Tigers suffer controversial heartbreaker at Herbstreit
By CHRIS EASTERLING
CANTON, OH —
It is said true character doesn’t truly show itself until it is put under adverse situations. If that is the case, then Massillon head coach Jason Hall is about to find out just what kind of character his Tiger football team has this week.
In Saturday night’s finale of the Herbstreit Challenge quadruple-header at Fawcett Stadium, Massillon suffered its first loss of the season in a most controversial fashion when Jordan (Utah) stunned the Tigers with a 36-yard field goal by Garrett Blaisdell at the end of regulation for a 27-24 win.
“Right now, it’s just hard for the Tigers to accept this loss,” Hall said after his team fell to 1-1.
“It’s a situation where I think the team’s pretty close,” Hall added. “We’re going to suck it up, let it sink in. We’re going to get right back to work. That’s part of us, coaches and adults and the people who are around these kids, to be positive role models in their support group. It’s our job to teach them how to handle situations and keep fighting. And that’s what we’ll do.”
Whether the Beetdiggers should have ever even had a chance to get the kick off is sure to raise the blood pressure of Hall, his players and those Tiger fans among the crowd at Fawcett Stadium for years to come.
Jordan moved from its own 20 – following a missed 39-yard field goal by Massillon – to the Tiger 37 in a span of 33 seconds, leaving just 12 ticks left on the clock. Beetdigger quarterback Alex Hart hit Braden Hammond for an 18-yard pass to move the ball to the Massillon 19.
And this is where things really entered the Twilight Zone.
By rule, the clock stops as the chains move for a first down. However, the clock also is supposed to be wound as soon as the ball and chains are set.
It appeared when the whistle blew the play down, there was one second left on the clock, leaving no time for Jordan to get the kick off. But first the officias never started the clock up initially, then put the clock at five seconds remaining, but again, didn’t start it up.
In the confusion, about 20 different players were running on and off the field as Jordan frantically tried to get the kick off. In the end, Blaisdell did get the kick away, and it was true, leaving the Tigers distraught and angry.
“I tell our kids, sometimes life’s not fair,” Hall said. “Sometimes the ball bounces your way, sometimes it doesn’t. We just have to get back to work (Sunday) and Monday and prepare to play Normandy.”
Jordan coach Alex Jacobson, amidst his jubilant players, admitted his team might have caught a break at the end.
“I don’t feel good about what happened with the clock at the end of the game,” Jacobson said. “I felt like we should have been playing for overtime. I’m man enough to admit it.”
The end-of-the-game fiasco wasn’t the only time an official’s call left the Tigers scratching their heads and altered the complexion of the game.
With just under eight minutes remaining and the Tigers leading 24-21, Michael Clark threw a pass to an open receiver. At about the same time the ball hit the receiver’s hands, he was hit by the defender.
The hit jarred the ball loose at the Massillon 31, with a Jordan player falling on it. The official closest ruled it immediately as a fumble, although the Tiger sidelines vehemently argued the receiver had never actually gained possession before the ball came loose.
Nevertheless, the call stood, and five plays later, Blaisdell kicked a 32-yard field goal to tie the game at 24-all with 5:48 remaining.
“They just said he had the catch,” Hall said. “Catch, hit, fumble. They said he had possession of the ball.”
The fourth-quarter officiating controversies left a black mark on what was easily the most entertaining of the four games at Fawcett on Saturday, the closest of which beforehand had been a pair of 21-point games.
Neither team was able to get more than a seven-point lead at any point in the game, with Jordan’s spread offense helping it to first-half leads of 7-0 and 14-7.
The Beetdiggers were able to hurt Massillon throughout the game by running crossing patterns, which Hart would feed the ball to for big gainers. Hart finished with 294 yards on 31-of-42 passing.
“The crossing routes were big, weren’t they,” Jacobson said. “It kept drives alive and we converted on third down in a big way. Anytime you can do that against a great football team, that’s big.”
Meanwhile, the Tigers also methodically ground their way down the field in response, tying the game at 7-7 on a six-yard Clark run midway through the second quarter, and then at 14-14 on a J.T. Turner one-yard plunge with 1:41 left in the first half.
Turner once again asserted himself on the ground, finishing with 128 yards on 23 carries. He had 106 yards in the second half.
“We just made a few adjustments,” Hall said. “They were really blitzing us hard, and we just started locking our guys on and running some zone iso. Pretty much try to get hat on hat and try to get J.T. to be a great athlete. I thought he ran extremely hard.”
Massillon took its first lead at 21-14 when Clark hit Robert Partridge – who was playing his first game at receiver – for a 21-yard touchdown pass with 7:25 left in the third. After Jordan tied the game at 21-21, the Tigers took their final lead when Jeremy Geier booted a 32-yard field goal 45 seconds into the fourth quarter.
And thus was set up one of the wildest – and most controversial – final 11 minutes in Tiger history.
Jordan (Utah) 27,
At Fawcett Stadium
Jordan 07 07 07 06 27
Massillon 00 14 07 03 24
J – Hart 20 run (Blaisdell kick)
M – Clark 6 run (Geier kick)
J – Dimond 4 run (Blaisdell kick)
M – Turner 1 run (Geier kick)
M – Partridge 21 pass from Clark (Geier kick)
J – Spillman 11 run (Blaisdell kick)
M – Geier 32 FG
J – Blaisdell 32 FG
J – Blaisdell 36 FG
First Downs 23 17
Rushes-Yards 30-129 42-174
Comp-Att-Int 31-42-1 8-10-1
Passing Yards 294 169
Fumbles-Lost 0-0 2-2
Penalty Yards 70 7
Turner 23-128 TD;
Hart 17-74 TD;
Spillman 8-41 TD;
Dimond 3-10 TD;
Clark 8-10-169 TD, INT.
Hart 31-42-294 INT.
Partridge 1-21 TD