Westerville South at Massillon Washington: ‘Dialed in’ Wildcats tuning up for Tigers

Frank DiRenna
ThisWeek group
Westerville South's Brandon Armstrong finds running room against Olentangy Berlin in a Division II, Region 7 playoff game. The game was suspended Oct. 23 and resumed the next day, with the Wildcats winning 56-29.

Despite preparing to take on a program rich in tradition, Westerville South coach Matthew Christ plans on treating the Wildcats’ postseason game at Massillon Washington on Friday, Oct. 30, like any other contest.

The third-seeded Wildcats will visit second-seeded Massillon in a Division II, Region 7 semifinal.

“There’s been a tremendous amount of athletes and coaches who have played and coached there, but I don’t know if that’s even going to come up with us,” Christ said. “We’re so dialed in and focused on ourselves and we’re just looking forward to the opportunity to play a big football game there.”

The winner plays top-seeded Massillon Perry or fourth-seeded Olentangy on Nov. 6 in the regional final.

“At this point of the playoffs, you’re supposed to be playing other good football teams and that’s the journey of trying to continue to earn another week,” Christ said. 

The Tigers have won 13 regional titles and are coming off back-to-back state final appearances, losing 34-17 to Cincinnati La Salle last season and 42-28 to Akron Hoban in 2018.

“(The tradition) is always on our mind,” Massillon coach Nate Moore said. “There’s a ton of pressure with it, but you can’t have the good without the bad. With high expectations, you’re going to have a little pressure.”

The Wildcats, who are 7-0, advanced with a 56-29 win over 11th-seeded Olentangy Berlin in a game that began Oct. 23 and concluded the following day after being suspended because of bad weather.

Massillon opened with a 24-23 loss to Lakewood St. Edward but has won seven consecutive games since, including a 48-23 victory over North Canton Hoover on Oct. 24.

Will Hartson rushed for 195 yards and four touchdowns on 13 carries to lead the Tigers, and quarterback Zach Catrone completed nine of 10 passes for 145 yards with a touchdown. That scoring pass went to Jayden Ballard, who had six receptions for 97 yards.

Christ said his team and Massillon have similarities on offense with several weapons at key positions.

“They certainly have athletes who are going to match our athletes,” Christ said. “It’s probably the most talented team we’re going to have to face to date. It’s going to be a heck of a battle. We’re going to have to make some plays, be really disciplined and play fast and physical to give ourselves a shot.

“We have a whole lot of faith in our guys and we really believe the only team that is going to beat us is ourselves.”

South quarterback Peter Pedrozo completed 14 of 18 passes for 240 yards and three touchdowns against Berlin, while Ethan Hanna ran for 119 yards and two touchdowns and Brandon Armstrong added 117 yards rushing and two scores.

Kaden Saunders had four catches for 119 yards and two touchdowns, and opened the scoring with a 106-yard interception return for a touchdown in the first quarter after Berlin had driven to the South 1-yard line.

“The quarterback is really good,” Moore said. “He has a really quick, tight release. They have a couple really good receivers. (Saunders and Javi’er Wills) are really good players.”

fdirenna@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekFrank

WESTERVILLE SOUTH at MASSILLON WASHINGTON

•When: 7 p.m. Friday, Oct. 30

•Last meeting: 2002, Massillon 43-6

•South (7-0) to date: Defeated Dublin Scioto 42-28; def. Big Walnut 50-41; def. Westerville North 32-28; def. Delaware 59-20; def. Canal Winchester 42-24; def. Watkins Memorial 56-28; def. Olentangy Berlin 56-29

•Massillon (7-1) to date: Lost to Lakewood St. Edward 24-23; def. Columbus Bishop Sycamore 35-0; def. Warren G. Harding 24-0; def. Cleveland Benedictine 28-10; def. Cleveland St. Ignatius 21-14; def. Canton McKinley 35-7; def. Walnut Ridge 56-0; def. North Canton Hoover 48-23

•Top Wildcats: Brandon Armstrong (RB/DB), Matthew Bame (WR/K), Zane Boszor (LB), Nadir Carpenter (OL/DL), Jesse DeVore (WR/DB), Khali Horton-Campbell (LB), Tyler O'Reilly (OL/DL), Peter Pedrozo (QB), Kaden Saunders (WR/DB) and Javi’er Wills (WR/DB)  

•Top Tigers: Jayden Ballard (WR/DB), Camden Beasley (RB/LB), Zach Catrone (QB), Isaiah Clark (WR/DB), Willtrell Hartson (RB/DB), Martavien Johnson (WR/DB), Andrew Wilson-Lamp (WR/DB), Caiden Woullard (FB/DL) and Raekwon Venson (RB/LB)