'We went for two and got it.' Clinton-Massie mounts major comeback to win DIV state title

·5 min read

CANTON – The loyal plodders of the pigskin in Clinton County have been running triple-option offense since they were fitted for their first shoulder pads.

Many of them watched four years ago as the hometown Falcons fell short in the Division IV title game to Steubenville.

Thus, when Clinton-Massie cut Youngstown Ursuline’s lead from 28-7 to 28-27 with 45 ticks on the clock Friday, there was no hesitation for coach Dan McSurley’s seniors.

Kody Zantene had just walked into the endzone untouched. McSurley called time out and by way of the democratic process, Clinton-Massie’s upcoming Class of ’22 decided to end their 2021 football season as champions.

More: Clarksville whispers 'small town' but it screams with pride for Clinton-Massie football

More: OHSAA football: Tracking Clinton-Massie's path to DIV title game vs. Youngstown Ursuline

Season-leading rusher Carson Vanhoose took the ball behind his workhorse line and cemented the Falcons in OHSAA history with a two-point conversion that will be discussed in Clinton County for years to come.

The Clinton-Massie Falcons celebrate after winning the OHSAA Division IV State Final game between the Clinton-Massie Falcons and the Ursuline Fighting Irish at the Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium on Friday Dec. 3, 2021. The Clinton-Massie Falcons won the game with a final score of 29-28.
The Clinton-Massie Falcons celebrate after winning the OHSAA Division IV State Final game between the Clinton-Massie Falcons and the Ursuline Fighting Irish at the Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium on Friday Dec. 3, 2021. The Clinton-Massie Falcons won the game with a final score of 29-28.

Then, the Falcons stopped Ursuline’s potent offense and took over the ball with 9 seconds remaining for the victory formation and a 29-28 hard-fought triumph.

“They have such hearts!” Coach McSurley said of his third title team. “They didn’t panic at half. We got the momentum and just didn’t give it up. We just weren’t going to be denied.”

More: Here's the Cincinnati Enquirer's 2021 OHSAA state high school football coverage

Said Vanhoose, ”Coach asked us what we wanted to do. We all said we wanted to win this game. We went for two and got it.”

A rowdy crowd of 5,615 saw the Falcons in blue brighten a gray sky with the improbable finish. Clinton-Massie scored 22 unanswered points in the game’s final 16 minutes. Ursuline’s Irish led 28-7 late in the third quarter.

Falcons' Garrett Vance embraces a woman after winning the OHSAA Division IV State Final game between the Clinton-Massie Falcons and the Ursuline Fighting Irish at the Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium on Friday, Dec. 3, 2021. The Clinton-Massie Falcons won the game with a final score of 29-28.
Falcons' Garrett Vance embraces a woman after winning the OHSAA Division IV State Final game between the Clinton-Massie Falcons and the Ursuline Fighting Irish at the Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium on Friday, Dec. 3, 2021. The Clinton-Massie Falcons won the game with a final score of 29-28.

“I’ll probably never have another opportunity to coach a group of seniors like this for the rest of my life,” McSurley said. “This will without question go down in history as one of the greatest comeback victories in high school history.”

Clinton-Massie was led by senior Colton Trampler with 117 rushing yards and seven tackles. His brothers had been on the 2017 team that fell short and he immediately ran to them as time expired.

“It means so much!” Trampler said with tears of joy. “It no longer represents the hard work that we put in offseason, but the brotherhood we represent as a team. This is the biggest turnout I’ve ever seen Clinton-Massie get. Everyone is so ecstatic right now! I jumped in those stands and ran to my family!”

Vanhoose had 102 yards including the first and last scores of the memorable contest.

Falcons' Kody Zantene runs the ball down the field during the OHSAA Division IV State Final game between the Clinton-Massie Falcons and the Ursuline Fighting Irish at the Tom Benson Hall of Fame stadium on Friday Dec. 3, 2021. The Clinton-Massie Falcons won the game with a final score of 29-28.
Falcons' Kody Zantene runs the ball down the field during the OHSAA Division IV State Final game between the Clinton-Massie Falcons and the Ursuline Fighting Irish at the Tom Benson Hall of Fame stadium on Friday Dec. 3, 2021. The Clinton-Massie Falcons won the game with a final score of 29-28.

Zantene completed his final game with 85 yards and two touchdowns. For good measure, he led the Falcons in tackles with 12. Plus, he had another photo taken with his assistant coach father, Jeskee Zantene.

When he was in third grade, they took a picture with Clinton-Massie’s first state trophy in 2012. After his son had finished interviews, Jeskee summoned him to the same spot on the field for the same photo.

“It took us a couple years, but once we got to fifth or sixth grade, we knew something would happen,” Zantene said of recreating the trophy photo. “I remember everything. 2012 and 2013 were the best years of my life. Football is my life. I love every minute of it.”

The senior signal-caller now can include his 2021 highlights among his notable years.

How did they do it?

The first quarter could have been sponsored by the Clinton County Chamber of Commerce. The Falcons chewed up 9:13 of the 12-minute frame with Vanhoose running in the game’s first score on 4th and goal from the 2-yard line.

Clinton-Massie Falcons celebrate early on the sideline after gaining possession of the ball with 9 seconds left during the OHSAA Division IV State Final game between the Clinton-Massie Falcons and the Ursuline Fighting Irish at the Tom Benson Hall of Fame stadium on Friday Dec. 3, 2021. The Clinton-Massie Falcons won the game with a final score of 29-28.
Clinton-Massie Falcons celebrate early on the sideline after gaining possession of the ball with 9 seconds left during the OHSAA Division IV State Final game between the Clinton-Massie Falcons and the Ursuline Fighting Irish at the Tom Benson Hall of Fame stadium on Friday Dec. 3, 2021. The Clinton-Massie Falcons won the game with a final score of 29-28.

The second stanza brought a different tune.

Demarcus McElroy got Ursuline on the board with a 34-yard score, then head coach Dan Reardon elected for a short kickoff, which the Irish recovered. McElroy eventually was able to punch in a 4th-and-goal run from the 1-yard line.

As effective as the Falcons were in the first, they struggled in the second. Given another possession, Ursuline’s Brady Shannon found McElroy alone from 39 yards away and the Irish increased the lead to two scores.

At the break, the Irish had outgained the Falcons 241-123. McElroy who had run for 266 and 261 yards in his previous two games was already at 105 yards.

The Falcons recieve their State Championship trophy after winning the OHSAA Division IV State Final game between the Clinton-Massie Falcons and the Ursuline Fighting Irish at the Tom Benson Hall of Fame stadium on Friday Dec. 3, 2021. The Clinton-Massie Falcons won the game with a final score of 29-28.
The Falcons recieve their State Championship trophy after winning the OHSAA Division IV State Final game between the Clinton-Massie Falcons and the Ursuline Fighting Irish at the Tom Benson Hall of Fame stadium on Friday Dec. 3, 2021. The Clinton-Massie Falcons won the game with a final score of 29-28.

The third quarter became ominous when Shannon found Dean Boyd in the middle of the endzone with the Irish jumping out 28-7. But, Zantene kept fans in their seats with a 49-yard scramble to again get within 14.

“I knew I had to make a big play, someone had to make big plays,” Zantene said. “We had to get the momentum on our side.”

McSurely’s Falcons remained on the prowl early in the fourth with Trampler and Vanhoose both busting long runs. Early in the quarter, lineman Garrett Vance pounced on a Trampler fumble in the end zone and the Clinton-Massie fans came alive.

Falcons' Garrett Vance celebrates his touchdown during the OHSAA Division IV State Final game between the Clinton-Massie Falcons and the Ursuline Fighting Irish at the Tom Benson Hall of Fame stadium on Friday Dec. 3, 2021. The Clinton-Massie Falcons won the game with a final score of 29-28.
Falcons' Garrett Vance celebrates his touchdown during the OHSAA Division IV State Final game between the Clinton-Massie Falcons and the Ursuline Fighting Irish at the Tom Benson Hall of Fame stadium on Friday Dec. 3, 2021. The Clinton-Massie Falcons won the game with a final score of 29-28.

The palpitations would continue as Clinton-Massie got another clock-draining drive. In the end, the seniors voted to win and the Falcons line delivered for Zantene and Vanhoose.

Clinton-Massie finishes their magical run at 14-1 with 13 consecutive wins. Youngstown Ursuline finishes at 11-4.

The Falcons now wait for their 2021 championship to be noted at the gates of their stadium for the next group of youngsters hoping to run to glory.

“It was such a fitting end for these seniors,” McSurley said.

The Falcons receive their state championship trophy after winning the OHSAA Division IV State Final game between the Clinton-Massie Falcons and the Ursuline Fighting Irish at the Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium on Friday, Dec. 3, 2021. The Clinton-Massie Falcons won the game with a final score of 29-28.
The Falcons receive their state championship trophy after winning the OHSAA Division IV State Final game between the Clinton-Massie Falcons and the Ursuline Fighting Irish at the Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium on Friday, Dec. 3, 2021. The Clinton-Massie Falcons won the game with a final score of 29-28.

CLINTON-MASSIE 7 0 7 15 29

URSULINE 0 21 7 0 28

CM-Vanhoose 2-yard run (McGuinness kick)

U – McElroy 34-yard run (Smith kick)

U – McElroy 1-yard run (Donlow run)

U – Shannon 39-yard pass to McElroy (run failed)

U – Shannon 26-yard pass to Boyd (Smith kick)

CM – Zantene 49-yard run (McGuinness kick)

CM – Vance recovered fumble in endzone (McGuinness kick)

CM – Zantene 1-yard run (Vanhoose run)

More: Here's the Cincinnati Enquirer's 2021 OHSAA state high school football coverage

This article originally appeared on Cincinnati Enquirer: Clinton-Massie beats Youngstown Ursuline, 29-28, in DIV football final

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting