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La Salle football team wins Division II regional title with a 35-10 victory at Winton Woods

Posted at 11:57 PM, Nov 06, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-07 09:49:14-05

FOREST PARK, Ohio — La Salle senior defensive back Jaylen Johnson didn't want his high school career to end Friday night.

The hunger to return to the state Final Four was obvious on the sideline.

Johnson and his teammates left no doubt about the final result in the region as visiting La Salle defeated Winton Woods 35-10 in the Division II, Region 8 final.

"We've been injured the whole season," said Johnson, who is verbally committed to Ohio State. "Teams have been doubting us the whole season. Winton Woods came in physical. We came in physical. But, they haven't seen a team like us yet."

La Salle (8-2) advances to play Massillon Washington (9-1) in a Division II state semifinal at 7 p.m. Nov. 13 at a location to be determined later this weekend by the Ohio High School Athletic Association.

Next week marks the fifth time for La Salle as a state semifinalist in program history. La Salle has also won regional titles in 2019, 2016, 2015 and 2014.

"It's unbelievable but we still have some work to do," La Salle senior offensive lineman Gavin Robbins said. "We have to keep going."

The state semifinal Nov. 13 will be a rematch of the 2019 Division II state final in which La Salle won at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium in Canton.

"I think we're one of the four best teams and let's go see what happens against Massillon," Lancers coach Pat McLaughlin said. "It should be a good ballgame like last year."

La Salle had 375 yards of total offense Friday night against Winton Woods (9-1), who entered the game undefeated and the No. 1 seed in the region.

La Salle senior quarterback Zach Branam rushed 27 times for 200 yards and four touchdowns. He was also 9 of 13 passing for 108 yards and a touchdown.

"If he isn't one of the players of the year in the state of Ohio then I don't know who is," McLaughlin said.

La Salle led 21-3 at halftime after Branam accounted for three touchdowns (two rushing, one throwing) in the first half.

McLaughlin also credited the offensive line for its efforts on the night in addition to Branam's performance.

Robbins said he's really enjoyed blocking for Branam this season.

"He's a great guy," Robbins said. "I wouldn't want anyone else back there."

Branam's 17-yard touchdown pass to senior tight end Cole Schnieder helped to give the Lancers a 14-3 advantage with 5:48 left in the second quarter.

Branam added two more rushing touchdowns in the second half.

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"This week in practice I think was the best we've ever had," Branam said. "Everybody was fired up; everybody knew what was on the plate. Great team with a lot of great players. We knew what we had on our plate and we stepped up to the table and we accomplished what we came here to do."

The Lancers' defense was also very strong. La Salle held Winton Woods to 113 yards rushing and 98 yards passing.

"Defense - we knew - like (Ohio State defensive coordinator Kerry Coombs) always tells me, 'The team that runs the fastest and hits the hardest would always win," Johnson said. "As you can see we ran the fastest and hit the hardest."

La Salle senior defensive back Jaylen Johnson said the Lancers have overcome a lot to win the Division II regional title.

Winton Woods scored a touchdown late in the third quarter when senior quarterback Mi'Chale Wingfield connected with junior wide receiver Antonio Turner Jr. for a 70-yard score.

It marked the final playoff game for Wingfield, a three-year starter for the Warriors.

"Mi'Chale (Wingfield) is a Warrior through and through," Winton Woods coach Andre Parker said. "He has led this program fearlessly and will always be remembered."

Winton Woods shared the Eastern Cincinnati Conference title in its first season in the conference. Parker encouraged the players after the game.

"I told them to pick their head up," Parker said. "They've accomplished so much. I'm very proud of them and love them."