Clinton-Massie wins D-IV State football championship


C-M 29, Youngstown Ursuline 28

By Tom Barr - tbarr@wnewsj.com



Members of the Clinton-Massie Falcons football team celebrate a 29-28 Division IV State Championship victory over Youngstown Ursuline Friday, Dec. 3, 2021 in Canton, Ohio.

Members of the Clinton-Massie Falcons football team celebrate a 29-28 Division IV State Championship victory over Youngstown Ursuline Friday, Dec. 3, 2021 in Canton, Ohio.


Elizabeth Clark | News Journal

CANTON, Ohio — With a huge mountain to climb, these 2021 Clinton-Massie Falcons couldn’t be kept down.

The team fought back and wore down the competition, as well as a 21-point deficit, to score a touchdown and a daring two-point conversion Friday in the final minute for a 29-28 win — and the 2021 Ohio Division IV Championship at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium.

“One of the greatest comeback victories I’ve ever been part of,” Massie head coach Dan McSurley said.

The Falcons trailed 28-7 in the third quarter but scored 22 unanswered points to win it.

Senior Kody Zantene took a look at his teammates and knew a victory was not out of the question.

“When we were down 28-7, I looked at the guys and I was like … you’d think we’d have guys with their (heads) down but they didn’t,” he said.

After the Irish pushed the difference to 21, Massie wasted no time in mounting its comeback. Four plays in to the next drive, Massie’s Zantene ripped through the Irish defense for 49 yards and a touchdown.

With renewed life, the quick strike kept the Falcons within reach and allowed them to keep with their offensive philosophy.

“We felt like we were still in position (to run the ball),” said offensive coordinator Jeskee Zantene. “We kept taking it possession by possession.”

There was no thought, at any time, to throw the football.

“Dan would say let’s see what we get with this possession and we scored again, then let’s see what we get with this possession … see if we get a (defensive) stop before we think about what we’re going to do. We were able to maintain the game plan and that was key.”

With Ursuline facing 4th and 14 from the Massie 49 at the 0:54 mark, the Irish lined up to punt. The punter completed a long pass down the right side for an apparent first down, but the Irish were flagged for an ineligible man downfield and it became 4th and 19.

When they did punt, the Irish pinned the Falcons back at the 10. However, Trampler ran up the middle and shed multiple tacklers for a 31-yard gain to the Massie 41, the final play of the third quarter. VanHoose then electrified the crowd to start the final quarter, shedding tacklers for a 41-yard gain to the YU 8.

After a Frank run and third and goal at the 1, the Falcons’ fumbled — but Massie’s Garrett Vance recovered in the end zone for a touchdown. The McGuinness PAT made it 28-21 at the 10:17 mark.

On the next Ursuline drive, Braden Rolf and Brandon Updike teamed for a huge sack that put the Irish off script. Updike was playing in place of Nate Wildermuth, who was injured in the first half and did not return.

After the Irish punted to the Massie 23, the Falcons were faced with a seven-point deficit and 7:49 on the clock. Trampler made a powerful gain up the middle for 11. After two plays the Falcons faced a third and 5, and Trampler ran it up the gut to the Massie 49 and a first down. Massie nailed another first down to the 38.

A Zantene keeper gave the Falcons another first down at the 25 at the 3:50 mark. Frank then powered up the middle to the 7 for a first and goal. A VanHoose run went for no gain, but Trampler pushed the pile to the 1 to make it third and goal. VanHoose was stopped for no gain, making it 4th and goal at the 1:00 mark.

With 48 seconds left in the fourth, Massie took timeout to set the stage for the thrilling ending.

“I told him (Kody) here’s the two plays we can run for a touchdown and a two-point,” Jeskee Zantene said.

Both plays worked to perfection.

On the touchdown, Zantene faked a hand-off and took it around the right side all alone to get the Falcons within 28-27 with 45 seconds on the clock.

That prompted another timeout by McSurley.

“I thought we had the momentum of the game in our favor,” said McSurley. “I was going to kick one and let’s go to overtime and beat these guys in overtime.”

After coach Zantene’s advice, McSurley said he gave the seniors a choice to go for one and overtime or two and a win or loss.

“The seniors said ‘Coach, let’s win this thing’,” McSurley said.

The Falcons went for two, and VanHoose used his speed to reach the end zone and a 29-28 CM lead.

Ursuline gained two yards as Shannon scrambled out of bounds. But three consecutive incomplete passes, the last of which was hurried by Leyton Bell, sparked a Massie sideline eruption as the school’s third state title was a reality.

Clinton-Massie took the opening kick and started on their own 25. They embarked on a classic Clinton-Massie drive, covering the 75 yards in a methodical 17 plays, taking 9:17 off the clock. Carson VanHoose scored from the 2 with just 2:47 on the first quarter clock. Ean McGuinness extra point kick made it 7-0.

Ursuline answered with a long drive of its own, 10 plays over 35 yards but it came up empty as a 29-yard field goal was short.

Leading the Massie defense in the first quarter were Blake Ireland, Gavin Avery and Kody Zantene with 2 tackles each.

DeMarcus McElroy capped the next drive with 34-yard touchdown run around the right side at 7:43 to tie the game.

Ursuline tried a short pooch kickoff and after both teams had a chance to recover, Ursuline got it at the Massie 40. The Irish moved inside the Massie 10. Colton Trampler dumped McElroy for a 4-yard loss.

Undaunted, Ursuline took the lead when McElroy scored from the 1. A two-point conversion made it 15-7 with 4:50 to go in the first half.

The Irish defense continued to bottle up the Massie running game, forcing another punt. Ursuline made it three second quarter touchdowns when Ben Shannon passed 39 yards to wide-open Jakylan Irving and a 21-7 lead.

In the first half, Clinton-Massie totaled 123 yards on 29 plays with 6 first downs to Ursuline’s 241 yards on 34 plays and 13 first downs. Carter Euton led the way with 6 tackles along with Zantene’s 6. Leyton Bell had 3 and Charles Hale 2.

It went to 28-7 midway through the third when Shannon fired a strike to Dean Boyd on a 26-yard scoring play. With 5:23 to play in the third, Massie was looking up at that large mountain.

But the Falcons strapped on their hiking boots and went to work for the school’s third state football championship.

Members of the Clinton-Massie Falcons football team celebrate a 29-28 Division IV State Championship victory over Youngstown Ursuline Friday, Dec. 3, 2021 in Canton, Ohio.
https://www.recordherald.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/27/2021/12/web1_FB_2Trophy1203me.jpgMembers of the Clinton-Massie Falcons football team celebrate a 29-28 Division IV State Championship victory over Youngstown Ursuline Friday, Dec. 3, 2021 in Canton, Ohio. Elizabeth Clark | News Journal
C-M 29, Youngstown Ursuline 28

By Tom Barr

tbarr@wnewsj.com