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Tigers sweep Hoover from Playoffs

Massillon shines in impressive win Massillon mauls N. Canton, 31‑0

By JIM THOMAS
Repository sports writer
NORTH CANTON Both Massillon and North Canton came into Saturday’s Division I regional quarterfinal game giving up 2.4 yards a rush. When the host Vikings discovered almost immediately they could not run on the Tigers, they quickly found out they sure could not pass on them.

Billy Relford alone was a one‑man, four-headed, fire‑eating monster for Massillon, intercepting ‑ four of the Tigers seven interceptions of the Tigers’ seven interceptions in a 31‑0 mauling of the Vikings.

A junior cornerback, Relford intercepted the first pass Hoover quarterback Jimmy Savage attempted ‑ while lying on his back. The 5‑foot‑8 Relford snared Savage’s next attempt, too, and this time he stayed on his feet, running the pick back 51 yards down the right sideline and then somersaulting into the end zone to put Massillon up 14‑0 with 3:01 left in the first quarter.

“Our defensive was phenomenal tonight,” said Massillon coach Rick Shepas, whose 9‑2 team advances to play Perry in a regional semifinal Saturday. “They got some turnovers in the first quarter … that was a turning point in the game.

“It was all due to Billy Relford. All Relford did was set a Massillon mark for interceptions in a season. His four picks in the first half probably are a record, but his nine for the season did set a new Massillon mark.

When Tony Graves intercepted Savage’s third attempt of the night and rumbled and stumbled 33 yards to the Hoover 2‑yard line, the game was over. Ricky Johnson, who scored the first touchdown on an 8‑yard toss‑sweep, cracked in the next play, and it was 20‑0, after Max Shafer’s missed point‑after.

Marquice Johnson made Savage’s evening a tad more miserable by sacking him for a safety in the second quarter, but it was the “fiery‑eyed” Relford, according to Shepas, who continued to slay the Vikings. He picked off Savage twice more in the half, the second at the back of the Massillon end zone to keep North Canton off the board.

The fact he ran the ball back 91 yards and nearly scored only enhanced his heroic play. His touchdown return was the big one, though.

“I just saw him do an out route, and the grass was hard to do a break on,” said Relford’ speaking of Hoover wideout Eric Kubilus. “When I saw his break was slow, I just broke on it ‑ I saw (Savage) throw the, ball. I broke on it, timed it and ran it all the way back.”

The first interception got Relford, and the Tigers, rolling. It was 3rd‑and‑7, and he went up with Kubilus and won the battle, despite landing on his back.

“Actually, (Kubilus) was behind me,” said Relford. “I played the wrong defense. But, I made up for it with the interception. It just fell in my hands.”

Massillon too strong for Hoover

That was not true of his endzone theft. Relford went up against 6‑3 Curt Lukens, turned on the ball before Lukens did, climbed the ladder faster than Lukens, got the ball, climbed down ‑ then ran full speed the other way before getting tackled. Shafer then missed a 35‑yard field goal at the first‑half gun, but it did not matter because the damage had been done.

Hoover., which wanted to control the clock with the run, netted just 51 yards the first two periods. That led to a 1‑for‑12 passing effort in the half.

“Sometimes the holes were there, but the holes aren’t there very long,” said North Canton coach Don Hertler Jr., describing the effort by Massillon defense. “We had a couple of dropped balls, threw some interceptions, and you can’t expect to win with seven turnovers.

“You can’t turn the ball over five times in a half and win.”

Oh yeah, the Tigers played a little offense too. They put together an eight‑play, 64‑yard drive that consumed 3:20 the first time they touched the ball. Johnson ran hard, scoring twice and eventually collecting 119 yards. Matt Martin was on fire, hitting 7‑of‑11 the first half for 96 yards and a touchdown. The senior lefty finished 16‑of‑23 for 202 yards and one touchdown, with one interception, and he loved watching his defense give him field position.

“That’s the best I’ve seen the defense play,” said Martin. “They were great, giving us the short field to work on all game.”

There was no fourth‑quarter‑lapse, as there had been against St. Ignatius and at Warren Harding. When Dustin Jarvis intercepted the Vikings’ seventh aerial in the final two minutes, it, ended a great season for the Federal League champs.

“We had a great run,” said Hertler. “I’m proud of the way a majority of our players played the game and how they handled themselves.

Devin Jordan caught six passes for 95 yards and an 11‑yard touchdown for Massillon, and Stephon Ashcraft grabbed five for 73 yards. Relford caught one, for 9 yards. He also worked an offensive pass interference call against Hoover, so dominating was his play even the referees felt he deserved the call.

“I’m pretty happy,” said Relford. “I wanted the record, that was one of my goals. But the main thing was the defense played great all game.”

Shawn Crable