Ten minutes before kickoff and the Canton McKinley locker room was deathly quiet. The coaches had gone over the game plan and now a familiar face was stepping forward to address the team. Mike Doss, former McKinley superstar now starring in the NFL, had returned home.
Doss is looked upon as a big brother to these McKinley players. I saw Doss speak to this team last year in a playoff win over Cleveland Glenville. He had a positive effect on that team and I was eager to see how Doss would speak to the Bulldogs today.
"This is my off week," Doss started to say. "Believe me there's no other place I'd rather be than with you guys today. My heart's beating as fast as yours. Remember back to the first time you saw McKinley play Massillon. Remember what you thought you would do if you got the chance to play in this game. Well, today is that day. This is your time. When I was your age, I remember watching Che Bryant play in this game and I remember Demarlo Rozier playing in this game. Maybe some of you remember seeing Mike Doss play in this game. Remember there's some young kid out there right now watching you play today. Today is your day. You've got three hours to lay it on the line out there. I'm just going to tell you what they tell me in the NFL. JUST WIN BABY."
Nobody wants to disappoint their big brother and these Bulldogs didn't disappoint Mike Doss in dominating the Tigers 38-8. Doss was on the sideline exhorting and encouraging the team the entire game along with former Bulldog and current Ohio State player Tyler Everett.
The Bulldogs saved their best performance for the biggest game. From the opening play the tone of the game was set by the offensive line, nicknamed "The Brute Squad." Anthony Robinson, Zach Slagle, Drew McIntyre, Tyrell McDonald and Jarrid Haywood opened up gaping holes allowing Morgan Williams to run for 239 yards and 4 touchdowns. Williams was quick to praise his line.
"Those guys are the best line in the state," said Williams. "I couldn't gain the yards without those guys. We wanted to come out and run the football. That was our plan."
As good as the McKinley offense played, their defense was better. D.C. Alexander was dominant on the line all afternoon. Alexander intercepted a pass, recovered a fumble, had a sack and helped control the Massillon running game led by junior running back Brian Gamble. Gamble was held to only 48 yards by the lightning quick Bulldog defense. Linebackers Ed Grimsley, Mike Kirksey and Jeff Vaughn ran to the football and arrived in a bad mood when they got there. Defensive backs Harriel Moore, Wil Sheeler, Mark Jackson and Brian Williams totally eliminated the Tiger passing game. For the ballgame the Tiger offense had only 120 total yards and basically was shut out, with the only Tiger score coming on an interception return by Troy Ellis.
The loss was a tough pill for the Tigers to swallow. They came into the game undefeated and featured wins over Cincinnati Elder, Cleveland St. Ignatius and Warren. It's been a great season for the Tigers under new coach Tom Stacy. A loss to McKinley is never easy to take but the Tigers are in the playoffs and have bounced back from two losing seasons to once again become a force in Ohio football. If both teams can manage two playoff wins, there will be a rematch in three weeks.
McKinley coach Brian Cross was quite proud of his team's performance on Saturday. Cross led the Bulldogs to the state title game in 2004, with the Bulldogs falling to Cincinnati Colerain.
"That score is not an indication of how tough that team is," said Cross. "We might keep winning and they probably will too, so we could meet them again. Our defensive game plan was to defend all their weapons. We wanted to eliminate any big plays and make them drive the length of the field. We really took away all the things they do well."
In the greatest rivalry in high school football there were many stars on the field. None shone brighter than McKinley junior D.C. Alexander. After the game Alexander spoke about his team's performance.
"I give all the credit to our defensive backs," said Alexander. "I knew I could take some chances because they were right behind me. They're our leaders and I think they were great."
"This is my first year playing against Massillon and I wanted to win so bad," said Alexander. "It's also my first year playing defensive end and I'm still learning. Our coaches are so good and they had us ready for anything Massillon did. I'm so happy I can't put it into words. I just want to keep this year going for the seniors."
If Saturday's performance is any indication, it appears these Bulldogs just might be able to grant Alexander his wish. It also helped that their "big brother" took time to come home and see his team play. On this day the McKinley Bulldogs took Mike Doss' words to heart and made him proud.