By CHRIS EASTERLING
Independent sports editor
CANTON McKinley was poised to get the momentum during Saturday’s 124th meeting against Massillon at Fawcett Stadium.
The Bulldogs, despite a one-touchdown deficit, were lining up for a half-ending field goal. They also were in line to get the opening kickoff of the second half as well, which could have completely altered the look of the game.
In one of the most bizarre plays in the series’ history, Massillon took the momentum back from McKinley when Alex Dailey returned a blocked field goal 45 yards for a touchdown. And the Tigers would never let it go in rolling to a 34-7 win.
“That’s something we work on, our special teams,” Massillon head coach Jason Hall said. “Anybody who comes to our practices, the first
30 minutes of the day is just special teams. From blocking to scooping and all that, it’s all built. Not quite rolling around, ball bouncing around like that, but we work it.”
The Tigers were looking at, at best, a 7-0 halftime lead before the field-goal try on a fourth-and-2 from their 20. Instead, Dailey’s return gave Massillon a 14-0 advantage, a multiscore margin it maintained the rest of the way.
“It’s a great feeling, but I’ve got to owe it all to Marcus Whitfield for making the block and Malik Dudley for keeping the play alive,” Dailey said. “He could’ve picked it up, and he probably would’ve been tackled. Instead, he laid a block for another teammate to get it, and their guys just tried to pick it up. In the end, I just ended up with it.”
The sequence all started with the block. With the Bulldogs lining up for the 37-yard field goal try, Whitfield swooped in and got the kick almost before it got airborne.
“It was just a presnap thing,” Whitfield said. “This whole game, I was just wanting to go (all out). That was just one of those things, just a big effort and heart play.”
Things began to get crazy as the ball rolled toward midfield. For a moment, it seemed as if both teams froze, thinking it was a dead ball as would be the case on a blocked point-after touchdown try.
Then, both teams began the wild chase to get the loose pigskin. Massillon’s players were trying to pick the ball up to score. McKinley’s players, instead of just falling on it to kill the half, also seemed to be trying to make a play on the ball.
Dudley and Nathaniel Devers — like Dailey and Whitfield, Tiger captains — both picked up key blocks to keep Bulldog players from getting the ball. Dailey finally got his hands on it, avoided touching his knee to the ground before gaining total balance and racing to the end zone.
“It just uplifted everybody’s spirits,” Devers said. “It was just a (heck) of a play.”
The sequence had a negative impact on the Bulldogs. They would get no points there, then went three-and-out coming out of halftime.
“From an emotional standpoint, it was bigger than the points,” McKinley head coach Todd Filtz said. “That was a devastating blow that we had to recover from.”
And one McKinley never could recover from.