McComb’s Brice Markel (54) and Eli Franks (68) bring down Trimble’s Max Hooper (40) during Saturday’s Division VII state final Saturday. (Photo by Kent Tarbox.)

Staff Writer

CANTON — McComb had one goal above all else in Saturday’s Division VII championship game against Glouster Trimble at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium.

The Panthers wanted to stop Trimble’s wishbone running attack.

Mission accomplished. The result was a 28-3 victory and a state title.

The Tomcats had rushed for 4,256 yards through the first 14 games of the 2018 season, and had won two games this season without a passing yard.

Against McComb, Trimble gained just 81 rushing yards on 39 carries.

“That’s exactly what we wanted,” McComb defensive coordinator Eric Brickman said. “If we could make them throw, and make them run sideways, that’s what we wanted to do. We know how to stop the spread, because that’s what coach (Kris) Alge likes to run so we practice against it.”

Not many teams run a wishbone offense. The Panthers started the game countering with a five-man defensive front and picked up a few keys early in the game.

“They got the first sweep on us, and (defensive end) Andrew Smith came over and said, ‘Hey, I found a tendency,'” Brickman said. “(Defensive tackle) Eli Franks said ‘Hey, they say this word.’ So then, we knew the sweep was coming from what they were saying and how they were reacting. Andrew kept stringing it out, and (linebacker Tristan) Sherick kept coming up and making tackles.

“Our kids are great at picking up on things like that. They’ve done it all year.”

Tomcats quarterback Cameron Kittle is an elusive runner who gained 48 yards on 16 carries; much of that yardage came on scrambles in the spread formation. Wishbone tailbacks Connor Wright and Max Hooper combined to rush 23 times for 33 yards.

As McComb built its lead from 7-0 early to 14-3 at halftime, and to 28-3 in the third quarter, the Tomcats had to abandon their three-back wishbone and attempt to throw out of four- and five-receiver sets in the spread.

“We were very happy to see them in the spread,” Brickman said. “We could take a defensive lineman out and blitz a little bit. Our kids like blitzing.”

Trimble’s Sawyer Koons was hampered by a sprained ankle and was limited Saturday to playing on defense. The 5-foot-11, 210-pound senior was the Tomcats’ lead blocker at fullback much of the year, and Brickman said his absence helped the Panthers.

“Yeah, he’s a very good blocker,” Brickman said. “Him being out let (middle linebacker) Brice (Markel) fill a little more, get some tackles for loss. That No. 22 (Sam Ives) that Trimble used is a good player, too, but he’s not quite the blocker Koons is.”

Brickman said Markel, a first-team all-Ohio linebacker, was the key man in McComb’s defense all season.

“Brice Markel does a great job of making calls for us,” Brickman said. “Markel gets us in the right spots.

“Smith can drop back to safety against the spread, and it’s just a very flexible team. (Defensive back) Robert O’Dell, (linebacker) Kheaghan Loe, they’re all great guys who make plays.”

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