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‘Not so sharp’ Tigers grind out 265 yards rushing in 43‑0 rout

By MIKE HUDAK
Independent Sports Editor

So how good are the Massillon Tigers?

“We really weren’t very sharp tonight,” said Tiger head coach Mike Currence. “We were sharp last week against Newark, and its hard to be real sharp two weeks in a row.”

“Even the crowd was flat,” chipped in grizzled offensive coordinator Nick Vrotsos. “The fans didn’t get aroused until that bad penalty call late in the third quarter, and then they went flat again.”

The final score? The Tigers 43, Barberton 0, the proverbial “sweet revenge” for last years 26‑24 upset at the hands of the Magics.

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The game itself wasn’t very exciting – the Tigers dominated from start to literally the finish. From a reporter’s standpoint, the highlight came afterwards in the Barberton lockerroom, when an ‘upset’ Magic head coach Rudy Sharkey seemed convinced that the Tigers had tried to run up the score. (The Tigers did score on the final play of the game, a seven‑yard sweep by junior Kirk Ivan.)

“No, this loss didn’t hurt,” he fumed. “Some other year, Currence will get his. If the guy needs points that bad, fine. Like I said, another year, and that’s all I have to say.”

But you can’t really blame the guy for being grumpy ‑ he entered this season with a .718 winning percentage in 10 years at the helm of the Magics, and this year’s 1‑5 start is bound to be a blow to even the strongest ego.

But Currence disavowed running up the score. In fact, it was only earlier this week that he told a luncheon audience that he always tried to refrain from doing so; it only hurt the opponent’s confidence for future games, valuable for computer points, plus aroused the victims for the next rematch.

(A final memory of the Barberton lockerroom: Sharkey’s devastated troops gathered around him; the coach bellowing the answers to reporters’ questions. “There’ll be another year, ” Sharkey grits his teeth. “RIGHT, TEAM?” “RIGHT COACH, ” scream the players back.)

“In the first place, the players called that final timeout late in the game, not me. Two, as far as I’m concerned, we tried to run out the clock. We ran the exact same sweep four times in a row, and they didn’t defend against it right once, which isn’t our fault. In fact, I was surprised that they stayed in the exact same defense all night; I don’t think they shut down one of our sweeps the entire game,” Currence said.

There was a final mitigating factor to the late score, incidentally. The player who scored on the jaunt, Ivan, just happened to be celebrating his birthday ‑ and as his teammates knew, what better time to score your first touchdown as a Tiger!

Neither team scored on its first possession. But the Tigers kept Barberton backed up in the shadow of its goal on their second possession, forcing the first of many short punts which kept the Tigers in great field position the entire night.

The Tigers began possession on the Magic 25 and scored in five plays. Bushe, who led Tiger rushers with 97 yards in 13 carries, had gallops of nine and 10 yards en route to the end zone. He then plunged over from the one with 4:40 left in the quarter, followed by a Bronc Pfisterer conversion kick.

Massillon didn’t score again until 3:51 remained in the half. Another short punt after being penned deep gave the Tigers possession on the Barberton 39. The first play from scrimmage saw quarterback Brian DeWitz hit receiver Jim Geiser with a 21‑yard pass to the 18. Four plays later Chris Spielman pounded over from the one, with the kick no good.
Tigers see five backs tally
The ensuing kick went into the end zone and on the first play from scrimmage, junior Ken Rector’s pass was picked off by Marcell Stephens, giving the Tigers possession at the Magic 41.

This time it took the Tigers six plays to score. Fullback Tim Sampsel did final honors on a one‑yard plunge with 1:02 remaining, following a nine‑yard scramble by DeWitz. Pfisterer’s kick was good for a 20‑0 halftime lead.

The Tigers made it 26‑0 with their second possession after intermission. A 73‑yard drive began when DeWitz underthrew a wide‑open Geiser, who retreated for the ball for a 38‑yard gain, with a late hit moving the ball down to the Magic 20. Six plays later, DeWitz, dropping straight back for one of the few times all evening, found Bushe wide open over the middle for a nine-yard scoring pass. The kick failed, but the Tigers led 26‑0 with 4:57 left in the third period.

Massillon went on to score 17 points in the final period ‑ all following the contest’s most controversial moment.

Typically, Barberton was forced to punt, and the short boot sailed towards the Tigers’ Stephens, who plainly signaled for a fair coach. The Barberton defender ran right through the signal and smashed into Stephens while the ball was still in the air, an obvious infraction. But the official call was a fumble, with Barberton recovering the ball! The home crowd let out a long chorus of boos, followed by Massillon’s defense regaining the ball 22 yards the other direction following a 10‑yard sack on fourth down registered by middle guard John Franke!

The Tigers didn’t score with that possession, but the next time they touched the ball it was at Barberton’s 30, following, you guessed it, another short, wobbly punt out of the end zone!

It took the Tigers three plays to score this time, with fullback Tom Gruno rambling in from ten yards out with 8:33 left in the game, followed by a successful boot.

Barberton tried again, but its next effort resulted in a Bill Davis interception, and the Tigers had the ball on the Magics’ 30. This time the Tigers settled for a 27‑yard field goal off the foot of Pfisterer for a 36‑zip lead with 3:35 left.

But the Tigers weren’t through yet. This time Mike Galant picked off a pass, the Tigers fourth theft of the evening, setting up Ivan’s final score as the Tiger reserves pushed the Magics all over the field.

The key to the game was reflected in the final rushing totals ‑ the Tigers racked up 265 yards on the ground, Barberton a mere 54.

After the game, all the Tiger running backs pointed to the dominance of the Tiger offensive line, consisting of the likes of Ty Beadle, Darrell Strickling, Tim Sweterlistch, Charles Calhoun, Rick Hamit, and others.

“They just kept opening hole after hole,” said Bushe, the Tigers’ game rushing leader. “If anyone should get the credit tonight, it’s those guys.”

Now, it’s on to next week, when the 6‑0 Tigers will take on the invaders from Pennsylvania, a team from Sharon shameless enough to bill themselves as the Tigers!

MASSILLON 49
BARBERTON 3
M 0
First downs rushing 16 3
First downs passing 3 4
First downs by penalty 1 3
Totals first downs 20 10
Yards gained rushing 270 76
Yards lost rushing 5 22
Net yards rushing 265 54
Net yards passing 78 59
Total yards gained 343 113
Passes attempted 10 22
Passes completed 4 9
Passes int. by 4 1
Yardage on pass int. 36 0
Times kicked 7 1
Kickoff average 53.1 34.2
Kickoff return yards 0 74
Punts 2 6
Punting average 35.0 25.0
Punt return yards 3 0
Punts blocked by 0 0
Fumbles 2 1
Fumbles lost 2 0
Penalties 3 4
Yards penalized 45 51
Touchdowns rushing 5 0
Touchdowns passing 1 0
Miscellaneous touchdowns 0 0
Number of plays 55 51
Time of Possession 23:26 24:34
Attendance 9,096

Massillon 7 13 6 17 43
Barberton 0 0 0 0 0

M ‑ Bushe 1‑yard run. (Pfisterer kick).

Jeff Boerner