La Salle Wins Division II State Football Title


Posted on 12/6/2019 at 10:22 a.m.

Another Fast Start Leads Lancers To Fourth Crown In Six Years

It started the final week of the regular season, when La Salle jumped out to a 27-6 halftime lead and held on for a 27-25 victory against Greater Catholic League rival Elder in a winner-take-all matchup to determine the prestigious league championship.  Fast starts have been the norm for the Lancers ever since that early November victory, and Thursday night in the biggest game of the season was no exception as La Salle held leads of 14-3 and 21-10 in the first half before eventually emerging with a 34-17 win against previously undefeated Massillon Washington in the Division II state championship of the Ohio High School Athletic Association Football State Tournament before a crowd of 11,286 at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium in Canton.

The win earned La Salle its fourth state title in six seasons and fourth overall for a program that won three straight from 2014 to 2016.  In the process, the Lancers also earned state title No. 11 for GCL South schools since Elder won back-to-back DI state crowns in 2002 and 2003.  Elder (12-2) the Panthers play Pickerington Central (13-1) for the DI state championship in Canton.  An Elder win would give the GCL South its second state crown in four years, as La Salle and St. Xavier both won state titles back in 2016.

La Salle is now 4-for-4 in state finals.

The win, La Salle’s sixth straight, capped an impressive postseason run for coach Pat McLaughlin’s team – which outscored its five state playoff opponents by a combined score of 191-53 that included a 164-31 edge in the first half of the those games.  The win against Massillon, one of the state’s most storied programs, came against former La Salle coach Nate Moore  who left the Lancers’ program to take the Massillon job after leading the Lancers to their first state crown in 2014.  La Salle finishes the season 13-2 and is now 22-1 in the state playoffs since 2014.  Massillon suffers its first defeat and finishes 14-1 overall.

It was La Salle’s rushing attack that made the difference against Massillon, as the Lancers’ trio of junior quarterback Zach Branam, sophomore speedster Gi’Bran Payne and senior standout Cam Porter combined to run for 337 yards and four touchdowns.  Massillon finished with 82 yards on the ground.  Branam finished with a team-high 166 yards on 22 carries, while Payne ran for 133 and a 5-yard TD, and Porter racked up 57 yards and three scores in his final prep game.  Porter, who was named GCL South Co-Player of the Year with Elder senior quarterback Matthew Luebbe, has verbally committed to Northwestern University. 

La Salle also got a strong performance from its defense and special teams, led by senior and Ohio State University commit Jake Seibert – who kicked field goals of 43 and 38 yards, respectively.  Seibert’s 43-yarder set a state record for the longest field goal in a DII title game.  The Lanceres’ defense – as it has been all  season – turned in an impressive effort against a high-scoring Massillon offense that had put up 40 or more points nine times this season.  However, with La Salle leading 21-17 at halftime, the Lancers shut out Massillon in the final two quarters, with Porter’s 3-yard TD run in the third quarter and extra point giving La Salle a 28-17 lead – making the Lancer faithful who traveled nearly 230 miles to Northeast Ohio able to celebrate another state title.

You can expect to see plenty of purple in the stadium overlooking the Pro Football Hall of Fame tonight, as a large continent from Elder is expected to make the trek to Canton in support of Elder’s first appearance in the state final since 2009.  It should be noted that Pickerington Central’s primary school color also is purple.  The Panthers have won four straight since the loss at La Salle and nine of their last 10 since falling at La Salle.  Elder’s only other loss this season was in NE Ohio to defending state champion Lakewood St. Edward back in week four.  Pickerington Central, which defeated No. 1-ranked Mentor in last week’s state semifinals, won the DI state title two years ago;.  Elder and Pickerington Central last met in 2014, with the Tigers posting a 20-14 victory in the season opener that year as part of the Skyline Chili Crosstown Showdown at University of Cincinnati’s Nippert Stadium.