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Thrilling rally propels Tigers past St. Ed, into title game

By JOE SHAHEEN

The Massillon Tigers will wear the underdog tag for the third consecutive Saturday when they take on Cincinnati St. Xavier for Ohio’s big school state football championship at Fawcett Stadium in Canton this coming weekend.

In a game that bore an eerie resemblance to their Week Six comeback victory over St. Ignatius. the Tigers rallied for two touchdowns in the final six minutes of play to stun previously unbeaten Lakewood St. Edward 21‑17 in the state semifinals as 14,100 watched at the Rubber Bowl in Akron, Saturday afternoon.

The victory means Massillon will play for the state championship for the first time since 1982. Kickoff this Saturday is 7 p.m.

“Our guys just don’t quit,” said Tiger head coach Tom Stacy. “It reminded me a lot of the St. Ignatius game. We just battled and battled and battled.

“Our community takes a lot of hits in the way they promote football. I’ll tell you what, we have the best high school football fans in the country. They support this football program like you can’t believe and that’s a big part of it. They deserve this playoff run. They deserve this state championship game we’re going to play in.”

Trailing 17‑7 after St. Edward marched 54 yards to the end zone in 10 plays with just over seven minutes to play, the Tigers began their improbable comeback.

“We went into our two‑minute offense,” Stacy said. “We felt like we had to get a couple of scores, we don’t have a lot of time left, let’s go two minute. We’ve been pretty good in our two‑minute offense all year. We haven’t used it a lot but when we have we’ve done a nice job of it. We just had a bunch of guys make plays.”

Quarterback Bobby Huth connected with Brett Huffman on two throws for 18 yards then hit Brian Gamble on a flat pass that netted 26 more. Two plays later Massillon was right back in the game ,as Huth found Gamble running free on a post pattern in the end zone for a 18‑yard touchdown.

Steve Schott’s point after was true and the Tigers cut their deficit to three points at 17‑14 with 5:21 remaining.

Then the defense did its part, forcing St. Edward into a rapid‑fire three‑and‑out series. Massillon took over at its 45‑yard line after the Eagle punt rolled out of bounds.

Huth’s pinpoint passing resulted in a 10‑yard hookup with Zack Vanryzin to the St. Edward 45 and an 11‑yard strike to Gamble at the 29‑yard line as the Tiger Nation roared its approval.

That’s when disaster struck. Huth, seeing the Tigers were in a bad play call for the St. Edward defense, turned to ask for a timeout. But the ball was snapped before he could signal the referee and it sailed over his head. By the time the junior fell on the pigskin, the Tigers had lost 20 yards back to the St. Edward 49 and needed 30 yards for a first down.

Undaunted, Huth spotted Gamble on a crossing pattern in the middle a he field and hit the junior tailback in stride. By the time the Eagles pulled him down, the Tigers had a first down at the 14‑yard line.

“I know we have great playmakers,” Huth said. “If I can get the ball in their hands, anything can happen.”

Another Huth to Gamble hook‑up moved the ball to the 5‑yard line. On second-and‑one from there, Gamble found a nice seam over left tackle and went into the end for the game‑winner with 1:56 to spare.

“Bobby (Huth) and Brian (Gamble), the guys up front pass protected, Brett Huffman had some great passes and runs … we just had a bunch of guys make plays,” Stacy said. “It wasn’t anything magical in play calling. Just guys making plays.”

St. Edward head coach John Gibbons, who saw his junior‑laden team bow out at 12‑1, had nothing but praise for the Tigers.

“Anytime you can come back in the fourth quarter and put two touchdowns on the board after we had taken that lead…,” Gibbons said, his voice trailing off.

“Once they started going pass first and spreading, we didn’t come up with the answer. We tried to get the ball quick out of the quarterback’s hand, and he was very elusive and he found guys. It was hard for us to run with those guys in man, especially when the quarterback was getting in open spaces. Then we tried to mix it up and use some zone coverages and take the pressure off that way and they seemed to adjust their routes. They just made great plays.”

St. Edward took the opening kickoff and kept the football for eight plays, hitting the Tiger defense with a heavy dose of Nate Oliver, who started in place of the injured Frank Edmonds at tailback. The Tigers forced a punt when Paris McCall and Lorenzo Grizzard stopped Oliver on a third‑and‑eight trap play.

Massillon took over at its own 15 after the Eagle punt and Huth immediately went to the air, connecting with Trey Miller on a short pass. Miller turned it into a 17‑yard gain with some nifty running to set up a first‑and‑10 at the Tiger 33.

That’s when lightening struck. Huth ‑ who completed 14 of 20 passes for 230 yards and two touchdowns on the afternoon ‑ picked out Vanryzin who was wide open down the right sideline. The senior wideout hauled it in at the St. Edward 43 and scampered untouched into the end zone for a 67‑yard touchdown at 7:26 of the first quarter. Schott nailed the conversion kick and Massillon led 7‑0.

St. Edward came right back, marching from its 36 to the Massillon 15. But on third‑and‑five, a Brandon Frohnapple to John Dvoroznak completion turned into a nightmare for the Eagles. Dvoroznak was belted down along the right sideline and fumbled the ball. Robert Morris recovered for Massillon and Dvoroznak ‑ St. Ed’s best pass rusher ‑ would leave the game with a knee injury. He didn’t return.

St. Edward finally got on the scoreboard with 3:39 to play in the first half, moving 80 yards in nine plays for the game‑tying touchdown. Oliver’s 7‑yard run over left guard capped the nearly five‑minute march and Ben Rios’ extra point made it Massillon 7, St. Edward 7. All four Eagle first downs on the drive came via the air as Frohnapple went 16 of 22 for 173 yards on the day.

The Eagles owned a five minute advantage in time of possession in the first half, so it was key when Massillon opened the second half with a seven‑play, four‑minute drive, even though it did not yield any points.

However, St. Edward took over at its own 20 and moved 60 yards in nine plays to set up a 38‑yard field goal by Rios that gave the Eagles a 10‑7 lead at 2:31 of the third quarter.

The fourth quarter opened with St. Edward moving 54 yards in 10 plays to open up a 10‑point lead. On third‑and‑goal from the 5, Frohnapple hit Kyle Hubbard in the left corner of the end zone for the touchdown. Rios’ boot made it 17‑7 St. Edward at 7:02 of the fourth.

But the Tigers found paydirt on their next two drives for their 13th victory of this memorable 2005 campaign.

Both teams had just over 250 yards of total offense but Massillon limited the vaunted St. Edward ground game to just 84 yards in 37 attempts.

“We talked about three things we had to do to win the game,” Stacy said. “First and foremost was to stop their run. We knew they had a great offensive line. Big, strong and physical.

“We knew we had to play well in the kicking game and for the most part we did that. We thought we had to run the ball vertically better. We didn’t do a great job with that but we made up for it with our passing game.”

Stacy and Gibbons met at midfield after the final whistle.

“He said, ‘Go win it,”‘ Stacy said. “He said, ‘Go win it all.”‘

Dailey’s sack sets up
Game-winning drive

By JOE SHAHEEN
Joe.Shaheen@lndeOnline.com

The lasting memory of Massillon’s 21‑17 state semifinal victory over the St. Edward Eagles will be the Tigers’ two clutch fourth‑quarter touchdown drives that punched their ticket to this Saturday’s state championship game against Cincinnati St. Xavier.

But Massillon gave itself an opportunity to record one of the biggest victories in this storied program’s history when the Tiger defense forced St. Edward into a three‑and‑out series in the game’s final five minutes of play.

The Eagles were still on top at 17‑14 after Bobby Huth’s 18‑yard touchdown pass to Brian Gamble with 5:21 to play and with the way St. Edward had run the football and eaten up game clock all season long, its partisans didn’t seem all that concerned.

The Tiger defense, however, knew their assignment was to get the ball back and to do it as quickly as possible. ‑ St. Edward began at its own 26 after Nate Oliver’s 18‑yard kickoff return.

On first down Oliver hit into the middle to the Tiger defensive line but tackles Lorenzo Grizzard and Emery Saunders and ends Dirk Dickerhoof and Antonio James yielded only one yard.

Facing second‑and‑long, Eagle quarterback Brandon Frohnapple, who was having a fine day passing the football, hit wideout Kyle Hubbard along the left sideline. But Hubbard was out of bounds when he caught the ball, setting up a key third down play.

St. Edward had converted five of 11 third downs up to that point and most had come on the strength of Frohnapple’s accurate right arm.

The junior signal caller took the snap in shotgun formation and again looked toward Hubbard along the left sideline.

Tiger junior safety Andrew Dailey came swooping in from Frohnapple’s blind side and earholed the St. Edward quarterback for a 7‑yard sack that forced the Eagles to punt.

“That was huge,” St. Edward head coach John Gibbons said. “They’re rushing five. They have three guys playing zone underneath and three deep. There are places to throw the ball. However, you have to get it off.

“We’ve seen it before. They’ve been running that blitz all year. They didn’t blitz much in the game, until the end.”

Dailey was matter of fact about what amounted to the defensive play of the game.

“I just wanted to make sure I tackled him before he threw the ball,” he said.

“(The blitz) was called early in the game and there was confusion and we didn’t run it. We just stayed in normal coverage. We ran it a few more times in the game. That time I was wide open. I was unblocked.”

And Dailey made Frohnapple pay the price.

“We didn’t slide our protection the right way and (Dailey) came clean,” Gibbons said. “We do have a protection that can handle it but with all the screaming that’s going on out there…. When it gets that loud, guys don’t get the call.

“It’s one thing if the guy beats your blocker. When he can run clean in there on the dead run from the wide side, that’s not good for the offense.”

Dailey’s sack added to the momentum the Tiger offense had already generated on its previous scoring drive.

Massillon took the ensuing punt and quickly moved 55 yards in eight plays for the game‑winning touchdown and a trip to the Division I state title contest at Fawcett Stadium in Canton.

Huth saves best for last

By CHRIS EASTERLING
Chris.EasterlirigL@lndeOnline.com

Third‑and‑30 isn’t exactly the situation a quarterback wants to find himself in. But that’s what stared Massillon quarterback Bobby Huth and the rest of his Tiger teammates in the face with just over 2:00 left in Saturday’s Division I state semifinal against Lakewood St. Edward at Akron’s Rubber Bowl.

On first down from the Eagle 29, the shotgun snap sailed high over the head of Huth as he was attempting to call a timeout. The junior wisely fell on the loose pigskin at the St. Edward 49 instead of trying to pick the ball up and force a bad pass.

“I guess he (the center) couldn’t hear me,” Huth said. “We were trying to get a timeout called. They had four guys guarding our two over there. I wanted to get a timeout called to get a better play called.”

That better play came two plays later, when Huth hit Brian Gamble running a dig route across the field for a 35‑yard gain and a first down at the St. Edward 14. Two plays later, the Tigers were in the end zone for the go‑ahead touchdown in a 21‑17 come‑from‑behind victory over the Eagles to advance to this Saturday’s Division I state championship game against nationally ranked Cincinnati St. Xavier at Fawcett Stadium.

“I was looking for B.G.,” Huth said. “He was supposed to run a deep post over the middle, and he saw the safety over the top. We were just on the same page. I just threw it to him, and he was there. He had a good run after the play.”

Huth had a good run himself the whole game, finishing 14‑of‑20 passing for 230 yards and a pair of touchdowns. He completed his first five passes in the game ‑ including a 67‑yard touchdown pass to Zack Vanryzin in the first quarter ‑ for 97 yards.

“I’m pretty happy, but there were still some passes I should have completed,” Huth said. “I should have been 16 or 17 for 20.”

But Huth saved his best for last. And he did so with the Tigers’ season hanging precariously in the balance.

“We were down 17‑7, and we just went to our two-minute offense,” Massillon coach Tom Stacy said. “We felt like ‘Hey, we have to get a couple of scores, and we don’t have a lot of time left.’ We’ve been pretty good in our two‑minute offense all year. We haven’t used it a lot, but when we have, we’ve done a pretty nice job with it. We just had a bunch of guys make plays, whether it was Bobby or Brian, or the guys up front in pass protection.”

Utilizing that pass blocking, as well as the skills of Gamble, Huth was 9‑of‑12 for 133 yards in the final quarter. Five of those completions went to Gamble for 98 yards and a touchdown.

“I was in a pretty good rhythm,” Huth said of the fourth‑quarter performance. “I like going to the two-minute offense. I wish we’d start the game off like that.”

For Huth, it was a chance to finish a job he started but was unable to complete against St. Ignatius back in Week Six. He was knocked out of that game with a concussion on Massillon’s final drive, and Shawn Weisend came in to direct the Tigers to the go‑ahead touchdown and their first‑ever win over the Cleveland parochial power.

On Saturday, it was Huth showing the poise and moxie of a grizzled veteran as he helped Massillon get another monkey of its back ‑ a 23‑year championship game drought ‑ with a come‑from‑behind performance against the Ignatius’ bitter rival.

“Shawn did a great job against St. Ignatius,” Huth said. “I don’t remember a lot of that game. I was pretty messed up. But I’m glad I got the opportunity to do it today.”

Drop gets Gamble fore

By CHRIS EASTERLING
Chris.Easterling@IndeOnline.com

When Brian Gamble fumbled on Massillon’s first play of the fourth quarter in Saturday’s Division I state semifinal against Lakewood St. Edward at Akron’s Rubber Bowl, it looked like a back‑breaking play for the Tigers. That was especially true after the Eagles converted it into a touchdown for a 10‑point margin.

It turns out it might just have been a back‑breaker, only for St. Edward.

The fumble lit a tire under the 6‑foot, 190‑pound Tiger junior, who accounted for 103 total yards on six touches following the turnover. He also scored a pair of touchdowns as Massillon rallied for a 21‑17 victory and the program’s first state championship game berth since 1982.

“After I fumbled, I felt like I let the team down,” Gamble said. “I just wanted the ball in my hands so I could try to make up for it and make a play. Coach (Tom) Stacy gave me an opportunity to do that.”

Gamble finished the game with 62 rushing yards on 14 carries, but had just one carry after the fumble. Still, that one carry was huge ‑ a five‑yard touchdown jaunt with 1:56 remaining which set off a delirious celebration among the Tiger players and the orange‑and‑black clad portion of the 14,100 in attendance.

“Cory Shane did a good job of pulling up in there,” Gamble said of the touchdown run. “(Cory) and Quentin Nicholson did a great job opening it up for me, and I just found a crease and got into the end zone‑”­

Where Gamble was most productive ‑ and most damaging to St. Edward ‑ was in the passing game. The receiver‑turned‑tailback did not have an official catch he did have a nine‑yard touchdown grab at the end of the first half called back due to holding ‑ through the first three quarters of play.

But when it mattered most, with the pulse of Massillon season weakening as each second ticked off the clock, Tiger quarterback Bobby Huth was able to find Gamble. Not just once, but five times for 98 yards.

“Sometimes they’ll have maybe a linebacker on me or a nickelback,” Gamble said. “I think I have an advantage because a lot of our plays go to the inside, so I’ll have leverage on them. Bobby just threw the rock to me, and I tried to make a play.”

No play outside of Gamble’s two touchdowns was as big as the 35‑yard catch and run, which converted a third‑and‑30 situation into a Massillon first down at the Eagle 14. Gamble made the catch across the middle, picked up a huge block from junior wideout Trey Miller and got the first down with 2:14 left to play.

Two plays later, Massillon was in the end zone for the go‑ahead score.

“We were on the same page,” Gamble said. “I was supposed to run a post, and I saw that they had it double covered so I just broke it off to the inside, and I was hoping Bobby saw me. He did and I caught it, and I knew I had to get a first down and get out of bounds and stop the clock.

“I think they started playing some ‘Cover 2,’ where they’d press up on me and try to double cover me. That’s what happened on the third‑and‑30 play, so I broke it off into a dig, and me and Bobby were on the same page.”

Gamble also hurt St. Edward in the kicking game. He averaged 26 yards on two kickoff returns, including a 31‑yarder which help set up the Tigers’ next‑to‑last scoring drive.

“He can do it all,” St. Edward coach John Gibbons said of Gamble. “He’s a defender, a kick returner, long snapper … what else can he do? I guess they could find another job for him to do. He’s tough kid.”

GAME STATS

Antonio James