Tigers start streak at right time
Massillon improves to 5-3 with first victory at Harding in 22 years
By CHRIS EASTERLING
Warren, OH –
The Massillon Tigers couldn’t have picked a better time to put together their first two-game winning streak of the season. And it didn’t hurt that they snapped a 22-year winless drought in the process.
With their playoff hopes riding on just about every game from here on out, the Tigers went into Warren’s Mollenkopf Stadium on Saturday night and emerged with a 30-7 win over the Warren Harding Raiders.
The victory marked the first time this season the Tigers – now 5-3 – have posted consecutive wins. They also won in Mollenkopf Stadium for the first time since 1986.
Massillon arrived in Warren knowing it needed a win to buoy its tenuous playoff position, as it entered the weekend ranked 13th in Division I Region 2. The exact effect the win over the 4-4 Raiders will have on the Tigers’ standing remains to be seen, but it certainly will provide a boost going into huge point games this Friday at 7-2 Mentor and in next week’s season finale against 5-3 McKinley.
“Everybody knew what we had to do,” said Tiger tailback/cornerback J.T. Turner, who rushed for a career-high 213 yards, while also intercepting a pass. “Every game from here on out is a playoff game. We just knew we had to go out here today and play a great game against a great team.”
The Tigers did just that, and did it in all three phases of the game – special teams, offense and defense.
It was Massillon’s special teams which helped stake it to a 10-0 first-quarter lead, thanks to a 30-yard Jeremy Geier field goal and a 62-yard Bo Grunder punt return for a score. Grunder’s punt return may have been the play which completely altered the game, although even Tiger coach Jason Hall admits he would have preferred the junior had gone about it a different way.
“It was a dumb play, actually,” Hall said. “That’s a situation where Bo was being a great athlete. But it was also a situation where it could have turned ugly. I know what Bo’s doing, and obviously it sparked us. I wasn’t mad at him, but I just told him he better never do it again.”
What Grunder did was wait for the punt to roll to a stop at the Tiger 38, then – with two Raider defenders around the ball – pick it up and start running up field. He then cut across the field at about the Warren 40 and raced untouched from there into the end zone for a touchdown with 4:43 left in the first quarter.
“I already knew it was a questionable call,” Grunder said. “It was a gutsy call, but it worked out. I’m glad I did it.”
The offense would take over from there, especially Turner, who surpassed his previous career best of 192 yards he set in Week Five against Garfield. He now has 946 rushing yards on the season with two games remaining.
“My line was creating great holes,” said Turner, who put the game away with fourth-quarter scoring runs of 2 and 38 yards. “It was open, so I took them. My offensive line rewarded me with touchdowns.”
But it wasn’t just running the ball where Turner did his part in lifting the Massillon offense. He also led the team in receiving with three catches for 57 yards – all on a second-quarter drive which gave the Tigers a 17-0 lead on an 8-yard Robert Partridge touchdown run.
Partridge had his best game by far at quarterback, completing 7-of-14 passes for 137 yards. His 58-yard strike to Grunder in the fourth quarter help set up Turner’s 2-yard scoring run.
The Tiger defense, meanwhile, was on top of its game from the very start, swarming the Raiders’ running game on seemingly every carry. Massillon limited Warren to just 48 rushing yards on 36 carries, almost daring the Raiders to put the ball in the air.
“We wanted their quarterback to beat us,” Hall said. “They really like to run the ball with the two athletes they have (Mike Dorsey and Aunre’ Davis). They’re good athletes, and we knew that coming in. Obviously we wanted to try to make them one-dimensional. To be honest with you, they made some plays passing. … But still, all in all, I thought we did a good job of not letting them really be consistent.”
Warren had few scoring opportunities, advancing inside the Tiger 30 just twice all evening. The Raiders reached the Massillon 19 in the first half, but was turned away on downs.
The Raiders did break into the scoring column with 7:30 remaining when Davis hit Sergio Allen in the end zone for a 25-yard touchdown on a fourth-and-17 play. That momentarily cut the deficit to 17-7, although Massillon would score on its next two possessions to put the game away.
Warren Harding 7
at Mollenkopf Stadium
Massillon 10 7 0 13 30
Warren Harding 0 0 0 7 7
M – Geier 30 FG
M – Grunder 62 punt return (Geier kick)
M – Partridge 8 run (Geier kick)
WH – Allen 25 pass from Davis (Montecalvo kick)
M – Turner 2 run (Kick failed)
M – Turner 38 run (Geier kick)
First down 15 12
Rushes-yards 32-235 36-48
Comp-att.-int. 7-14-0 15-29-1
Passing yards 137 155
Fumbles-lost 0-0 0-0
Penalty yards 8-60 6-39
Turner 20-213 2 TDs;
Partridge 4-11 TD;
Davis 15-29-155 TD. INT.
Allen 1-15 TD.
Warren Harding 4-4.