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Tigers humble Panthers With 10-0 win

Independent Sports Editor

MASSILLON ‑ Keith Dewitz had a premonition about Friday night’s game.

Thursday afternoon Massillon’s running back coach was shuffling toward the coaches room outside of Paul Brown Tiger Stadium.

Well, there’s nothing unusual to report about that.

But Dewitz happened to glance down just before entering the door. He bent down and picked up a penny. A lucky penny, as it turned out.

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Dewitz still had that penny in his pocket when the Tigers took the field Friday night against Perry before 14,862 frenzied fans.

It’s doubtful that the penny really had anything to do with Massillon’s 10‑0 win over the then once‑beaten Panthers, but why ruin a good story line?

Actually, the Tiger coaches are turning into a superstitious lot these days. Receiver coach Butch Hose believes in his one‑of‑a‑kind “win potion.” Better yet, so do the players.

What did figure in the victory was a tenacious defensive effort by the Tigers. That and an unexpected field goal and a broken play that went for a touchdown.

“The defense really played a great game,” said a pleased Tiger head coach Mike Currence. ”I talked to the coaches before the game and they felt that Perry’s defense wasn’t getting enough credit; that’s what really makes them such a good ballclub.

“Our defense was just better.”

Although the Tigers (6‑3) totaled 253 yards in offense as opposed to Perry’s 148, each inch was hard earned. Nothing came easy in this defensive straggle.

Handed a copy of the game’s final statistics, Currence slapped a finger to the computer print out.

“That’s the story right there,” he said while pointing to Perry’s average gain per rush, which was 3.2 yards.

Entering the game the Panthers generated early 300 yards per game rushing. They left the fray with their lowest total of the year, just 96 yards on 30 carries.

So tenacious was the Tiger defense that it did not permit Perry past midfield until late in the third period. Only once did the Panthers threaten to get on the board, that on a drive inside Massillon’s 10‑yard line.

That threat, aided by a nearly costly face mask penalty, was aborted when the Panthers saw a fourth down pass slip through the fingers of Archie Herring.

As rugged as Massillon’s defense was, so it was too for Perry. The Panthers bent somewhat, but other than a 30‑yard field goal by Todd Manion and a 31‑yard touchdown pass from quarterback Mike Scott to Derrick Newman on a busted play, Perry was equally up to the task.

The Panthers dodged a bullet early in the contest when they muffed a punt return, the Tigers’ Chris Alt recovering the loose ball at the Perry 14 with 2:59 left in the opening period.

Given a golden opportunity, the Tigers let the chance slip away on four incomplete passes. An illegal block on Massillon didn’t help any, and put the offense out of field goal range to boot.

But the Tiger defense set the tone early, holding Perry to just six plays and seven yards in the opening stanza.

Perry picked up its initial first down of the game when Jeff Clark broke several tackles for a 23‑yard gain, but as they did an their first two drives, the Panthers were then forced to punt the ball away.

Massillon drove for a first down at the Panther 34. Three plays later the Tigers were faced with a fourth‑and‑inches at the 24. A quarterback sneak by Scott, though, was stopped short by surging Panther defense.

Three plays later, and the Panthers had to punt the ball back once again.

With just 1:30 remaining in the half, the Tigers mounted a drive behind the passing of Scott. The senior signal‑caller hit three different receivers to give Massillon a first down at the Panther 13.

Scott tried to hit Newman in the end zone, but the ball was batted away. With just 14 seconds left the Tigers lined up for a field goal, but holder Paul Fabianich’s pass attempt fell incomplete.

On the next play the Tigers went for the three‑pointer in earnest, and Manion did not disappoint the home crowd as his 30‑yarder was high and far enough. It was Manion’s first varsity field goal, and only the second one attempted by Massillon this year.

In the first half, the Tigers held Perry to just one first down and only 34 yards in offense. The Panthers ran off just 15 plays, punting four times, and holding the ball for less than 10 minutes.

While Perry’s first three drives of the second half ended with punts, the Tigers put some insurance points on the board on their second possession.

Taking over on their own 31 following Tracy Seery’s sixth punt of the night, the Tigers went 69 yards in five plays to paydirt.

Scott hit Bruce Spicer for five yards. Fullback Duane Crenshaw ran for three yards, and Scott hit Spicer again for nine more yards before Crenshaw took a pitch out and rambled 17 yards to Perry’s 31.

On the next play, Scott fought off a heavy pass rush and found Newman on the right side of the field. The junior halfback then cut against the grain and waved goodbye to Perry’s pursuit. Dan Kozma’s PAT made it a 10‑0 game with 2:40 left in the third period.

The Panthers took the ensuing kickoff and rambled into Tiger territory for the first time when Herring carried for a 5‑yard gain on the last play of the quarter.

Perry, on the first play of the final quarter, lined up in punt formation for the eighth time. This time, though, they tried a bit of trickery as Wally Buzinski took the snap and ran seven yards for a first down. An incomplete pass on fourth‑and‑9, however, stymied the Panthers.

After holding the Tigers, the Panthers received a bit of a scare when they once again fumbled a punt. This time Perry’s Ted White recovered the loose ball, giving the visitors a first down at their 32 with 7:32 still left.

An illegal block on Perry made it first‑and‑28 but the Panthers, behind the arm of quarterback Mike Laubacher, managed the first down on passes of 21 yards to Clark and 11 yards to tight end Chris Strobel.

The Tiger defense dug in once again, but the Panthers converted on fourth‑and‑1 when Laubacher gained 17 yards on a keeper. A face mask penalty helped push the ball to Massillon’s 16.

Staying on the ground, Laubacher gained seven yards and Clark two more before Laubacher was tossed for a two-yard loss by defensive end Chris Slinger. On fourth down, Laubacher’s pass from the 9‑yard line slipped through Herring fingers

The Tigers then controlled the ball for the remainder of the game, although a roughing the punter penalty with 1:09 left secured the win for Massillon.
Spicer moved into second place on the single‑season Tiger record for pass receptions. The senior split end hauled in seven passes and now totals 45, five back of Marty Guzzetta’s record of 50 set back in 1979. Guzzetto’s mark occurred in 11 games.

Spicer now has 55 receptions for his career, third best on the all‑time Tiger chart behind Curtis Strawder (68) an Guzzetta (69).
Tiger middle guard Scott Byelene had some added motivation against Perry. His uncle, Mike, was in attendance. Mike played under Paul Brown at Massillon. He is a retired school teacher now living in Marion, Ind.
Sunday will be “Obie Picture Day” at the stadium from 1 to 3 p.m., rain or since. Come on out and snap some photos with Obie the XV.

Another surprise visitor at the Perry game was a guy who made No. 33 synonymous with Tiger football.That’s right, Massillon’s Chris Spielman sat in on the game.

Spielman, bothered by nagging ankle injuries, did not make Ohio State University’s trip to Wisconsin today. He indicated he is making a slower recovery than he had expected and is not sure when, or if, he will return to action.
Area prep gridsticks

First downs rushing 6 4
First downs passing 6 2
First downs by penalty 2 0
Totals first downs 14 6
Yards gained rushing 80 114
Yards lost rushing 9 18
Net yards rushing 71 96
Net yard passing 182 52
Total yards gained 253 148
Passes attempted 30 16
Passes completed 17 8
Passes int. by 0 0
Yardage on pass int. 0 0
Times kicked off 3 1
Kickoff average 54.0 50.0
Kickoff return yards 13 61
Punts 5 6
Punting average 32.8 30.5
Punt return yards 3 8
Punts blocked by 0 0
Fumbles 0 2
Fumbles lost 0 1
Penalties 9 3
Yards penalized 96 49
Touchdowns rushing 0 0
Touchdowns passing 1 0
Miscellaneous touchdowns 0 0
Number of plays 57 46
Time of possession 22:49 25:11
Attendance 14,862

MASSILLON 0 3 7 0 0
PERRY 0 0 0 0 0

Mike Scott