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Poised precision Steve Hymes quarterbacks Tigers past Griffins in debut as starter

By Chris Easterling
Chris.Easterling@IndeOnline.com

The Buchtel Griffins were supposed to be the ones with a poised quarterback and experience all over the field. Somebody must have forgotten to tell the Massillon Tigers.

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Led by the steady hand of first-year starting quarterback Steve Hymes, as well an opportunistic defense, the Tigers opened the season with a thrilling 23-12 victory over Buchtel at Paul Brown Tiger Stadium.

“This was very big,” said Hymes, who put Massillon up for good with a 27-yard run with 4:42 left. “We weren’t going to be nothing. I think our guys took that in.”

The deal was wrapped up until Tiger cornerback Billy Relford grabbed an overthrown pass at the Massillon 11, cut to the left and outran the Buchtel offense down the sideline for an 89-yeard touchdown with 27 seconds left. It was the fourth turnover the Tiger defense forced on the evening.

“It couldn’t have come at a better time,” Relford said. “I didn’t start out very good. But when it came down to it, I stepped up.”

That defense found itself getting tested in the second half by a Griffen offense that all but scrapped the passing game while keeping it on the ground with Ohio State-bound tailback Antonio Pittman and hard-running fullback Anthony Norman. After being held to just 40 yards on 13 first-half carries, Pittman gained anther 134 yards and scored on the Griffins’ first two second-half possessions. Norman would chip in 50 yards on 13 carries, with all but two of those yards coming in the second half.

Massillon’s defense was only on the field for four possessions in the second half. However, three of those four were substantial drives by Buchtel, with two resulting in touchdowns.

We’re just a bunch of hard workers,’ Tiger cornerback Mike White said.”We already knew coming into this game that they were a running team. We just decided to keep on hitting them and we thought that if we did that, they were going to give up.”

Still, it was the play of Hymes that stole the show for the Tigers, and may have stole the show for the Tigers, and may have stole the game away from Buchtel. While only completing 7-of-19 passes for 130 yards, the Massillon senior showed off the running ability that made him a threat a year ago by rushing the ball 13 times for 72 yards.

“He needed to get settled in and he needed to get a feel for how he was
going to handle game night as a starter,” Massillon coach Rick Shepas
said. “He really came alive. He plays with great confidence. He protected
the football.

“Our offensive line really did a nice job keeping them off Steve. I was kind of surprised they didn’t pressure them a whole lot.”

Twice, the Griffins grabbed the lead from Massillon in the second half. And twice, it was Hymes who gave the Tigers the lead back.

The first time came after Buchtel took the second-half kickoff and marched 86 yards on 11 plays to take a 6-3 lead on a two-yard Pittman run with 7:39 left in the third quarter. The extra-point kick sailed wide left.

But the Tigers answered by driving from their own 35 to the end zone in eight plays. Hymes was forced to complete a 24-yard pass to Brent Huffman on third-and-six, as well as pick up 26 yards on three totes on the drive.

Hymes would make it a 9-6 Tiger advantage when he fought his way into the end zone for a touchdown with 5:01 remaining in the third. Zack Smith tacked on the extra point for a 10-6 Massillon edge.

Buchtel answered to take a 12-10 lead by methodically going from its own 4 in 14 plays. Primarily keeping it on the ground, Pittman again powered his way in from two yards out for the score. The two-point conversion failed to keep it a two-point Griffen advantage with 10:25 showing in the fourth quarter.

The teams traded punts before Hymes guided the Massillon offense on what proved to be the go-ahead scoring drive. Starting at heir own 42, the Tigers kept the ball on the ground, alternation between Tuffy Woods who carried six times for 55 yards in the game – and Hymes.

“Coach just said we were going to go to ‘gun run’ and we were going to keep running it,” Hymes said. “Coach felt like they were getting tired. We just kept gassing them and gassing them, and after a while they were done.”

On third and four from the Buchtel 27, Hymes kept through the line of scrimmage, turned to the left and coasted into the end zone for the score. The two-point conversion failed, but Massillon was holding a 16-12 lead with 4:42 left.

That left it up to the defense. After Buchtel mover down to the Tiger 13 with just under 2:00 left, Massillon arched its back and stuffed Pittman on two straight rushing plays before Relford would get his chance to stamp his mark on the game and end the Griffins’ hopes.

“That was the first time we had called that coverage in the whole game,” Relford said, “It was ‘corner over.’ They came over with their two wide receivers and that was the first time they had done that the whole game.”

Defense was essentially the name of the game before halftime, with the Tigers halting Buchtel’s first possession when White broke on an under thrown pass in the end zone for an interception. White would have a fourth quarter interception called back due to a penalty.

“We wanted them to put the ball up in the air,” White said. “I feel we have the best secondary. As long as the line put pressure on the quarterback and makes him throw bad passes, that’s the key. It wasn’t the secondary, it was the linemen.”

It wasn’t until the third Massillon possession that the scoreless deadlock was broken. Thanks to a 27-yard Hymes-to-Ryan Schindler pass play and a 17- yard run by Lanale Robinson, the Tigers were able to move to the Buchtel 18. However, the drive stalled and Smith was forced to boot a 35-yard field goal for a 3-0 Tiger lead with 2:35 remaining in the first quarter.

That lead would hold up through the rest of the first half, but not without threats by both teams.

The Tigers would miss a pair of field goal attempts. One time, a bad snap prevented them from getting the ball off at all, while they also missed on a 52-yard attempt.

Buchtel failed to score on its final first-half possession after driving inside the Massillon 5. On third-and-goal from two, Buchtel quarterback Steve Walker tried a keeper to the right and dove for the goal line. However, the ball popped out of his hands and hit the pylon, giving the ball to the Tigers on a touchback with 43 seconds left.

“I was indifferent,” Shepas said of the precarious 3-0-halftime edge. “Sometimes you feel like you had some opportunities that you didn’t cash in. But at the same time, it was a great opportunity for our team to show what the were made up.”

GAME STATS

SCORING
M – Zack Smith 35 FG
B – Antonio Pittman 1 run (Kick failed)
M – Steve Hymes 8 run (Smith kick)
B – Pittman 2 run (Pass failed)
M – Billy Relford 89 interception return (Smith Kick)

INDIVIDUAL STATISTICS
Massillon rushing: Steve Hymes 13-72, 2 TD, Tuffy Woods 6-55, Lanale Robinson 6-20
Buchtel rushing: A Pittman 28-174, 2 TD.

Massillon passing: Steve Hymes 7-19-130.
Buchtel passing: S Walker 7-13-123 2 INTs.

Massillon receiving: Brett Huffman 3-46, Billy Relford 1-43-.
Buchtel receiving: V. Singfield 3-73.

Brock Hymes