The LaSalle Lancers scored the hat trick with a hard-fought win in Division II…their third consecutive title…to open the 2016 state tournament.
Columbus – Good things don’t come easy. Ask Coach Jim Hilvert’s LaSalle Lancers.
They were a prohibitive favorite to with their third consecutive state football title in Division II on Friday night. But an equally determined Massillon Perry team, seeking to atone for a loss in last year’s title game to the same LaSalle team, made it tough before bowing, 14-7, in the opening game of the 2016 state tournament.
In a game marked by the respective teams’ running offense, and tough, hard-nosed defense, LaSalle prevailed by rushing for 235 net yards…and threw for none, nothing through the air. Quarterback Griffin Merritt had one completion in nine attempts and was intercepted three times before turning over the duties to Tre’Sean Smith, who rushed 17 times for 127 yards and two touchdowns.
Perry’s Max Baker was four for nine and was intercepted twice…while running 12 times for 55 yards; but Perry’s offense never scored.
Their lone score came in the first quarter on a 21-yard interception returned for a touchdown by safety Dominick Bowman. That would be the sum total of offense and scoring by either team until the third quarter.
With the change of quarterbacks LaSalle came out pounding the ball with Smith and running back Jerell White in the second half. On their second possession of the third quarter Smith found the end zone on a three-yard run to tie the score, 7-7.
It stayed that way throughout most of the fourth quarter.
But driving late, Smith again crossed the goal line after a turnover on a twelve-yard run for what turned out to be the winning touchdown.
Perry had one remaining possession to tie, but Baker was intercepted on the 40 yard line and LaSalle closed out the game by taking a knee three times.
It will go down as one of the least “offensive” championship games in OHSAA modern history. LaSalle had 235 total yards. Perry had 168 on 147 yards rushing and 21 passing. It wasn’t easy…but it was a title. That’s all that counts!
Locally, the tournament continues tomorrow (Friday) at 10 am with the Division VI title game between Marion Local and Cuyahoga Heights. Marion will be seeking its fifth title in six years, and ninth overall, while Cuyahoga Heights will be trying to win their first. Press Pros will have full coverage of the game.