Tigers pull switch in beating St. Joe
St. Joseph’s husky lumberjacks were wide as they were tall, but a question dogged the Cleveland boys, which Tiger has the ball?
By STEVE DOERSCHUK
Independent Sports Editor
MASSILLON – Enter, please, a new cliche in The World Book of Wonderful Sports Quotations.
He who lives by the game film dies by the game film.
The Massillon Tigers who were studied all week by the Cleveland St. Joseph Vikings weren’t the same Tigers who ambushed them 28‑14 Friday night before a season‑high crowd of 11,482 in Paul Brown Tiger Stadium.
“The new stuff they did hurt us,” said St. Joseph linebacker Ralph Godic. “There were a lot of tricky things they did which we didn’t see on the films.”
Oh, how the films can lie.
“Their backs were a lot quicker in person than they appeared on film,” noted St. Joseph head coach Bill Gutbrod. “My, they have the backs.”
It was a marvelous Massillon defensive effort, really, that was at the heart of the victory that sent St. Joseph to its second defeat versus five victories.
But it was an exotic offense that set P.B.’s Big House a buzzing as the Tigers improved to 5‑2 and got back in the playoff hunt.
The two most prominent scenes not played on Gutbrod’s game films were Cornell Jackson running the football and Wes Siegenthaler playing quarterback.
Jackson, a surprise starter who had missed five games with a knee injury, brought 6 feet, 3 inches and 205 pounds of fast‑lane excitement to the Tiger offense. He ended the night with 10 carries for 51 yards and a touchdown.
The numbers weren’t overwhelming, but as Tiger head coach John Marrow noted, “Cornell Jackson is a force.”
“I can’t describe how great it felt to play again,” Jackson said, “I was as excited as I was when I was a sophomore.”
Scene No. 2 was a delicious variation of the old switcheroo.
On the eighth play of the game, after Paul Fabianich had taken all seven snaps at quarterback, with Siegenthaler playing split end, Fabianich came out of the huddle and lined up at wide out, with Siegenthaler lining up over center.
Siegenthaler kept the ball and got buried for a two‑yard loss, but the St. Joseph defense started wandering.
The Tigers pulled the switcheroo more times, with Siegenthaler running the QB keeper on seven occasions for 64 yards.
Sometimes the game films don’ lie.
“In the films, we saw that a lot of yardage was gained against St. Joseph on the option,” said Fabianich. “Wes, of course, is a very good runner. When we pulled the switch, I heard their coaches saying a couple of times, ‘Watch for the double pass.’ But the situation was designed for Wes to run the ball. I think we crossed them up.”
Sometimes the game films lie.
Sophomore Jerome Myricks, who is listed incorrectly in the program as a junior, doesn’t show up as a ball carrier in any of the Tiger game records. But the speedy Myricks hit St. Joseph for a 15‑yard gain on the Tigers’ third‑play of the game and finished with five carries.
Junior tailback Michael Harris, a star of the game films and the Tigers’ leading rusher coming in, surprisingly didn’t play ‑ he was slightly injured but was available if needed.
In another twist, junior Jerry Gruno saw his first extensive action on defense, playing most of the game at left tackle.
In short, Game No. 7 was full of surprises.
About the only thing it lacked was high suspense.
The Tigers grabbed an early lead, got a late challenge from the Vikings, then staged a clutch drive on which Mike Norris scored his third touchdown of the night.
After a scoreless first quarter, the Tigers stalled early in the second period and sent in Ken Hawkins to punt.
Hawkins got off a beautiful boomer that backed up St. Joseph deep man Andre Smith to the 15. Smith’s back peddling left him off balance and caused him to drop the ball, which squirted to the nine, where the Tigers’ Todd Perdue pounced on it.
0n second and goal from the 4, Jackson swept right and high stepped into the end zone. Norris’ PAT kick was flat but went through and the Tigers led 7‑0 with 8:34 left in the half.
St. Joseph drove 57 yards to the Tiger 30 after taking the ensuing kickoff, but on fourth and one Lance Hostetler’s tackle stopped Godic, who plays fullback in addition to linebacker, and the Tigers took over at the 29.
After an eight‑yard loss, Siegenthaler and Fabianich pulled one of their switches, with Siegenthaler keeping for a 25‑yard gain to the Viking 41.
Two plays later, it was back to the exotic, as Fabianich pitched to Norris, who pitched to Siegenthaler, who gunned the ball to a wide-open Bart Letcavits. Letcavits caught the ball and crashed to earth at the 1 for a 38‑yard gain.
Norris then hit the middle three times, going over the left side for score on third and goal from the 1.
The PAT kick failed at the 1:28 mark, and the Tigers settled for a 13-0 halftime lead.
The Tigers took the second‑half kickoff but stalled at midfield.
Then the Massillon defense, which yielded just 107 yards in the first half, buried the Vikings deep in their own territory, forcing a fourth‑and‑12 punt train the nine.
Siegenthaler fielded the punt near midfield and danced his way to another of his spectacular returns, getting the bull to the 15. But for the third time this season, a long Siegenthaler return was negated by a clipping call, which, for the record, “de‑finitely wasn’t clipping,” according to Siegenthaler.
The Tigers started from their own 41 and scored anyway, using Norris’ power running and a 13‑yard burst by Jackson to get the ball to the 4 on first and goal. Norris went over the right side and scored easily from there, and fullback Derick Newman tacked on a two‑point conversion run to make the score 21‑0 with 1:11 left in the third quarter.
Than the Vikings made it interesting, starting on their own 28 after the kickoff and rampaging 72 yards in just five plays, with split end Dale Pratt breaking wide open along the right sideline and hauling in a 30‑yard TD toss from quarterback Bob Duffy. Smith’s two‑point run made it 21‑8 with one second left in the third quarter.
Siegenthaler streaked 48 yards with the kickoff, but the Tigers ran out of downs on the Vikings 16. St. Joseph drove to midfield but had to punt, but the Tigers stalled and had to punt from deep in their own territory.
Another good boot by Hawkins forced the Vikings to start on their own 46. From there, they marched 54 yards in seven plays, with Smith racing in from 11 yards out. The PAT kick failed, but St. Joseph now had a chance, trailing 21‑14 with 2:55 left in the game.
The key to the game became St. Joseph’s ability to recover an onside kick. The squibber traveled 11 yards to Massillon’s Bob Foster, who smothered the ball at the Tiger 49.
The Tigers’ offensive line and Newman took over from there. On first down, Newman exploded over the right side for 33 yards to the 18. Six plays later, Norris swept left to score from three yards out. Norris’ kick made it 28‑14 with 30 seconds left.
In the end, the game looked even on paper, with the Tigers holding a 303‑301 edge in total yards. But the Tiger defense played extremely well while the Tigers was all but putting the game out of reach during the first three quarters.
“St. Joseph was as big an offensive team as we’ve seen, but we have great defensive quickness and tonight we played as a team,” said Perdue, a junior linebacker. “If we’d played this well last week, we could have beaten Austintown Fitch.”
“We just had to watch them up the middle,” added Tiger tackle Duane Crenshaw. “We reduced our mistakes and played good team ball tonight.”
When the defense began to give ground in the second half, Newman counterpunched an offense. The 206‑pound senior gained just three yards in three first‑half carries but surged for 69 yards in nine second‑half lugs.
St. Joseph’s wishbone backfield spread the carries among Al Forney (seven for 73), Godic (12 for 73) and Smith (10 for 57). Norris gave the Tigers 53 yards in 15 trips.
Duffy completed 10 of 24 passes for 115 yards. Fabianich connected on just one of eight tosses for four yards, but Maronto created him with doing “a good job of running the offense.”
St. Joe’s defense just didn’t
Have Siegenthaler’s number
By STEVE DOERSCHUK
Independent Sports Editor
MASSILLON ‑ Wes Siegenthaler is a split end, wingback, quarterback, kickoff returner, punt returner and cornerback.
Maybe it was only fitting that a guy who wears so many hats wore more than one number Friday night in the Massillon Tigers’ 28‑14 high school football victory over Cleveland St. Joseph.
Siegenthaler wore No. 87 in warm-ups and No. 20 during Friday’s first half. At the start of the second half, No. 1 was on his back.
Actually, it wasn’t fitting. No. 20, which used to belong to Robert Cooley – he transferred to Tuslaw ‑ is one size smaller than Siegenthaler’s regular jersey No. 1.
“He forgot his jersey, that’s all,” said Tiger head coach John Maronto.
But that’s not all there was to it in the mind of Bill Gutbrod, the St. Joseph head coach. The start of the second half was delayed several minutes while Siegenthaler’s jersey change was debated.
Ohio high school rules prohibit such a jersey switch, unless there are extenuating circumstances.
The second half began only after Siegenthaler’s ripped No. 20 was presented to Gutbrod on the St. Joseph sideline.
“The jersey had a little tear in it – I think they tore it. It was about that big,” said Gutbrod, holding his thumb and index finger two inches apart.
Gutbrod, who at age 60 and with 36 years under his belt at St. Joseph is one of the nation’s veteran high school coaches, wasn’t happy about the incident but cut the jersey talk short.
“It had nothing to do with the game,” he said. “They did a good job. Give them credit.”