Despite a run like no other program in Clinton County history, Clinton-Massie football players heard the rumblings this offseason.
“People will have their thoughts but we believed in what we could do,” said star running back Brendan Lamb.
Lamb added the talk of a down season, by Massie standards, was just fuel for the always burning fire.
“We just go out and prove people wrong,” he said.
Davis Wulf said some people offered “hype” for the 2019 season but many said “we’re not going to succeed.”
The 6-3, 265-pound Wulf felt this version of Falcons football was no different in its approach to the season.
“At Massie, it’s state championship or bust,” said Wulf, the biggest offensive lineman on the CM roster. “The mentality on the team is we embrace the role we’re given. If we’re the underdog, we’ll embrace it.”
As the No. 2 seed in Div. IV Region 16, Clinton-Massie (9-1) will open the OHSAA state football playoffs as the favorite against No. 7 seed Valley View (8-2). The teams will meet 7 p.m. Saturday in a regional quarterfinal contest at Frank Irelan Field.
“They look pretty good,” Massie senior Tate Olberding said of the Spartans.
Massie enters the game as healthy as its been in a while.
“I’m confident in the health of our team going in to the playoffs,” Wulf said.
Head coach Dan McSurley said a couple of players will be returning this week, adding to the team’s already impressive depth.
Clinton-Massie’s success over the years has been largely built on a strong rushing attack and stout defense. This year is no different.
The defense has allowed an average of 174 yards per game to its opponents. While impressive, that number was inflated by several teams taking advantage of Clinton-Massie second- and third-stringers.
“We’re fast (on defense) and we’re physical,” said Braxton Green, a 5-11, 215-pound senior who finished as the leader of the CM defensive unit.
Green started early in 2018 then went to a reserve role when several starters returned from injury.
“I didn’t want to go back to that,” he said. “It was really tough for me last year at the end.”
As one of just three juniors to play a lot of snaps on last season’s defense, Green knew it was his time to shine in 2019.
He also knew the team lost 19 seniors to graduation and a good number of youngsters would need to grow up quickly for the team to have success.
“Lot of sophomores playing this year,” he said. “That was one of the concerns coming in. Once we started getting in to the games, though, our mindset improved. The sophomores have really stepped up this year.”
Though not a sophomore, Olberding was replacing a sophomore (Kody Zantene) at a key position (quarterback) to begin the year.
And the beginning of the season was loaded with tough opponents — Avon Lake, Fenwick and Bishop Hartley — not to mention county rivals East Clinton and Blanchester.
“In two a days, I’d go with the quarterbacks for some drills and then half of the drills I’d go with the receivers,” he said. “Once he (Kody) went down, I knew I had to step up. The team knew it could trust me. I showed leadership and went with it.”
Lamb said, “We had confidence in Tate. It’s the same goal (regardless of the quarterback).”
Olberding led Massie to a 4-1 record through five games then went back to receiver and turned the QB reigns over to Zantene. Massie finished the season 5-0, steamrolling the SBAAC American Division portion of the schedule.
Olberding provides the team with another big-play receiver, though passing is not the butter McSurley puts on his Lebanon Road bread. That, obviously, is the run game.
Lamb leads the way for Massie with 1,606 yards and 35 rushing TDs this season. But Carson Vanhoose, one of those sophomores, rushed for 737 yards and Robby Frederick, a senior bulldozer at fullback, gained 600 yards.
“It’s not a big deal who gets the most carries or the stats … we just want to win,” said Lamb.
Reach Mark Huber at 937-556-5765, via email [email protected] or on Twitter @wnjsports