CANTON, Ohio — The Lancers roll deep yet again as state football champions.
La Salle defeated Massillon 34-17 in the Division II state final in front of 11,286 Thursday night at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium.
"I love all my teams but I love this team," La Salle coach Pat McLaughlin said. "We could play next week and we could play two more weeks. These guys wouldn't bat an eye. We could practice for three hours and say we got to come back on Monday and practice just in case something else happens and they would say OK. It's just finding a way, just loving being around the kids, loving football, loving practice and loving each other. It's been a fun season."
La Salle (13-2) won its fourth state football title in program history and became the 18th school in the Ohio High School Athletic Association to win at least four state football titles (20019, 2016, 2015, 2014).
La Salle is planning a community celebration for 7 p.m. Monday at the school, according to La Salle principal Aaron Marshall. The school will announce details later.
"It means everything," La Salle senior running back Cam Porter said. "We do this for Lancer Nation. We do this for the alumni. We are just so happy and glad we can bring it back to Cincinnati."
The Lancers left Thursday morning and drove nearly four hours to Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium in Canton; Massillon (14-1) traveled for just 17 minutes. Just like all season, the Lancers never made excuses.
"This is a great feeling," La Salle junior defensive back Devonta Smith said. "I love these group of guys."
Despite a large Massillon crowd, the Lancers were ready for the most significant statewide stage.
La Salle overcame an early 3-0 deficit when sophomore Gi’Bran Payne scored on a 6-yard touchdown run, giving his team a 7-3 lead at the 6:27 mark of the first quarter.
Payne was initially ruled down at the 1-yard line but the Ohio High School Athletic Association conducted its first review in state football history and ruled Payne was in the end zone.
La Salle went ahead 14-3 when Cam Porter scored on a 6-yard touchdown run at the 10:54 mark of the second quarter.
Massillon cut the lead to 14-10 on a 38-yard touchdown pass at the 8:47 mark.
The Lancers responded when Porter scored a 9-yard touchdown to give La Salle a 21-10 lead at the 6:04 mark.
Massillon scored with 1:10 left in the second quarter on a 69-yard touchdown pass to make it La Salle 21-17 at halftime. La Salle shut out Massillon in the second half.
Massillon fumbled for the second time in the game late in the third quarter, and the Lancers' Porter scored on a 3-yard touchdown run to make it 28-17 at the 1:52 mark.
Later, senior Jake Seibert made a 43-yard field goal to set a Division II state championship record and give the Lancers a 31-17 lead. The previous D-II record was a 42-yarder for Purcell Marian’s John Paul Case in 1986 and Brecksville's Tom Tupa in 1983. Seibert also added a 38-yard field goal with 2:26 left.
Junior quarterback Zach Branam rushed 22 times for 166 yards. Payne finished with 15 carries for 133 yards and a touchdown. Seibert was 2 of 2 on field goals, 4 of 4 on extra points and had four punts for 128 yards. He also had two receptions for 43 yards. Senior linebacker Luke Thiemann had a team-high seven tackles.
La Salle had 397 yards of total offense including 337 yards rushing. The Lancers had 26 first downs to Massillon's 10.
"La Salle is a great football program," Branam said. "They teach not only about football but about life and how to be a hard worker in whatever you want to do with your life. Teaching us about those values really helps on and off the field - not just being a football player but being a member of the society."
Thursday night was the first time since 1972 that La Salle played Massillon.
It was also one of only two state finals featuring No. 1 regional seeds facing each other this season. The other game is the last contest of the weekend, which features Kirtland (14-0) against Ironton (13-1) in Division V Saturday night.
La Salle was ranked No. 6 in this season’s final Division II state poll, while Massillon, the 2018 Division II state runner-up, finished No. 1.
Massillon, ranked No. 25 nationally by USA Today, entered Thursday night with the most all-time playoff wins (39) without a state title, according to the OHSAA.