Massillon Tigers Black Letter Logo

Tiger kamikazes help sink Perry

Independent Sports Editor

MASSILLON ‑ Sometimes, the kamikazes live to fight other wars.

Such is the case with the unknown soldiers who strap on their goggles and plummet ahead like so many cruise missiles. The guys who sacrifice their bodies more than any other unit had plenty to do with the Massillon Tigers’ 13‑3 victory over the Perry Panthers before 15,638 fans in Paul Brown Tiger Stadium Friday night.

“The guys on the special teams can win a game or lose a game,” noted Tiger kamikaze member Bob Foster. Friday, he helped win one.

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In the first quarter, the Tigers were stopped on their first series and had to punt. Panther return man Todd Sabin lost the ball as he was hit by Rod Patt, Howard Evans dove on the ball, and the Tigers got a field goal.

In the third quarter, with the score tied 3‑3, the Panthers again stalled the Massillon offense, forcing a punt. Sabin again lost the ball and Foster flew in for the recovery. The Tigers drove 33 yards for the touchdown that shaped the rest of the game.

“I was running down field and saw the ball pop out and I dove for it,” Foster said. “I was just doing what I’m supposed to be doing.”

He’ll try to do it again next Saturday in Canton, where the Tigers will take on McKinley for the 91st time.

As if the Tigers needed something to fuel their jets to get psyched for McKinley, they’ll be playing with the knowledge a win or a loss will be the difference between making the playoffs and going back to the weight room.

Beating the Panthers should vault the Tigers into the top four in Region 2 of Division 1. Three teams ahead of them ‑ Jackson, Brunswick and of course, Perry ‑ lost Friday night.

The loss left the Panthers with a 6‑3 record and kayoed their playoff chances. Perry closes the season against Louisville, whose 4 5 record will not provide enough computer points to offer the Panthers any hopes for a mathematical miracle.

However, if the Panthers beat Louisville, they will clinch at least a share of the Federal League championship ‑ more than just a consolation prize.

Neither Massillon nor Perry was thinking about next week between 8 and 10 Friday night.

Both wanted desperately to win the last game in the Panther‑Tiger series for who knows how long.

“We did what we wanted to do,” said Tiger head coach John Maronto. “We closed out the chapter with things 100 percent in Massillon’s favor.”

The Tigers lead the series 8‑0, with the last two games’ 10‑point margins representing the closest contests.

“Our kids fought real hard,” said Perry pilot Keith Wakefield. “I thought these guys fought harder than any group I’ve brought over.

“When you play four games like our last four (North Canton, GlenOak, Midpark, Massillon) … maybe that caught up with us. But hey, we can share the Federal League title.”

Aside from the big plays by the special teams, the Tigers won with defense. They held Perry’s superb wing‑T running attack to a net of 78 yards. Their defense apparently is ready to deal with McKinley.

“Our defense played outstanding football as a team and I was especially proud of the front seven’s play,” Maronto said.

Perry’s defense played well, too – Massillon led in the total yardage war by a 206‑131 margin.

But it was the Tigers’ best defensive game of the autumn.

“It was the last home game for the seniors,” said defensive tackle Duane Crenshaw, who returned in a big way after sitting out a week with a leg injury. “We wanted to go out like this. Perry’s players were talking about this game since the season started. We wanted to prove we were the better team.”

Four plays into the game, the miscue that plagued Perry nearly nagged the Tigers. Bart Letcavits dropped a Perry punt but picked it up on the bounce, and the Tigers had the ball on their 33.

But the Panthers stopped the Tigers on three plays, setting up the punt that resulted in Evans’ fumble recovery.

The turnover gave the Tigers the ball on the Perry 31. Six running plays resulted in a fourth and three from the 10. After a timeout, Mike Norris boomed a 27‑yard field goal and Massillon led 3‑0 with 4:22 left in the first quarter.

The Panthers enjoyed their finest moments after Tom Ross, performing in front of his uncle Mark Ross, a former Massillon mayor, returned the kickoff 29 yards to the Perry 41.

Perry elected to run and run some more, and it worked, with halfback Archie Herring, fullback Rick Phillips and quarterback Tracy Seery plowing to the Tiger 15 on second and five.

The drive stalled when a Seery‑to‑Herring pass was stopped at the 15 on fourth down, three yards short.

The Tigers took over, but not for long. On third and six from the 19, Sabin made up for his miscue, stepping in front of Chris Aegerter and intercepting a Paul Fabianich pass at the 38 and streaking down the left sideline to the 10.

A motion penalty nullified a second down Panther run to the 1‑yard line, and on fourth and goal from the 3, Joel Kessel was summoned to try a 20-yard field goal, which he drilled over the right part of the crossbar.

With 6:23 left in the first half, the score was tied at 3.

Late in the half, a Kessel punt rolled dead at the 1 with 1:11 left in the half, and the Panthers had a chance to brew up some trouble.

But Cornell Jackson blasted 11 yards on first down, and on the next play Fabianich uncorked a bomb that was hauled in by Wes Siegenhalter on the right sideline. Siegenthaler tumbled to the ground and was ruled down in bounds at the Perry 43, which kept the clock running at the end of the 45‑yard gain.

Only nine seconds remained in the half by the time the Tigers ran another play and called a timeout.

Fabianich then threw a 19‑yard strike to Letcavits over the middle, and another timeout was called with two seconds left. A 42‑yard field goal attempt by Norris was five yards short of sneaking over the crossbar, falling short and right.

The Panthers had a chance to seize momentum at the start of the second half when they kicked off and held the Tigers to three yards in three plays.

But the ensuing Punt resulted in Foster’s fumble recovery, giving the Tigers possession on the Perry 33.

Now it as Massillon’s turn to unleash a threesome of rushers. Michael Harris, Derick Newman and Jackson bulled the ball to the 3, where it was fourth and goal.

Norris came onto the field, but not dressed in a kicking shoe. A handoff went to Harris, who cut over the left side and ran through a big hole opened partially by a Norris block for a touchdown.

Norris’ PAT made it 10‑3 with 1:23 left in the third quarter.

An unsportsmanlike conduct penalty helped the Panthers drive with their ensuing possession near midfield, where they arrived at fourth and four.

The Panthers gambled.

With Kessel in punting formation, the snap was whipped short to Herring, who was stopped by C.J. Harris and Mark Harder two yards short of a first down.

The Tigers took over at their own 49, moved to the 20 with the help of a late hit call, but faced a fourth and three.

Norris has had some trouble finding a kicking groove, but Maronto told him to put on his kicking shoe.

“Mike Norris kept his belief in the team and himself, and we kept our faith in him,” ‘Maronto said.

Norris responded with a picturesque boot that rose from the left hash mark and traveled high and far over the crossbar to give the Tigers a 13‑3 bulge with 8:39 left in the game.

“The field goal was a big play,” Wakefield said.

When Ross slipped on the 11 while fielding the ensuing kickoff, and the Tiger defense stopped the Panthers right there, Perry had to punt.

Massillon controlled the rest of the game, running out of downs at the 3 with just 36 seconds left.

The game ended with some shouting and shoving in an incident growing out of the final play (see related information in today’s sports column).

The outburst ended quickly, and the players from both sides formed a long line and shook hands.

The game was billed as a game, which would be won by the team that played the best defense, and it turned out that way. Other than their scoring drive, the Panthers couldn’t get anything going.

The Tigers moved with only slightly more regularity.

The Tigers led 158‑89 in rushing yardage but gained only 2.6 yards per run.

Fabianich connected on four of eight passes for 80 yards. Seery connected on five of 12 throws far 53 yards.

Sabin and Herring combined to catch four passes for 46 yards.

Jackson was the game’s rushing leader with 48 yards in 16 carries, which isn’t overwhelming, except many of his carries were important in keeping drives alive, and in the Tigers’ lead in time of possession, 28:51 to 19:09.

Phillips led the Panthers with nine carries for 36 yards. Herring was held to 27 yards in 10 carries, leaving him 125 yards short of a 1,000‑yard season.

First downs rushing 8 4
First downs passing 2 2
First downs by penalty 2 1
Total first downs 12 7
Yards gained rushing 158 89
Yards lost rushing 32 11
Net yards rushing 126 78
Net yards passing 80 53
Total yards gained 206 131
Passes attempted 8 12
Passes completed 4 5
Passes int. by 0 1
Times kicked off 4 2
Kickoff average 49.0 40.0
Kick off return yards 19 63
Punts 3 4
Punting average 39.0 31.8
Punt return yards 2 11
Punts blocked by 0 0
Fumbles 2 3
Fumble lost 0 2
Penalties 5 4
Yards penalized 46 34
Touchdowns rushing 2 0
Touchdowns passing 0 0
Number of plays 60 40
Time of possession 28:51 19:09
Attendance 15,638

PERRY 0 3 0 0 3
MASSILLON 3 0 7 3 13

M ‑ FG Harris 27
P ‑ FG Kessel 20
M ‑ Harris 3 run (Norris kick)
M ‑ FG Norris 37

Duane Crenshaw