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Longshore leads Tigers 27-7 victory

By KEN ZUERCHER

The skies opened up early and so did the Massillon offense, but it took the defensive wizardry of Darren Longshore to dampen the upset hopes of winless Niles McKinley Saturday night.

Longshore stated on a 64-yard punt return, set up a Tiger touchdown with an interception and took a TD away from Niles as Massillon raised its record to 4-0 by downing the Red Dragons 27-7 at Niles.

Despite a storm that delayed the start of the game by 55 minutes, Tiger quarterback Brent Offenbecher ignored the weather and concentrated on what he does best – throwing the football.

Offenbecher came out firing and connected on his first three passes as the Tigers marched for a 7-0 lead on their first possession, but their offense disappeared in the second quarter and the Dragons were able to knot the score shortly after halftime.

That’s when Longshore took over.

“I can’t say enough about Darren,” Tiger coach Mike Currence said of his senior defensive halfback. “He made the play of the game.”

The play occurred late in the third period when, with the Tigers clinging to a precarious 1.3 7 lead, Longshore fielded Niles punter Mike ­Kopetsky’s kick on the Massillon 36 yard line, broke a tackle at the 40 and sped down the right sideline behind a wall of blockers for six points.

Longshore helped provide more breathing room in the fourth period by picking off a Dragon pass and dancing 16 yards to the Niles 37. Four minutes later the Tigers had the game on ice.

Earlier, the Tiger defender made a touchdown saving tackle on Dragon workhorse Dave Negro, who had shaken loose for 20 of the 120 yards he would ramble for on the night.

Negro lugged the ball 2 times as the Dragons plugged straight ahead with a ground game that didn’t befit the 0‑4 team they were to become.

“We couldn’t stop them,” Currence said after his Tigers had captured their second All-American Conference win. “They ran power at us as well as any team can. We had to wait for mistakes to hurt them.

“But you have to give credit to our defense,” he added. “They took the ball away from them.”

The first theft came after Niles had taken the opening kick‑off and driven into Massillon territory on burst of 10, 10 and 12 by Negro. Dragon fullback Rick Kelsh fumbled, however, and Longshore was on the spot, as usual, to pick it up.

“The fumble hurt us. We had the momentum,” Dragon coach Tony Napolet noted. “We played very well the first half and controlled the line of scrimmage.

“But Massillon is so quick off the ball. They’re the best team we’ve played up to now,” Napolet said. “I thought we could get back in it, but that punt return was the turning point.

Neither coach thought that rain as a critical factor in the outcome.
Massillon dumps Niles for fourth straight win
It fell on both sides of the line,” Napolet said. “It didn’t inhibit what we wanted to do, and it sure didn’t stop them from throwing the ball.”

Offenbecher who hit on five of his first six aerial attempts, finished the night at 10 for 17, good for 119 yards.

“A wet field always limits you. You can’t try the fancy things. Bill this field wasn’t bad,” Currence said, “They have nice drainage.”

Jeff Beitel, who spearheaded the Tigers 115-yard ground attack with 69 yards unofficially on 15 carries, gave Massillon its quick lead on a 7‑yard touchdown run after his brother Bill grabbed a 31-yard pass from Offenbecher to set the stage.

The Tigers fashioned another first‑quarter drive that featured romps of 16 and 10 yards by Beitel, but it fizzeled four yards from paydirt when Dragon defensive end Chris Skocik trapped Offenbecher on a rollout on a fourth down play.

Niles took it from that point to the Massillon 45 with the help of a first down on fourth and a foot by Bob Rufh. The Tiger rejected Rufh, though, when the same situation arose on their 45 for a key defensive stand.

After a second period in which the Tigers could muster only a dozen yards, the Dragons threw a scare into their visitors, scoring on the first play from scrimmage of the third period.

The Tigers received the second-half kick-off and started from their 11 after being assessed half the distance to the goal for a clipping penalty.

The ball squirted out of Offenbecher’s hands, then out from under a pack of would-be recoverers and into the Tiger end zone, where Niles’ Harry Nidel tracked it down for a touchdown.

“They never should have scored,” said Currence, who blamed himself for the turn of events. “I made a mistake. We should have kicked off the second half, too. On a night like this, field position is more important than the ball. Let this be a lesson to me.”

The Tiger bounce back from the sudden tie for a sustained drive of 69 yard, keeping the ball for 6:24 before Bill Beitel knifed into the end zone from nine yards out for a 13‑7 lead.

Then came Longshore’s key punt return to increase the margin to 19‑7 and his in interception that set up a 37‑yard Tiger scoring drive which ended with a 3-yard keeper by Offenbecher.

Jeff Brief tossed a halfback pass to Ron Wright for the two point conversion to complete the scoring. Wright also accounted for the only other Tiger extra point with his boot after the first TD.

Niles air game wasn’t nearly as successful as its ground attack. Quarterback Dean Clark, who entered the game second to Offenbecher in AAC passing statistics, completed only 3 of 12 aerials for 20 yard.

Tiger defensive end Bruce Solinger found Clark as many times as the Dragon QB found his receivers. Solinger accounted for three sacks that set the Dragons back a total of 32 yard.

MASSILLON 7 0 12 6 27
NILES 0 0 7 0 7

M ‑ Jeff Beitel 7 run (Ron Wright kick);
N ‑ Harry Nicer recovered fumble in end zone (Rick Phillips kick);
M ‑Bill Beitel 9 run (kick felt);
M – Darren Longshore 64 punt return (kick fail);
M ‑ Brant Offenbecher 3 run (Wright pass from J. Beitel).

M IN
First downs rushing 7 7
First downs passing 6 0
First downs penalties 0 1
Total first downs 13 8
Yards gained rushing 132 126
Yards lost rushing 17 30
Net yards gained rushing 115 96
Net yards gained passing 127 20
Total yards gained 242 116
Passes attempted 21 12
Passes completed 12 3
Passes intercepted by 2 1
Yardage on passes intercepted 10 0
Times kicked off 5 2
Kickoff average (yards) 48.6 47.5
Kickoff returns (yards) 22 89
Times punted 2 4
Punt average (yard) 31.5 33.7
Punt returns (yard) 111 11
Had punts blocked 0 0
Fumbles 1 3
Lost fumbled ball 1 2
Penalties 9 3
Yards penalized 61 15
Touchdowns rushing 3 0
Touchdowns passing 0 0
Touchdowns by interceptions 0 0
Miscellaneous touchdowns 1 1
Total number of plays 54 52
Total time of possession 25:22 22:38

Massillon gambols pat Niles by 27-7

NILES ‑ Darren Longshore scored on a 62‑yard punt return and intercepted a pass that set up another touchdown Saturday in leading Massillon to a 27‑7 All‑American Conference football victory here Saturday night.

The win pushed the Tigers to 4‑0 overall and 2‑0 in the AAC. Niles’ record is just the opposite: site; 0‑4, 0‑2. The game was delayed more than 30 minutes because of lightning.

Longshore’s punt return broke open what had been a close game, giving the Tigers a 19‑7 edge midway through the final period.

On Niles next possession, Longshore picked off a Dean Clark pass and returned it 11 yards to the Niles 37. Eight plays later, quarterback Brent Offenbecher scored on a 3‑yard sneak.

Curtis Strawder