Already hurting with its backfield depleted by injuries, Clinton-Massie coach Dan McSurley feared the worse as the Falcons prepared for a high school football state championship.
“It was a matchup issue,” said McSurley following a 50-36 shootout loss to Steubenville in Saturday’s Division IV state championship game at the new Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium.
“I’ve done this for 32 years; you know when it’s a matchup issue. You try to scheme, but sometimes the matchups just don’t work out for you.”
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It was Massie’s third state final appearance since 2012. But unlike those 2012-13 Falcons championship teams, this time Massie was overcome by a determined Big Red that had been beaten the previous two seasons by Columbus Bishop Hartley in D-IV title games.
Steubenville senior quarterback Javon Davis presented the greatest problem for Massie, figuring in on six Big Red touchdowns. He completed just 9 of 13 passes, but that accounted for 213 passing yards and scoring tosses of 60, 26, 19 and 18 yards.
And when Davis tucked the ball and ran, he was just as effective, going for 111 yards and two more touchdowns. His fourth-quarter touchdown runs of 44 and 13 yards were the difference after Massie rallied from a 27-7 first-half deficit.
That was the bulk of Steubenville’s 464 yards of total offense.
“They knew we had some inexperience on the back end and they were big up front,” McSurley said. “It’s tough sometimes when they’re coming down on your tackles and the linebackers have a hard time scrapping up top.”
Veteran Steubenville coach Reno Saccoccia was taken aback by the win. He’s been the Big Red coach for 35 years, long enough to see the good times – four state titles – and the not so good. The entire Steubenville community was rocked following a preseason sex scandal that involved two convicted former Big Red players several years ago. All kinds of national media kept the story percolating.
“It’s a community that’s been butchered the last five years,” Saccoccia said. “We’ve fought back. We knew what was right and we knew what was wrong. We just stuck the course and these players stuck the course with us.”
It’s the first state title for Steubenville (15-0) since the 2006 season, a one-point win over Alter in the D-IV state final at Massillon. Steubenville also won a championship in 2005 and its first in 1984.
Massie’s Luke Richardson scored on a 53-yard punt return as time expired in the first half when the teams combined for 56 points. The Falcons’ Tyler Beam scored on a 7-yard run less than two minutes into the third quarter and Derick Carlisle had a 28-yard field goal to pull Clinton-Massie within 36-29. Massie had another special teams home run from Weston Trampler on a 72-yard kickoff return.
Then Smith took off.
“We limped into this thing,” said McSurley, whose Falcons finish 13-2. “We’re not real deep in a lot of positions. We went into the playoffs down all three backs. When you do that and you’re playing in this type of game, you’ve got to have your guys fresh.”
The contest drew 10,251 spectators and an appreciative Saccoccia.
“We’re going to have a great Christmas in Steubenville this year,” he said.