Defeat can’t hide Tiger pride
Pups end Massillon season
By STEVE DOERSCHUK
Independent Sports Editor
MASSILLON ‑ They’ve pulled the plug on the football season, and it’s quiet around here all right.
No football playoffs to get crazy about … heck, not even a scrimmage against Akron East.
Maybe the calendar says “Nov. 4,” but its winter, baby.
You can say this, though. As the sports soul of Tigertown sighs and enters hibernation, it can be tucked in with a blanket of pride.
Here’s a nut and bolts way to took at it: the Tigers got a 21‑6 spanking from the playoff‑bound McKinley Bulldogs Saturday before 20,174 fans in Canton’s Fawcett Stadium to close their season with a 7‑3 record under first‑year head coach John Maronto.
Here’s another way: the Bulldogs were heavy favorites but got a pretty good scare.
If you want to get at the soul of this 91st game, which left the Tigers with a 50‑36‑5 lead in the fabled series, climb on down off the scoreboard.
How close was this game?
With 8:39 left, Mike Norris was digging for yardage round the 2‑yard line, needing to get inside the 1 for a first down and into the end zone for a chance for the Tigers to turn a 14‑6 deficit into a 14‑14 tie – Norris was stopped right there at the 2 on fourth down.
With fire minutes left, the Tiger defense stuffed the Pups, and Massillon got the ball on a punt in A‑1 field position near midfield.
Here was another chance to gun for a touchdown, a two-point conversion, and some dancin’ in the streets.
On the first play after they took over, the Tigers lost the ball on an interception, McKinley got a quick score on a bomb, and that was that.
Dead even, almost. In the end, McKinley had 211 total yards to 199 for the Tigers.
Of course, “close” only cuts so much ice. Plenty of Tigers shed plenty of tears after the clock froze at 0:00.
McKinley was going to the play offs, against GlenOak Saturday night in Fawcett Stadium as it turns out, with a 9‑1 record.
The Tigers were going home.
After the bus wheeled into Paul Brown Tiger Stadium and the players met for it quiet team meeting, Duane Crenshaw found his locker and removed his pads slowly.
He was sad and proud all at once.
”Everybody said they would blow us out,” said the senior defensive tackle. “They sure didn’t blow us out.”
Crenshaw’s locker was near that of Cornell Jackson. By now Jackson had removed his No. 8 for the last time, having gone out in splendid fashion.
His 83 yards in 18 rushing attempts made him the most visibly consistent offensive player in the game. Late in the contest, he turned the intangible of “determination” into something that could be seen with the naked eye.
On the late drive that set up the Tigers with their fourth and short from the 3, trailing by 8, Jackson got good blocking and shed many tacklers as he plunged ahead for 38 yards in seven memorable carries.
“It dawned on me at about that time that within a number of minutes my high school career would be over,” said Jackson, who was in his third game of a comeback after arthrosopic knee surgery. “I wanted to go out with my best effort. I’m just upset that we fell short.”
Maronto was upset, too. His marathon vigils in the film room, which produced a game plan laced with short passes and helped the Tigers stay in the game, were not enough to overcome a McKinley team seen by many as a solid state championship contender.
Maronto fought to get out the words as he spoke with reporters in the Tiger Stadium locker room after delivering the season‑ending address to his troops.
“It’s hard to feel anything good about losing to McKinley,” said the man who arrived from Detroit De La Salle High in mid‑June. “But maybe I have to look at it more maturely. I can say this. The kids just spilled their guts.”
The game’s first four possessions developed with the Tigers and the Bulldogs imitating each other.
McKinley received the opening kickoff and had to punt after three plays.
Then the Tigers had to punt after three plays.
Then McKinley scored on a long march. Then the Tigers scored on a longer march.
McKinley’s scoring drive began in Massillon territory after Chris Clax returned a punt 15 yards to the 48. Using Brian Chaney‑to‑Jerome Perrin passes and runs by fullback Percy Snow and the tailback Clax, the Bulldogs marched on six plays to the 6, where it was first down.
From there, Snow found a gaping hole on a left‑side trap play and literally trotted into the end zone for a McKinley score with 5:38 left in the first quarter. Mark Smith’s kick made it 7‑0, Bulldogs.
The Tigers started from their 34 after the kickoff. Behind senior Paul Fabianich’s sharpest quarterbacking of the season, the Tigers maneuvered downfield against McKinley’s vaunted angle defense.
Highlights included a 12‑yard pass to Bart Letcavits, a 16‑yard Fabianich scramble (his longest of the season), a 10‑yard strike to Wes Siegenthaler and a 17 yard, third and 10 completion to tight end Derick Newman to the 9.
Had later events favored the Tigers, the completion to Newman would have emerged as one of the most interesting developments in the game.
On the play, Fabianich nimbly darted away from the Bulldog linebacker Perrin. A year ago, Perrin was making tackles in that kind of situation, as his big‑play tackles sparked McKinley to a 17‑6 win and led to a first‑team, All‑Ohio berth for Perrin.
But this time, Fabianich stole the moment and zipped a completion to Newman … who had been a fullback all season.
“We wanted to use Derick as a tight end from the start, but injuries didn’t let us go that way,” Maronto said.
Norris, a junior fullback, plowed six yards up the middle to the 3. On second and goal, Fabianich flicked a quick pass over the right side of the line that barely zipped over the linebacker Snow’s hand and nestled into Newman’s grasp for a touchdown.
Norris changed shoes and lined up for the PAT attempt, but his kick sailed low and wide right, and the score stayed at 7‑6 with 1:31 left in the first quarter.
The game of copycat continued through the rest of the half, which was colored by excellent defense from both sides.
McKinley punted, Massillon punted. Then the Bulldogs punted again, then the Tigers punted again … but this time Ken Hawkins’ boot was partially blocked.
McKinley took over on its 46 with three minutes left in the half. The Bulldogs could get no farther than the Tiger 35, where they ran out of downs when a Chaney pass sailed over Perrin’s head.
The Tigers couldn’t budge, and the half ran out shortly after they punted with McKinley leading 7‑6.
The defenses dominated the third quarter, too, with McKinley shifting its alignment to take away Massillon’s short passing game, and Massillon playing “stuff the run,” as the Bulldogs put Chaney’s arm in seclusion and unsuccessfully tried to operate a power attack.
In their first five possessions of the third period, the teams combined for just five first downs on drives that all ended with punts.
The fifth of the punts sank the Tigers.
The boot, a low-flying 41-yarder off the foot of Hawkins, was taken by Clax at the McKinley 38. Clax started for the middle and found an opening to the outside. He broke to the left sideline and then back toward the middle of the field, outracing two Tigers and arriving in the end one at the end of a 62‑yard jaunt.
Smith’s PAT kick made it 14‑6, McKinley, with 1:55 left in the third quarter.
There was still fight left in the Tigers.
The Tigers took over on the kickoff at their 29 and, with the help of a 15‑yard pass interference penalty, used the running of Jackson and Norris to hammer out a length‑of‑the field drive.
On the eighth play of the march, which now was in the fourth quarter, Jackson exploded through the line on a trap play and exploded for 15 yards, almost breaking away for a touchdown but getting dragged down just outside the 10.
Jackson then went around the left side but slipped and fell at the 8. Norris bulled straight ahead for five yards, but on third and about two from the 3, Jackson tried the right side and was stopped for no gain.
Now it was fourth and two.
Do you go for the field goal and make it 14‑9 with about eight minutes left? Or do you go for the touchdown and two‑point conversion to tie?
“We needed a touchdown,” Maronto said, who mapped out strategy during a timeout called by McKinley.
The Bulldogs might be looking for Jackson to come around one of the ends, as he had on two of the previous three plays, Maronto figured.
The Tigers would try to pop Norris through the line.
“It was an inside belly play,” Maronto said. We felt we had enough force to make that play work. Norris is a strong runner.”
Norris lined up close to Fabianich. Fabianich handed him the ball an instant after the snap and Norris charged into the left side of the line. McKinley nose guard Cary Brown lid directly into Norris’ path and made the hit as other players arrived. Norris went down in a pile at the 2. It was McKinley’s ball.
McKinley’s poor field position loomed as a possible silver lining for the Tigers, but that went away when Snow ran eight yards to the 10 on the next play.
Still, the Tigers were alive and kicking when they forced the Bulldogs to punt from their 22. Massillon took over on its 44 with five minutes left in the game, but Smith’s interception killed a would‑be drive before the orange army in the north stands could get worked up.
Five plays after the interception, Smith struck again, racing behind two Tiger defensive backs and hauling in a perfect strike from Chaney on a 41-yard TD play. Smith’s kick gave the Bulldogs a 21‑6 lead with 2:30 left, and the seats cleared out early.
Fabianich finished with a season high of 21 passing attempts. He completed nine throws for 75 yards, two interceptions and the touchdown, the only aerial TD the Tigers achieved in 1985.
Chaney completed eight of 13 passes for 62 yards.
Snow led McKinley’s rushing attack with 64 yards in 15 carries. Clax, who rushed for more than 1,000 yards in 1984, was held under 600 yards for 1985 as a result of gaining just 20 yards in nine carries Saturday.
Back to Ringling Bros.
Tiger football season ends for Obie XVI, seniors
MASSILLON Ed Annen looked a bit sad. But then, he was about to lose a friend.
“It’s back to Ringling Brothers for her now,” Annen sighed as he looked at the friend, who lives in a cage and answers to Obie XVI.
With help from some loiterers, Annen wheeled the cage of Obie XVI out of a pickup truck and into her fall home at Paul Brown Tiger Stadium.
The football season was over for another year, and so were Annen’s special duties: caretaker of the live tiger that is part of what makes game days in Massillon different than game days in other towns.
The echo of the final gun was still so fresh that the players were in a team meeting within growling distance of Obie’s cage.
In an unplanned moment, the locker room door cracked open and revealed the meeting scene … a silent room filled with bowed heads.
Forget about Obie. Nobody who wears the orange and black feels much in a circus mood after losing to McKinley, as these Tigers had by a 21‑6 score in Fawcett Stadium on this Saturday.
“I thought we played pretty well against McKinley, but we could have played better … we could have beat ‘em,” said Jerrod Vance, a junior linebacker. “Next year we’re going to have a super team. I’m going to try my best to make sure of that.
The meeting broke up, and folks moved quietly amid the benches,
The seniors said their good byes to the locker room in which legends have been born. The juniors talked about setting things straight next year.
“I thought we played pretty well against McKinley, but we could have played better … we could have beat ‘am,” said Jetted Vance, a junior linebacker. ”Next year we’re going to have a super team. I’m going to try my best to make sure of that.
“I thought we should have done better this year. But we came a long way,”
Another junior linebacker who will go some more of the way with