Massillon outscored in shootout
Ignatius pins 40‑26 defeat on the Tigers
By JOE SHAHEEN
Independent Sports Editor
They may have to rename Byers Field in Parma the O.K. Corral after the Massillon Tigers and St. Ignatius Wildcats engaged in a high school football shootout there on Saturday night.
In the end, Ignatius was able to mount a key scoring drive to counter the Tigers’ two early second half touchdowns and the Wildcats took home a 40‑26 victory over Massillon in front of 12,286 fans.
Trailing 28‑12 at intermission, Massillon got a pair of scores early in the second half and did so with its trademark quick‑strike style.
The first tally came on a short Justin Zwick to Robert Oliver pass in the left flat that Oliver turned into a 59‑yard touchdown at 11:13 of the third quarter. The senior tailback out‑sprinted the entire Ignatius secondary to bring the Massillon faithful alive.
The second score mirrored the first as Zwick hit Devin Jordan with a sideline pass along the right boundary that Jordan turned into a 71‑yard touchdown at 9:06 of the third quarter. The play was made possible when Zwick got rid of the football in the face of a corner blitz from his left. Then Jordan eluded the Ignatius cornerback and was off to the races for six.
David Abdul nailed both extra points and it was a 28‑26 game with the momentum squarely in the Tigers corner.
But Ignatius rallied back, moving 68 yards in 10 plays.
Facing third‑and‑13, and with the Tiger fans chanting “defense, defense”, Ignatius quarterback Nathan Szep hit running back Carter Welo along the left hash mark with a short pass, and Welo ran back against the grain and into the end zone for a 32 yard touchdown play that put the Wildcats up 35‑26 at 3:35 of the third quarter.
Massillon would never be able to regain its offensive flow as the Ignatius defense harrassed Zwick while the Wildcat offense controlled the line of scrimmage the rest of the way.
“We had the momentum going in our favor,” said Tiger coach Rick Shepas. “We had to stop them on the long drive and we didn’t. And that told the story of the game.
“Our kids have worked hard and have come along way in our program. But in a big game like this on the road, our kids have got to make more big plays. We felt real good about our game plan. We’re going to go back and look at the game film and I think it is going to motivate us to work a little bit harder and execute the game plan a little bit better.”
“Talk about momentum going out the window,” said Ignatius coach Chuck Kyle of Masillon’s two quick second‑half scores. “What we needed to do was get the running game going and give the defense a chance to get its breath and make’ a couple of adjustments.”
St. Ignatius did exactly that, running the football effectively on the first five plays of the scoring drive that essentially put the Tigers away.
Shepas admitted he was disappointed with his squad, despite the entertaining nature of the game.
“Were not happy with our performance at all,” he said. “We made too many mental mistakes tonight.
“Our kids have to learn to play in big games like this. Our town has been backing us. We had a great group of fans out here to watch us and I don’t think we gave them the type of performance they deserve.”
Ignatius broke on top, taking the opening kickoff and marching 80 yards in 13 plays.
Szep, who played flawlessly in completing 24 of 37 passes for 296 yards four touchdowns on no interceptions, opened the drive by hitting tight end Tom Christy for 11 yards to the 31. After an encroachment call on Massillon, the first of four in the first half, Szep picked up the first first down of the game on a quarterback sneak out of the shotgun.
Tigers defensive tackle Matt Webb sacked Szep to set up a third‑and‑11, but the Wildcats picked up the first down when Tony Gonzalez latched onto a Szep pass on a crossing pattern for 15 yards to the Massillon 42.
Carter Welo, substituting for John Van der Oord ‑ who was injured on the very first play from scrimmage – picked up another first down on a ten‑yard run up the middle to the Tiger 24. Three plays later Szep hit Gonzalez on a slant pattern and it was first‑and‑goal at the 2.
Tigers can’t close deal on Ignatius
Welo vaulted into the end zone from a yard away and Ignatius broke on top 7‑0 as Phil Gibbs hit the extra point at 7:30 of the first quarter.
Massillon gave the ball right back on its second play from scrimmage as the Wildcats’ Matt Waldeck fell on a fumbled pitchout at the Tiger 20.
Ignatius capitalized right away when Szep found Gonzalez open in the right corner of the end zone. Gibbs’ kick made it 14‑0 at 7:12 of the first.
The Tigers responded by moving 78 yards in 11 plays.
Zwick hit Jordan along the right sideline for 11 yards to the Massillon 41. Two plays later he found Jordan on a ten‑yard curl pattern to the Ignatius 41.
A pass interference penalty gave the Tigers a first down at the Ignatius 24. Three plays later Zwick bought time with play action fake and completed a pass to Jordan along the right sideline to the 1.
From there, David Hill went over left guard for the touchdown.
A pass for the two‑point conversion failed as Massillon attempted some trickery and it was 14‑6 Ignatius at 4:57 of the first quarter.
The Tiger defense forced Ignatius to punt on its next possession after just three plays and Massillon took over at its own 29.
From there they launched a seven‑play, 71‑yard drive.
Zwick opened the march with a 31‑yard completion along the right sideline to Hill to move the ball to the Ignatius 40.
Two plays later Zwick and Hill hooked up again as the junior running back made a fine catch over the shoulder of the defender for a 20‑yard gain to the Wildcats 12.
Then, on third‑and‑seven from the 9, Zwick rolled right and found Hill open at the two. He turned and strolled into the end zone for the touchdown at :30 of the first quarter.
Massillon attempted a pass for the two‑point conversion, but it failed and it was a 14‑12 game at :30 of the first quarter.
Ignatius, sensing a momentum swing, battled back.
Van der Oord gained 28 yards on the first play of the drive moving the ball to the Ignatius 48.
The Wildcats moved the ball resolutely, finally putting it into the end zone when Szep rolled right and hit tight end Tom Christy on a throwback at the 20. Christy worked his way down the left sideline and ran over a defender at the five for the touchdown. Gibbs’ PAT made it 21‑12 Ignatius at 10:17 of the second quarter.
The teams traded turnovers and later the Massillon defense came up with a huge play, stopping the Wildcats on fourth‑and‑goal one‑yard line.
But Ignatius tallied the final first‑half touchdown on a six‑play drive that covered 32 yards in the final minute of the first half. On third-and‑one from the 11, Szep found Matt Miller in the left side of the end zone for the touchdown.
Gibbs’ kick made it 28‑12 at halftime.
The Tigers would rally after the band show but ‑ as was the case a year ago ‑ St. Ignatius controlled the game from midway through the third quarter to the final gun to extend its winning streak over Massillon to four in a row.
First downs rushing 12 2
First downs passing 17 8
First downs by penalty 1 1
TOTAL first downs 30 11
Net yards rushing 148 11
Net yards passing 296 281
TOTAL yards 444 292
Passes attempted 37 27
Passes completed 24 16
Passes intercepted 0 3
Punts 2 3
Punting average 35.0 27.3
Fumbles/Lost 2/2 1/1
Penalties 6 11
Yards penalized 60 65
IGNATIUS 14 14 7 5 40
MASSILLON 12 0 14 0 26
I ‑ Welo 1 run (Gibbs kick)
I ‑ Gonzalez 19 pass from Szep (Gibbs kick)
M ‑ Hill 1 run (pass failed) M ‑ Hill 9 pass from Zwick (pass failed)
I ‑ Christy 30 pass from Szep (Gibbs kick)
I ‑ Miller 11 pass from Szep (Gibbs kick)
M ‑ Oliver 59 pass from Zwick (Abdul kick)
M ‑ Jordan 71 pass from Zwick (Abdul kick)
I ‑ Welo 32 pass from Szep (Gibbs kick) I ‑ FG Gibbs 35
I ‑ Safety, Massillon called for holding in the end zone
St. Ignatius rushing: Welo 21 ‑91, Van der Oord 8‑43.
Massillon rushing: Oliver 9‑20, Hill 2‑9.
St. Ignatius passing: Szep 24‑37‑296 4 TDs.
Massillon passing: Zwick 16‑27‑281 3 TDs, 3 INTs.
St. Ignatius receiving: Miller 6‑54, Gonzalez 5‑78, Christy 5‑77, Welo 2‑40
Massillon receiving: Jordan 4‑99, Hill 4‑69, Oliver 2‑64.
closing gap on Wildcats
No team over the last decade has been more of a measuring stick for the elite high school football program in the state of Ohio than Cleveland St. Ignatius.
Eight Division I state championships since 1988 tends to give a program that lofty status.
With a standing‑room‑only throng of 12,286 looking on at Parma Byers Field Saturday night, the Massillon Tigers ‑ a team with more than its share of mystique and history ‑looked to finally take the measure of the Wildcats after three previously unsuccessful attempts to do so.
Much the same way that beating Cincinnati Moeller seemed to mean more than most victories, sans McKinley, for the Tigers in the 1930’s and early 1990s, beating Ignatius is a feather in the cap that is hard to overlook.
Last year, the Tigers looked to be quite the Wildcats’ equals, until the fourth quarter of a 15‑point defeat at Paul Brown Tiger Stadium.
The Tigers came closer to coming home with the hide of the Wildcats Saturday night, but not quite. A 40‑26 Ignatius victory prevented Massillon from getting over that hurdle, although there was no doubt that the Tigers were certainly more than up to the challenge of showing that the orange‑and‑black still have a mystique worthy of the attention of any program.
These two Ohio powers very easily could meet again, with much more than the top ranking in the state poll on the line, 10 weeks from now on a cold November Saturday evening in the state semifinals.
If that rematch does occur, the Tigers will have plenty of things to remember from a meeting on a chilly September Saturday evening.
Take advantage of the team speed the Tigers have over the Wildcats. On Massillon’s two second‑half touchdowns, both running back Robert Oliver and wide receiver Jordan simply shifted it into another gear to pull away from the trailing Ignatius defenders.
And do take advantage of the cushion that Ignatius was giving up. In the first half, quarterback Justin Zwick was able to dink‑and‑dunk his way down the field, hitting Jordan, David Hill or Oliver on little curl or swing passes that resulted in big plays for the Tigers’.
There were some don’ts the Tigers will store in the memory banks as well. Little things that don’t really matter against 99 percent of the programs in Ohio, but can spell the difference between victory and defeat against Ignatius.
The first is don’t give Ignatius a short field in which to start an offensive series. The Wildcats started five drives on the Massillon side of the 50, twice because of turnovers.
Of those marches, two ended up with Ignatius forcing the scoreboard operator to change the number under its name.
Also, don’t give Ignatius free yards, Massillon was penalized 11 times for 65 yards, but it was the timing of those penalties, which will linger in the Tigers’ mind.
Three times on the Wildcats first drive, Massillon was flagged for encroachment, which gave Ignatius 15 yards it didn’t need to fight for. For the game, the Tigers were flagged for being on the wrong side of the line of scrimmage six times.
There also were pivotal holding and face mask penalties called against the Massillon defense on an Ignatius scoring drive immediately after the Tigers had cut their deficit to 28‑26 in the third quarter.
Those penalties helped lead to an Ignatius touchdown, and a switch in momentum.
The final mistake was a holding penalty in the end zone with 1:37 left that pushed the Wildcat edge out to an even 14.
One thing that is certain is that Massillon for the second straight season showed that it could stand toe‑to‑toe with Ignatius and deliver some blows to the body.
Now head coach Rick Shepas’ Tigers have one more thing to show, that they can deliver the knockout.
It surely will come with time, should the two teams continue to play in the future.
It came against Moeller, and it will come against Ignatius.