St. Edward’s senior receiver Josh Kerekes cruised virtually unnoticed past the Massillon secondary, until the Tigers saw Justin Slattery pull up to throw the ball after having received what appeared to be a bubble screen from quarterback Christian Ramos.
Slattery’s throw hung in the air a little longer than he would have liked, causing Kerekes to wait for the ball before taking off down the right sideline with a Massillon defender in close pursuit. The shove he received at the Tigers’ 23-yard line would not be enough, however, as Kerekes maintained his balance and tip-toed down the sideline for a stunning 72-yard touchdown with 4:01 remaining in the game, the first lead for the Eagles since the first quarter. Noah Rios’ extra-point provided the game-winning margin in a thrilling 24-23 season-opener between two of the top teams in the state of Ohio.
Alex Bauer’s third field goal of the night had given Massillon a 23-17 lead with 9:38 left in the game, a lead which the Tigers had held since the final two minutes of the first quarter. After Massillon forced a punt on the next St. Edward’s possession, the Tigers had a chance to ice the game after Martavien Johnson exploded for a 23-yard gain to the Eagles’ 37-yard line. The St. Ed’s defense held, however, as CJ Hankins intercepted a pass on third-and-eight with five minutes remaining in the game, setting the stage for the dramatic long touchdown, which came on second-and-23 following a bad snap on first down.
Host Massillon struck first in the opener, which was played in a deluge of a rain storm throughout Northeast Ohio. Bauer’s 26-yard field goal gave the Tigers an early 3-0 lead, but it was short-lived, as Joel Castleberry returned the ensuing kickoff 95 yards for a quick 7-3 lead for the Eagles. Massillon regained the lead with two minutes remaining in the first quarter when Zach Catrone capped a 70-yard drive with a 37-yard touchdown pass to Jayden Ballard.
Catrone and Ballard connected again early in the second quarter, this time on a 31-yard pass, giving the Tigers a 17-7 advantage. The next St. Edward’s drive ended in a 30-yard field goal by Rios, but Bauer drilled a 42-yard kick with 14 seconds left in the first half to push the lead back to 10 points, 20-10, before the two teams endured a 40-minute weather delay during halftime.
St. Ed’s cut the lead to three points late in the third quarter with a four-yard touchdown pass from Ramos to Andrew Cook before Bauer extended the lead early in the fourth.
Both teams entered the game ranked among the top 50 teams in the nation, according to MaxPreps.
Top-ranked La Salle holds off Elder in thriller
La Salle junior Gi’Bran Payne made each touch count late in the Lancers’ thrilling victory over Elder, including his 19-yard touchdown in double overtime, which was followed senior quarterback Zach Branam’s dash into the end zone on the two-point conversion for a 53-52 victory over the Panthers.
The top-ranked Lancers trailed by 14 points late in the first quarter, and did not take a lead until the third quarter, but then watched as Elder’s Andrew Mueller kicked a game-tying 22-yard field goal with no time remaining in regulation, sending the teams to overtime at 38-38.
Payne put La Salle on top in the first overtime with his 20-yard run, but Elder answered back when senior Drew Ramsey reached the end zone from three yards out. Junior quarterback Ben Hambleton tossed one up to Scott Nieman for a 16-yard score to open the second overtime for the Panthers, before Payne took a pass from Branam from 19 yards out and the La Salle coaching staff rolled the dice by going for two.
Branam accounted for five touchdowns in the win – two of them on the ground – plus a 35-yard field goal.
Trio of underclassmen lead Findlay past Whitmer
Junior quarterback Max Roth had a big night for Findlay, leading the Trojans past Whitmer-Toledo in a battle of Division I programs, 31-21.
Roth ran for 129 yards and two touchdowns on 18 carries, while also adding 99 yards and a pair of scoring tosses through the air. Junior running back Isaac James supplemented Roth’s effort in the backfield by carrying the ball 13 times for 111 yards, while junior receiver Ben Ireland had four catches for 81 yards and both touchdowns.
Findlay heads to Ross-Fremont this Friday. The Little Giants defeated Clay in their season opener, 35-21.
Avon stuns rival Avon Lake
Two of the top teams in Division II put on a show in the season opener, as Avon rallied to stun rival Avon Lake, 33-30.
After trailing by 14 points almost immediately, and being down 17 points at the half, the visiting Eagles scored a pair of fourth-quarter touchdowns to send the game to overtime, including a fourth-and-goal scoring run by quarterback Niko Pappas with 1:39 left in regulation. In the second overtime, the host Shoremen took a lead on a field goal, but Pappas then hit Kam Erskine with the game-winning 20-yard touchdown pass, his third scoring pass of the night.
Pappas finished the game 15-of-23 for 229 yards passing while adding 80 yards on the ground.
Around the State
Second-ranked Mentor trailed by five points in the second quarter to Medina, after Drew Allar hit Luke Hensley with a scoring pass, but the Cardinals then scored the final 23 points of the game to pull away for the 37-19 victory.
Notre Dame commit Mitch Evans, who will likely play receiver at the next level, completed 15-of-24 passes for 352 yards and four touchdowns to lead Wadsworth to the 54-21 win over North Royalton.
Streetsboro ran for 452 yards as the Rockets pounded Coventry-Akron, 63-13. Junior quarterback Maysun Klimak led the way with six carries for 161 yards and two touchdowns, while also completing all three of his passes for 65 yards. 6-foot-1, 210-pound senior Donovan Washington added 95 yards and four touchdowns on seven carries.