‘Gales-storm’ sweeps Tigers 33-20
By CHUCK HESS, JR.
Independent Sports Editor
“. . . My head is bloody but unbowed!”
A line from the poem “Invictus” was scrawled across the blackboard in the Tiger stadium squad room by acting game Co-Captain Dave Hout, a senior guard. Above the short poem were written the words, “Tigers read this”.
The poetry served to set the tone for the job ahead for the Washington high football team. Coach Bob Commings and his staff know the Orange and Black must forget the searing thoughts of their 33-20 loss to Niles McKinley and begin to plan their comeback route.
The first hurdle will be the Alliance Aviators who come in next Friday hurting from a 30-8 loss to Canton McKinley, also an All-American conference game. The Bulldogs (2-0) are in the first place with Niles (1-0) second. Massillon and Alliance have one loss and Warren Harding has two.
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FRIDAY NIGHT’S defeat before 18,486 the season’s largest Tiger stadium turnout, was Massillon’s first in three games and extended Niles’ skein to 4-0.
Coach Bob Shaw holds the only two Red Dragon victories over the Tigers in the 10-game series, stopped a personal 25-game win streak for Commings and got Niles its first win at the stadium. The last Shaw-coached victory scissored a 32-game Tiger victory string.
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MEANWHILE, the Niles “Thunder Defense” as it is called by Shaw’s staff, bottled up the Tigers’ ground game and threw a blanket over Tiger receivers. The Orange and Black never stopped trying to come back – Commings gambling several times at crucial moments – but they couldn’t come back as some unfortunate breaks aided the Niles cause.
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“WHAT IT amounts to,” Commings explained, “is what we’ve been saying for three weeks. We have to get total concentration in games and in practice. We played against some inferior teams and got away with it. Tonight we played against a heckuva team and couldn’t get away with it.
“If tonight proved anything, it proved we didn’t have a bunch of quitters,” Commings commented.
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ONE THING the game did prove was that Niles has a tremendous football team led by two tremendous players in tailback Rick Gales and quarterback Ron Fusco – both All-Ohio caliber. It proved Shaw was right in installing the “I” formation this year to take full advantage of the Fusco-Gales combination.
Gales – “The Big Storm” – was never thrown for a loss as he carried 27 times for 152 yards and a 5.6 average.
The AAC’s top back scored three touchdowns and aided in setting up another.
He explained that everything was predicated to stop Gales, but the slant defense strategy didn’t work.
Shaw said Fusco’s quarterbacking was the key. “He did a great job!”
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HE THOUGHT the turning point was the Dragon’s third touchdown just before the end of the second half.
“We did nothing but straight ahead blocking,” Shaw explained. “Gales has the option to run anywhere he feels he can get through.”
Shaw then surprised reporters with the information that neither Gales nor fullback George Harris had practiced this week – Harris because of an injury sustained Monday and Gales because of one sustained last Saturday.
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NILES TOOK the opening kickoff and marched 67-yards in nine plays after an 18-yard runback by Gales. Fusco’s 26-yard end run off a fake to the Massillon 17 and Gales’ slant off the right side for 10 yards to the three set the ball up for flanker halfback Randy Hardy who scored on a pitch on the following play with 8:47 left in the first quarter. A two-point conversion try failed.
The Tigers came back as junior fullback Tom Cardinal streaked 35 yards to the 50 with the kickoff. Four plays later, with 7:01 remaining, Autrey tied the game on an off-tackle trap on second down from the two. Mauger’s kick was wide.
Quarterback Gary Herring and wingback Larry “The Scooter” Harper had teamed up on a 49-yard pass-run combination with Harper running 42 yards.
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HARPER PUT the Tigers into a temporary 12-6 lead when he returned a punt 94 yards, on some great open field running, with 10:03 left in the second stanza. The conversion pass attempt was incomplete.
The Dragons marched 68 yards in 11 plays for their second TD with Gales carrying eight times. A procedure penalty gave Niles a first down on the one. Gales capitalized on the opportunity, slanting over on the next play with 5:58 left. Harris’ kick made it 13-12.
The Tigers started to drive for pay dirt after Darnell Streeter’s 19-yard kickoff runback clicking on medium-length passes. But Niles’ Mark Conway hauled in one of Gary Herring’s aerials on the Niles 20 and the Dragons moved 78 yards in six plays, four of them passes.
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GALES WENT over on first down from the four on another slant. A conversion pass attempt fell incomplete. The clock read 1:22 in the second quarter.
A fumble on the second half kickoff, picked up by Joe Lucarello on the Massillon 14, set up the next Dragon score.
Three plays later, Fusco faked Harris into the line and skirted an end from the 10 for the score with 10:28 remaining in the third quarter. Hardy scored the conversion on a pitch play.
The Dragons scored for the final time after a fourth quarter, fourth down pass from the Tigers’ 24 had fallen incomplete. Gales scored on a pass from Fusco on third down from the seven with 3:51 showing on the clock. A subsequent pass on the conversion try was short.
The Tigers got their last chance with 57 second remaining. Consecutive double reverses by Harper and Bernard Sullivan for 18 and 29 yards, respectively, and a 19-yard screen pass play, with a 14-yard run by Autrey put the ball on the Niles 16. Quarterback Franklin hit Denny Harper in the corner of the end zone as the game ended.
Another pass to Harper was complete for the conversion, but Massillon was called for illegal procedure. Fans streamed onto the field, making it impossible to replay the try so referee Tony Pianowski declined the penalty and gave the Tigers two points.
First downs – rushing 9 20
First downs – passing 6 5
First downs – penalties 0 0
Total first downs 15 25
Yards gained rushing 181 281
Yards lost rushing 12 9
Net yards gained rushing 169 272
Net yards gained passing 119 82
Total yards gained 388 354
Passes completed 7–19 6–9
Passes intercepted by 0 1
Yardage on passes intercepted 0 0
Kickoff average (yards) 3–41.0 6–48.0
Kickoff returns (yards) 122 39
Punt average (yards) 2–34.5 5–37.2
Punt returns (yards) 99 0
Lost fumbled balls 1–1 1–2
Yards penalized 3–23 2–10
Touchdowns rushing 1 4
Touchdowns passing 1 1
Miscellaneous touchdowns 1 0
Total number of plays 53 66
Niles Won When
QB Shook Jitters
NILES – Ron Fusco wasn’t having a very good night. He had missed his first three passes and he was tight. But that’s the way it is when you’re a Niles quarterback playing against Massillon in front of 18,046 pairs of critical eyes.
It was late in the second quarter and the game was 12-12 with Niles camped on its own
WITH FUSCO off form Niles had stuck almost exclusively to the ground with the elusive Rick Gales doing the bulk of the ball carrying.
Red Dragon’s coach Bob Shaw called time and waved Fusco to him at the sidelines. “Take your time,” Shaw told his passer. “You’re not setting up properly. Don’t hurry your throws. The receivers are open.”
Fusco returned to the huddle, called the play and threw a 12-yard completion. He then proceeded to connect on successive passes of 18, 14 and 19 yards, moving the ball to the Massillon 4 where Gales punched it over for the go-ahead touchdown. George Harris kicked the extra point to give Niles a 19-12 edge which they never relinquished en route to a 33-20 triumph over the Tigers Friday night.
Fusco went on to complete two more aerials, giving him six in a row after those first three failures for a total of 81 yards and one touchdown.
SHAW CALLED that drive, a 77-yarder just before the half, the most important series of the game.
“It gave us the lead and we proved to ourselves we could move the ball. This was a major test for us. We knew that and the kids were a little shaky. But we all grew up a little on that drive,” Shaw related.
While Fusco was worrying Massillon in the air, Gales was giving them fits on the ground. The 5-9, 175-pound, senior halfback tied a school record by scoring four touchdowns on runs of 12, 3, 4 yards and catching a Fusco pass for 7 yards and another tally.