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Tigers come so close
Massillon loses in overtime on wide point‑after

By JOE SHAHEEN
Independent Sports Editor

High school sports can be a cruel, unforgiving endeavor, especially in the win‑or‑go‑home scenario of the playoffs. It is a fact of life to which the Massillon Tigers can attest today.

The Tigers fell to the Warren Harding Raiders 21‑20 in overtime at the Rubber Bowl in a Division I state semifinal game in front of an estimated 22,000 fans Saturday, and, they did so in heart‑rending fashion. The margin of victory ‑ a missed point after touchdown.

“There’s not a whole lot I can say to our kids right now,” Tiger coach Rick Shepas said amid a pack of reporters after the game. “They’ve got to learn from this kind of adversity.

“Sometimes you fall short but it doesn’t mean we didn’t work hard. It doesn’t mean the kids haven’t played hard.”

No one who watched this classic confrontation between two of Ohio’s traditional high school football powers could possibly say such a thing. The painful emotions of the gut‑wrenching defeat were etched on the faces of every player wearing the orange uniform and black helmet of the Tigers.

Shepas vowed in the days before the game his charges would leave everything on the field. They did that and more, and yet fate seemed to conspire to prevent this proud team from reaching the goal for which they have worked so hard for the past 11 months.

Even Warren Harding coach Thom McDaniels seemed reluctant to accept the victory the way the contest ended. “It was a classic,” said the former McKinley mentor. “It shouldn’t have ended that way.” Certainly, McDaniels could sympathize. His son missed a point after touchdown kick in the 100th Massillon‑McKinley game that cost the Bulldogs a one point overtime defeat.

The missed extra point, which sailed wide left, was eerily reminiscent of the Tigers’ 14‑13 defeat in the playoffs to St. Ignatius in 1991 when a Massillon extra point glanced off the goal post upright and fell away.

The defeat ends the Tiger season at 11‑3 and also spells the final chapter in what has to be considered one of the greatest defensive teams Massillon has ever produced in its proud gridiron history.

“This result doesn’t speak for the way our defense played the whole game,” Shepas said. “I want our defense to be remembered for the outstanding team they are. They are outstanding.”
It seemed Massillon might be bound for the state championship game when Ricky Johnson bolted around left end for a six‑yard touchdown with 1:11 to play, capping off a well‑conceived 12‑play, 62‑yard drive that featured several fine runs by Steve Hymes out of a WingT look the Tigers hadn’t deployed the entire game. Max Shafer’s point after was true and the Tigers led 14‑7.

What happened next must have seemed like a bad dream that just repeats itself over and over as Warren’s Mario Manningham returned the ensuing kickof f to midfield, giving the Raiders hope for overtime. It was Manningham’s two kick returns for touchdowns that helped Warren defeat Massillon 31‑27 in a week nine game at Warren.

And, befitting their regular season state poll champion status, the Raiders took advantage as Mike Kokal hit Treymayne Warfield with a 17‑yard touchdown pass with :17 on the clock. Joe Spain’s point after was good and the game went into overtime at 14‑14.

“We had a chance there at the end, but we just didn’t hang on,” Shepas said.

Warren tallied first in overtime but only after recovering its own fumble at the goal line. Kokal scored on the next snap after that miscue from a yard away. Spain’s conversion kick was good and the Raiders were up 21‑14.

Johnson gained 10 yards around left end on Massillon’s first play of overtime. Two plays later, Matt Martin made a clutch throw on third and goal to A.J. Collins in the right edge of the end zone and it was 21‑20.

On the fateful extra point, with the wind, blowing left to right, the football sailed left of the left upright to bring the game to an end.

“Our fans were great,” Shepas said just before leading his team to the locker room. “They stayed in the stadium. I’d like our fans to learn to be a little bit more positive with our kids all the time, which they’ve been. “We’ll keep going forward.”

Warren Harding drew first blood in a familiar fashion, converting a lengthy punt return into a touchdown.

Taking the opening kickoff, Massillon moved from its 20 to the Warren 37 on a short Martin to Relford pass that the play‑making junior transformed into a 52‑yard gain. The Tigers had an opportunity to get inside the Raider 20 but a dropped pass foiled the play and they were forced to punt.

Thaddeus Walker fielded Shafer’s punt at the Warren 12, found a seam and didn’t stop running until he was pulled down 54 yards later at the Massillon 36.

Three consecutive carries by Warren running back Richard Davis and a facemask penalty on the Massillon defense advanced the ball to the Tiger 11. Four plays later, Stephon Alexander appeared to be stopped on fourth‑and‑goal from the one but the line judge ruled he broke the plane of the end zone and signaled touchdown Warren. Spain added the point after and Warren Harding was up 7‑0 at 5:23 of the first quarter.

Massillon’s scoring drive began at 9:17 of the second quarter at the Tiger 20 yardline after Relford picked off a Warren pass in the end zone.

But the real story of the initial 24 minutes of play was the yellow blizzard of flags falling from the sky. In all, game officials penalized the two state semifinalists 13 times for 85 yards in the first half. Nine of the flags went against Massillon, costing the Tigers 55 yards.

Martin’s screen pass to Johnson picked up 13 yards. One play later, Martin found Johnson running alone down the right sideline for a 30‑yard completion to the Warren 36. An interference penalty against Warren pushed the ball to the Raider 21. A couple of five‑yard penalties pushed it back to the 31 but the Tigers gained it back and more on an 18‑yard screen pass from Martin to Terrance Roddy. Martin got another first down on a keeper, then hit Collins in the left corner of the end zone for the Tigers initial score of the evening. Shafer added the extra point and it was a tie game at 7‑7 with 3:40 to go in the half.

Massillon 20
Warren 21
M W
First downs rushing 4 8
First downs passing 5 7
First downs by penalty 1 0
TOTAL first downs 10 15
Net yards rushing 66 139
Net yards passing 181 125
TOTAL yards 247 264
Passes attempted 31 29
Passes completed 12 12
Passes intercepted 1 2
Punts 9 8
Punting average 34.3 33.5
Fumbles/Lost 0/0 1/0
Penalties 11 5
Yards penalized 61 35

Massillon 00 07 00 07 06 20
Warren 07 00 00 07 07 21

SCORING

W ‑ Alexander 1 yard run (Spain kick)
M ‑ Collins 9 yard pass from Martin (Shafer kick)
M ‑ Johnson 6 yard run (Shafer kick)
W ‑ Warfield 17 yard pass from Kokal (Spain kick)
W ‑ Kokal 1 yard run (Spain kick)
M ‑ Collins 11 yard pass from Martin (kick failed)

INDIVIDUAL STATISTICS
MassilIon rushing: Hymes 5‑42, R. Johnson 12‑21, Martin 3‑7, Roddy 4‑1.
Warren rushing: Davis 19‑63, Phillips 7‑34 Kokal 5‑18, Massucci 5‑15.

Massillon passing: Martin 12‑31‑181, 2TD, 1 INT.
Warren passing: Kokal 11‑22‑118, 1 TD, Phillips 1‑7‑7, 2 INT.

Massillon receiving: Relford 2‑58, R. Johnson 4‑53, Jordan 2‑26, Collins 2‑20, 2 TDs,
Roddy 1‑18, Ashcraft 1‑6.
Warren receiving: Warfield 5‑65, 1 TD, Manningham 3‑31, Stella 1‑13, Johnson 1‑9, Alexander 1‑7.

“Our fans were great.
They stayed in the stadium.
I’d like our fans to learn to
be a little bit more positive
with our kids all the time,
which they’ve been.
We’ll keep going forward.”

Rick Shepas
Massillon coach

Shawn Crable