The threat of being fired led Dan McSurley to the wishbone.
The wishbone led McSurley and Clinton-Massie to a pair state championships.
The quest for a third state title continues Friday as Clinton-Massie meets Youngstown Ursuline 10:30 a.m. Friday at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium in Canton.
While at Graham High School, McSurley was part of a coaching staff that went 0-10.
“The superintendent threatened to fire the entire staff,” McSurley recalled, who talked with his head coach at the time and asked if he could call the offensive plays.
“We implemented the Darrell Royal wishbone attack and never looked back,” McSurley said.
McSurley went from assistant coach to head coach at Graham and then came to Clinton-Massie in 1996. The run-heavy wishbone came with him.
It took a while for things to go McSurley’s way on Lebanon Road. He was 30-31 in his first six seasons. In that time, he admits he was “fired twice” but with community backing was able to stick around both times.
Good thing. Massie is 219-32 since then and has won 21 league championships, made 22 state playoff appearances and won two state titles.
There is no end in sight.
“This offense can get up to six players touching the ball, which is exciting for the kids,” McSurley said. “We can teach this offense all the way down to the third grade and they can be successful running it.
“It’s a team oriented offense and that’s probably why all the military academies run it as well.”
Halfback Carson Vanhoose leads the Massie ground attack with 1,843 yards and 27 rushing touchdowns this season.
Halfback Carter Frank has 965 yards and 16 TDs and quarterback Kody Zantene has 547 yards and 11 TDs.
But anyone who has run the wishbone or tried to defend it knows the fullback is the key.
For the 2021 version of CM football, that fullback is Colton Trampler. Trampler has 1,085 yards and 13 TDs.
• Keegan Lamb has stepped into the defensive secondary this season and played a big role.
“Always been a fill-in guy,” said Lamb. “If I needed to go in there, I’d go in and do my job. There were some games I started and played a lot, but not a whole bunch.”
Then he was approached by the coaching staff at halftime against McNicholas in the Region 16 championship game. Lamb was told he’d be in the lineup in the second half.
“They said you have to step up and I said ‘I can do that’,” he said.
Lamb made several big plays in that game as well as the following game, last week’s state semifinal tilt with Bloom-Carroll.
Lamb admits being the last line of defense isn’t easy.
“It’s stressful but I trust those guys in front of me to do their jobs,” he said. “If one (ball carrier) leaks (his teammates) I trust my training. Our coaches do a great job of teaching us how to tackle.”
• Youngstown Ursuline head coach Dan Reardon had faith his team could get to the state championship game.
He’s not sure Ursuline fans were as trusting.
Ursuline lost back-to-back games to Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary, 49-14, and Cleveland Villa Angela-St. Joseph, 46-28, after a 4-1 start to the season.
“Back-to-back losses … if you would have asked people watching those games if we were a state-caliber team, I’d be shocked if they would say yes,” Reardon admitted.
With Youngstown East and Youngstown Cardinal Mooney the next two games, the Fighting Irish had a chance to get things right before entering the playoffs. Both East and Mooney were 1-win teams.