The football state championship games return to Canton this week, and the lone game Thursday is a big one locally with Archbishop Hoban set to take on Massillon.
This year’s seven state title games will be played at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium next to Canton McKinley High School for the second year in a row.
Hoban (14-0) and Massillon (14-0) will get the weekend started at 7:30 p.m. Thursday in the Division II state final. Hoban is one win away from its fourth state title in a row.
“The 2018 Archbishop Hoban Knights are a unique group,” Hoban coach Tim Tyrrell said on Monday during an OHSAA teleconference with media members. “We have a good group of seniors, and a couple of them have been playing for a long time and this is their fourth straight state championship game.”
Hoban beat Cincinnati Winton Woods 42-14 for the 2017 Division II state title after winning back-to-back Division III state championships — over Toledo Central Catholic 33-20 in 2015 and Trotwood-Madison 30-0 in 2016, both at Ohio Stadium.
Cleveland St. Ignatius holds the record both for overall titles (11) and for most consecutive titles (five, 1991-1995) since the OHSAA football playoffs started in 1972. A win for Hoban on Thursday would allow the Knights to join Newark Catholic (1984-1987), Maria Stein Marion Local (2011-2014) and Coldwater (2012-2015) as teams that have won four state championships in a row.
Hoban is currently on a list of schools with three state titles in a row that also includes Youngstown Cardinal Mooney (2008-2010), Delphos St. John’s (1997-1999), Versailles (1993-1995) and Cincinnati Archbishop Moeller (1975-1977).
Hoban’s defense has featured seniors Matt Salopek, Marcus Saahir and Joe Michalowicz and junior DeaMonte Trayanum the past four weeks in playoff wins over Mayfield (49-0), Garfield Heights (41-7), Maple Heights (52-6) and Avon (42-7).
Seniors Nolan Rumler, Jacob Petit, Jaden Baxter and Owen Robinson and junior Walter Ganous start along the Knights offensive line in front of sophomore quarterback Shane Hamm and two dynamic running backs — senior Tyris Dickerson and Trayanum.
Rumler, Petit, Dickerson, Trayanum and Salopek are Hoban’s captains.
“This group is very business-like,” Tyrrell said. “There are not a lot of talkers in the group, and I think the biggest thing they have done throughout the whole season is play consistently.”
Massillon is back in a state final after finishing as Division I runner-up in 2005 to Cincinnati St. Xavier, and in 1982 and 1980 to Cincinnati Archbishop Moeller.
Prior to 1972, teams were named a state champion by “popular acclaim” between 1895-1946, and then the Associated Press started recognizing poll champs in 1947. Massillon has won 24 poll state titles (some outright and some shared between 1909 and 1972) with two notable streaks of being recognized as state champs from 1935-1941 and 1948-1954.
The Tigers' tournament trail in 2018 includes wins over Columbus Walnut Ridge (45-14), Whitehall-Yearling (35-17), Wadsworth (41-19) and Cincinnati Winton Woods (41-20).
“We have a great group of seniors, and their senior leadership has led us to where we are,” Massillon coach Nate Moore said. “We played our Week 10 game against Canton McKinley. That is our rivalry game, which is one of the biggest rivalry games in the country. We played a semi-national schedule with a last year state champion from New Jersey in Montclair in Week 4, and we played East St. Louis, a nationally known program from Illinois, in Week 7.”
The Tigers will be without senior running back Jamir Thomas, who is out with an ankle injury. Moore will call on junior Zion Phifer and senior Marcellus Blake to be the primary ball carriers in an offense that also features junior quarterback Aidan Longwell and wide receivers Tre’Von Morgan, Jayden Ballard and Aydrik Ford.
Seniors Dean Clark, Deon Williams and Kyshad Mack are three leaders on the Tigers defense. Longwell and seniors Thomas, Morgan, Clark, Williams and Justin Gaddis are Massillon’s captains.
Michael Beaven can be reached at 330-996-3829 or email@example.com.