When Clinton-Massie lines up against Wyoming Saturday night in a regional semifinal game, it will have been more than a month since the Falcons completed a forward pass.
All they do is run the ball.
In a day when offenses want to spread the field and throw it, these Falcons are content to line-up shoulder to shoulder on the line, six moving parts acting as one steamroller, and run over teams.
Which happens to be the bottom line, especially at this time of year.
Clinton-Massie will play Wyoming 7 p.m. Saturday at Lakota West Firebird Field in one of two Div. IV Region 16 semifinal games. The other pits Cincinnati Taft against Archbishop McNicholas. The winners will meet on Nov. 19 for the Region 16 championship and a berth in the Div. IV Final Four.
In last week’s 56-42 shootout win at Urbana, the Falcons ran the ball 57 times for a school record 625 yards, one of the best-ever single-game rushing performances in state history.
“We felt good about the game plan going into the week,” Massie offensive coordinator Jeskee Zantene said. “We felt like we could have some good success offensively. I was not expecting 625 yards.”
Powered by linemen Owen Trick, Joey Kocher, Isaiah McCoy, Tyler Tolson, Adam Frisch, Tayten McCoy, the Falcons never attempted a pass. Never thought about throwing the football, in fact.
“We know that if we go out there and execute to perfection, like we’re supposed to, it’s going to be hard to stop us,” said senior quarterback Keegan Lamb. “Coaches put us in a great position, the game-plans are great. We can do the same thing over and over again and nobody can stop us.”
Despite knowing what was coming, the Hillclimbers offered little resistance. Gavan Hunter ran for 148 yards and averaged 8.2 yards per carry. He was the third best runner on the night.
Brody Clutter rumbled his way to five touchdowns and 176 yards on 21 carries while Logan Chesser danced his way through the defense to the tune of 302 yards and three touchdowns.
Keegan Lamb, the quarterback who along with center Isaiah McCoy handles the ball on every play, lost a yard on his only rushing attempt.
And that’s just fine with him.
“I’m a team guy,” he said. “Whatever works. I don’t care if I have a hundred yards or zero yards rushing. I don’t really care as long as we win.”
While some may perceive this Clinton-Massie offense as methodical (it can be) and boring (winning is not boring), it is more than capable of busting a defense for the big play. Last year’s well-documented state championship game comeback aside, against Unioto, for instance, Clutter had a 74-yard touchdown while Chesser had one of 56 yards and another of 66 yards.
Over the last four games, since that Week 8 pass completion from Lamb to Hunter for a 31 yard touchdown, McSurley has called 218 running plays and just four pass plays, that’s 98 percent runs. That’s higher than normal, even for the McSurley. Last year, the percentage was 93 percent with the previous four being 89 percent, 91.6 percent, 90.4 percent and 92.6 percent.
The 2022 season percentage of 94.6 is up from the start of the season. While Massie was going 0-4, the run number was at 91 percent. “We learned a lot about our team early in the season,” Zantene said. “Simplify and control the game.”
So the runs increased. And so did the wins.
But will the run-centric offense work against the vaunted Wyoming defense? The Cowboys have given up just 551 yards on the ground this season, an average of 45.9 per game.
To note, the 551 yards WHS has allowed this season on the ground is 74 less than Massie had against Urbana.
Said Trick, a senior who was an All-Ohio lineman on last year’s state championship team, “It’s really just like a culture thing here. We’re going to line up our guys against your’s and be better. It’s definitely what we strive for.”