Tigers And Lions Battle To 6-6 Tie In Grid Thriller
More Than 52,000 See Spectacular Struggle; Local Defense Sparkles
By FRED J. BECKER
They may never be referred to as champions but the Tigers of 1945 always will be remembered was the Washington high school football team that had more intestinal fortitude and bulldog courage than any other aggregation to ever wear the famed orange and black and Massillon has had many courageous aggregations in its long and brilliant career in scholastic football.
Coach Augie Morningstar’s kids Friday night wrote their chapter in the annals of Washington high school athletics – and wrote it in big capital letters – when, outweighed and out-manned, they battled Cleveland Cathedral Latin’s brawny and powerful Lions to a 6 to 6 tie in Cleveland’s lakefront municipal stadium in one of the greatest displays of defensive ability ever seen on any gridiron.
Great Goal Line Stands
Sure you have seen and read about goal line stands. Sure you have seen and read about football teams, that faced with defeat and greatly outplayed, dug their cleats into the turf and threw back a superior foe in a brilliant defensive stand but you have seldom seen or heard of a team that had to make four goal line stands in two quarters and succeeded in halting its enemy in three of those four desperate situations.
But that’s what a great throng of more than 52,000 spectators witnessed Friday night at Cleveland when the Tigers, battered and decisively outplayed by a foe that possessed a superior weight advantage, three times repelled the hefty Lions inside their five yard line but failed on one other occasion and gave the rugged Lions their chance to romp to a touchdown – a touchdown that enabled Latin to tie the score at six all and saved the Lions from a defeat after they had complied a record of 20 straight triumphs.
Latin Had Advantage
For the Tigers that epic 6-6 encounter was their fourth tie game in eight starts this fall, the other four ending in Massillon victories but the situation last night was entirely different than it had been in any of the other three previous games in which the orange and black had been held on even terms so far as scores were concerned.
For the first time this fall the Tigers were outplayed by a foe that had every right to outplay them because of its great advantage in weight. The Tigers might have been outplayed in the statistics, which showed Latin superior in offensive ability, but they never wilted under the ferocious hammering to which they were subjected in that bruising second half and their great defensive performance, especially within the shadow of their own goal posts, left the huge throng gasping in amazement.
They just couldn’t believe that any team anywhere could perform the heroic feats the Tigers wrote into the records but the Tigers accomplished their amazing performance because they had the courage to do the seemingly impossible on all but one of the occasions when they were faced with the task of stopping the burly Lions or seeing their Cleveland opponents notch their second victory in as many years over a Washington high school team.
The huge turnout for last night’s game was the third largest to ever witness a high school football contest in Cleveland. The attendance was exceeded at two previous charity contests staged in the Cleveland stadium but it was the largest gathering to ever witness a regularly scheduled contest between two high school teams in Ohio.
It was a great and enthusiastic outpouring of humanity and the thousands who jammed their way into the stadium saw a football game they long will remember – a battle between two well coached, hard fighting outfits who have never had the time to look up the meaning of the word “quit”. They were out there to win and they tossed everything they had at each other but when it was all over the Tigers reaped the major share of the laurels because of their magnificent display of courage during the times which it seemed they must surely crack and permit their opponents to romp away with the victory in a scoring spree.
Perfect weather conditions helped to attract last night’s mammoth throng – perfect weather and the past reputation of Washington high school football teams and the national fame which has come to George Bird’s great Tiger swing band. And not one of the persons in that great crowd of more than 52,000 went away disappointed – except possibly Cathedral Latin’s supporters who were confident of their second victory over the Tigers in as many years and who after the game couldn’t figure out why their great team fared no better than a tie with the orange and black.
Between 5,000 and 8,000 Massillon fans were in that turnout last night. They traveled to Cleveland by special train, chartered buses and in thousands of automobiles. It was the greatest crowd of Massillonians to ever follow the Tigers to an out of town game and they came away from the stadium singing the praises of Coach Morningstar’s gritty band of warriors. Sure it was a tie score but the contest finished in a tie only because of the remarkable defensive playing of Massillon’s scrappy kids.
A team with less courage than the Tigers possess would have gone down to defeat before the withering fire poured at them by Latin’s big, hard hitting backs but not the Tigers. They stayed in their fighting to the last, even though they were subjected to a terrific pummeling in the second half when the Lions, trailing 6 to 0, roared back in a determined bid to win or at least avert a blotch on their record by gaining a tie.
The statistics give Latin all the best of last night’s spectacular, engagement. Herb Eisele’s aggressive Lions chalked up 19 first downs to eight for the Tigers, 12 of them coming in the second half when the Clevelanders piled up a big advantage in ground gained through a terrific power and forward passing attack.
The Lions gained 195 yards on ground plays and 73 on forward passes and lost 23 for a net gain of 245 yards. The Tigers gained 111 yards on the ground and 26 through the air and had a loss of one for a net gain of 136 yards.
The blue and gold of Cathedral Latin attempted 12 forward passes and completed five with none intercepted. The Tigers took to the air seven times, completing three, one for a touchdown, for 26 yards and had one intercepted. Massillon was penalized seven times for a total of 38 yards, most of the penalties coming on offside play and backs in motion. Latin was penalized twice for 20 yards.
Lions Checked In First Half
The big and powerful lions were rather thoroughly checked by the Tigers in the first half but they came charging out at the start of the second half to take the play away from the Massillonians and they completely dominated the picture in the last two periods.
Running off tackle from the T formation Latin’s powerful backs time after time ripped their way through the sturdy Massillon forward wall for good sized gains. And when checked on the ground the Lions took to the air, causing the Tigers no end of concern with a short dump pass over the center of the line that produced plenty of yards.
With such an array of ball toters as Jerry Beckrest, who tallied Latin’s only touchdown, Cliff Hill, Fritz Pahl, George Werling and Jack Behm, the Lions turned loose the most powerful running attack the Tigers have faced this season. The big Latin backs had plenty of power and speed and their off tackle lunges were extremely effective until they powered their way deep into Massillon territory where the Tigers tossed them back every time with one exception.
The Tigers had no outstanding heroes. They were just a gang of kids who played their hearts out every step of the way and did a magnificent job of it. They battled against great odds but they came through with flying colors, every one of them. Although greatly outweighed by Latin’s big forward wall, the Tiger line time after time charged through to nail Latin ball carriers in their tracks or back of the line of scrimmage. Massillon’s secondary also distinguished itself by its remarkable performance, stopping many a Latin charge that seemed headed for pay dirt.
The Tigers have nothing to be ashamed of. They played a great game from start to finish and they deserve only praise for their truly remarkable fight.
With their jinx still trailing them the Tigers lost a touchdown in the first five minutes of the game through an unfortunate fumble but they came roaring back after that disheartening blow to again drive into scoring precincts and this time they did not fail, a forward pass from Bert Webb to Captain Fred Bonk, who took the ball in the end zone, giving the Tigers their six points.
George Raggets kicked off to Bert Webb to start the game and Webb was downed on his 29. Gene Zorger smashed through the line for six and Webb picked up two more on a spinner. Zorger then made it a first down on Massillon’s 41. Webb knifed through the Latin line for four and then took a pass from Don McGuire for another first down to Latin’s 44. Webb fumbled on the next play and Latin covered on its 38. The Tigers tied Beckrest and Pahl into knots and then Raggets attempted to punt but Bonk charged in to block the kick, the ball rolling out of bounds on Latin’s 27.
Latin Covers Fumble
It was Massillon’s ball and McGuire squirmed through for eight and then the Tigers shook Webb loose on a dash around right end and the speedy little Negro scampered to Latin’s two before he was chased out of bounds. But on the next play Webb hurtled into the line and fumbled, Raggets covering put Latin on the Lions’ two.
With Beckrest and Hill carrying the mail the Lions charged back to their 27 before the Tigers applied the brakes. Raggets then punted out on Latin’s 34 and once again the Tigers hammered their way toward Latin’s goal. McGuire tried one pas to Webb but it failed. He came right back with another and this one clicked for six yards. Zorger again crashed the main line for a first down on the Lion’s 25. Webb raced around his left end for nine and Zorger again plunged for a first down to the 13. He picked up five on the next play and then Webb tossed a short pass to Bonk who made a beautiful catch of the ball in the end zone for Massillon’s touchdown.
Virgil Cocklin, sophomore place kicker, was sent in to try for the extra point but he missed.
From then on Latin began to dominate play but two fine quick kicks by Webb in the second period kept the Lions from becoming too dangerous. Once the Clevelanders drove to Massillon’s 13 but lost the ball on downs and late in the period they rammed their way to Massillon’s 14 but there Behm fumbled and Bob Richards pounced on the ball.
The Lions, however, came out for the third period in a determined mood and it was soon evident that the Tigers were going to face plenty of battering from there on out.
Taking the kickoff at the start of the third period, the Lions soon hammered their way deep into Massillon territory and set the stage for the Tigers’ first goal line stand. With Hill spearheading the drive the Lions marched down the field and then Joe Amato connected on a dump pass to Al Hasselo for 17 yards, putting the ball on Massillon’s 30. From there on the Lions hammered their way right down the field with Bob Maloney making it a first down on the five. Two Latin plungers were turned back by the Tigers but Werling then sprinted around left end and raced up to the one foot line before being tossed out of bounds. But here the Tigers displayed their courage and halted the Lions in their tracks. Tony Uliveto and Tom Brooks nailing Backrest without gain on fourth down.
McGuire punted from behind his goal line to the Massillon 27 and once again the Lions came roaring back but once again the Tigers stopped them this time on their 32 after Richards had nailed Beckrest for a loss of five. Raggets then punted over the goal line and the Tigers put the ball in play on their 20.
The Massillon offense, however, was stalled and McGuire punted to Latin’s 45.
Latin On The March
Mixing powerful off tackle plunges with equally effective dump passes the Lions bean another goal ward march.
The end of the third period found them back on the Massillon four yard line. Beckrest sparked the drive with powerful lunges through the line.
The fourth period got under way with the Lions on Massillons four with second down coming up. Amato was stopped without gain but on the next play the Tigers were offside and the ball was moved to the two but once again the orange and black was equal to the occasion and halted the Latin march when Uliveto broke through and dumped Werling for a two yard loss, the Tigers gaining the ball on their four.
McGuire, again punting from behind his goal line, kicked out to Amato who was downed on the Massillon 35. Werling then shot a short pass over the line to Hasselo who was downed on the Tigers 25. Beckrest and Maloney picked up another first down in two plunges and the Lions were on Massillon’s 14. Again Maloney and Beckrest lugged the ball and they picked up nine yards and on the next play Beckrest skirted his left end and raced over for Latin’s touchdown to tie the count at six all.
Raggets attempted placekick was wide.
The Tigers took the kick off with five minutes of play still remaining and turned loose a spurt which carried them to Latins 44 yard line. Webb picked up 12 yards in this march with a sizzling dash around right end, aided by some fine blocking.
But the Tigers tried to pass on first down and Amato intercepted and ran the ball back to the 50. Once again the Latin machine went into action and another short pass from Werling to Beckrest took the ball to the Massillon 27. Beckrest then plunged to the 16 and made it first down on the next play. Three plunges, two by Beckrest and one by Maloney, took the ball to Massillon’s four and made it first down. Maloney and Beckrest twice crashed into the Tiger line but the Lions were still three yards away from the Massillon goal line when Bog Wagner, stellar Latin tackle, was injured and replaced by Johnny Beletic.
The clock was running out fast, less than 10 seconds remaining when the Lions went into formation for what apparently would be the last play of the game.
But the gun sounded just as they got into motion. Beckrest ran with the ball but was stopped without gain by Uliveto.
The abrupt ending of the game created considerable confusion but the officials ruled the Lions guilty of illegal delay when Beletic was substituted for Wagner.
Decision Based On Rule
The officials based their ruling on the following section of the Official N.C.A.A. Football Rules:
“During the last two minutes of either half, requests for excess ‘time outs’ by field captains when no injured player is designated shall be refused, and if the team in possession of the ball (having exhausted its three legal ‘time outs’) takes time out to make a substitution for an injured or uninjured player, the referee shall signal the watch to start as soon as he considers the substitution completed.”
Referee Carl Brubaker said he started time while Latin was in the huddle and that time expired before the Lions could run off another play.
First downs 8 19
Passes attempted 7 12
Passes completed 3 5
Yards gained by passing 26 73
Passes had intercepted 1 0
Yards gained by rushing 111 195
Gross yardage 137 268
Yards lost 1 28
Net yardage 136 245
Number of kickoffs 2 2
Average distance of kickoffs 37 90
Average return of kickoffs 15 13
Number of punts 6 5
Average distance of punts 41 18
Average return of punts 0 6
Fumbles 3 3
Times ball lost on fumble 2 1
Times penalized 7 2
Yards lost on penalties 35 20