The smallest and quietest home crowd of the Tigers’ season ‑ 7,425 ‑ watched their boys silence Cleveland St. Joseph 22‑17 Friday night.
It didn’t titillate those in the elevated chairs. But it was a beauty at (black) eye level.
“Without a doubt, it was the hardest‑hitting game of the year,” said Ken Hawkins, a Massillon senior who had a big hand (and foot) in the victory.
Hawkins looked weary. He said he felt like he looked.
“GlenOak can say they beat us. Fitch can say they beat us. But neither of them can say they hit us like St. Joe,” he said.
The crowd will be bigger and noisier next time. Canton McKinley is due to show up at 2 p.m. next Saturday at Paul Brown Tiger Stadium.
“McKinley is next and all, but it’ll take a few days to get over this one,” said Hawkins.
McKinley has to worry about a Hawkins tonight. The Bulldogs face Austintown‑Fitch at 7:45 p.m. in Fawcett Stadium. Fitch’s tailback, Leo Hawkins, scored the two touchdowns that did in the Tigers 14‑10 in a mudbath four games ago.
A star the Bulldogs won’t have to worry about is Jerrod Vance, the Tigers’ standout senior linebacker, who suffered a knee injury in the fourth quarter Friday and is out for the season.
That took some of the joy out of the victory. But it was still a win as big as the season is long.
“We played with composure and showed the kind of team we are,” said Tiger head coach John Maronto. “It was a real important game, because it came right before the biggest one, which now is staring us right in the face.”
The win kept the Tigers in the playoff race with a 7‑2 record and packed drama in the injunction decision due the day before the Massillon‑McKinley game from Judge Sheila Farmer. St. Joseph is 4‑3.
The verdict on Vance is a tough one. The 6‑foot‑2, 232‑pound senior, rated as one of the state’s top college prospects, was to be examined today to determine whether his knee injury will require surgery.
Massillon trainer Pat Trainor said it already is known Vance will not play in the McKinley game. His injury occurred, as many knee injuries do, when his foot was planted and a player collided with him. It came on the first play of the fourth quarter. The biggest drama Friday came with hundreds of folks in the parking lot thinking the game was in the bag.
Massillon led 22‑10 as the clock wound toward the 1: 00 mark of the fourth quarter. On fourth down from the Tiger 29, punt snapper Todd Perdue hiked the ball over Hawkins’ head. The ball squirted toward the goal line. St. Joseph senior Bob Shaffner beat Hawkins to the ball and smothered it for a touchdown.
Perdue to Hawkins had been a reliable snap combo all season. And long before that.
“We’ve been together since ninth grade,” Hawkins said. “That’s the first time something like that happened.”
Tom Beckwith’s PAT kick made it 22‑17 with 58 seconds left.
Obviously, the onside kick was next. And it was scary. Beckwith’s squibber took a crazy bounce over the Tigers’ front wall and squirted toward the St. Joseph bench, with everyone in hot pursuit. St. Joseph’s Sherman Dean came the closest to getting the ball, but he knocked it out of bounds near the Massillon 40.
Then … confusion.
St. Joseph coach Bill Gutbrod thought his team would get another crack at the onside kick.
“I thought the rule was changed to make it an automatic penalty when the ball went out of bounds,” he said.
But referee Ron Giacomo whipped out his rule book and showed Gutbrod that there had been no such rule change. The receiving team gets the option to take the ball or make the penalized team kick over. So the Tigers took over where the ball went out of bounds. Quarterback John Miller fell on the ball three times, and the game was over.
“They’re an awful good club,” Gutbrod said of the Tigers, then mentioning the other two clubs to which his team has lost. “Lakewood St. Edward… Cardinal Mooney. There couldn’t be more than a 6‑point difference between Massillon and those two clubs.”
The stats sheet showed little difference between the Tigers and the Vikings. Both teams had 13 first downs. The Tigers trailed 204‑196 in total yardage.
Both teams completed four passes. The leading rusher for the Tigers ‑ bulldozer Mike Norris gained 88 yards in 18 carries. The top rusher for the Vikings ‑ waterbug Desmond Howard ‑ picked up 87 yards in 22 carries.
“Howard’s longest run was 10 yardsm abd that was a big factor,” Maronto said. “This is the only game I know of where he hasn’t broken a long one. He reminds me a lot of McKinley’s runner, Jeff Richardson.”
Both coaches spent much of the night trying not to remind one another of what they had seen on the game films.
St. Joseph lives by the wishbone attack, but the Vikings often lined up in the “bone” and broke out of it before the center snap.
And the Tigers, who typically pass times a game, crossed up the Vikings by throwing on the game’s first play from scrimmage.
The play ‑ a quick pass from quarterback John Miller to split end Jerome Myricks ‑ netted 11 yards just seconds after Myricks streaked 41 yards with the opening kickoff. That set the tone for a scoring drive of nine plays and 54 yards, capped by Miller’s 11‑yard rollout run through a huge hole on the right side.
The drive was kept alive when Maronto elected to go for it on fourth‑and‑12 from the 34. After a timeout, Miller drilled a 14‑yard completion to Myricks for a first down.
Massillon led 7‑0 following Lee Hurst’s PAT kick.
The Tiger defense stuffed St. Joseph on its first possession, but Myricks mishandled the ensuing punt and the Vikings’ Dale Kitchen recovered his fumble at the Massillon 32. That led to Beckwith’s 26‑yard field goal, which made it 7‑3 at the 1:17 mark of the first quarter.
Hawkins’ foot rose to the fore midway through the second quarter. On fourth‑and‑six from the St. Joseph 37, Hawkins lofted a towering punt that hit on the 17 and bounded to the 1 where it was downed.
On the next play, St. Joseph quarterback Dale Pratt mishandled the snap and dove on the ball in the end zone for a safety.
In addition to falling behind 9‑3 With 6:36 left in the first half, St. Joseph had to give the ball back to the Tigers on a free kick. The Vikings elected to punt, and got off a boot fielded by Matt Swank, who took off toward the right sideline. However, the whistle had blown – St. Joseph had lined up offsides.
The Vikings made the mistake of punting to Swank again. This time, he made exactly the same cut toward the right sideline, broke into the clear, and wasn’t caught until he had brought the ball 46 yards to the 10.
On third-and-five, Miller lofted a pass that would have split the uprights had the 6‑foot‑8 Hawkins not leaped to pick it out of the air in the back of the end zone for a Tiger touchdown.
The Tigers went for two, but fullback Vern Riley’s run was stopped short. Massillon settled for a 15‑3 lead at the 4:58 mark of the second quarter, and that stood up as the halftime score.
“Coach Maronto told us at halftime that it wasn’t time to celebrate, that they probably would come back and hit us with their best shot of the game,” Norris said. “He was right.”
Little Howard raced 42 yards with the second‑half kickoff, setting up a 53‑yard scoring drive. Key plays were an 11‑yard scramble by Pratt on fourth‑and‑six and a 17‑yard pass from Pratt to halfback Jerry Carlock to the 3. One play later, Howard scooted into the end zone. Beckwith’s PAT boot made it 15‑10 with 7:33 left in the third quarter.
The ”composure” of which Maronto spoke then surfaced for the Tigers.
Massillon got back the momentum with an impressive 62‑yard scoring drive after the ensuing kickoff.
The march was built on the blocking of the offensive line ‑ Lance Hostetler, Tony Lambert, John Woodlock, John Schilling, Todd Feemster, Sean Murphy and Hawkins ‑ and the powerful runs of Norris.
The 5‑10, 212‑pound fullback picked up 40 yards in five carries. Miller finished the job with a 10‑yard rollout run to the 1, followed by his own sneak for a touchdown. Hurst’s kick made it 22‑10 with 3:12 left in the third quarter.
The rest of the game was uneventful until the final minute, when St. Joseph scored on the snap over Hawkins’ head.
Norris said St. Joseph gave the Tigers a little pep talk as the teams shook hands after the game.
“They told us to get McKinley for them,” he said.
As if the Tigers needed to be reminded.
ST. JOSEPH 17
First downs rushing 8 9
First downs passing 4 2
First downs by penalty 1 2
Totals first downs 13 13
Yards gained rushing 162 179
Yards lost rushing 7 19
Net yards rushing 155 160
Net yards passing 41 44
Total yards gained 196 204
Passes attempted 6 10
Passes completed 4 4
Passes int. by 0 0
Times kicked off 4 4
Kickoff average 50.3 40.8
Kickoff return yards 134 84
Punts 3 4
Punting average 46.3 34.5
Punt return yards 19 5
Fumbles 2 0
Fumbles lost 2 0
Penalties 5 7
Yards penalized 55 40
Number of plays 44 56
Time of possession 22:17 25:43
St. JOSEPH 3 0 7 7 17
MASSILLON 7 8 7 0 22
MAS ‑ Miller 11 run (Hurst kick) ST. JOE ‑ Beckwith 27 FG
MAS ‑ Safety, St. Joseph quarterback Pratt falls on ball in end zone
MAS ‑ Miller 5 run (run failed)
ST. JOE ‑ Howard 3 run (Beckwith kick)
MAS ‑ Miller 1 run (Hurst kick)
MAS ‑ Shaffner recovers fumble in end zone (Beckwith kick)