“It’s an honor to say we’ve done this,” said senior quarterback/defensive back TreSean Smith, who ran for both La Salle touchdowns. “Not many people can say they’ve been here and say they’ve done this. We’re the ones to do it – that’s something to brag about.”
La Salle (13-2) is also just the ninth Ohio school to win at least three consecutive state football titles and the first program locally to win three in a row since Moeller (1975-77). There are 28 seniors who claimed their third consecutive title.
It was the 15th playoff game the seniors have played over the past three years and their 15th victory.
On a night when La Salle finished with zero passing yards, the Lancers faced a 7-0 halftime deficit. But, the Lancers didn’t question themselves even as Perry – the same team they beat 42-0 in last year's final – followed a well-prepared scouting report.
La Salle made the proper adjustments on both sides of the ball to bring home the title.
“To win three championships – it’s unbelievable,” said La Salle coach Jim Hilvert, who celebrated his 46th birthday with his second straight state title.
Smith entered the game as quarterback in the third quarter – just how he started the season. He scored on a 3-yard run with 2:53 left in the third quarter. That completed a 12-play, 84-yard drive that took 5:15.
The Lancers’ offensive line did well to give Smith room to run.
La Salle scored on its second drive of the fourth quarter when Smith ran 12 yards into the end zone. That was set up by senior Christian Turner’s 26-yard carry on the previous play.
Here's the TD that gave La Salle its 3rd straight #OHSAA D-II title. Follow 'OHSAASports' on Snapchat for more weekend sideline views! pic.twitter.com/qMmlzffqoJ
Smith, who is verbally committed to Louisville, rushed 14 times for 121 yards. Turner, the Greater Catholic League South Division player of the year, had 10 carries for 76 yards.
The Lancers held firm on Perry (12-3), which was limited to 21 passing yards and 168 yards of total offense.
“Defensively, wow,” Hilvert said. “Very stingy. They did an unbelievable job in the second half to shut those guys out.”
Senior Jarell White, one of the Lancers’ standouts the past three years, had a game-high 10 tackles. He also recovered a fumble and contributed 35 yards in the backfield.
Hilvert said all postseason no game was too big for his squad and that was the case Thursday night.
“It was just about us,” Hilvert said. “Winning the combat zone. Our offensive line did a great job in the second half of winning the trenches and running the ball well with TreSean, Christian and Jarell. Those guys did an unbelievable job.”
Massillon Perry led 7-0 at the 5:56 mark of the first quarter and the Panthers were the first team this postseason to score first against La Salle. Junior Dominick Bowman picked off a pass and returned it 17 yards for a touchdown on the first play of La Salle’s second drive.
But, the Panthers weren’t able to move the ball effectively in the second half against the La Salle defense. A late interception by La Salle senior defensive back Tyler Richardson stopped the Panthers. After La Salle threw an interception in the end zone, sophomore Brody Ingle forced a Perry fumble and sophomore Garrett Bledsoe recovered.
The Lancers, ranked No. 26 nationally by the MaxPreps computer rankings, proved any doubters wrong with another title. They also didn’t pay attention to the distractions.
“Everybody thought this game was going to be easy, they thought this season was going to be easy this and that,” Hilvert said. “…Our guys could’ve cashed it in weeks ago. They’ve embraced the grind week in and week out. In practice they kept getting better. They could’ve listened to the whispers … they didn’t listen to that.”
Hilvert said the players stayed committed to the mission throughout the 15 weeks.
“To win the GCL outright championship and to go on the run we’ve been in the playoffs and win this game the way we did shows a heart of a champion and shows what these guys are all about,” Hilvert said.