Thursday, April 25, 2019 Medina 58°

High School Football

High school football playoffs: It's the end of the road, red-zone mistakes cost Wadsworth in Region 7 final

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Wadsworth's Tyler Montgomery (10) celebrates with Brock Snowball after catching a touchdown pass in the first half against Massillon. Aaron Josefczyk/Gazette


NORTH CANTON — The line did nearly everything within its power to give Wadsworth’s offense a chance. Running back Dom Loparo pinballed off defenders for extra yardage. Quarterback Trey Shaffer nailed slot receiver Barret Labus for big gains.

The Grizzlies dominated time of possession and methodically moved the ball virtually all night Friday against heavily favored Massillon in the Division II, Region 7 championship, but three miscues in the red zone sealed their fate in a 41-19 loss witnessed by a standing-room only crowd of 8,000-plus at North Canton Memorial Stadium.

The top-seeded Tigers (13-0) advanced to play Avon (12-1), Archbishop Hoban (13-0) or Cincinnati Winton Woods (12-1) in the state semifinals — the OHSAA will determine the opponent Sunday — while No. 3 Wadsworth finished 12-1 after falling to 0-4 in regional finals.

“It was really frustrating — super frustrating,” said sophomore Tyler Montgomery, who had a 20-yard touchdown in the second quarter. “We kept driving the ball down the field, but we couldn’t get it in.”

While the Grizzlies’ undersized defense struggled to contain an ultra-talented Massillon offense led by quarterback Aidan Longwell (17-for-24, 305 yards, 4 touchdowns), running back Jamir Thomas (113 yards from scrimmage, TD) and receivers Jayden Ballard (6 catches, 115 yards, TD) and Aydrik Ford (5, 100, 1), Wadsworth’s offense kept grinding.

A false start and second-and-goal from the Massillon 7 led to Blake Turano’s first career field goal that tied the score at 10 with 3:24 left in the second quarter. Kyshad Mack returned the ensuing kickoff 84 yards to the house, but Wadsworth again powered down the field until a false start on second down from the 4 forced another field goal attempt, this one after Tyree Broyles broke up a third-down pass in the end zone.

A 26-yard Turano try was low, and Massillon capitalized only 1:22 later when Longwell found Thomas wide open in the right flat for a 16-yard touchdown.

Instead of trailing 17-13 or even leading 21-17, Wadsworth was down 24-10 at halftime.

“It’s always good to be able to move the ball,” Loparo said. “We just came up short at the goal line.

“It’s always frustrating any time you can’t score, but you’ve just got to go to the next drive.”

The Grizzlies tried to follow that advice.

Despite the untimely miscues, Wadsworth had a chance after getting the ball to open the second half. A 57-yard pass from Shaffer (10-for-18, 150 yards) to Loparo (25 carries, 111 yards; 2 catches, 60 yards) was the highlight, but the Grizzlies came up a foot short on fourth-and-goal from the 1.

Standout linebacker Mason McMillen stuffed backup running back Zion Phifer for a safety on the next play to bring the score to 24-12. Wadsworth failed to cut the deficit again, however, when Shaffer threw an interception to Kent State recruit Dean Clark that was made possible when the intended receiver slipped.

Alex Bauer’s second short field goal pushed the ante to 27-12, then Clark caught an acrobatic 24-yard TD from Longwell. Wadsworth got a 1-yard TD from Brock Snowball (21 carries, 93 yards) with 3:52 to play before Massillon recovered an onside kick and capped the scoring on a 32-yard slip screen to Ford.

“You can’t have self-inflicted wounds,” said Grizzlies coach Justin Todd, whose team finished with 388 yards total offense and a 33:48-14:12 advantage in time of possession. “Just too many mistakes tonight.”

The teams traded punts to begin the game, though the Tigers’ talent became clear right away when Thomas ripped off a 14-yard run and Mack was open for an 18-yard reception. Massillon scored first when Ballard, a sophomore who already has offers from Ohio State, West Virginia and Washington State, executed a gorgeous in route, caught the ball and sprinted to the far pylon for a 53-yard score.

Wadsworth countered with a 14-play, 64-yard drive that ate 7:40. The Grizzlies rushed 13 consecutive times, converted 3-of-4 third downs and scored when Montgomery lined up at tight end — a lineman covered Montgomery initially as a disguise but shifted to the other side to make him a legal receiver — and caught a wide-open seam pass from Shaffer to tie the score.

A Ryan Salzgeber third-down pass breakup in the end zone saved Wadsworth’s defense on the next possession, as Massillon was forced to settle for a Bauer field goal. The Grizzlies again chewed clock (5:25), and Labus (6 catches, 61 yards) caught two passes for 52 yards before the false start effectively stalled an 11-play, 81-yard march that ended in Turano’s field goal.

That’s when the mistakes began to mount, but the experience of playing one of the most decorated programs in the country was something Wadsworth players will never forget.

“(The atmosphere) was crazy,” Montgomery said. “I’ve never seen something like that in my life.”

Contact Albert Grindle at (330) 721-4043 or


Massillon 41, Wadsworth 19

Division II, Region 7 Final

at North Canton Memorial Stadium

WADSWORTH 0 10 2 7 — 19

MASSILLON 7 17 3 14 — 41


M — Jayden Ballard 53 pass from Aidan Longwell (Alex Bauer kick), 6:18.


W — Tyler Montgomery 20 pass from Trey Shaffer (Blake Turano kick), 10:38.

M — Bauer 32 field goal, 8:49.

W — Turano 25 field goal, 3:24.

M — Kyshad Mack 84 kick return (Bauer kick), 3:12.

M — Jamir Thomas 12 pass from Longwell (Bauer kick), 0:17.


W — Safety (Zion Phifer tackled in end zone), 6:46.

M — Bauer 32 field goal, 2:22.


M — Dean Clark 24 pass from Longwell (Bauer kick), 10:38.

W — Brock Snowball 1 run (Turano kick), 3:52.

M — Adyrick Ford 39 pass from Longwell (Bauer kick), 2:03.


First downs 20 16

— by rushing 13 5

— by passing 3 11

— by penalty 4 0

Rushing 56/238 18/97

Rushing average 4.3 5.4

Passing 10/18 17/24

Passing yards 150 305

Avg. per attempt 8.3 12.7

Avg. per completion 15.0 17.9

Total offense 76/388 42/402

Avg. gain 5.1 9.6

Punting 1/46.0 2/28.0

Third-down conversions 6/16 4/8

Fourth-down conversions 2/4 0/0

Penalties 5/41 11/118

Fumbles 0/0 0/0

Time of possession 33:48 14:12



Name No. Yds. Avg. TD

Dom Loparo 25 111 4.4 0

Snowball 21 93 4.4 1

Shaffer 6 30 5.0 0

Barret Labus 3 9 3.0 0

Team 1 -5 -5.0 0


Name No. Yds. Avg. TD

Labus 6 61 10.2 0

Loparo 2 60 30.0 0

Montgomery 2 29 14.5 1


Name Com. Att. Pct. Yds TD-I

Shaffer 10 18 .556 150 1-1

Missed field goal — Turano 26 (SH).



Name No. Yds. Avg. TD

Thomas 16 95 5.9 0

Zion Phifer 2 2 1.0 0


Name No. Yds. Avg. TD

Ballard 6 115 19.1 1

Ford 5 100 20.5 1

Tre’von Morgan 2 40 20.0 0

Clark 2 32 16.0 1

Thomas 2 18 9.0 1


Name Com. Att. Pct. Yds TD-I

Longwell 17 24 .708 305 4-0

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