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Massillon snatches’ victory from defeat

By MIKE POPOVICH
Repository sports writer

AKRON ‑ As time ticked down to a few precious seconds, the Massillon Tigers slowly turned sure defeat into an amazing victory.

The Tigers trailed by two touchdowns midway through the fourth quarter, but came back to stun the Barberton Magics 22‑20 Saturday night at the Rubber Bowl.

A 1‑yard touchdown plunge by quarterback George Whitfield with 17 seconds left capped a game Barberton firmly had tucked away before Massillon came back to steal a win. The Tigers scored 16 unanswered points in the final 6:24.

“We were very lucky to win,” Massillon head coach Jack Rose said. “But I have to give my kids credit. They never gave up in the fourth quarter. They played their hearts out and found a way to win it.”

Massillon tailback Vinny Turner. who suffered a pulled hamstring in last week’s game against Austintown Fitch, did not start. But with the game, and possibly the season, on the line the Tigers had no choice but to put their top offensive threat in the backfield.

A 2‑yard touchdown run by Turner and the two‑point conversion cut Barberton’s lead to 20‑14 with five minutes left.

Turner, who finished with 46 yards on 11 carries, caught an 11‑yard pass from Whitfield on the game‑winning drive. From the Barberton 3‑yard line, he grinded out two yards on two carries before Whitfield scored the winning touchdown with the Tigers out of timeouts.

“My hamstring is hurting, but I had to go in there,” said Turner. “And we made the big plays. That’s all we had to do.”

The difference in the game came prior to the final Massillon drive when Barberton punter Chad Whipkey ran out of the end zone for a safety after the snap sailed over his head.

“I felt we could win regardless of the safety, but that*s the breaks,” Whitfield said. “You have to have breaks like that. They had one in the first half. This was ours.”

Barberton’s break came just before halftime.

Rohn Noirot, who kicked a 31‑yard field goal midway through the second quarter, lined up to attempt a 20‑yarder with 20 seconds left.

But holder Jay Winker, a backup quarterback, took the snap and threw a shovel pass to fullback David Holderbaum as he raced into the end zone. Noirot’s extra point increased the Magics’ lead to 17‑6 at halftime.

The Tigers had only 61 yards of total offense in the first half. They also turned the ball over three times.

Massillon’s first turnover gave the Magics a 7‑0 lead. The Tigers fumbled a Barberton punt deep in their own territory and Danny Villers fell on the ball in the end zone after a wild scramble.

A 33‑yard touchdown run by Whitfield sliced Barberton’s lead to 7‑6. It remained 7‑6 after Tiger place‑kicker Josh Hose missed the extra point.

Massillon’s mistakes continued. The Tigers handed the Magics a first down when they lined up offside on fourth‑and-one from the Barberton 25‑yard line. The Magics then drove 61 yards in 12 plays and used Noirot’s 31‑yand field goal to extend their lead to 10‑6. Barberton kept the drive alive by converting on fourth‑and-inches from midfield.

Massillon’s next two possessions ended with turnovers. Whitfield was intercepted both times. Winkler returned the second one 43 yards to the Tiger 11‑yard line.

That set the Magics’ final touchdown in the first half ‑ the shovel pass from Winkler to Holderbaum.

Massillon 6 0 0 16 22
Barberton 7 10 0 3 20

B ‑ Villers recovered fumble in the end zone (Noirot kick)
M ‑ Whitfield 33 run (kick failed)
B ‑ FG Noirot 31
B – Holderbaum 3 pass from Winker (Noirot kick)
B – FG Noirot 35
M ‑ Turner 2 run (Wiles pass from Whitfield)
M ‑ Safety, Whipkey ran out of the end zone
M ‑ Whitfield 1 run (kick failed)

Records: Massillon 5‑1; Barberton 3‑3


George Whitfield