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Week 11 Game Preview- #8 Warren G. Harding (7-3) @ #1 Massillon (10-0)

Playoff Appearances: WGH 12... Massillon 25

All-Time Playoff Records: WGH 18-10... Massillon 35-25

All-Time Playoff Scores: WGH 687, Opponents 607... Massillon 1,436, Opponents 1,160

Playoff Accomplishments: WGH 2 state titles & 1 state runner up... Massillon 4 state runner ups

The fastest ten weeks of the year are officially over and when the smoke cleared, Warren G. Harding clawed their way to the eighth and final seed in the 2019 OHSAA Division II-Region 5 playoffs with a record of 7-3. Two of their three losses were foutrh quarter comebacks from Canton McKinley (32-27) and Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary (42-37), both of whom qualified for the playoffs in Divisions I and III, respectively. Meanwhile, the Raiders will get the opportunity to avenge their biggest loss of the year to Massillon, the 24-time state poll and US record 9-time nationalchampion who just completed their twenty-fifth undefeated regular season in their illustrious history (includes their 5-0-5 season in 1945).

Before we go any further, let's take a quick peak at a few all-time highs in Harding football history, which already includes several records being broken with more potentially on the way...

Most Completions- Season

Rank # Player Year

1 136 Mike Surin 1981

2 118 Elijah Taylor 2018

3 117 Elijah Taylor 2019

Most Completions- Career

Rank # Player Years Played

1 235 Elijah Taylor 2018-present

2 229 Clayton Waite 1986-88

Most Passing Attempts- Season

Rank # Player Year

1 275 Mike Surin 1981

2 223 Elijah Taylor 2019

Most Passing Attempts- Career

Rank # Player Years Played

1 451 Clayton Waite 1986-88

2 421 Elijah Taylor 2018-present

Most Passing Yards- Game

Rank # Player Opponent- Year

1 366 Elijah Taylor Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary- 2019

2 341 Elijah Taylor Canton McKinley- 2019

3 293 Roger Matlock Cleveland Glenville- 2004

Most Passing Yards- Season

Rank # Player Year

1 1,659 Elijah Taylor 2019

2 1,605 Mike Surin 1981

Most Passing Yards- Career

Rank # Player Years Played

1 3,020 Elijah Taylor 2018-present

2 2,937 Clayton Waite 1986-88

Most Passing TDs- Game

Rank # Player Opponent- Year

1 (tie) 4 Chris Ensign Austintown Fitch- 1990*

1 (tie) 4 Sidney Glover Pittsburgh Brashear- 2005

1 (tie) 4 Jordan Miller Euclid- 2009

1 (tie) 4 Elijah Taylor Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary- 2019

Most Passing TDs- Season

Rank # Player Year

1 (tie) 19 Alex Engram 2003

1 (tie) 19 Lynn Bowden 2016

3 17 Chris Ensign 1990^

4 16 E.R. King 1997

5 16 Jordan Miller 2009

6 (tie) 14 Roger Matlock 2004

6 (tie) 14 Elijah Taylor 2019

8 13 Elijah Taylor 2018

Most Passing TDs- Career

Rank # Player Years Played

1 28 Lynn Bowden 2015-16

2 27 Elijah Taylor 2018-present

Most Receiving Yards- Season

Rank # Player Year

1 821 Mario Manningham 2004

2 704 Ty Artis 2019

Most Receiving Touchdowns- Season

Rank # Player Year

1 11 Mario Manningham 2003

2 (tie) 10 Thomas Powell 1990^

2 (tie) 10 Mario Manningham 2004

4 (tie) 8 Jalen Hooks 2016

4 (tie) 8 Ty Artis 2019

Keep in mind that Taylor is just a junior and while Artis is a senior, he entered this year with just one catch for 35 yards in his career. He's been the biggest beneficiary of Taylor's continued emergence, and you can expect an even more aggressive effort this Friday in Stark County. Speaking of "emerging," junior Elizah Smith has nearly doubled his numbers from a year ago (50 carries for 286 yards and 5 touchdowns in 2018) as he enters this week with 111 carries for 480 yards and 7 touchdowns while also adding 17 catches for 110 yards. Senior Marcus Brown has lined up all over the field to the tune of 576 all-purpose yards and 7 touchdowns and recently, senior Jamel Anderson has displayed the same speed on the fiitball field as he does on the track as all three of his touchdowns have been at leat 44 yards or more. That includes his 84 and 44-yard punt returns that both went for touchdowns this past Friday night against Howland as he became the first Harding player to return two punts for scores in the same game since Maurice Clarett did it against Cleveland S0uth in the 2001 season opener.

The Raiders' breakthrough seasons don't stop with the offense. In 2018, Emarion Perkins was credited with 35.5 tackles (32 solo), 8.5 tackles for a loss, and 1.5 sacks. Through ten games, he has 62.5 tackles (54 solo), 22.0 tackles for a loss, and 4.5 sacks. His tackles for a loss are the most by a Raider since Anthony Hoke had 26.0 for the Division I state runner-up squad in 2002. Meanwhile, fellow junior Jabari Felton has 46.0 stops (37 solo), 13.5 tackles for a loss, and five sacks of his own while senior Jarriel White concluded his final regular season on a strong note as he finished his final regular season with 34 tackles (28 solo), 12.5 tackles for a loss, and three sacks. There were some fresh faces in the Raider secondary this season, but they all responded well as they combined to haul in nine interceptions. On special teams, Noah Murry accounted for 64 points, the quivalent of nearly 11 touchdowns, while fellow senior Cavin Stouffer averages 34.5 yards per punt while placing 13 of 41 of them inside the opponents' 20-yard line. All of these efforts and more will need to be duplicated ten fold if the Raiders hope to get revenge on not only one of the best teams in all of Ohio this year, but one of the greatest football programs in high school football history.

What can I possibly say about Massillon that I haven't said in the past? As of right now, they're one win off from being the country's fourth all-time winningest program. As impressive as their history is, the folks in Tiger Town don't just dwell on the past. They use it as motivation to build for the future, which is something that head coach Nate Moore has done every year since he took the job in 2015. After leading Cincinnati La Salle to a breakthrough 14-1 season en route to the Division II state championship, Moore left the Queen City and took over a Tiger program that was victimized by a rare 56-7 first round playoff blowout at the hands of Perrysburg. After going 4-6 in his first season at the helm, he improved his wins every season. Massillon went from four wins in 2015, to eight in 2016, to ten in 2017, and won their first 14 games of 2018 before falling 42-28 in the Division II state title game to Akron Hoban, a game that they were forced to play without their all-time leading rusher in Jamir Thomas.

This year, the Tigers outscored their ten regular season opponents 446 to 112. They won all ten games by double digits, with their recent contest with arch rival canton McKinley being the closest as they held on for a 24-14 victory. In fact, Taylor won't be the only record-setting quarterback starting this week as senior Aidan Longwell surpassed Iowa State alum Kyle Kempt (6,034 passing yards from 2010-2012) on the Tigers' all-time list as he now sits in first place with 6,842 passing yards for his career. 48 of Longwell's 108 completions have gone to the hands of junior Ohio State commit Jayden Ballard, who has 846 receiving yards and 14 of Longwell's 20 touchdowns while also scoring on both a punt return (87 yards) and a kickoff return (66 yards). Ballard's track & field teammate Andrew Wilson-Lamp isn't far behind as he's hauled in 38 catches for 674 yards and 6 touchdowns. While the Tigers' air attack is as potent as you'll find in Ohio, tailback Terrence Keyes has done a phenomenal job pacing the ground game as he has 182 carries for 1,277 yards and 20 of their 32 rushing touchdowns.

Defensively, Massillon has only allowed 806 rushing yards on 309 carries, and average of 2.9 yards per carry, and has hauled in 13 interceptions. Linebacker Preston Hodges has snagged four of those and returned half of them for scores while also being their third leading tackler with 37.5 stops (20 solo). The Tigers leader with 42.0 tackles (26 solo) is safety Luke Murphy, who recently gave a verbal commitment to Kent State University on October 16. With the Tigers having such a potent offense, junior Magnus Haines hasn't got too much work punting this year, but he does average 36.1 yards on 12 punts with a long of 52 yards while also accounting for 21 touchbacks on his 74 kickoffs.

Thursday's matchup will mark the first time that these two programs have met in the postseason since 2002. As long ago as 17 years sounds, any of the 23,000 fans who were at the Akron Rubber Bowl that night and are around now won't soon forget the thrilling 21-20 Harding victory that ended with Massillon missing an extra point in overtime. This year, the Tigers haven't even had to think about a game being that close, so it's going to take Harding's best effort of the season to make things interesting. After ten games apiece, both teams enter this week with a lot of momentum, something that the Tigers haven't been without all season. Only time will tell if the Raiders can pull off what would be, even at the early stages of the playoffs, one of their biggest wins in school history.


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