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Tiger field goal beats Red Dragons
Defense, fumble key to AAC win

BY DENNY HIGHBEN

Niles McKinley had the ball on Massillon’s six-yard line. It was fourth down and three yards to go for a first down, with 2:04 left in the game.

Massillon was ahead 3-0, a score that would have been unbelievable except for the somewhat bizarre results of the first three games of the Tigers’ 1975 season.

THERE WAS certainly noise in Tiger stadium at that moment, though it seemed as quiet as a museum at midnight.

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Niles called time out to decide what to do. The Dragons started to lineup for the play and the Tigers called time out.

The young athletes finally lined up to attack and defend. The ball was snapped, but not on cue. When the pile in the center of the line cleared away, Massillon’s Dan Nagle had the ball.

And the Tigers won their first All-American Conference game of the season 3-0. The winning margin was a 27-yard field goal by Keith Harmon in the second quarter.

“What can a guy say?” Niles Coach Tony Napolet asked rhetorically after the game.

IT’S TOUGH to get beat 3-0, real tough. We’re proud of our kids…A break here and a break there and the outcome would have been different,” he said.

The fumble, which seemed an anticlimactic way for the Niles’ drive to be halted, was a break for the Tigers and a welcome one. After the loss to Upper Arlington last Friday night, many of the comments in the coaches’ locker room centered around the idea that if the Tigers’ didn’t have bad luck, they wouldn’t have any. The fumble may have saved the game, but the Tiger coaches’ feel Niles would have been stopped short of the first down.

“We didn’t hit like last week,” (against Arlington), Tiger Coach Chuck Shuff said, “But when it counted we did the job.”

Why the fumble? Napolet said he was told by the Niles center that a Massillon defensive lineman yelled “HIT” and the center snapped the ball – just a bit too early. “HIT” was one of Niles’ signals and on that particular play it signaled the snap.

The play, Napolet said, would have been an option with quarterback Don Burlingham either keeping or pitching back to Phil Chelsea, a super tailback who gained 118 yards in the contest.

THE TIGER coaching staff was told the fumble resulted when a Tiger yelled “motion” to alert his defensive comrades that Niles’ fullback Chuck Gillespie had started to move and the center snapped the ball.

Harmon’s 27-yard field goal was kicked with 11:55 left in the second period. The Tigers started the drive on their own 23. One of the biggest plays of the drive came on a
third-and-10 at Massillon’s 47, when quarterback Todd Keller dropped back to pass.

Several Niles defenders slipped through the pass protection and as Keller scrambled for his life he threw a perfect strike to Keith Harmon who ran to the Niles’ 27 before being tackled.

Bill Harmon, who gained 79 yards in the game, ran the ball five times, getting just inside the five-yard line and putting the Tigers in a fourth-and-two situation as the first quarter ended.

An illegal procedure penalty put Massillon back on the nine and Keith Harmon came in and kicked the field goal, a perfect shot through the center of the uprights.

RED DRAGON Tailback Phil Russo ran the ensuing kickoff out to the Niles 42 and Chelsea ran six consecutive times, getting all the way to the Tiger 13. The defense stiffened and passes on third and fourth down for Niles fell incomplete.

With both defensive units giving outstanding performances, only two scoring threats were managed from that point on – the Dragon drive that went from the Niles 36-yard line and ended with the fumble and one by the Tigers in the third period.

The Tigers third-quarter drive was aided by a roughing-the-kicker penalty, which put the ball on Niles’ 45 and a 33-yard pass from Keller to Jay Harper on the next play. The drive was halted after a holding penalty was called on the Tigers and a 37-yard field goal attempt by Keith Harmon was a few feet wide.

Shuff was pleased with the performance of his team, especially in the improvement of the passing attack and the defensive secondary. Keller completed three of eight passes, all for long yardage and a couple of his aerials slipped away from the receivers. Keller was intercepted once.

The defensive secondary, which has been the subject of criticism in the past, played an outstanding game by shutting down the usually potent passing attack of Niles and making some bruising tackles.

THE DRAGONS completed three of 10 attempts and Don Stewart picked off a Burlingham pass in the first period.

Niles is now 3-1 and Massillon, after two weeks of frustration, is 2-1-1.

Looking to next week’s game against Cleveland Benedictine, Shuff said, “There’s no let-up. They were young last year, but have matured and are a very good football team.”

The Bennies were 2-1 before this weekend’s action.

Massillon 0 3 0 0 3
Niles 0 0 0 0 0

MASSILLON – 3
Ends – Arnrer, Conley, Chovan, Matie, Laase.
Tackles – Mark Lauber, Genet, Drobney, Easter, Mike Lauber, Tourney.
Guards – Brand, Schumacher, Chrsitoff, King, Hauser.
Centers – Nagle, Mitcheal.
Quarterback – Keller.
Running backs – Stewart, Warthen, Henderson, Jones, Harper, B. Harmon, A. Grizzard, Ellis, Parson, K. Harmon, Dorsey, T. Grizzard.

NILES – 0
Ends – Salerno, Baiduc, M. Giangardella, DiEugenia, Bower, Bezilla, Blair, McClosky, Gatta, Ifft, Braun.
Tackles – Skiffey, Blair, Tenney, Crawford.
Guards – Blakely, Miller, Zubyk, Chance.
Centers – Vulanich, S. Giangardella.
Quarterbacks – Burlingham, Rein.
Running backs – Chelsea, Gillespie, Russo, Tabor, Weince.

ATTENDANCE – 12,314.

OFFICIALS
Referee – Steve Nagy.
Head Linesman – Tom Coleman.
Back Judge – Wade Lessig.
Umpire – Jim Keffer.
Field Judge – Fred Vicarel.

GRIDSTICK
Mass. NILES
First downs-rushing 7 12
First downs-passing 3 1
First downs-penalties 1 0
Total first downs 11 13
Yards gained rushing 140 170
Yards lost rushing 21 6
Net yards gained rushing 119 164
Net yards gained passing 94 28
Total yards gained 213 192
Passes attempted 8 10
Passes completed 3 3
Passes intercepted by 1 1
Yardage on passes intercepted 20 0
Times kicked off 2 1
Kickoff average (yards) 50.5 55.0
Kickoff returns 9yards) 17 62
Times punted 3 4
Punt average (yards) 37.0 42.0
Punt returns (yards) 9 3
Had punts blocked 0 0
Fumbles 0 1
Lost fumbled ball 0 1
Penalties 6 4
Yards penalized 50 30
Touchdowns rushing 0 0
Touchdowns passing 0 0
Touchdowns by interception 0 0
Miscellaneous touchdowns 0 0
Total number of plays 50 58
Total time of possession 24:08 23:52

Bill Harmon