Tigers capture 89th classic 18-7
Bulldogs fall in misty Fawcett
By BOB STEWART
Repository Sports Editor
In the 89 games the Bulldogs and the Tigers have battled on the high school football field since 1894, there have been numerous surprises and upsets.
But it was not to be Saturday, as the favored Massillon Tigers mugged the feisty but overmatched McKinley Senior Bulldogs 18-7 before 21,232 fans in a freezing mist at Fawcett Stadium.
It was the 50th victory for the Tigers in this scholastic gridiron granddaddy, increasing the edge over the Bulldogs, who have won 34 times and tied five others.
To be sure, this 1983 band of Bulldogs fought the valiant fight, played perhaps as well as they have played this disappointing season. But it was not enough this dreary afternoon.
The Massillons had too many guns. The outcome was never really in doubt.
Massillon was favored by 10 points, according to the odds fellows. The Tigers won by 11.
It could have been worse, embarrassingly much worse.
Massillon’s first scoring threat misfired when Bronc Pfisterer missed on a 34-yard attempt for a field goal.
The Tigers also missed a TD near the end of the half when McKinley’s Pierre Taylor intercepted a Brian Dewitz pass in the end zone, a bizarre play on which the officials almost mistakenly awarded the Tigers a safety (see Stewart on Sports column, Page 43).
In addition after the longest drive of the day, Massillon fumbled the ball away on the McKinley 1-yard line in the fourth period, and after that had an apparent interception taken away for roughing the Pups’ passer.
The Tigers’ rushing game was perhaps short of awesome, but certainly more than effective. Massillon’s ball carriers netted 260 yards on the ground, an average of 5.1 per carry, and it allowed the Tigers possession for 61 percent of the clock time.
The victory salvaged respectability for the Tigers, who with a 9-1 record will watch from the sidelines as the OHSAA grid playoffs begin this weekend.
It is expected to be announced today that Alliance (10-0) and Akron Garfield (9-0), the team which tamed the Tigers 14-10 in the second game of the season will play for the Region 3 championship in Division 1.
If Alliance is the No. 1 team in the computer ratings for the region, the playoff game probably will be in Fawcett, Saturday at 7:30 p.m.
McKinley finished 6-4, it’s worst record since 1976, the first year of consolidation from four Canton high schools to two.
But McKinley coach Thom McDaniels said his players had nothing to be ashamed about Saturday.
“I’m proud of the way they (the Bulldogs) attempted to win the football game,” he said.
“The Ursuline and Elder games (two of the losses) left a bad taste in the mouth. Against Moeller, (the other loss) we weren’t ashamed of ourselves, either,” said the coach who completed his second season as the head man at McKinley, and his fourth at the school.
”I didn’t have any heart attacks in the first half,” Massillon Coach Mike Currence was to say afterward. “But I had about five in the second half.”
“McKinley didn’t quit, and they played a good game. McDaniels is a great coach, and he did not have the best material this season.”
“I don’t think this was a great McKinley team, when compared to some of the ones in the recent past, but they played tough.”
Tigers trip Bulldogs
The swift senior tailback, Craig Johnson, who carried only once for a loss of three yards in the Tigers first possession that ended in the aborted field goal, finished with a flourish, running for 138 yards in 20 carries, putting him at 1,008 yards for the 1983 season.
On their second possession, the Tigers zipped 52 yards in only four plays, the finale a
one-yard touchdown plunge by All-Ohioan Chris Spielman, who not only gained 55 yards on 15 carries and scored both Tiger touchdowns, but also led a swarming defense from his linebacker position which stifled McKinley’s running game.
Dewitz sparked the TD drive with a 19-yard rollout romp on the first play, and then was hit late by a Bulldog. The 15-yard penalty put the Tigers on the Pups’ 18, from where Johnson got eight and Spielman nine to set up the touchdown.
Spielman’s 33-yard punt return on the last play of the first period set up the second Tigers’ score.
Even though the Bulldogs’ defense held Massillon to 13 yards over the first six plays of the second quarter, Pfisterer drilled a 36-yard field goal to put the visitors up 10-0 with 9:20 left in the half.
The Bulldogs’ junior Jeff Angione sparked his team with a 42-yard return of the ensuing kickoff, and McKinley marched to the Tigers’ 28, before a dropped pass on fourth down turned the ball over.
But three plays later, Anthony McCullough pounced on a Dewitz fumble and the Pups were back in business at the Tigers’ 47, from where they scored in eight plays.
McKinley quarterback Kevin Parrish, who completed six of 21 passes for 82 yards before being injured late in the fourth period, hit Jeff Smith in the end zone with a 15-yard scoring strike 55 seconds before the band show. Anthony Taylor’s placement pulled the Pups to within three at 10-7.
After Spielman returned the kickoff to his own 43, Dewitz flipped a screen pass to the fleet Johnson, and he turned the play into a 41-yarder, putting the ball at the Bulldogs’ 16.
Then came Pierre Taylor’s interception in the end zone with seven seconds left.
After the lengthy discussion by the officials, who finally made the right ruling of a touchback, Parrish fell on the ball to end the half.
What may well have been the final turning point came midway in the third period.
McKinley couldn’t move with the third quarter kickoff, and Massillon marched from its own 14 to the McKinley 12, thanks to a 38-yard scamper by Johnson and runs of 17 and 13 by Dewitz, who was the Tigers second leading rusher with 62 yards on 11 carries.
But Dewitz fumbled and McKinley middle guard Bob Gilmore covered the ball, only to have the Bulldogs’ offense fumble it right back on the first play.
Four plays later, Johnson ran in from four yards out to make it 16-7.
The PAT took a while.
Finally, from 13½ inches away, Spielman plunged for the two-pointer to conclude the day’s – and the season’s – scoring, with 4:29 remaining in the third period.
McKinley came back to the Tigers’ 18, thanks mostly to a 25-yard pass from Parrish to junior end Rafe Lazar, the Pups’ longest gainer of the day.
The Tigers, with 2:12 left in the third, then took final control of the game. They managed to come up with the key plays, just when the Pups thought they had them stopped, and moved the ball 81 yards in 14 plays to the McKinley 1, where, with a second-and-goal, Dewitz fumbled the snap again, and the ball wound up in the end zone where McKinley’s Jeff Smith covered it for another touchback.
A pass interference penalty and a 22-yard Parrish to Pierre Taylor aerial putt he ball on the Tigers 40, from where Parrish threw a pass that was picked off by Massillon’s Derrick Dave. But the Tigers’ were flagged for roughing Parrish, and the Pups had a first down at the Tiger 25…but without Parrish, who left the game with a knee injury. Reports indicate he was treated and released at Timken-Mercy Medical Center after the game.
Brian Worstell, a 5-11 junior, came on, but he could fare no better, and the Pups gave up the ball at the 19.
Troy Jenkins, McKinley’s premier runner who had gained 1,101 yards in his first nine games, picked up 72 yards in 15 carries.
Massillon……………….. 7 3 8 0 – 18
McKinley Senior……….. 0 7 0 0 – 7
Mas – Spielman 6 run (Pfisterer kick)
Mas – FG Pfisterer 36
McK – Smith 15 pass from Parrish (A. Taylor kick)
Mas – Johnson 4 run (Spielman run)
A – 21,232.
First downs rushing 15 3
First downs passing 3 6
First downs penalties 2 2
Totals first downs 20 11
Rushes – yards 51-260 23-82
Passing yards 78 97
Total Net yards 338 179
Return yards 75 92
Passes 4-11-1 8-29-1
Punts-avg. 2-27 4-36.5
Punt return yards 48 2
Kickoff-avg. 4-45.5 2-35.2
Kickoff return yards 25 96
Fumbles lost 4-3 2-1
Penalties-yards 6-51 4-39
Third down conversions 4-11 5-13
Total plays 64 52
Time of possession 29:11 18.49
Rushing – Massillon: Johnson 20-138, Dewitz 11-62,
Spielman 15-55, Gruno 2-3, Hastings 1-2,
McKinley Senior: Jenkins 15-72, Parrish 3-4,
Calhoun 2-3, Smith 2-3, Lytle 1-0.
Passing – Massillon: Dewitz 4-11-1-78.
McKinley Senior: Parrish 6-21-0-82,
Pass Receiving – Massillon: Johnson 2-57, Spielman 1-13,
McKinley Senior: Jenkins 3-17, Lazar 2-32,
p. Taylor 1-21, Draper 1-12, Smith 1-15.
Missed field goals – Massillon: Pfisterer 34.
By STEVEN DUNGJEN
Independent Sports Editor
CANTON – Massillon football celebrated a Golden Anniversary of sorts Saturday afternoon at Fawcett Stadium – 50 wins over McKinley.
The Tigers (9-1) posted an 18-7 victory over the Bulldogs (6-4) in the 89th meeting between the two before a packed house. With the win Massillon upped its series lead to 50-34 with five ties.
Massillon held the statistical edge in nearly every category of importance: first downs (19 to 11), rushing (227 yards to 79) and total yards (332 to 175).
It was one of those kind of days where everything went wrong, but nothing did.
Although the Tigers scored two touchdowns and a field goal, head coach Mike Currence’s squad squandered away more golden opportunities than it wanted to.
In the first quarter alone the Tigers had a first down at the McKinley 18 and came away empty-handed when a 34-yard field goal went astray.
Massillon was knocking on the door again late in the second quarter, with a first down at the Bulldog 16. This time an interception halted the drive.
Another time, this in the third period, the Tigers had a first down at the McKinley 12. A lost fumble again stymied Massillon.
And if three blown opportunities weren’t enough, the Tigers continued their version of give-away in the final period when another fumble at the McKinley one stopped yet another golden chance.
“We made some mistakes,” Currence admitted, citing the fumble in the end zone in the fourth quarter as a prime example. “That was terrible.”
Through it all, though, the Tigers still prevailed. That’s because a stingy defense made it happen.
Forced to go to its passing game in the second half, McKinley finished with just 79 yards rushing on 23 carries. The Bulldogs’ lone TD occurred following a Massillon fumble.
In the air the Bulldogs picked up 96 yards, but quarterbacks Kevin Parrish and Brian Worstell combined to complete just eight-of-29 attempts.
Only two of McKinley’s 10 possessions began inside Massillon territory. More often than not the Bulldogs were pinned back inside their own turf, especially in the opening stanza when the hosts netted a total of nine yards.
Massillon appeared well on its way to a score on the game’s opening set of downs, marching to the McKinley 18 with a first down. Two straight runs lost five yards when quarterback Brian Dewitz ran for six yards.
On fourth down Pfisterer, who holds career and single-season field goal kicking school records, missed on a 34-yard attempt.
A roughing the punter call on McKinley during the drive kept the Tiger hopes alive.
After holding McKinley on its second possession, the Tigers were back in action with the ball at their own 48.
Dewitz scampered 19 yards on a bootleg, but McKinley was called for spearing on the play. With the ball now on the 18 stellar running back Johnson, who finished with 133 yards rushing, gained nine yards.
Then Spielman got into the act, gaining eight yards to the one and adding the final yard for the TD at the 4:14 mark. Pfisterer added the extra-point and the Tigers led 7-0.
McKinley was stopped in its tracks once again on its next series, but Spielman broke off a 33-yard punt return to give Massillon good field position at the Bulldog 32.
Johnson picked up eight yards on the first play from scrimmage and Spielman added three more for a first down. Dewitz was then sacked for a six-yard loss when the Tigers were then called for illegal motion.
A Dewitz pass fell incomplete before Johnson broke off a 13-yard scamper to the McKinley 19 to put Pfisterer within field goal range. The senior booter responded with a 36-yard field goal, giving Massillon a 10-0 lead at 9:30.
McKinley mounted its first serious threat on the next series with tailback Troy Jenkins running four yards on a fake punt for a first down. However, the drive stalled on Massillon’s 28 when a Parrish pass bounced off the hands of Leon Draper.
Three plays later and the Tigers gave the ball right back when Dewitz lost the handle on the center exchange. McKinley’s Anthony McCullough recovering at the 47.
Eight plays later and Parrish found Jeff Smith on a slant over the middle for a score with 51 seconds left in the half.
With time running out in the half Massillon reached the Bulldog 16 when Johnson ran 41 yards down the right sidelines on a screen pass. Dewitz then threw a pass over the middle which was intercepted by Pierre Taylor.
Taylor, who caught the ball in the end zone, then ran out of the end zone. Currence was quick on the field, asking for a safety.
After some deliberation by the game’s officials the Tigers were awarded a two-point safety. Now, it was McKinley head coach Thom McDaniels’ turn to “discuss” the play.
Again the game’s officials conferred. When they broke huddle they reversed their earlier decision and took the two points off Massillon’s side of the scoreboard.
“The McKinley coaches out coached me on that one,” Currence said tongue-in-cheek. “They showed me the ruling. It doesn’t seem right to intentionally take a safety.”
The two teams swapped turnovers in the third quarter, Dewitz losing a fumble to Bob Gilmore and Massillon’s Tim Sampsel recovering a Bulldog bobble one play later.
Four plays after Sampsel’s fumble recovery gave the Tigers excellent field position at the McKinley 19, Johnson ran four yards to pay dirt behind a good block by Tom Gruno at the 4:29 mark.
On the conversion, McKinley was called three straight times for encroachment. With the ball resting inside the one, Spielman carried in the two-pointer for a 18-7 Tiger lead.
McKinley then drove to a first down at the Massillon 23 following a 25-yard pass play, but three straight passes fell incomplete to stop the drive.
Massillon then chewed up over eight minutes of time on its next possession, but came away with nothing to show for it when the center snap was bobbled at the McKinley one with Smith recovering in the end zone.
The Bulldogs put together their last threat on the ensuing series, marching from their own 20 to Massillon’s 21 thanks in large part to a pair of 15-yard penalties, one for pass interference and another for roughing the quarterback.
But the drive stalled when a fourth down pass failed to gain the necessary yardage.
On last McKinley hope was thwarted by a Pat Spicer interception with less than a minute left.
Tiger ‘D’ turned
Pups into kittens
By NORM WEBER
Independent Sports Writer
CANTON – While the Massillon offense surprised McKinley with some new wrinkles Saturday in Fawcett Stadium, the Tiger defense was its reliable self in the 18-7 victory.
The Bulldogs did get one touchdown off the tight Tiger defense, but the score was set up by a Tiger fumble.
Other than that drive, the Tiger defense didn’t yield much. In the first quarter McKinley’s offense ran nine plays for nine yards.
Tackle Tom Gruno and nose guard John Franke incessantly applied pressure to Bulldog quarterback Kevin Parrish. The defense up front also showed strong pursuit on flushing out McKinley’s screen passes.
“I was getting a little concerned in the third quarter when they started driving,” Franke said. But then when we stopped them on our 18-yard line, I knew they weren’t going to score on us any more.”
Gruno admitted that Saturday’s game was the most exhausting of his career, but well worth it.
“With eight minutes left in the game I felt like dropping; I could hardly breathe,” said Gruno, who doubled at fullback. “Usually we’re ahead 44-0 in the fourth quarter and I’ll get a rest. This is by far my most tiring game.”
“I’d go to the sidelines when Timmy Sampsel would replace me at fullback. Every time I kept saying to the rest of the defensive players, ‘We’ve got to stop them.’ Nothing stood in our way. I knew it after we stopped them three consecutive times at getting a first down in the first quarter.”
“McKinley has some big tackles. But we were able to out-quick them. That was all we could do. We got so fired up every time I went to the sidelines on my offensive breaks. Beating McKinley is great.”
HUMBLE HERO – Tailback Craig Johnson was the first Tiger to go over the 1,000-yard mark rushing this season. His 133 yards against McKinley give him 1,003 on the season.
“How many yards to I have for the season?” a humble Johnson asked in the locker room after the game.
Johnson went over the magic number with a 13-yard gain in the fourth quarter.
“I didn’t know it then,” Johnson answered. “Which play was it?”
SPIELMAN’S VOW – When McKinley stopped the Tigers two years ago at Fawcett Stadium to earn a trip to the playoffs and eventually win the state championship, Chris Spielman vowed that the Tigers would never lose at Fawcett while he was playing.
“After we lost two years ago I said our team – and you can underline team, would not be beaten on this field again,” said Spielman. “I’ve been looking forward to this for a long time. I’d like to thank Massillon for everything.”
WHAT MIGHT HAVE BEEN – The Tigers may not be going to the playoffs, but based on Saturday’s performance, could be the best team in the state.
“If we played Akron Garfield next week we’d beat them by four touchdowns,” said Gruno. “This is a much improved team. I’ve been sitting in bed, listening to the radio and praying that Alliance or Garfield would lose. But we can’t control that.”
Neither Alliance nor Garfield, which beat Massillon 14-10 on Sept. 9, have lost. They’ll meet in the first round of the playoffs Saturday.
Topics of discussion such as the great Garfield debate are what keep the off-season fires burning.