA extended to the eight-team regional format in 1999, Massillon is 3-2 in first round games with wins coming in 2001, 2005, and 2009 with their losses in 1999 and 2000. Massillon used the 2001, 2005 and 2009 home playoff wins to power them to regional championships.
Hall put the joyous moment in perspective for his battalion of Tigers.
“We wanted to come out and feel no pressure as much as possible. All week, we talked about playing like we can play and if we did that, we knew that we could get the bell back,” Hall said.
The Canton McKinley Bulldogs ventured into Paul Brown Tiger Stadium huffing, puffing, wolfing, and looking for a fight. The Massillon Tigers excitedly assumed the challenge from their visitors and at the end of the day, were rewarded with a ringing sensation in the form of the Victory Bell.
PLAY OF THE GAME—Tonn's interception in the end zone
MASSILLON—Brody Tonn set the tone with an early touchdown pass and made sure his teammates fed off of his atomic energy he brought with the first score.
In the fourth quarter and Canton McKinley threatening to score and even tie their contest, it seemed like Massillon would potentially rely on the leg of Andrew David. David's leg was not needed as Tonn wrestled away a sure Bulldogs touchdown pass from Eric Glover-Williams that was thrown to Jeff Richardson as the Tigers maintained their eight-point lead with 3:15 left, which ended up being a 37-29 Tigers victory.
“All week long, Coach Miller was telling us to drop back and get a read on our receivers and then to look for the ball once it is in the air. The receiver and I went up for the ball but I was not going to let him have it,” Tonn said.
Brody Tonn set the tone early and made sure to finish off a Massillon victory and Canton McKinley's final bid for an overtime session in a vast way.