MASSILLON: If he would have been asked, Nordonia’s Alex Alders probably would have laundered the uniforms, polished the helmets, shined the cleats, filled the water jugs, pumped air into the footballs and driven the team bus to Paul Brown Tiger Stadium.
Heck, he did just about everything else Friday.
Unfortunately for Alders and his teammates, Massillon had a little more ammo and took advantage of some second-half mistakes and went on to a 33-17 victory in a Division II regional quarterfinal playoff game in front of about 7,500 fans.
It was the second consecutive year that Nordonia lost to Massillon in a first-round playoff game but the first time in the state’s second-largest division. Massillon won 63-34 last year when both were Division I schools.
The improvement is of little solace to the Knights, whose season ends with an 8-3 record after an 8-0 start. Massillon (9-2) advances to next week’s regional semifinal against Highland at a site to be determined Sunday.
Massillon used an effective ground game, the passing of freshman quarterback David Clark and a defense that pitched a second-half shutout until 3:29 remained to offset a superlative individual performance by Alders, a 6-foot-2 junior.
Alders was a factor on both sides. He caught a team-high 11 passes from David Murray for 101 yards, including a 31-yard reception to open the scoring on Nordonia’s opening possession. He carried the ball from the Wildcat formation for six yards, returned five kickoffs for 134 yards and was in on numerous defensive plays, including one that he turned into a touchdown.
Senior Sterling Brabson, taking on the role of the injured Jordan Nobles, ran for 98 yards on 21 carries and Murray completed 18-of-42 passes for 145 yards. Alders said it was just a matter of time and location.
“That was our team” he said, deflecting his contributions. “It was our line giving Murray time to get me the ball, our other receivers blocking downfield and the defense stepping up. I just was in the right place at the right time. We tried to keep on fighting. We’ve been down before and came back. We just weren’t clicking.”
The Knights were in the game until midway through the third quarter when Massillon scored 10 unanswered points to take a 26-14 lead.
Massillon senior Lyron Wilson rushed for 149 yards and one touchdown, junior J.D. Crabtree had 86 yards and two touchdowns on nine carries, and Clark completed 7-of-12 passes for 91 yards, which included a 32-yard scoring strike to Reggie Rogers.
The Knights got off to a rousing start. They took advantage of a 3-yard punt by the Tigers, the result of a bobbled snap. Sophomore Justice Alexander covered the ball at the Massillon 40-yard line and Murray made it pay. He connected on a 31-yard touchdown pass to Alders, having set up the score with a 22-yard strike to Brabson and a 7-yarder to Alders.
The Tigers retaliated in a hurry to tie the score. They went 67 yards in five plays, culminating the drive with a 32-yard pass from freshman quarterback Clark to Rogers.
Clark completed three-of-three passes on the drive, with Rogers helping set up the score with a 17-yard reception.
The Tigers took a 13-7 lead on their next possession with a seven-play, 52-yard ground attack. Wilson, who finished the half with 115 yards, got the drive going with a run of 35 yards on first down and capped it by sneaking in from 1-yard. The point-after kick failed.
Alders helped put the Knights back on top 14-12 when he plucked a fumble out of midair and went 25 yards for a touchdown.