Massillon Tigers Black Letter Logo

Back on track Tigers rebound with big victory

Tigers blank W. Harding

Independent Sportswriter

MASSILLON – Everything is restored to normal in Tigertown.

The Tigers bounced back from last week’s upset loss to Akron Garfield by clubbing Warren Harding 24-0 Friday night, at Paul Brown Tiger Stadium.

With the collective running of Chris Spielman and Craig Johnson, and a stingy defense that forced 11 Harding punts and allowed but five Panther first downs, Massillon posted the convincing victory.

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Putting it bluntly, Massillon’s vaunted defense was set on not letting the Panther offense go anywhere. Harding finished the game with 53 total net yards, 35 in the air and 18 on the ground.

“We had to play a good defensive game to win and as it turned out we did,” said Massillon head coach Mike Currence.

“Their defense was very quick and we were not able to sustain any blocking,” said Harding head coach Frank Thomas. “We got some blocking in the early part of the game, but we could not keep it going.”

The Tigers got their first score on their second possession of the game. After a 28-yard Harding punt Massillon took over on the Harding 39-yard line nad marched to thegoal in 10 plays using up 4:42 of the clock.

The Tigers calmly moved inside the Panther 20 on the running of Johnson and Spielman. Once inside the 20, however, the Tigers ran into some problems.

A clipping penalty negated a pass from quarterback Bronc Pfisterer to Bruce Spicer on the four-yard line, sending the ball all the way back to the 29-yard line.

The Tigers got some of it back two plays later, when Tom Gruno was interfered with on the 15-yard line. Spielman took it to the five on two carries and then Johnson took a pitch at the five and angled right on a sweep for the score.

Pfisterer added the conversion and the Tigers led 7-0.

The Johnson—Spielman running show continued after the Panthers punted to the Tigers on their next possession.

The Tigers drove 80 yards on nine plays – all running plays – to mount the 14-0 lead they were to take into the locker room at halftime.

In the ‘all rushing’ drive Johnson carried five times for 28 yards and Spielman three times for 43 yards. On a fourth-and-two from the three-yard line, Spielman took the ball—as well as a wall of tacklers – into the end zone for the score.

After shutting out the Panther offense the first half, the Tiger defense really earned its stars the second half.

Harding did not manage a first down until the fourth quarter and was forced to punt eight times the entire second half. The Panthers did not penetrate midfield the second half.

What permitted the Panthers to get the ball so many times the second half was their defense, which posted shut-outs in their first two games and forced five Tiger turnovers, four in the second half.

“They (Harding) have a good defense and an exceptionally good secondary,” said Currence. “Bronc played a good game at quarterback. He threw a couple interceptions, but they were on tips.”

“Those are the kinds of things that will happen, though. Having thrown those interceptions will teach him to back off a bit. You gain your experience by making mistakes, and Bronc is coming along fine,” he continued.

“Already playing the whole game against Garfield has helped him. We had our quarterback one more week than they had theirs and that proved to be the difference. When we put our backup (Mike Scott) in late in the game we had an illegal procedure on the first play, to give an idea of the adjustment needed for backup quarterback.”

Harding’s No. 1 quarterback, Maurice Reid got injured against Youngstown East last week, missed the Massillon game and is to miss the next four games. Reuben Osbourne, a junior, replaced Reid at quarterback.

“Reuben was playing injured, too,” said Thomas. “He’s been troubled with bad ribs since the first game. There was no miscalculation in timing between Reuben and the rest of the first unit. Their defense was just so darn quick.”

Turning in solo sacks for the Tigers in the second half were nose guard John Franke and defensive end John Brown.

Pfisterer added a 30-yard field goal in the fourth quarter and Spielman ran a punt back 53 yards with 30 seconds left in the game to conclude the scoring.

Tiger offense
back in high gear

Independent Sportswriter

MASSILLON – Take away the five turnovers against Warren Harding, and it appears as if the Tigers have established an offensive game, one that future opponents are sure to fret over.

It was former Ohio State Buckeye coach Woody Hayes who made the words, “three things can happen when you put the ball in the air and two of them aren’t good,” famous.

Although the Tigers scored 24 points on the previously unscored on Warren Harding defense, they could very well have had more points than that.

Three times in Friday’s game the Tigers were driving in Panther territory and had passes intercepted to stop the drives, not to mention one other drive that was stopped at the three because of a fumble.

But it was the running game that overshadowed the turnovers. Tailbacks Chris Spielman and Craig Johnson, along with the help of their blockers, put on one fine show of running.

Spielman carried 13 times for 77 yards and Johnson 20 times for 116 yards.

The Tigers’ second scoring drive showed how potent the Johnson-Spielman combo really is. So potent that they didn’t need a single pass to score in the 80-yard drive which took a tad over four minutes.

Not only did Spielman and Johnson display some nifty running in the drive, but the play selection by the coaching staff was also excellent.

In nine plays, neither Johnson or Spielman carried the ball as much as twice in a row in the diverse attack.

“It was clicking,” said Tiger head coach Mike Currence. “All the plays we called seemed to click. We were trying to go outside whenever it looked as it they were pinching up and going inside whenever we thought they were going to overload on one side.

“It all clicked for us on that drive. But it can go both ways. There were times when they overloaded on one side and we went that way and didn’t get much.”

In the drive Spielman had one run of 25 yards, which should have been only a 10-yard gain, but Spielman carried a tackler or four and maintained his balance to get the extra yardage.

Spielman scored the touchdown on the drive from three yards out. On a fourth-and-two from the three, Spielman went into a wall of tacklers and it appeared as if he didn’t have the first down, but somehow he squirmed out of the stack for the touchdown.

While Spielmans’ forte was brute strength and shear desire, Johnson’s was the deceptive moves and quick stops. On one run in the third quarter, Johnson literally ‘danced’ for a 23-yard gain.

He almost scored in the fourth quarter on a 36-yard run, with blockers in front, behind and next to him. Center Dave Morelli, running behind Johnson, stepped on the back of his shoe top on one of those ‘excuse me’ moves, Johnson tripped down at the 13-yard line

Spielman had the dubious distinction of throwing an interception from the same yard line he had intercepted the ball from.

In the waning seconds of the first half Spielman intercepted a pass at the Harding 41-yard line. Two plays later, with the line of scrimmage the 41-yard line, Spielman threw an interception to Harding on a halfback option pass.

Tiger No. 1 quarterback Brian Dewitz, who has been injured since the first game, will probably see action next week against Akron Central Hower.

“We might have been able to play him against Harding,” said Currence. “But we want to give him as much rest as possible. He will probably play some next week.”


Warren Harding coach Frank Thomas was a tad disturbed by Spielman’s 53-yard punt return toward the end of the game, but at the same time was astonished by the execution of the run.

“If they want to get their No. 1 tailback hurt by having him run back punts with seconds left and a 17-point lead that’s their choice,” Thomas said. “But then if you get blocking like he got on that run you don’t need to worry about getting him injured.


The Tiger Booster Club experimented with a new idea for Friday’s game.

Referee Gordon Schutt wore a microphone on his belt, so that the fans could get an audio aid to go with the non-verbal signals on penalties.

As it turned out, the ‘mike’ came in handy. The scoreboard clock was not working and Schutt was able to inform the crowd of the official time via the mike.

“I think it’s a good idea. It wasn’t much trouble for me,” said Schutt. “I just made that one mistake when I said the player’s number on a holding call. I wasn’t supposed to do that.

The booster club plans to use the mike for future games.


First downs rushing 10 1
First downs passing 3 2
First downs by penalty 2 2
Totals first downs 15 5
Yards gained rushing 213 61
Yards lost rushing 19 43
Net yards rushing 194 18
Net yards passing 58 35
Total yards gained 252 53
Passes attempted 15 15
Passes completed 5 2
Passes int. by 1 3
Yardage on pass int. 00 00
Times kicked off 5 1
Kickoff average 52.0 42.0
Kickoff return yards 9 70
Punts 4 11
Punting average 42.3 27.5
Punt return yards 59 00
Punts blocked by 0 0
Fumbles 5 1
Fumbles lost 2 0
Penalties 6 5
Yards penalized 68 30
Touchdowns rushing 2 0
Touchdowns passing 0 0
Miscellaneous touchdowns 0 0
Number of plays 53 47
Time of possession 24.04 23.56
Attendance 9,014

MASSILLON 7 7 0 14 – 24
HARDING 00 00 00 00 – 00

Chris Spielman