MILLBURY — Since the sun-baked dog days of training camp, the McComb football team has embraced a distant rallying cry.
“These kids want to play 720 minutes of football,” Panthers coach Kris Alge said, referring to the 15 games played by state champions.
The target no longer seems far off.
Shaking off an uneven playoff opener, McComb flattened Tiffin Calvert 42-0 in a Division VI semifinal Friday night at Lake High School.
Jerry Brown rushed for 253 yards — including 223 in the first half — and the Panthers recorded their fifth shutout in seven games, pushing the state’s second-ranked team into next Friday’s regional final against Delphos St. John’s with a newly earned surf of momentum.
McComb’s 14-0 victory over Arlington a week earlier in a game that remained scoreless into the second half had cast doubt on the school’s pursuit of its first state title since 1983. But the Panthers (12-0) answered with a resounding statement as Brown’s 56-yard run on the second play from scrimmage established the theme of a long night for Calvert (7-5).
Five McComb players scored touchdowns as the Panthers ougained the Senecas 510-96.
“We put our heads on right,” Brown said. “Last week we were a little bit big-headed. This week we came in focused and ready to play.”
This was not going to be a reprise of McComb’s 48-21 over Calvert in the season opener. This would be all Panthers, and they were determined to show it from the start against a Senecas team that routed Norwalk St. Paul 56-27 a week earlier.
With an overbearing front four, McComb stopped Calvert for a loss or no gain on eight of its first 10 defensive plays. The other two went for a combined for 3 yards. It was that kind of night.
The Panthers allowed just 38 first-half yards and held 1,000-yard rushers Dan Kwiat and quarterback Tyler Long to a combined 50 yards.
“It was definitely shocking the way they started off defensively,” said Calvert coach Todd Fox. “We knew it was going to be a dogfight, but we expected to move the ball a little bit more, and they just shut us down. There’s not much else you can say. They shut us down.”
The Panthers’ offense was just as dominant. With Brown and quarterback Dalton Buck sharing time under center, McComb carved the Senecas — slowed in the first half only by three turnovers and seven penalties.
Brown took a direct snap 56 yards on the Panthers’ second play from scrimmage, then ran for a 17-yard score on another wildcat call three plays later. The do-it-all Blanchard Valley Conference’s offensive player of the year had 22 carries, two pass completions and a reception.
Cody Wilson added 101 rushing yards and touchdown runs of 2 and 3 yards. Clay Dysert ran for a 59-yard touchdown, Buck dashed for a 9-yard score, and Andrew Gibson closed the scoring with a 1-yard run.
“Boy they’ve got some great athletes," Fox said of Calvert. "I’m excited for coach Alge and what the McComb Panthers can do for the rest of the season.”
Contact David Briggs at: firstname.lastname@example.org, 419-724-6084, or on Twitter @DBriggsBlade