SHARONVILLE — Clinton-Massie stopped Cincinnati Archbishop McNicholas quarterback Pierce Taylor short of the pylon on a two-point conversion play on the last play of the game to escape with the Division IV, Region 16 championship, 28-27, Friday, Nov. 19 at Princeton High School’s Pat Mancuso Field.
It is the first Regional title for the Falcons (12-1) since 2017. They advance to play Carroll Bloom-Carroll at 7 p.m. Friday, Nov. 26, in a State semifinal at Jonathan Alder Performance Stadium at Volunteer Field.
After Massie broke a 21-all deadlock with a 14-play, 66-yard, 8:00 drive that ended with a Colton Trampler one-yard run and Ean McGuinness’ extra-point, McNicholas (11-2) marched 71 yards in 17 plays during the game’s final 2:36 to pull within a point of Massie on Ty Snyder’s one-yard touchdown on the game’s final play.
Taylor took the snap for the two-point attempt, rolled left, and was strung out by the Massie defense. He dived at the pylon, getting knocked to the wrong side of it.
“I was going to call timeout to make sure we were set and then I said what the heck and not even give them the opportunity to draw something up we weren’t expecting,” CM head coach Dan McSurley said. “We kind of had that play sniffed out. They went unbalanced to one side. They have a real dynamic quarterback. I would have done the same thing. I would have let that kid use his legs. But we just snuffed it out.”
The game started out all Massie. It took the game’s first drive 66 yards in 12 plays, chewing up the first half of the first quarter to lead 6-0. Carter Frank, who tallied 127 yards on 15 carries, covered the final two yards for the score. Massie converted a fourth down earlier in the drive.
Massie hit a home run on its second drive with a Colton Tramper 75-yard run on the drive’s first play. Trampler finished the evening with 130 yards on 17 carries.
At the end of the first quarter, Massie led 13-0 and held the Rockets to just 3:17 of possession.
“We just felt we were better than they were up front, and we were going to keep our nose to the grindstone and just bang it out with them,” McSurley said.
The Rockets started firing on all cylinders early in the second quarter, picking off Massie signal-caller Kody Zantene and turning it into seven at the other end eight plays later, cutting their deficit to 13-7 with 3:54 left in the half.
McNick forced a Massie three-and-out on the next drive and had a chance to take the lead going into halftime, but Taylor’s throw into the end zone on the last play of the half fell incomplete.
A score to end the half would have been big considering McNicholas had the ball to start the third quarter. It struck fast, in only three plays, when Snyder darted 46 yards to paydirt, navigating the last 10 after a nifty shake and bake that juked a Falcon defender. Rollie Gabriel’s PAT gave the Rockets their only lead of the night, 14-13, at the 10:36 mark of the third quarter.
Massie responded in kind three plays later on Carson Vanhoose’s three-yard TD run. Frank traversed the first 55 yards of the drive in two plays to help set up the score and subsequent two-point conversion to go up 21-14.
“We needed to answer right there. That was big. Carter Frank had a big play to set it up,” McSurley said.
McNicholas, with an opportunity to knot the game, lost a fumble to Massie at its 25. But the Rockets held the Falcons scoreless. McGuinness missed a 34-yard field goal attempt wide left to end the drive.
The Rockets would score on the subsequent drive, another Snyder touchdown, this time from seven yards out where he was stuffed at the line, spun out of it and waltzed into the end zone. The score knotted the game at 21 and set up the fourth quarter fireworks.
“Once they tied it, we didn’t really panic. It was like, ‘OK, let’s settle down.’ We have good field possession. We had a nice return and we just killed eight minutes,” McSurley said. “This is one of the crazier games I’ve ever been a part of.”