PARMA, Ohio — Avon fought to the very end, but Massillon Washington was just too much.
The Tigers will play in their second straight OHSAA Division II state football championship game after beating the Eagles 35-10 Friday night at Byers Field. They never once trailed in the contest, although things remained relatively close for a period of time.
The unquestioned hero of the night was running back Zion Phifer, who took most of the reps in place of an ailing Terrance Keyes Jr. The senior scored four Massillon's five touchdowns, including a 25-yarder in the third quarter that essentially put the game on ice.
Avon made it all the way to this stage despite injuries to a boatload of starters, and normal runner Joey Lance took virtually all reps at quarterback. The senior turned in a gutsy performance and had already rushed for over 100 yards and a score before halftime, but it wasn't enough as the Tigers were able to take control with their tremendous depth.
The turning point came late in the third quarter, when down 21-10 and driving the Eagles failed to convert on fourth down in Massillon territory. The Tigers then marched for the score, which was Phifer's aforementioned 25-yard scamper.
For Avon, another successful season (13-1) ends with a loss in the state semifinals. Nationally-ranked Massillon, on the other hand, remains unbeaten (14-0) and will likely play La Salle out of Cincinnati for the D-II title next week in Canton. The Tigers have won 24 state championships in their history, but none since 1970, before the OHSAA implemented the playoff system.
Re-listen to Dave "Dino" DeNatale and Dennis Manoloff call the game in the player below:
In addition, there were two other games featuring local teams tonight: Mansfield Senior vs. Aurora and Mentor taking on Pickerington Central. Check below for live scoring updates throughout the night, and remember to use the hashtag #3HSSports to interact with us on Twitter!