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Published: Saturday, 11/18/2006

Whitmer is no match for Canton McKinley

BY STEVE JUNGA
BLADE SPORTS WRITER
Whitmer's Apollo Scott stops Canton McKinley's Morgan Williams on this play, but Williams wasn't stopped often. Whitmer's Apollo Scott stops Canton McKinley's Morgan Williams on this play, but Williams wasn't stopped often.
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PARMA, Ohio - Whitmer's surprising run in the 2006 Division I football playoffs met with an abrupt end last night at Byers Field.

That end was actually a Canton McKinley running back named Morgan Williams, who ran the third-ranked Bulldogs to a 49-7 victory over unranked Whitmer in the Region 2 final.

McKinley (12-1) advances to next Saturday's state semifinals.

The overachieving Panthers (9-4) bowed out after come-from-behind wins over sixth-ranked and previously unbeaten Fremont Ross 21-17 two weeks ago and over Massillon Washington 14-10 last week on this same field.

"We got outplayed in all three phases," first-year Whitmer coach Joe Palka said. "Their kicking game was great, Morgan [Williams] is a great tailback and we weren't able to tackle him early. And, we had no first downs early and just kept putting our defense in a hole. They did a great job."

Williams, one of Ohio's top backs, didn't take long to make his mark. He carried 20 times for 181 yards and four touchdowns in the first half alone.

"McKinley's a great program, and he's a great running back at a great program," Palka said. "We knew he was good and that it was going to be tough to tackle him. He was [as good] as advertised."

Williams would add a fifth TD run early in the third quarter before exiting with his team on top 42-0. He finished with 217 yards on 24 attempts, bringing his season totals to 2,330 yards on 285 rushes and 33 total touchdowns in 13 games, including 13 TDs in three playoff wins.

The Panthers' lone TD came with 1:09 left in the game on a two-yard pass from quarterback Donnie Dottei to Jeremy Jones.

The 5-11, 176-pound Williams first found the end zone with a 33-yarder, when he broke through the middle then cut to the left sideline. He outran the last Panther defenders 4:07 into the game.

Williams then dazzled the Whitmer defense on the final play of the first quarter, storming through the line, breaking a tackle 10 yards upfield and sprinting goalward to complete the 72-yard TD.

"I'm awfully glad he's wearing our football uniform and not our opponents', that's for sure," McKinley coach Brian Cross said. "He's carried us, and our offensive line has done a great job.

"He's the kind of guy where, even if you don't block the play well, he has a chance to pick up some yardage.

"Generally, when we get him into the secondary, they really have problems bringing him down."

Williams added scoring runs from four yards out 1:38 into the second quarter and from one yard 5:45 before halftime.

By that point, Whitmer, down 28-0, had yet to earn a first down or advance beyond its 27-yard line in five possessions. One of those drives ended on the first play, an Anthony Allen fumble on the first play from scrimmage of the second quarter.

"We just got after 'em," Cross said. "We ran to the football, and we were very physical when we got to the ball."

By then in semi-desperation mode, Whitmer went for it on fourth-and-seven from the Bulldog 45 only to see McKinley free safety Tremaine O'Neal intercept a Dottei pass and return it 71 yards for a TD with just 15 seconds left in the half for a 35-0 lead.

Backup Steve Gardner added a 45-yard TD run for McKinley with 5:00 left in the game.

McKinley topped Whitmer 368-183 in total offense, including a 335-25 edge on the ground. Dottei completed 17 of 33 passes for 158 yards, and Allen carried 15 times for 25 yards in his return after undergoing an appendectomy 19 days ago.

"They did a nice job defensively," Palka said of the Bulldogs, who were state runners-up in 2004 and lost in the regional final last year.

"They kept all three backers in the box and we never had field position.

"That really took a lot of our game away. We didn't feel we were able to do everything [strategically] that we could.

"The bottom line was that they were more physical on defense than we were on offense."

Contact Steve Junga at: sjunga@theblade.com or 419-724-6461.



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