LATE GAME HEROICS BY OLIVER,
McDONNELL LEAD TIGERS PAST PUPS
play saves day for Tigers
108th MASSILLON-McKINLEY GAME
By MIKE KEATING
Independent Sports Writer
With arch‑rival McKinley threatening to score in the waning seconds, cornerback Craig McConnell made the game‑saving play.
only 11 seconds left and McKinley just 18 yards from a go‑ahead
touchdown, McConnell stepped in front of the intended receiver and picked off
the pass, cementing
tried to put more pressure on their quarterback by bringing people,"
The Tigers, who defeated the Bulldogs for the third consecutive year and finished the regular season at 9‑1 with a six‑game winning streak, were in a nickel defense when McConnell made the interception.
"It was a slant pattern," McConnell said. "I just followed my man (Reggie Corner) and played my role in that defense.
"My role was to follow the man (over the middle). I was fortunate enough to get a good jump on the ball and make the play."
McConnell's interception came with six seconds left to play.
McKinley head coach John Miller, whose team finished regular‑season play at 7‑2, admitted there were several reads on the pass that McConnell intercepted.
"Whoever was open, that's who we were going to throw the ball to," Miller said.
Had the pass fallen incomplete, McKinley was going to try and send the game into overtime.
"We were going to kick the field goal," Miller said. "It just didn't work out."
Miller, a defensive back during his playing days at the former Canton Lincoln High, said McConnell made a great read.
"He broke for the ball real well," Miller said. "Give him credit. It was a fine play."
"I just remember watching the quarterback let go of the ball and it sailing over my head," Princehorn said. "I turned around and saw McConnell break on the pass.
"He made a great play. I remember telling him to just go down and not risk getting hit and losing the ball on a fumble. When he went down, that is when I knew it was over."
McConnell, who finished the regular season with three interceptions, said McKinley did not unveil any different pass patterns than it had shown in any previous games the Tigers watched on videotape.
"We knew what to expect; they just did a good job of executing," he said. "Their receivers ran some good routes and were able to separate from us."
Except, that is for McKinley's final pass play of the game, much to the delight of the Tigers and the dismay of the Bulldogs.
First downs rushing 7 17
First downs passing 11 9
First downs by penalty 1 5
TOTAL fit first clowns 19 31
Net yards a rushing 156 255
Net yards passing 245 166
TOTAL yards 401 421
Passes attempted 25 28
Passes completed 16 18
Passes intercepted 2 2
Punts 4 2
Punting average 26 30
Fumbles/Lost 1/1 4/3
Penalties 12 8
Yards penalized 147 76
MCKINLEY 12 0 14 0 26
MCK ‑ Gilmer 9‑yard run (kick failed)
MAS ‑ Ashcraft 11-yard pass from Zwick (Abdul kick)
MAS ‑ Oliver 15‑yard run (Ashcraft pass from Zwick)
‑ Gilmer 4‑yard run (
‑ Abdul‑Zahir 7‑yard run (
MAS ‑ Oliver 27‑yard run (Abdul kick)
McKinley rushing: Gilmer 22‑170, Huddleston 7‑39, Palumbo 11‑37
McKinley passing: Palumbo 14‑21‑142 2 INT, Huddleston 4‑7‑24.
McKinley receiving: Corner 7‑61, Abdul Zahir 3‑25, Smith 2‑25.
‑ Statistics courtesy of RICHARD CUNNINGHAM
Tigers sluggish in second half,
But late-game heroics save day
By JOE SHAHEEN
Independent Sports Editor
Massillon Tigers, shut out for the first 22 minutes of the second half, drove
72 yards in the final three minutes of the fourth quarter and scored on a 27‑yard
run by Robert Oliver to pull out a heart‑pounding 29‑26 victory
over arch‑rival Canton McKinley in the ‑108th game between the
however, appeared poised to at least send the game into overtime with a field
goal or even pull out a win with a touchdown after driving deep into
"I was just watching my receiver and doing what I was taught," said an ecstatic McConnell, though he admitted he could recall few details of his game‑saving play.
Zwick hit Devon
Zwick then completed a short pass to Robert Oliver in the right flat and the senior running back picked his way for 16 yards to the McKinley 25.
Block paved the way
After a 2‑yard loss on first down, Zwick handed off to Oliver on a draw play that went over right guard and broke open. Oliver spun off one would‑be tackler, wideout Joe Jovingo laid a textbook block on McKinley cornerback Tyler Everett near the 20‑yard line, and Oliver read it perfectly to score the biggest touchdown of his memorable senior season.
"Our offensive line did a great job and stepped up when we needed them," Zwick said. "Ricky (Johnson) and Robert did a great job in the backfield along with David Hill blocking and they got us in the end zone.
"Guys have been selling themselves for blocks to get more yards all year long and Joe did that on that play and got us a lot of yards and a big score."
Ironically Jovingo, who a career high six catches for 156 yards last week, had not caught a pass all day long. But his block was as big as any play up to that point.
"I saw Robert coming around the corner," Jovingo said afterward. "I looked up and saw Tyler Everett there and just, went heads up with him. Robert read my block and got into the end zone."
final drive, the Tigers had been outplayed in the second half.
Matt Campbell's extra point was true, and the Bulldogs had cut the deficit to 22‑19.
took over at its 33 and embarked on a 15‑play drive that ate more than
seven minutes off the third quarter game clock. More importantly, the Bulldogs
found the end zone as Yusef Abdul‑Zahir scored on a 7‑yard cutback run at the 1:06
Tigers offense remained dormant and was forced to punt. On the ensuing McKinley
possession, however, junior linebacker Tony Graves recovered a McKinley fumble
Bulldogs advanced from their 33 to midfield, but McConnell made a fine open field
tackle on Gilmer that saved a big gainer, and Shawn Crable
and Marquis Johnson sacked Palumbo to force the McKinley punt that led to
"I expected this kind of outcome, but with a 10‑point lead at the half, I thought maybe not," said Tiger coach Rick Shepas. "We came in the second half and made some mistakes offensively. We didn't play very good defense all day.
"You've got two football teams with a lot of athletic ability and a lot of heart. We both represent tradition. Even though we won today, you've got to credit Canton McKinley for an outstanding job."
McKinley got on the board first. The Bulldogs took the opening kickoff and marched down the field, effectively mixing the short pass with a series of Gilmer running plays.
Gilmer tore off a 19‑yard gain on the firs play from scrimmage, then capped the eight play, 69‑yard drive with a 10‑yard touchdown run on a pitch play around right end. The Bulldogs senior running back hurdled a Tiger tackler at the 5‑yard line and bounced into the end zone at 9:31 of the first period. The conversion kick was wide left and McKinley was out to a 6‑0 lead.
teams exchanged punts, with
the second play of the drive, Zwick hit
McKinley was undaunted, coming back to reclaim the lead on its next possession. A 33 yard kickoff return accompanied by a personal foul against the Tigers gave the Bulldogs great field position at their own 49.
A Palumbo scramble netted 8 yards on second down. One play later, Tyler Everett went over right guard for a touchdown. A run for the two‑point conversion failed but McKinley was up 12‑7 with :28 left on the first quarter game clock.
A clipping penalty on the Tigers gave them tough field position on the ensuing kickoff at their own 8, but Zwick struck quickly ‑ hitting Marquis Williams, who made a juggling catch in traffic, for a 38‑yard gain to the 46 as the first quarter came to an end.
Oliver went around left end on the next snap, broke a McKinley tackle at the line and rumbled for 18 yards to the Bulldogs' 36.
Right down the middle
the very next play, Zwick ‑ off a fine play‑action
fake ‑ threw a perfect strike to
Bulldogs fumbled the ensuing kickoff and Markeys
Scott recovered for the Tigers.
Alleman triggered turnover
proceeded to drive to near midfield on seven plays, but
A Zwick scramble netted 6 yards on first down. The Ohio State‑bound
signal caller then rolled left and hit
out of the power‑I
kick made it
Bulldogs drove to the
A 31‑yard field goal attempt was wide right and the Tigers enjoyed an eight‑point lead at the intermission.
cushion wouldn't last but