Tiger offense runs wild against Fitch
Massillon attack fells Falcons 38 – 29
By STEVE DOERSCHUK
Independent Sports Editor
The Mets are dead. Long live the Tigers.
The New York Mets. And the Massillon Tigers.
What’s the connection? Well, what happened in Paul Brown Tiger Stadium Friday night was “football the way it oughtta be.” Weren’t they saying something like that in the Big Apple last year?
The offenses went berserk as the Washington High football team outscored Austintown‑Fitch 38‑29. Only 8,284 folks showed up in P.B.’s Big House. But the ones wearing orange were loving it.
When was the last time a Massillon crowd jumped into a game like this? That was a question goin’ around.
And it didn’t stop at the locker room door.
“A football team needs to generate a lot of emotion,” said Massillon quarterback Erik White. “A lot of that comes from the fans. I get pumped up when I hear them. We need our fans behind us and I’d like to thank them for tonight.”
Football the way it oughtta be?
The Tigers scored five touchdowns on a Fitch team that had given up a combined two TDs to its four previous opponents. Every coach from Knute to Woody would think that means “de‑fense.” But Friday’s offensive outburst was the stuff fans could sink their teeth into.
It was the most impressive onslaught against a quality opponent during the John Maronto era. Last year’s 27‑0 win over Akron St. Vincent‑St. Mary ‑ next Friday’s Tiger foe ‑ had been the Maronto era’s most impressive previous outburst.
Maronto, a disciple of defense, was disturbed about Friday’s missed tackles and fundamental lapses that allowed Fitch to amass 294 net offensive yards.
But he broke into a spontaneous grin when asked if he was happy anyway.
“This one was an awfully big win for the town,” the coach said. “it was a win for pride. The kids won with heart and effort. I can’t think of any better words. It’s an indication of the character they have.”
The pride had been twice wounded by Fitch, coached by former Massillon player David Hartman. Fitch beat Massillon 21‑19 in 1985 and 13‑10 in 1986 in the only two meetings the rivals have had.
Vengeance belonged to the Massillon offense. The Tigers amassed 326 yards, 235 on the ground and 91 in the air.
Senior tailback Jerome Myricks rushed 25 times for 119 yards and scored three more touchdowns. His totals at the halfway point of the season include 76 rushes, 585 yards and 12 touchdowns.
Junior fullback Jason Stafford, coming off the bench after junior David Ledwell got the start, rushed 70 yards in five carries. Ledwell, reinserted after Stafford turned an ankle, carried once for 14 yards.
Added Maronto, “Erik White’s stats were not as impressive as they have been (White completed 6 of 12 passes for 91 yards), but he showed a lot of poise and leadership. And the offensive line deserves a whole lot of credit. (Guard) Tracy Liggett and (center) Don Gerber are a couple of juniors who have become outstanding. People around the country know about (guard) John Woodlock and (tackle) John Schilling. And (tackle) Billy Kline has come on and done a real nice job.
“Our tight ends (Gerald Pope and Jeff Harig) continue to block well We’ve got a nice chemistry going.”
Chemistry and a four‑game winning streak. The Tigers improved to 4‑1 while hard‑luck Fitch fell to 2‑3 heading into next week’s game against Youngstown Ursuline.
“They just outmanned us,” said Fitch’s Hartman. “Their offensive line is huge. But we played with a lot of heart. We had lousy field position in the first half and we got behind. We certainly moved the ball in the second half when we got field position. We just didn’t stop them.”
The Tigers defense stuffed Fitch in the first half, allowing only 39 nets yards. But Fitch cranked up its wing‑T attack in the second half, enabling outstanding senior tailback Mike Sztary to finish with 114 yards in 15 carries. He also returned a kickoff 96 yards for a score.
Fullback Kevin Motter wound up with 61 yards in 7 carries, while junior quarterback Darick Fletcher ran for 43 yards and passed for 50 more.
Sztary, who is listed at 165 pounds, gives the impression of a much bigger back during his fearless slashes with the ball. But a visit to the locker room after the game revealed that his program weight is accurate. He is, in fact, a skinny kid with deceptive strength.
“We didn’t make any adjustments for the second half,” Sztary said. “We just played with a lot of heart.”
But every time Fitch would threaten to get back in the game, the Tigers put on a scoring drive of their own.
The Tigers started the game on their own 24 after taking the opening kickoff and came out throwing. White passed on three of the first four plays but the Tigers had to punt following an incompletion. Fitch mishandled Mark Kester’s boot and the Tigers’ Vernon Riley recovered at midfield. On the next play, White launched a bomb toward the right flag in the end zone and Fitch’s Rod Turner intercepted at the 5.
“I knew right then we were going to move the ball, even though it was an interception,” White said. “We were determined. We were confident.”
Fitch drove 34 yards and had a second‑and‑one when Hartman gambled and sent in the Falcons’ first pass of the night. Fletcher threw into double coverage. Myricks, playing free safety, easily reached the 30‑yard toss and tipped it to cornerback Steve Siegenthaler, who raced 20 yards to the Tiger 45‑yard line.
The Tigers then went on a long running march that included gains of 3, 8, 3, 3, 6, 6 and 2 yards, a 6‑yard pass, then runs of 2, 2 and 3 yards. That ended the first quarter with the ball on the 3‑yard line on third-and‑goal.
On the first play of the second quarter, Myricks went straight up the middle with a gigantic hurdle step that carried him into the end zone. Lee Hurst’s kick made it 7‑0.
The field position Hartman cited then came into play. Sophomore return man Charles Wesson fielded
Hurst’s booming kickoff near the goal line and slipped at the 1, where his knee was ruled to have touched the ground. On third‑and‑one, Myricks and Siegenthaler slammed Motter for a yard loss and the Falcons had to punt. A short boot gave the Tigers possession on the Fitch 35. On third‑and‑seven, White led Harig with a perfect looping pass that gained 31 yards down the left sideline, putting the ball on the 1. Myricks again hurdled straight ahead for the score, and Hurst’s boot made it 14‑0 with 7:36 left in the half.
Then came a shocker.
Fitch immediately got back in the game when Sztary took Hurst’s kickoff near the right corner of the end zone, charged up the middle, broke a tackle at the 30 and sailed into the clear on a 96‑yard touchdown run. Jeff Wilkins’ kick made it 14‑7 at the 7:20 mark.
Then … the aftershock.
The Tigers scored two plays after the ensuing kickoff. On second‑and‑four, Stafford went up the middle on a quick hitter, encountered two tacklers at the first‑down mark, then did a Myricks imitation. Stafford exploded out of the pack and was off to the races, scoring on a 59‑yard run. Hurst converted again to make it 21‑7 with 6:1 3 left in the half.
An interception by Myricks ended Fitch’s next possession three plays after it started. Myricks returned the pickoff 26 yards to the Fitch 38. A personal foul against Fitch and a 10‑yard run by Myricks set up Hurst’s 27‑yard field goal, which gave the Tigers a 24‑7 halftime lead.
A different Fitch team came out of the locker room.
The same guys who couldn’t total 40 yards in the first half gained 60 on their first four plays of the second half. Three plays later, on third‑and‑goal from the 9, Fletcher rolled right, broke two tackles, and scored. The point‑after was blocked by Vernon Riley, but Fitch was back in the game, trailing 24‑13 with 8:30 left in the third quarter.
The Tigers struck back.
Myricks, a man for all reasons, returned the kickoff 40 yards. White connected with Pope on a 16‑yard sideline route that put the ball on the Fitch 40. After a 5‑yard motion penalty, it was time for Myricks’ weekly breakaway. The 5‑11, 181‑pound senior followed blocks by Stafford, Kline and Woodlock around the right side, saw daylight in the middle and cut back to it, broke three tackles as he headed for the right sideline, and went scott free the last 25 yards down the right sideline.
“When I break into the open field, I feel I can score,” said Myricks. “Again, I have to thank the offensive line for letting me get that far. The whole line blocked great again.”
“Fitch is one of the best defenses in the state. Scoring 38 points against them … that’s not too bad.”
Myricks’ 45‑yard TD burst and Hurst’s kick made it 31‑13 with 6:37 left in the third quarter.
It was the killing blow, even though Fitch managed to sandwich a 10‑yard scoring run by Sztary and a 13‑yard TD pass from Fletcher to Rod Tofil around a 15‑yard touchdown run by White.
White has scored on keepers two straight weeks. Last week, he ran a bootleg left to hit Barberton with a 4‑yard TD run. Last night, he faked the quick hitter to the fullback and rolled right, showing good speed as he outran the fooled Fitch defense into the end zone.
The second half was a game of neither team being able to stop the other. The Tigers won the game by being unstoppable in the first half, as well.
Maronto credited Brandon Oliver, the new offensive coordinator, and offensive assistants Nick Vrotsos, Tom Jarvis, Ron Bayduke and Tim Manion for putting together a package that was too hot for Fitch to handle.
“Really, though, it’s the players who deserve the credit,” Maronto said. “We’ve got a lot of big games coming up. We’ve got a lot of work ahead. But the players deserve to savor this one a little while.”
First downs rushing 10 11
First downs passing 6 3
First downs by penalty 1 2
Total first downs 17 16
Yards gained rushing 246 236
Yards lost rushing 11 1
Net yards rushing 235 22
Net yards passing 91 71
Total yards gained 326 294
Passes attempted 12 10
Passes completed 6 5
Passes Int. by 2 1
Times kicked off 7 5
Kickoff average 54.1 46.2
Kickoff return yards 90 198
Punts 2 2
Punting average 20.5 39.0
Punt return yards 6 0
Fumbles 0 1
Fumbles lost 0 1
Penalties 6 5
Yards penalized 34 55
Number of plays 51 44
Time of possession 27:05 20:55
FITCH 0 7 14 8 29
MASSILLON 0 24 7 7 38
M ‑ Myricks 3 run (Hurst kick)
M ‑ Myricks 1 run (Hurst kick)
F ‑ Sztary 96 kickoff return (Wilkins kick)
M ‑ Stafford 59 run (Hurst kick)
M ‑ FG Hurst 27
F ‑ Fletcher 8 run (kick failed)
M ‑ Myricks 45 run (Hurst kick)
F ‑ Sztary 10 run (Fletcher run)
M ‑ White 15 run (Hurst kick)