PLAIN CITY – Clinton-Massie finds itself in familiar territory – in line to add an Ohio High School Athletic Association Division IV state title trophy to the school’s growing trophy case.
The Falcons (13-1) clinched the state title berth and a trip to Canton by edging previously unbeaten Carroll Bloom-Carroll (14-1) 24-21 in dramatic fashion Friday night at Jonathan Alder High School.
“That was a really good team,” Clinton-Massie Dan McSurley said. “They were averaging allowing like eight points per game. It was just a battle in the trenches.”
The start to the night wasn’t quite how Clinton-Massie had scripted it, however. Carroll’s Beau Wisecarver took the opening kickoff nearly 90 yards to the house, putting Bloom-Carroll ahead 7-0 in the opening seconds of the contest.
But give Clinton-Massie credit, they battled back.
The Falcon defense did its part, and the patented Falcon rush attack began to take its toll on the Bloom-Carroll defense.
Clinton-Massie senior tailback Carter Frank punched in a pair of scores – one from 20 yards out, the second on a 50-yard burst – to pole vault the surging Falcons ahead 14-7 at halftime.
Falcon sophomore Ean McGuinness’ 22-yard field goal inched Clinton-Massie’s advantage to a two-score lead at 17-7 – albeit a short-lived one.
Wisecarver recorded his second touchdown of the night – this time on some trickery. After receiving a sweep behind the line, he – as an eligible passer – connected with Brandon Totten on a 31-yard touchdown, reducing the deficit down to 17-14.
Senior tailback Colton Trampler’s 3-yard rushing score in the fourth quarter had the Falcon faithful tasting a state title berth. But with so much at stake, this Bloom-Carroll team wasn’t going away that easy.
K.J. Benedict showcased a sense of poise, guiding his team 49 yards down the field in response. Benedict concluded the drive with a 5-yard passing score to Totten with just 3:29 remaining in the contest.
After proving unable to string out a handful of first downs, McSurley found his team in a peculiar position. On one hand, his team needed just three yards to put the finishing touches on the school’s first state title berth since 2017. On the other hand, should he risk giving the Bulldogs potentially short field position? With a fourth-and-short on the horizon, McSurley dialed up a fake punt – which didn’t fool the Bulldogs. They instinctively sniffed it out and made what seemed as if the play of the night.
“Right there at the end, we went for the fake punt,” McSurley said of his decision. “We had it, we worked on it, we didn’t execute it. We felt like we only got a 10-yard net gain on the first punt. . . We really liked the play we had; we just didn’t execute it.”
Then, the tables turned. The Bulldogs needed just 31 yards to punch a ticket to Canton. An 18-yard rush by Wisecarver down to the 8-yard line with less than two minutes to go had sent the Bloom-Carroll faithful into a frenzy, and the Clinton-Massie fans in attendance into disbelief.
Whether it was divine intervention, cold weather, or a heads-up punch out, the next moment was one the Falcon sideline will remember for quite some time.
Bloom-Carroll’s Clay Dozer rushed the right-side toward the end zone but coughed up the ball as he was tackled on the 5-yard carry. Alertly, senior Charley Hale made the recovery and saved the Falcons’ season.
Clinton-Massie’s trio of Frank, Trampler and senior Carson Vanhoose combined for 329 yards and three scores on the ground for the Falcons.
Now, Clinton-Massie hopes to add the school’s third state championship – their last having come in 2013.
Another formidable foe will be standing in their path for that quest, however.
They’ll face Youngstown Ursuline (11-3), who defeated Port Clinton (13-2) 34-17 in the other half of the OHSAA Division IV state semifinal.
Led by tailback Adain Murphy’s 2,000-yard rushing season and more than 36 touchdowns, the Fighting Irish have won their last seven contests by an average margin of 24.3 points.
Though the Falcons are unfamiliar with the Fighting Irish, this group’s excited for a chance to play on the big stage.
“Hey man, we’ll see who we’ve got. It’s always awesome to go play for a state championship.”
The OHSAA Division IV state championship contest between the two schools will be 10:30 a.m., Friday, Dec. 3, at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium in Canton, Ohio.
Clinton-Massie – 0 14 3 7 – 24
Bloom-Carroll – 7 0 7 7 – 21
1Q: BC: Wisecarver 90-yard kick return (McKee kick) 7-0 BC.
2Q: CM: Frank 50-yard rush (McGuinness kick) 7-7.
CM: Frank 20-yard rush (McGuinness kick) 14-7.
3Q: CM: McGuinness 22-yard field goal, 17-7.
BC: Wisecarver 31-yard pass to Trotten (McKee kick) 17-14.
4Q: CM: Trampler 3-yard rush (McGuinness kick) 24-14.
BC: Benedict 5-yard pass to Trotten (McKee kick) 24-21.