MASSILLON The last time St. Vincent-St. Mary lost a high school football game was a night very much like the one in which it played Thursday night.
A rainy night at Paul Brown Tiger Stadium.
That game, though, came in a Week 9 regular-season game in 2012 against Massillon. Thursday night, the Irish were playing in their second consecutive Division III state championship against Trotwood-Madison.
There was also another big difference between the two nights. On this night, unlike that night, St. Vincent-St. Mary walked away a winner, beating the Rams 24-0.
It was a win that was the Irish’s 21st in a row. More importantly, it was a win that gave the Irish their second straight Division III state championship.
On a night where the Irish hit a figurative blackjack for consecutive wins, it’s hard to believe it almost never happened. Well, maybe not this year’s title run, but the back-to-back crowns.
It’s hard to believe that when St. V left Massillon last October, it had no guarantees of getting into the playoffs, let alone winning the 2012 state title. Instead, the Irish needed to beat Ursuline in the last game of the regular season to earn themselves the playoff berth.
St. V did that. The rest, as they say, is history.
History that came full-circle in a way on Thursday on a rainy night in Massillon.
There was hardly a doubt from the moment St. Vincent-St. Mary put on the pads for the first time back in August that it would be a playoff team. It boasted practically its entire defense back — led by stud Division I linebackers Dante Booker Jr. and Newman Williams — plus speedy Ohio State-bound tailback Paris Campbell Jr.
About the only question was, really, just how badly would the Irish bludgeon their competition. And, by and large, those bludgeonings have been pretty bad.
Through St. Vincent-St. Mary’s first 14 games, only twice did it find itself in a single-digit contest. One came on the same field the Irish captured their state title — and their last loss — when the Irish held off Massillon 28-23 in Week 9.
The other, a 17-9 win over Columbus Marion-Franklin in last week’s state semifinals. That, though, would be it.
Yet, as the Irish returned to Massillon on Thursday, there was thoughts that things could be different this time around.
Trotwood-Madison had reached the state title game each of the previous three seasons itself, winning in 2011 while finishing second in 2010 and 2012, both also in Massillon. The Rams also boasted their share of talented players, the kind needed to match the Irish’s cadre of Division I-caliber players.
And it’s true, it wasn’t a bludgeoning — at least, not for a half. Instead, St. V played the role of anaconda, slowly constricting the life out of the Trotwood title hopes, hopes that were hurt as well by five Rams turnovers.
A 3-0 first-quarter lead turned into a 10-0 halftime advantage, an advantage the Irish gained with a 140-56 edge in total yards. It would be 17-0 by the time there were just 12 minutes left in both teams’ seasons.
Only one of those seasons, though, would end in smiles. And it would be the team that just 21 games earlier, walked off the exact same field with much different looks on their faces.
But that night, save for the rain and the stadium, bore little resemblance for St. Vincent-St. Mary to the one it enjoyed Thursday night. One that ended with the Irish once again hoisting the state championship trophy.
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