Tigers wallop injury-Plagued Dragons 56-8
Currence concerned about overconfidence
By DENNY HIGHBEN
Independent Sports Writer
“We’ve got to come back to earth and get ready for a tough week with Padua,” Tiger head coach Mike Currence said Saturday night.
He was standing in the vistors’ lockerroom at Niles McKinley High School. Massillon had just slayed the Red Dragon with remarkable ease, scoring eight touchdowns and amassing almost 500 yards of total offense. But Currence wanted to be sure the non‑contest was put into perspective.
“I don’t want us to get overconfident. Niles had about eight sophomores starting. That’s an awful lot of young kids to start against us.”
The Red Dragons have been watching talented teammates fall to injuries faster than twigs in a tornado before the season started.. Almost half of the first team that did play went up against the Tigers as walking wounded. And the one player Currence was worried about before the game ‑ place kicker and linebacker John Giangardella, didn’t play.
He suffered a broken arm last week. The team’s leading tackler a guard on offense and an excellent field goal kicker, Giangardella was dressed and ready to kick Saturday, even with his arm in a cast.
“The loss of Giangardella was the straw that broke the camel’s back for Frank,” Currence said, referring to Nile’s coach Frank Thomas.
“They just don’t have the depth,” Currence added.
“I’m not saying we didn’t play well, I thought we did,” he added. “But I don’t want us to feel like we have peaked. We’d score like that on our sophomores, too.”
The Tigers had possession of the ball twice in the first quarter and didn’t score. The first time they drove downfield but a 36‑yard field goal attempt by sophomore Jim Bushe was off target. The second time they couldn’t pick up a first down and had to punt.
That was the only time the Tigers punted and after the next Niles punt, “the roof fell in,” as Thomas put it.
Massillon wide receiver Mike Reese caught Fred Cleary’s punt at the Tiger 39, got behind a wall of blockers on the left side of the field and streaked to the Niles’ 15. Cleary made the touchdown‑saving tackle, but it did little good. On the first play halfback Dave Huth took a pitch on a short‑side sweep, built up a full head of steam by the time be turned the comer and rambled in for the score. Quarterback Dave Eberhart kicked the extra point and the buzz saw was turned on for good with 18 seconds left in the quarter.
After the next Niles punt ‑ there were 10 of them – the Tigers started at their own 45. Mike Jones picked up two yards on first down, then Eberhart fired a 15‑yard pass to Reese and an 18‑yarder to Mike Feller. That put the ball at the 19 and Don Fulton charged through the middle of the line on the next play. He was challenged at the two but flattened the defender and dove in for ‑the score. Eberhart added the PAT and it was 14‑0 with 9:29 to go in the half.
After the next Niles punt, the Tigers started on their own 29 and used one play to score. Mike Jones threw a halfback pass to Jeff Elliott. The pass cleared the defensive backs’ raised arms, settled into Elloitt’s hands about the Niles’ 40 and he ran all the way in. Eberhart kicked again and made it 21‑0 with 6:42 left in the quarter.
The next Tiger drive penetrated deep into Dragon territory but was pushed back by a clipping penalty and after Niles held, Eberhart missed a 35‑yard field goal attempt. Niles took over at the 20, but two plays later defensive back Mike Spicer intercepted a Floyd, Davis pass. He stole the ball around the 35 and ran it to the 15, but a clipping penalty put Massillon back on the 30.
Eberhart immediately passed to Jones to put the ball on the six, Huth gained a yard, then Eberhart hit Jones again for the score with 18 seconds to play. Eberhart added the PAT for a 28-0 halftime lead.
Junior Rick Spielman started at quarterback in the second half, and guided the Tigers downfield until one of his passes was intercepted near the goal line by Mike Hudzik. After a sack by defensive end Paul Spinden, a short run and an incomplete pass, Niles had to punt again.
The Tigers started on their 46 after the punt and Jones took off on first down for a 17‑yard gain. Huth picked up nine yards on the next play and the lights went out – literally. The power to the press box and scoreboard died. The Tigers scored again while the clock was out, after a roughing‑the‑passer penalty turned a third‑down incompletion into a first‑and‑goal at the 10. Speilman threw to Feller, who pulled the ball down with one hand; Greg Radtka kicked to conversion for a 35-4 lead.
Massillon’s second string defense came in on the next series and Niles inserted a different quarterback, junior Ed Kurowski. That combination helped the Dragons, and the clock started working in time for the fans to see Niles get its initial first down of the game with 3:46 to play in the third. Kurowski completed five-of‑six passes to move the Dragons to the Tiger three, and fullback Mark Knepper scored from there. Knepper also scored the two‑point conversion to make it 35-8.
The hometown fans went wild and thought the Dragons would make it a little closer when Niles successfully pulled off an onside kick following the score.
But the Massillon first team defense returned to action for the next series and put an end to that notion. On third‑and‑ten defensive back Dwayne Boss cut in front, of an intended receiver, picked off a pass and rambled 54 yards for a touchdown. Eberhart went in for the conversion, made it and the score was 42‑8.
After another Niles punt, the Tigers started from their 49. On third down, Spielman passed to junior Dan Ricker for a 26‑yard gain. Junior Larry Newman bolted to the four on the next play, then scored with 9:08 left. Radtka’s kick made it 49‑8.
Niles got a first down on the next series courtesy of a penalty, then had to punt to the Massillon 27. Junior Michael Moore ran through the middle and gained 28 yards. Three more running plays put the ball at Niles’ 16, and Moore took the ball in from there, breaking a tackle at the line and lunging across the goal line after being hit near the two. Radkta kicked the PAT to end the scoring with 3:56 left.
“It was nice to get our young kids in the game for experience,” Currence, said afterwards. “Because we might need them in the future.”
As for Niles’ young kids, Dragon coach Frank ‑Thomas said, “It’s tough to take sophomores and throw them in against a team ranked so high in the polls.
“We knew they were a great team coming in and knew we’d have our hands full,” Thomas said. “We had ’em for a while, but they’ve got the ability to make the big play. After that punt return, the roof fell in.”
Thomas, who was a Tiger assistant coach before taking the Niles job last season. said the 1980 Tigers are every bit as good as previous teams.
“One thing they have this year that makes them, a little better is the kicking game. It is excellent in every aspect, including the return teams,” he said.
Thomas’ banged‑up squad is now 3-4‑1, and must play at Warren Harding next week. Massillon, now 7‑0‑1 with a 30‑game regular season unbeaten streak, will take on Parma Padua Friday. Padua, stuggling at 4‑4, is the last team to beat the Tigers. That loss came in the playoffs is last year.
First downs rushing 13 2
First downs passing 7 2
First downs by penalty 2 1
Total first downs 22 5
Yards gained rushing 283 77
Yards lost rushing 5 21
Net yards gained rushing 278 56
Net yards gained passing 193 40
Total yards gained 471 96
Passes attempted 15 17
Passes completed 9 5
Passes intercepted by 2 1
Yardage on passes intercepted 57 17
Times kicked off 9 2
Kickoff average 49.3 29.0
Kickoff return yardage 45 111
Punts 1 10
Punting average 41.0 35.2
Punt return yardage 78 8
Punts blocked 0 0
Fumbles 2 2
Fumbles lost 1 0
Penalties 7 4
Yards penalized 85 45
Touchdowns rushing 5 1
Touchdowns passing 2 0
Touchdown 1 0
Miscellaneous touchdowns 0 0
Total number of plays 54 51
Total time of possession 21:27 26:33
NILES 0 0 8 0 – 8
MASSILLON 7 21 14 14 – 56
MASS ‑ Dave Huth 15‑yard run (Dave Eberhart kick)
MASS ‑ Don Fulton 19‑yard run (Eberhart kick)
MASS ‑ Jeff Elliott 71‑yard pass from Mike Jones (Eberhart kick)
MASS ‑ Jams 5‑yard pass from W Eberhart (Eberhart kick)
MASS ‑ Mike Feller 10‑yard pass from Rick Spielman (Greg Radtka kick)
NILES ‑ Mark Knepper 3‑yard run (Knepper run)
MASS ‑ Duane Boss 55-yard interception return (Eberhart kick)
MASS ‑ Larry Newman 4‑yard run (Radtka kick)
MASS ‑ Michael Moore 16‑yard run (Radtka kick)