CANTON, Ohio — There were two keys to Clinton-Massie’s late-game touchdown by quarterback Kody Zantene.
One was the play call. The other was a fake by a player who wasn’t going to get the ball.
Down 28-21 in the waning seconds of the OHSAA Div. IV state football championship game at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium, Clinton-Massie called a play they hoped would score a touchdown.
From the Ursuline 1, Massie was faced with third and goal with 48 seconds to play. There weren’t going to be many other chances.
It was now or never.
The play call had Zantene going to the line of scrimmage, surveying the Ursuline defense and making an audible to another play. At least that’s what Massie wanted Ursuline to think.
“They (Ursuline) had been catching on to (our audibles) all game,” said offensive coordinator Jeskee Zantene. “So the touchdown was a fake check (audible) to a blast play left. We were running a bootleg all the way, no matter what.”
Zantene went to the line and gave verbal commands that otherwise would have meant a change of plays. As the Irish defense shifted, things began unfolding just how Massie wanted.
The next step in making this play successful would be Carter Frank and his acting ability. Before keeping the ball, Zantene was to fake to Frank. The hope is defenders key on Frank and leave Zantene a clear lane to the end zone.
To make the play work, Frank has to make it look like he has the ball. Simple enough, you’d think, but not so.
“A couple of weeks ago, we were actually yelled at for our (bad) fakes,” Frank said.
So they practiced the fakes more and more. Attention to detail.
At the snap, Zantene turns left and holds the ball out like he’s giving it to Frank.
“I just jumped and tried to make it as far as I could, bring everybody on me,” said Frank.
It worked. No fewer than four Irish defenders took the fake, as Zantene spun out and headed to the right corner of the end zone. The touchdown set up Carson VanHoose’s two-point conversion run on the next play for the lead.
• Coach Zantene said the play call on the two-point conversion, 16 Mark Alabama, was a good play call but they only used it twice.
“We run the Mark Alabama earlier in the day and it was wide open,” he said. “We ran it for the first touchdown to Carson.”
They saved it for another big play when the outcome was on the line.
“Everybody converages on the fullback, we send the lead halfback (Carter Frank in this case) out on the corner … they executed it to a T.”
• Garrett Vance scored the first touchdown of his football career when he recovered a fumble in the end zone. The recovery and ensuing extra point made it 28-21 Ursuline.
Down 28-14, Massie was threatening to score and the call was to give the ball to bruising fullback Colton Trampler. That didn’t happen.
“The exchange was kind of iffy, the snap was kind of iffy … a whole of things didn’t go in our favor,” Trampler said.
When the ball hit the turf, Trampler went for it. By then it was a mass of bodies frenetically seeking the unclaimed football.
Trampler tried to recover the miscue but it was knocked out from under him and went right to Vance, who gladly wrapped his arms around the ball like a father cradling his new-born child.
“I was in the pile, people scrambling for the ball,” said Trampler. “When I got out of the pile and saw the sign of a touchdown, it was one of the greatest feelings ever.”
• After starting the game with a 90-yard drive, Massie’s offense went stagnant. The next four drives totaled 15 plays for 31 yards.
But things changed. Something deep down in side the Clinton-Massie players rose to the top and the game changed.
On its final three drives of the game — all resulting in touchdowns — the Falcons ran 22 plays and gained 231 yards.
The defense was equally resurgent. After giving up 28 points through the middle of the third quarter, the Massie defense held Ursuline to 11 plays and 17 yards with the game on the line.
” We didn’t panic,” said CM head coach Dan McSurley. “Once we got the momentum back, we didn’t give it up. We just weren’t going to be denied.”
• With all the jubilation in victory for Clinton-Massie, there is the other side for the Irish, who played well for almost three quarters and seemingly had a spot dusted off in the school trophy case for a fifth football title.
“I really can’t explain it right now,” said quarterback Ben Shannon. “I watched that clock hit 0:00 … I really can’t put that into words.”