Big Red, Clinton-Massie set for showdown

In its 2017 run through the Division IV playoffs, Steubenville Big Red has faced four somewhat familiar opponents (Salem, Cardinal Mooney, Perry and Shelby).

A fourth (Clarksville Clinton-Massie) awaits Steubenville in Saturday’s D IV championship contest. The kick is set for 3 p.m. at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium in Canton. Clinton-Massie will be the home team.

Clinton-Massie, 13-1, visited Harding Stadium during Week 2 of the 2015 regular season. Big Red, which stands at 14-0, earned a 37-18 victory in that contest.

Big Red coach Reno Saccoccia called that triumph “a great win over a first class team.”

Veteran Clinton-Massie coach Dan McSurley said his program “got exactly what it wanted” out of that game.

“It was just a hell of a ball game,” he said. “Not a whole of teams step up to play these guys. We took on the challenge of coming four hours. “When you come out here and play these guys and do what we did, that’s why we came to play the game.”

In the 2015 meeting, Clinton-Massie held a 10-6 second quarter lead before Big Red reeled off 12 unanswered points to lead 18-10 at the half. It was 24-18 Steubenville after three then the hosts scored 13 during the final eight minutes.

Steubenville compiled 500 yards of offense compared to 317 for the Falcons.

Big Red advanced to the D IV finale for the third straight year with a 35-22 victory over Shelby on Friday in Akron. Jacob Bernard had another solid game for Steubenville, collecting 152 rushing yards on 27 trips and scoring twice. He now has 1,607 yards for the season and 23 rushing touchdowns.

Javon Davis threw for 166 yards, completing 12 of his 15 attempts and three touchdowns. For the campaign, Davis has connected on 68 percent of his passes for 1,785 yards and 21 scores.

C-M, on the other hand, knocked off New Concord John Glenn 28-21.

The Falcons tied the game at 21 with 8:41 left on a 25-yard pass from Corey Stulz to Luke Richardson. Five plays later, Richardson picked off a John Glenn pass and returned it 46 yards for the go-ahead score.

John Glenn dominated the game from a statistical standpoint. The Little Muskies ran 71 plays for 415 yards while Clinton-Massie had 48 offensive snaps for 189 yards (133 rushing and 56 passing). C-M’s two completions both went for touchdowns.

Run, run, run:

As John Glenn coach Matt Edwards said during an interview last week with The Cambridge Jeffersonian, Clinton-Massie loves to play a smash-mouth style of football.

“They’re still all about physical, old-school football and their kids buy into that philosophy,” he said. “They run a lot of wishbone with three backs and a tight end … just traditional power football. They’ve got some kids who look the part.

“It’s pretty easy to see what they do. They want to run the football, probably 97 percent or 98 percent run and they’ll throw it maybe three, four times a game. They want to control the clock by gaining three and four yards at a time.”

McSurley, who has won more than 200 games in his 22 years of coaching, says his Falcons rely on “our guys up front.”

“There’s no secret to anybody,” he told the Jeffersonian. “We’re just going to keep it between the tackles although we’ve got some guys explosive enough to get it outside too.”

Top Falcons:

As a team, the Falcons have run the ball 618 times this year while attempting just 41 passes. C-M has gained 4,279 yards on the ground, averaging 6.9 yards per trip.

Christian Poynter, a 5-10, 180 pound senior, is the go-to-guy in the Clinton-Massie backfield. He has toted the pigskin 208 times for 1,434 yards. Senior Cody Collingham, 5-8, 205, has 99 carries for 785 yards while senior Grant Rudy (5-9, 170) has 73 trips for 613 yards.

Stulz, C-M’s junior quarterback, has completed 21 passes on the season. The 6-0, 155 pound signal caller has thrown for 12 touchdowns and 718 yards. Richardson, a senior, has 18 of the 21 receptions for 657 yards and all of the touchdowns. He stands 6-0 and weighs 160.

The big guy up front for the Falcons is senior Spencer Voss, 6-6, 280 pounds. He is considered a Division I prospect.

Back-to-back:

Big Red and Clinton-Massie have captured back-to-back championships in recent years.

Steubenville earned Division III championships in 2005 with a 28-7 victory over Columbus DeSales and 2006 by clipping Kettering Alter 34-33.

C-M earned D IV titles in 2012 with a 46-36 win over St. Clairsville and 2013 when it took down Cardinal Mooney 27-21.

Big Red will be seeking its fourth state crown while Clinton-Massie is in search of its third Ohio championship.

Steubenville qualified for the playoffs for the 17th consecutive year while Clinton-Massie has a 16-year streak going. Overall, Big Red has made the postseason 30 times compared to 16 for the Falcons.

Big Red now has a playoff record of 65-26 while the Falcons are 31-14.

A 4 seed:

Clinton-Massie, a member of the Southern Buckeye League/American Division, entered the playoffs as the No. 4 seed in Region 16.

The Falcons, who were ranked seventh in the final AP Division IV poll, beat Plain City Jonathan Alder (17-7), Germantown Valley View, the top Region 16 seed, (27-20) and Cincinnati Wyoming, the second seed, (28-7) to reach last week’s semifinals.

During the regular season, Clinton-Massie defeated East Clinton, Coldwater, Shawnee, Miami Trace, Cincinnati Northwest, Batavia, Western Brown, New Richmond and Wilmington. The lone C-M loss came to Goshen, which made the playoffs as the No. 4 seed in Division III, Region 12.

Offensively, the Falcons have scored 582 points (41.5 points per game) while their defense has allowed 169 (12 points per game).

Not surprised:

During his conversation with The Jeffersonian, McSurley said he isn’t surprised to see his Clinton-Massie competing for a state championship.

“We felt this was the team,” he said. “Our senior class has played in so many big games. These guys have traveled across the state and played Steubenville and know how to play a team like that.

“They are hardened and ready to go.”

Number 44:

Thanks to three straight trips to championship weekend, most of Big Red’s seniors will be suiting up for their 44th game on Saturday.

The maximum possible in three seasons in 45. A bye week during the 2015 regular season kept the class from achieving the maximum number.

During their three years of dressing for varsity games, Big Red has compiled a record of 40-3 heading into this week’s title contest.

Ticket sales:

Big Red will be selling championship game tickets on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday at the high school ticket office. Single-game tickets sold at participating schools are priced at $11 and the schools receive a portion of the proceeds. Tickets at the game will cost $15.

The hours for Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday are 8:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Tickets also will be available from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. Thursday. Friday’s hours are 8:30 a.m. to noon.

Big Red is planning a pep rally for the football team on Friday inside Harding Stadium. The exact time will be announced later this week.

Use the shuttle:

Lots at the Pro Football Hall of Fame and Tom Benson Stadium will be closed for public parking during championship weekend.

Fans are being urged by the OHSAA to park at the Stark County Fairgrounds and take advantage of the stadium shuttle, which will provide continuous service. The fairgrounds are located at 700 Wertz Ave. NW in Canton.

Six are back:

Six of the 14 state finalists are making a return trip from the 2016 state championship games, held at Ohio Stadium in Columbus.

Akron Archbishop Hoban is the two-time defending Division III state champ but now is competing in Division II. Trotwood-Madison was the 2016 D III runner-up to Hoban. Big Red, of course, was the 2015 and 2016 D IV runner-up to Columbus Bishop Hartley, which competed in D III this year.

Big Red’s losses to Hartley came by a total of just six points. Steubenville is making its ninth state championship game appearance.

Maria Stein Marion Local is the defending Division VI state champ and Cuyahoga Heights, which finished second to Marion Local in 2016, now is playing in D VII. Minister was the 2016 D VII runner up to Warren John F. Kennedy.

Six finalists also will be looking to cap off perfect 15-0 seasons including, of course, Big Red. The others are Trotwood-Madison in D III, Marion Local, Pemberville Eastwood in D 5, Wheelersburg in D V and Kirtland in D VI.

The finals also will feature four of the seven teams that won AP poll championships. Big Red was the D IV poll king. The others are Trotwood-Madison, Pemberville Eastwood and Marion Local. Two teams not ranked in the final AP poll have made it to the finals-Dresden Tri-Valley in D III and Minster.

A 12th trip:

Marion Local is making its 12th trip to a state championship game, which is the most among all 2017 finalists and in the top five all-time in Ohio.

The Flyers have nine titles and finished second twice. Big Red is in the finals for the ninth time and sports a 3-5 record.

The other state finalists include Mentor (three appearances, all runners-up), Pickerington Central (two, both runners-up), Cincinnati Winton Woods (one, title), Akron Archbishop Hoban (two, both titles), Trotwood-Madison (six, one title and five runners-up), Dresden Tri-Valley (first appearance), Clarksville Clinton-Massie (two, both titles), Wheelersburg (one, title), Pemberville Eastwood (first appearance), Kirtland (five, three titles, two runners-up), Cuyahoga Heights (one, runner-up) and Minster (three, two titles, one runner-up).

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