Clinton-Massie grounded in wishbone offense

Clinton-Massie football coach Dan McSurley is a believer in the wishbone offense.

It’s an antiquated, often crowded backfield compared to the popular spread, which often features just a quarterback getting a direct center snap. The wishbone eschews placing highly skilled running back/receiver hybrids in space to create defensive one-on-one mismatches.

Instead, it’s a give off tackle, a fake around the edge or a pitch outside, all of which could happen. It requires instant decision-making, all dependent on how the defense reacts.

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It was 31 years ago and McSurley, an assistant, was close to losing his coaching job if that team didn’t sufficiently rebound from an 0-10 season. He talked the head coach into letting him take over the offense. He immediately landed a Darrell Royal videotape of the wishbone that was so popular at that time with his University of Texas Longhorns.

The rest is Clinton-Massie football history.

“I got an 8-millimeter video and put it on my refrigerator and studied it,” McSurley told a statewise media conference call this week. “It seemed like a lot of fun. I’m an old offensive and defensive lineman. It didn’t seem like shuffling your feet and backing up to protect your quarterback was a whole lot of fun. We kept (the wishbone) and have had a lot of success with it.”

So much so that Clinton-Massie (13-1) is seeking its third state title this week. The Falcons play mighty Steubenville (14-0) in a Division IV state championship at Canton’s new Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium at 3 p.m. Saturday.

With seven division titles at stake, that’s one of four that will involve area teams. Minster (10-4) playes Cuyahoga Heights (12-1) in D-VII at 10 a.m. Friday. In Saturday’s other two games it’s defending D-VI state champ Marion Local (14-0) against Kirtland (14-0) in a No. 1 vs. No. 2 showdown at 10 a.m. Top-ranked Trotwood-Madison (14-0) gets upstart Dresden Tri-Valley (13-1) in the D-III 8 p.m. finale.

The wishbone and its various derivatives has been kind to Massie. The Falcons won consecutive D-IV state titles in 2012-13 and own a combined record of 168-22 over the last 16 straight playoff seasons. How often do the Falcons lean on the run? This season Massie has rushed 618 times – for 4,279 yards - and thrown just 41 passes.

McSurley said the Falcons will transform into “an I-bone, a double-slot, and a Roger-Louie wing-T. We’ll run some twins. We run a bunch of different formations but the scheme up front stays the same.”

Massie will need all that ground-oriented firepower and likely more against Steubenville, which is 3-5 all-time in state title games. The Big Red lost both the previous two D-IV title games by a combined six points to Columbus Bishop Hartley, which bumped up to D-III this season.

Another throwback hint to Massie’s success is the lack of color placards or hand signals to relay on-field offensive plays.

“It’s just old-school and a lot of fun to coach,” McSurley said. “You can use your imagination. I encourage our coaches to be creative and have fun with it but keep the same principals and fundamentals that we had 30 years ago.”

Steubenville defeated visiting Massie 37-18 in the 2015 regular season, the only game the teams have played.

• Pickerington Central (13-1) will play Mentor (13-1) in Friday night’s D-I state title game. Central’s only loss was 28-19 to visiting Trotwood in Week 3. Piqua and Mr. Football Brandon Saine defeated Pickerington Central in the 2006 D-II state title game.

• Trotwood-Madison will sell state title football tickets at the school from 7:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday. Cost is $11 in advance and all seats are general admission.

• All the state title games will be televised live on Spectrum Sports and broadcast by the OHSAA Radio Network.

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