Tigers are angry; Vikes are No. 1
Game‑turning safety might not have been safety, game films reveal
By STEVE DOERSCHUK
Independent Sports Editor
Does Saturday’s mud‑bath, 8‑0 victory over the Massillon Tigers mean Cleveland St. Joseph is the best high school football team in Ohio?
“Oh, yes … we are … by far,” St. Joseph linebacker Jerry Carlock said even before he had wiped a mask of mud from his face in a slippery locker room at Euclid’s Panther stadium.
A day later, back in Massillon,*, the feeling in the Tiger camp was that St. Joseph was not even the best team in the game. A great team, to be sure. But a dubious victor.
The outcome left St. Joseph with four straight shutouts, an 8‑0 record and a certain perch atop Ohio’s poll of Division I teams. The Vikings entered the week ranked No. 2 behind Cincinnati Princeton, which was upset by defending state champion Fairfield Friday. The Tigers, 6‑2, will be back home Friday to take on 6‑2 Middletown, who own a win over Fairfield this year.
In the film room at Washington High School Sunday night, coaches hurled paper wads at the screen in disgust over critical calls that influenced the scoring.
“I’m sure there will be a few extra people at the Booster Club meeting (tonight at 7:30 at the high school) who are curious about the game films,” one parent of a Massillon player said Sunday.
The players would normally see those films this afternoon. “We may not waste our time showing the players the films because of the total situation,” Massillon’s head coach, John Maronto said.
The game turned on a controversial safety with 4:27 left in the third period.
Tim Radigan, a 140‑pound St. Joseph senior who played the game of his life, put a 28‑yard punt in Downtown Coffin Comer. It skipped out of bounds inside the 1.
Erik White quarterback sneaked one yard, Jerome Myricks was stopped for no gain, Jason Stafford plowed ahead for two yards, and Mark Kester set up to punt from the back of the end zone.
Massillon has been playing football since 1894. It is hard to imagine field conditions ever having been worse than they were in Saturday’s rain. It was not surprising that the long snap to Kester was a bad snap that bounced in front of him.
Kester fielded the ball, straightened up and facing a stiff wind got off his best punt of the miserable night. However, an official ruled that his knee had been down in the end zone. St. Joseph was awarded a safety.
“The game films show what we thought at first had happened,” Maronto said. “Kester made a very heady play. In fact, he was picked by the coaches as our best special teams player in the game,
Kester, a senior who also plays defensive back and split end, said he thought he did everything he needed to do to avoid the safety.
CLEVELAND ST. JOSEPH 8
First downs rushing 2 5
First downs passing 1 0
First downs by penalty 0 2
Totals first downs 3 7
Yards gained rushing 84 146
Yards lost rushing 2 10
Net yards rushing 82 136
Net yards passing 45 0
Total yards gained 127 0
Passes attempted 11 2
Passes completed 2 0
Passes Int. by 0 1
Times kicked off 0 3
Kickoff average 00.0 42.0
Kickoff return yards 64 00
Punts 7 6
Punting average 21.7 30.5
Punt return yards 0 0
Fumbles 2 0
Fumbles lost 1 0
Penalties 3 5
Yards penalized 33 30
Number of Plays 37 47
Time of possession 20:00 28:00
St. JOSPEPH 0 0 2 6 8
MASSILLON 0 0 0 0 0
CSJ ‑ Safety, Massillon punter Kester’s knee ruled down In end zone
CSJ ‑ Howard 10 run (run failed)
Recalling the play, Kester said he went to his knee to knock down the errant snap, knowing he must not hold the ball with his knee on the ground. He then lifted his knee off the ground and picked up the ball, avoiding the rush and kicking it cleanly to the 35‑yard line.
“If he doesn’t have possession when his knee is on the ground, it shouldn’t be a safety,” Maronto said. “Mark did what he was supposed to do.”
The safety stood, and Massillon had to free kick the ball away to St. Joseph trailing 2‑0.
A good kickoff by Lee Hurst kept the Vikings from having great field position, as they had to set up on their own 38.
The Massillon defense, which played masterfully even though senior tackle and co‑captain James Bullock left the game early after reinjuring a sprained ankle, forced a punt after three plays.
Radigan, whose six punts for a 30.5 average were outstanding under the conditions, got off another good one, and the Tigers’ Steve Siegenthaler couldn’t hang on to it. St. Joseph coverage man Byron Hopkins pounced on the ball at the 15. Massillon stayed in the game, though, when Mark Freidly leveled star tailback Desmond Howard on fourth‑and‑one at the 6.
The Tigers moved to the 14 on third and two. Viking linebacker Scott Zele leveled Myricks a split second after the Tiger senior took a handoff and Massillon had to punt.
Most of the fourth period remained, however, after St. Joseph couldn’t budge on three plays, setting up another punt on fourth down from Massillon’s 48‑yard line.
Then … astonishment.
Radigan got off his punt but a flag flew.
Penalty against Massillon … 15 yards?
But what penalty.
“I was given two versions,” said Maronto, who spoke cautiously but clearly was disturbed by the development. “One was too many men on the field. The other was illegal equipment.”
An official exiting the field said the penalty was for too many men on the field. “The game films show we had 11,” Maronto said.
One observer reported that a Massillon player’s mouthpiece was dangling out of his mouth as the play unfolded. If, in fact, the call was illegal equipment based on the mouthpiece ‑ the call would have been technically correct. Based on the field conditions and the moment of the game, however, whistling the technicality would have been utterly flabbergasting.
The 15‑yard penalty moved the ball to the 33 with 8:05 left in the game. Howard ran 8 yards on first down, but the Vikings got a half‑the‑distance penalty after a facemask violation corroborated by the game films. Howard then ran 3 yards to the 10. On second down, he ran over the left side and into the end zone.
Many fans were shocked when St. Joseph head coach Bill Gutbrod, in his 38th year at the helm, elected not to put the game out of reach with a point‑after kick.
“I asked my man if he could give me the point and he was honest,” Gutbrod explained. “He said with the field the way it was, there was no way, he could get off the kick. So we went with a run. ”
The run failed, leaving the Tigers with 6:27 to try for a touchdown and tying two‑point conversion.
Massillon set up on its own 34 after the ensuing kickoff but had to punt after gaining just a yard on a pass completion.
Kester’s punt was fair caught by Howard at the St. Joseph 33. Massillon defense answered the challenge again, forcing a punt after three plays. Radigan got his last lick in, booting the ball to the Tiger 37 with 3:30 left.
There had been nothing to indicate the Tiger’ could wade through 68 yards of slop in a short period of time. But hopes soared when, on first down, White heaved a bomb over the middle into the arms of flanker Wrentie Martin. Martin was behind the defender but couldn’t get the traction needed to escape for a touchdown and was caught at the St. Joseph 18.
The hopes were dashed, though, when White threw four straight incomplete passes, the last of which far overshot Martin with 1:48 left. St. Joseph was able to run out the clock.
“I had guys open, and I wish I could have gotten them the ball,” White said. “Unfortunately, the ball slipped out of my hands a couple of times. Believe me, I wish I could have gotten the ball there. ”
On this night, the ball had a mind of its own. St. Joseph had several chances to take a lead in the first half.
Siegenthaler made a nifty return of the game opening kickoff, a squib kick, and Massillon set up on the 44.
A 42‑yard punt by Radigan, with a strong wind at his back, buried the Tigers at their own 13 with eight minutes left in the first quarter, one play after Bullock was carried off the field.
Punt exchanges enabled St. Joseph to get progressively closer to the goal line. First‑half Massillon possessions began on the 13‑, 5‑, 15‑ and 9‑yard lines.
St. Joseph possessions began in Massillon territory at the 38, 32 and 23.
The half ended in more controversy. A 23‑yard run by Myricks, who three times in the first half was one man away from breaking the same kind of touchdown run he popped in the mud at Austintown‑Fitch last year, put the ball near midfield.
On fourth and one from the Viking 47, a crazy looking play with men in motion was cut short when the Tigers were called for a delay of game. The Massillon camp contends a game official was holding the ball in a towel when it should have been spotted.
The penalty set up a punt, and the half ended with St. Joseph in possession around midfield.
The loss ended a six‑game Massillon winning streak but did not end the Tigers’ playoff hopes. If they beat Middletown and McKinley, they should amass enough points to finish in the top four of, Division I, Region 2. Massillon then would need a favorable ruling from the Ninth District Court of Appeals, which has been asked to overturn an OHSAA playoff ban against the Tigers.
St. Joseph has clinched a Division I playoff berth, setting up the outside possibility of a Tiger‑Viking rematch.
Statistics were predictable, based on the mud. St. Joseph held a 136‑127 edge in net offensive yards. Howard rushed 29 times for 90 yards. The Vikings ran only 18 plays on which the 5‑foot‑8 speedster did not have the ball.
Myricks also had the ball on more than half of his team’s 37 offensive plays. The 5‑foot‑11 tailback rushed 19 times for 73 yards and caught a pass for 1 yard.
The crowd fell short of the 10,000 figure some observers reported. It was in the range of about 8,000. The visitors’ side was a sea of orange; in fact, numerous Massillon fans sat in the home grandstand, and more than half of the throng may have been Tigertown rooters.
They went home disappointed after watching a strange game.
Said one fan dressed in orange, “I sure would like to see a rematch on a dry field.”
But in the St. Joseph camp, the feeling was different. “We’ve got to be one of the top two or three teams in Ohio, based on what we’ve done on the field,” Gutbrod said.
Added the linebacker Zele, “It feels great to be the No. I team in Ohio,”