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Tigers whip Gahanna in thriller

Independent Sports Editor

In one of the most exciting finishes in Massillon football history, the Tigers pulled out a 28-22 come-from-behind victory in the waning seconds of their home opener against Gahanna Lincoln Friday night.

The passing combination of Brant Offenbecher to Curtis Strawder and a two-yard touchdown by Greg Carpenter with 35 seconds left in the game snatched a sure victory from the Lions’ jaws.

“THAT’S THAT old Tiger spirit,” happy head coach Mike Currence said after the game.

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The Tigers seemed doomed after the Lions drove 63 yards in 16 plays to score a touchdown and the go-ahead two-point conversion, making it 22-21 with 2:11 left in the game.

The situation seemed dimmer still when the Tigers faced an impossible fourth down and 19 on their own 30 yard line with 1:11 showing on the clock.

But Offenbecher, a junior went deep and Strawder, also a junior, made a terrific, diving, over-the-shoulder catch at the Gahanna 29 yard line. Three plays later Carpenter crashed off right guard for the winning score.

“They’re tough,” Currence said of the Lions after the game. “I don’t know who is going to beat them.”

THE LIONS had used the power-running of tailback Tim O’Cain and some timely passes by quarterback Fred Henley for their three scores. O’Cain gained 82 yards in 29 carries.

The Tigers filled the air with passes, as Offenbecher completed 11 of 23 for 232 yards and one touchdown. Strawder hauled in six passes for 169 yards and one touchdown.

The Tigers had gone ahead 21-14 on a three-yard touchdown run by Carpenter with 9:51 left in the fourth quarter.

The Lions then took the ball and went on a sustained march, using 19 plays and 7:40 on the clock to march 63 yards for their score.

O’Cain gained 31 of those yards (on nine carries), including two yards on a fourth and two situation to the Massillon 46 yard line with 6:18 left to play.

THE LION drive was aided by two penalties, one an interference call on 3rd and 16 at their own 29 that gave them a first down at the 44, and an unsportsmanslike conduct call against the Tigers for having 12 men on the field that gave Gahanna a first and one at the Massillon nine.

Henley then took the ball on a sneak for four yards and it was first and goal Gahanna from the five with 3:20 to go.

Senior fullback Mark Carter carried to the three, O’Cain picked up another yard around left end and Carter carried to the one-yard line.

On fourth and goal from the one, Carter got the call again and he nudged the ball over the goal line.

Gahanna had the ball placed at the left hash mark for the extra point attempt and Henley rolled far to his right, forcing Tiger defenders to commit themselves, then found senior halfback Ted Hall open in the back of the end zone for a 22-21 Lion lead.

STRAWDER TOOK the ensuing kickoff at the Massillon 27 and returned it to the 39. Offenbecher picked up six yards running when he couldn’t find anyone open.

Offenbecher then found Strawder at the 45 on a sideline pattern but the junior receiver bobbled the ball when he turned to run up field and dropped it. It wouldn’t have mattered because the Tigers were assessed 15 yards for an unsportsmanlike conduct call.

Following an incompleted pass it was fourth and 19 at the Massillon 30 with 1:11 to play. Offenbecher then threw the long pass to Strawder at the Gahanna 29.

An interference call against Gahanna (defensive back Willie Carpenter grabbed Strawder’s shirt and held him at the 16) along with an unsportsmanlike conduct call on the same play gave the Tigers a first down at the eight.

Offenbecher rolled to the left and gained six yards and the clock stopped with 43 seconds when Gahanna’s Carpenter was injured. Massillon’s Carpenter then scored over right guard – the same play he had scored the Tigers’ third TD on.

SECONDS LATER, Tiger defensive back Darron Longshore intercepted a Lion aerial at the Massillon 43 and the Tiger offense ran out the clock.

Gahanna bead coach Neal Billman, who had turned somersaults on the field after the Lion took the lead, was dejected as be talked about the game afterwards in the visitor’s dressing room.

“What can you say?” he asked.

“Our kids had great desire and I’m very, very proud of them. Last week Massillon lost to a great team (9-7 to Barberton) and tonight we lost to a great team.

“But that’s football. That’s why we play the game, because it’s not easy,” Billman said.

“IT WAS A great game to watch, I supposes, if you weren’t in the middle of it,” he said.

“We had a 16-year-old kid a make a mistake (their safety didn’t play back far enough on Strawder’s catch) and they had a 16-year old kid put the ball right over the helmet of another kid. If the ball would have been anywhere else it would have been incomplete.”

Tiger head coach Mike Currence was all smiles in the Massillon lockerroom.

“Our game plan was to throw,” he said. “With Pringle in there we would have had a better night on the right side.”

Tiger senior receiver Mark Pringle has missed both of the opening games with a shoulder injury. Currence said his height (6-1) would have helped counteract Gahanna’s Ted Hall (6-3) at the right defensive halfback slot.

“OUR KIDS came back, Currence noted, “It’s been a real rough week. We were expecting a great year and we’ve just been through agony the last week,” he explained.

Asked how be felt after the Lions went ahead late in the game, Currence said: “I thought the guy upstairs didn’t like me anymore.

“You really have to tax yourself going down the field like that,” he said of the Tigers last-ditch drive.

Strawder, the soft-spoken 5-10, 147-pount wide receiver, said of his catch: “We had to win, you know. I just kept my eye on the ball and it came to me. I felt real good after I caught it.”

Strawder’s ‘miracle catch’ is key

THE GAME, started out with the Lions taking the opening kickoff and marching 80 yards in 13 plays for a TD.

Wide receiver Lawrence Dempsey made a diving catch in the right corner of the end zone on a five yard pass from Henley and John Orkis booted the point after for a 7-0 lead.

The Lions picked up six first downs in that drive, including one on a 15-yard penalty for a personal foul.

The Tigers didn’t wait long to retaliate as Offenbecher found Shrewder wide open down the middle for a 62-yard TD pass on their first play from scrimmage. Offenbecher set up the play with a good fake to Carpenter. Mark Westover’s extra point kick tied the score.

Following a Gahanna punt, the Tigers drove to the Lions’ 19 yard line but an Offenbecher pass was intercepted in the end one by Orkis.

AFTER ANOTHER Gahanna punt a cliping penalty against the Tigers on the return, Massillon took over on its own 15.

The Tigers then drove 85 yards in 14 plays with Jeff Beitel sweeping the right side for the final five yards and the TD. Westover’s PAT kick made it 14-7 and that score stood up until the half.

The Tigers took the second-half kickoff and drove from their own 37 to the Gahanna 12 but the drive died following a pair of incomplete passes on third and fourth downs.

Gahanna couldn’t move the ball and had to punt again, but the Tigers’ Marc Longshore fumbled the punt and the Lions’ Bryan Hicks recovered at the Tiger 25 yard line.

O’Cain carried the ball four straight times for 13 yards. He gained seven yards on the next play and a face mask penalty against Massillon put the ball at the Tiger three.

CARTER THEN carried three yards to paydirt and Orkis’s conversion kick knotted the score at 14.

The Tigers then took the kickoff and went 73 yards to score with 9:51 left in the game.

Carpenter scored on a three-yard run and Westover added the point after kick for a 21-14 lead. Key plays in the drive were passes of 33, 10, 11 and 9 yards from Offenbecher to Strawder.

Gahanna then went on its go-ahead drive add the Tigers pulled out a miracle to even each team’s record at 1-1.

The Tigers will entertain Cleveland Glenville Friday night at Paul Brown Tiger Stadium. Tickets are on sale for the 8 p.m. contest at the Washington High School ticket office. Demmer Hardware stores and Hal’s Sport Shop.

First downs rushing 7 10
First downs passing 9 4
First downs penalties 1 2
Total first downs 17 16
Yards gained rushing 106 153
Yards lost rushing 15 28
Net yards gained rushing 91 135
Net yards gained passing 232 68
Total yards gained 323 193
Passes attempted 23 10
Passes completed 11 6
Passes intercepted by 1 1
Yardage gained on
passes intercepted 0 0
Times kicked off 5 4
Kickoff average (yards) 46.6 41.2
Kickoff returns (yards) 65 78
Times punted 1 4
Punt average (yards) 40.0 36.0
Punt returns (yards) 0 0
Had punts blocked 0 0
Fumbles 1 1
Lost tumbled ball 1 0
Penalties 7 7
Yards penalized 87 70
Touchdowns rushing 3 2
Touchdowns passing 1 1
Touchdowns by interception 0 0
Miscellaneous touchdowns 0 0
Total number of plays 58 42
Total time of possession 20:36 27:24

Massillon 7 7 0 14 28
Gahanna 7 0 7 8 22

G – Lawrence Dempsey 5 pass from Fred Henley (John Orkis kick);
M – Curtis Strawder 62 pass from Brent Offenbecher (Mark Westover kick);
M – Jeff Beitel 5 run (Westover kick);
G – Mark Carter 3 run (Orkis kick);
M – Greg Carpenter 3 run (Westover kick);
G – Carter 1 run (Ted Hall pass from Henley);
M – Carpenter 2 run (Westover kick).

Tim Daniels