I was at the McKinley-Glenville game Saturday night in Massillon, and it lived up to the hype.
I talked with Glenville coach Ted Ginn Sr. about his team and his son, OSU star Ted Jr., prior to kickoff. When I asked him about Ted playing defense next year, Coach Ginn said "He's got the ability to play both ways like Chris Gamble, but he's a different type player than Gamble. Gamble was a receiver playing cornerback, while Ted is a cornerback playing receiver. I would play him every down at cornerback and play him part-time at wide receiver. He's stronger than people think. He can stand up to the punishment on defense."
Regarding current Glenville star Freddie Lenix, Ginn told me "Freddie is up to 205 pounds right now. He'll play at 225 in college, and that's big enough with his speed. He'll make a great linebacker at the next level."
After watching Lenix, ranked as one of the top players in the state by Ohio High magazine, make a ton of plays tonight, I agree with him.
Ted Ginn and Troy Smith (standing in coats) in the Glenville
locker room with head coach Ted Ginn addressing the team
The mood in the Glenville locker room was electric as former Tarblooder stars Troy Smith and Ted Ginn Jr. addressed the team. Ginn Jr. and Smith are both starting and starring at Ohio State, but tonight their focus was on helping Glenville reach the state championship game. When they finished speaking, it was Coach Ginn's turn to inspire his troops, and he did just that. Ginn told them "It's been 14 weeks and we're still here. We know why we're here. We're carrying the torch for the kids in our community. We need to play four quarters of football. We need to have faith and believe in ourselves. We just need to do our work."
McKinley stopped Glenville's opening drive and started offensively on their own 39. The Bulldogs promptly drove to the Glenville one-yard line where Theo Goodright scored the first touchdown. An early lead was just what Bulldog head coach Brian Cross was looking for. In pregame drills, Cross told me, "You gotta love it. These players have worked so hard and I'm so proud of them. They deserve to be here tonight."
With a 7-0 lead, it appeared he was entirely correct. That lead lasted until the last play of the first quarter. Fielding a McKinley punt inside his own 5-yard line, Jamario O'Neal shook off a couple tacklers, reversed his field and outran the McKinley team to the end zone. In the blink of an eye, the game was tied 7-7.
Late in the second quarter with Glenville leading 10-7, the Tarblooders fumbled the ball deep in their territory. Taking over on the Glenville 39 yard line, McKinley quarterback Mike Shaffer completed two passes to put the ball on the 1-yard line. Again it was Goodright scoring to give McKinley the lead 13-10 at halftime.
At the break, the McKinley locker room was quiet and tense. The coaches were huddling together going over adjustments when a former Bulldog superstar took charge. With all eyes on him, Mike Doss walked to the chalkboard and began writing. Doss, currently playing in the NFL with Indianapolis Colts, wrote three words -- "Why not us." Then the ex-Ohio State Buckeye began to speak.
Tyler Everett and Mike Doss were there to support McKinley
"Why not us? Think back to camp. Think back to how this season didn't start out like we wanted. Now look where you are," Doss said. "It's just you out there. We're just as fast as they are. We have just as much talent. We've got one half of football left. Play like the game is 0-0. Let's go win this game."
Doss then turned his attention to McKinley star Ryan Brinson, offering both encouragement and inspiration. In the second half, as McKinley played to advance to the championship game, it was Mike Doss constantly exhorting the team, never letting the Bulldogs get down on themselves. Mike still has a lot of football to be played but someday he just might make a tremendous coach.
In the second half, McKinley took advantage of another Glenville turnover. Following a Kellen Showes interception, McKinley coach Brian Cross made the call of the night. Ryan Brinson took a pitchout and appeared to be running a sweep to the right side. Suddenly Brinson stopped and threw the ball across the field to a wide open Mike Shaffer, who ran to the end zone giving the Bulldogs a 20-10 lead.
In the fourth quarter Glenville scored to cut the lead to 20-17 and seemed to be taking control of the game. They started their final drive at their own 38 yard line with only six minutes left in the game. They methodically ran the ball against a tired McKinley defense, eventually getting to the 12-yard line with one minute to go in the game. On third down, the Tarblooders passed into the end zone, attempting to take the lead. They did not succeed. On a night filled with big plays, McKinley's Mark Jackson made the biggest, intercepting the pass.
The Bulldogs ran out the clock to secure a hard fought victory. Following the game, there was jubilation on the McKinley side and dejection for the Tarblooders. Coach Cross said, "After a losing season last year, we're playing for the state championship. The defense won the game for us. I have to credit our defensive coordinator Warren Miller. He did a great job as did our entire defense. We wanted to eliminate their big plays and we did just that."
When asked about the final interception, Mark Jackson said, "We were in a zone coverage and I made a break on the ball. I knew we needed to make a big play and I'm glad I got the opportunity. I had a guy behind me but I left him to cover the short receiver."
Doss and Ryan Brinson
Ryan Brinson said, "Somebody had to step up and make a play at the end. Mark Jackson did that on the goal line. Our coaches prepared us well. We weren't surprised by anything they did. This feels so great. I'm loving this. I knew were going to win all week. We had a great week of practice."
After meeting with the media, coach Brian Cross addressed the victorious Bulldogs, telling them, "Bear with me a minute. I might start crying. I hope you've all learned one thing tonight and this year. Hard work pays off. A lot of people didn't give us a chance tonight. All week long, I saw a quiet confidence in you guys. You remained focused all week. You're a special group of players. You guys believe in each other and in your coaches and we need to carry that feeling one more week. I want to thank every one of you guys. When people talk about Canton McKinley being special, let me tell you it's a darn special place to me."
Next week the Bulldogs will meet Cincinnati Colerain for the state championship. I don't think McKinley will be the favorite in this matchup, but the Bulldogs are on a roll, and I wouldn't discount their chance of winning the game. It should be a fitting end to a great season for Canton McKinley.