COLUMBUS, Ohio -- It has been a decade since a team from Massillon won a regional championship and few thought it would Perry to break that dry spell for the town. No team from the fabled football mecca has ever won an OHSAA state title. Now the Panthers get their shot at “Massillon Immortality.”
Getting to the promised land is going to take a titanic effort from Perry against the reigning state champion La Salle Lancers. Over the past two seasons the Lancers have been a wrecking ball in the playoffs. Now there is one last game for the La Salle senior class to add to its already impressive legacy. They are going to be a team on mission with back-to-back titles at stake. The story lines are set on what will be an epic evening no matter what the outcome.
LA SALLE LANCERS (12-2) vs. MASSILLON PERRY PANTHERS (12-2)
Kickoff: Friday 8:00 p.m. at Ohio Stadium (Ohio State University)
Follow on Twitter @TSFootball
PLAYERS TO WATCH: The 2015 AP Ohio Division II Co-Offensive Players of the Year will have all eyes on them as running backs Keishaun Sims of Perry and the Lancers’ Jeremy Larkin can change the game on any touch. Sims runs behind a pair monstrous Second-Team All-Ohio linemen, the 6-foot-5, 290 pound Adam Gregorie and the 6-foot-4, 295 pound Matt Carrick.
Jeremy Larkin has Luke Doerger, Thayer Munford and crew opening huge holes for him. The senior has registered 1,763 yards on the ground, averages 11.7 per carry with 26 rushing touchdowns in nine playoff games. He has amassed 2,150 all-purpose yards with 29 total trips to the end zone in that span.
The Lancers’ defense has been very opportunistic this postseason with 10 takeaways, including two fumble recoveries and an interception returned for scores. Tre’Sean Smith has had two interceptions in each of the last two contests. Defensive back Jarell White was a Third-Team, All-Ohio selection along with junior classmate Munford.
TEAM TRENDS: La Salle has won nine consecutive playoff games with seven of those being by more than 32 points. The Lancers have scored 42 points or more in six straight playoff tilts. Perry has allowed just 28 points in four playoff games. La Salle is in the tournament for a sixth time. The Lancers are 9-4 lifetime. This is the seventh trip to the playoffs for Perry. The Panthers have a 10-6 all-time record.
LA SALLE’S KEYS TO VICTORY: This is a tough and strong Perry football team up front. The Lancers’ defense has to match that grit and then some. Physical teams have given La Salle some trouble this season. Getting out to an early and big lead will take away Sims and negate some of the run game. Stopping Sims on passes out of the backfield is also a top priority for La Salle.
MASSILLON PERRY’S KEYS TO VICTORY: Falling behind early and feeling awestruck by the big stage is a trap the Panthers do not want to fall into. A long early point-producing drive by the offense to calm everyone’s nerves and get into the flow of the game will be just what the doctor ordered. The closer this game stays late the better off Perry is. That means the Panthers have to limit the La Salle possessions ball by controlling the clock with the run.
Prediction: La Salle 42, Massillon Perry 30