WHS-Warren rivalry may be over
Coach Owens enraged at referees as Tigers fall 25-22
By STEVE DOERSCHUK
Independent Sports Editor
WARREN: Today is Sweetest Day for lovers.
Friday was Bitterest Day for Tigers.
The Tigers’ high school football series with Warren Harding has lived long and prospered. It may have died Friday night at Mollenkopf Stadium, when the Black Panthers were awarded a controversial touchdown with 30 seconds left that gave them a 25‑22 victory.
If it is dead, the coffin will be draped with a giant yellow flag.
Massillon head coach Lee Owens believed the Tigers were, to put it bluntly, homered.
“It’s not fair to our kids to have happen what happened here tonight,” said Owens, referring to the officiating. “As long as I’m the head coach in Massillon, we’ll never schedule them again.”
Owens was enraged by the volume of penalties against his team ‑ 12 for 149 yards ‑ and the timing.
Two yellow hankies bothered him the most.
One was a 15‑yard personal foul against fullback Jason Stafford, who leaped out of a pile thinking he had scored, but was informed he had been stopped short of the goal line.
Stafford, who had rushed for 120 yards to that point in the fourth quarter, was ejected from the game with the Tigers trailing 19‑14 and facing second and goal from the 16 ‑ after the penalty ‑ with 4:55 left in the game.
After a five‑yard encroachment penalty against Warren, quarterback Lee Hurst rolled right and threw left to tight end Jeff Harig, who caught the ball in the end zone.
Surprise, no flags. Touchdown.
Defensive tackle Bob Dunwiddie, suddenly a running back in a Tiger surprise called the “Bull Offense,” carried for the two‑point conversion and Massillon led 22‑19 with 4:29 left.
Several Clayton Waite completions, a pass interference panelty and a personal foul infraction later, Warren had the ball a few inches short of the goal stripe on fourth down.
Warren head coach Frank Thomas, a former Massillon assistant, called for a quarterback sneak during a timeout. Waite drove over center into a huge Massillon, pile and bedlam ensured while the 6,000 fans waited for the official call. After a five‑second delay, the referee’s hands went up. Touchdown.
Interestingly, Massillon lineman T.R. Rivera had the ball when the touchdown was signaled.
“Half my body was over the goal line,” Waite said. “I’m sure it was a touchdown.
The Massillon camp disagreed.
“I talked to our players and 11 guys told me it wasn’t a touchdown,” Owens said. “Waite hit the pile and was stopped. When he realized he was stopped he reached ahead and while he did that the ball came loose. T.R. recovered the fumble.”
The Tigers have not been a heavily penalized team this year. They were averaging 48 penalty yards against them per game heading into Friday.
Did they suddenly turn into a team of Jack Tatums‑gone-berserk? Or was there another explanation? Namely, that Warren’s reputation as a homer palace has been built on actual hose jobs?
Thomas, whose team was penalized eight times for 71 yards, rejected the “homer” theory.
“I have to believe the officials are ‑ there because they like athletes and they like kids,” Thomas said. “Whether you’re talking about Warren, Steubenville or Massillon, I don’t believe high school officials purposely try to take a game away from a team. I feel strongly about that.”
Informed of Thomas’ comment, Owens said, “I disagree.
“I’ve never complained to a newspaper about the officiating,” he said. “But I have to say something tonight. I’ve never seen anything like this as long as I’ve been coaching. If beating Massillon is so important that circumstances like this are created, I can’t accept that.
There is no question beating Massillon was important to the Black Panthers.
“I didn’t care if we went 1‑9 this season as long as we beat Massillon,” said Waite, a 6‑foot‑3 senior who completed 19 of 36 passes for 195 yards, rushed seven times for 28 yards, and intercepted three passes, two coming one play after clipping penalties against Massillon.
“We never beat Massillon, and that goes all the way back through my junior high days. This isn’t just at the top. It’s at the tippy top.”
Gerald Simpson, a 6‑foot‑4 senior who missed most of the season with a broken arm, was a big factor Friday, catching seven passes for 92 yards and running 33 yards for a touchdown.
He credited the victory, however, to Waite.
“In my opinion, Clayton is the best quarterback in the country,” Simpson said of Waite, who says he will play college football at Michigan or South Carolina.
The victory pushed Harding’s record to 5‑2 and reduced Massillon’s lead in the all‑time series to 44‑17‑3. The Panthers, however, owns a 7‑6-2 lead in games played at Mollenkopf since 1960.
Owens, whose team dropped to 4-3 with its third straight loss, was not sure if there is a contract to play Warren next year in Massillon, but he talked about the possibility of voiding it if there is.
Warren and Massillon first faced each other in 1921.
The first time the Tigers touched the ball Friday, they moved to midfield but were stalled when Hurst was sacked for a three‑yard loss, followed by a five‑yard encroachment penalty and a 15‑yard clipping foul.
Three punts later Massillon had the ball at its own 45 but quickly lost it right there on a fumble. Harding overcame a 10‑yard holding penalty against a Panther linemen that set up a second and 20. Waite scrambled 16 yards and, on third down, passed for 17 yards to Simpson. Moments later, Simpson made a leaping catch in the end zone on a 10 yard scoring play. The P.A.T. kick gave the Panthers a 7‑0 lead with 1:29 left in the first quarter.
Massillon struck back quickly. Lamont Dixon’s 49‑yard kickoff return put the ball at the Warren 41. Two plays later the Tigers were hit with another clipping penalty but that was negated two plays later still by a personal foul against Harding. On first down from the 17, Hurst took off around left end on a bootleg run and maneuvered his way through traffic for a touchdown as the first quarter expired. The point‑after kick failed and the Harding kept the lead,,7‑6.
Warren took over at its 27 after the kickoff and, on second‑and‑10, moved to the 42 on a pass interference call. Two Waite completions advanced the ball to the 33, where on third and two Simpson swept right and seemed to be caught in the backfield. He bounced off the pack, however, and sprinted left, breaking into the clear and scoring. The kick failed, and Warren led 13‑6 with 8:56 left in the second quarter.
Massillon drove 57 yards to the Warren 15 before running out of downs on its next possession but soon got the ball back on an 11‑yard punt that rolled dead on the Harding 31. A 19‑yard sideline pass to Jeff Harig put the ball at the 12, and three runs by Stafford setup fourth-and‑two at the 4.
That’s when the Tigers sent in their “bull offense,” featuring Dunwiddie (6‑3, 225) and his fellow defensive lineman Trace Liggett (6‑3, 268) in the offensive backfield.
Liggett and Dunwiddie had run through the pre‑game hoop together and with more than the usual gusto, so one might have guessed they were up to something.
Their presence made an impact the first time the “bull offense” hit the field, with Liggett throwing a block that helped spring Dunwiddie for a three‑yard touchdown run.
Hurst passed to Stafford for a two‑point conversion and the Tigers led 13‑12 with 1: 39 left in the half.
The Panthers, however, struck quickly and scored an important touchdown with seven seconds left in the half. A 70‑yard drive featured a 22‑yard scramble by Waite, two completions for 25 yards, and a third‑down run of five yards for the touchdown. The conversion run attempt failed and Warren settled for a 19‑14 halftime lead.
The Tigers spent most of the second half in scoring range. Tom Mattox’s interception on the second play of the third quarter gave Massillon possession at the Warren 33, but on second and eight from the 12, another clipping penalty put the Tigers in a hole. Waite’s intercepted Hurst on the next play.
Waite put Warren on the move again but Massillon linebacker David Ledwell intercepted him at the Massillon 41.
This time, Warren’s defense stopped the Tigers, who ran out of downs at the Panthers 31. Warren eventually punted and Massillon threatened again when Hurst, fooling the Panthers on third‑and‑one, found Harig all alone deep. The play might have gone for more than 39 yards but Hurst had to throw with a Harding defender tugging at his leg and Harig had to come back for the ball. Stafford ran five yards to the 20, then an apparent Tiger touchdown run on the next play was called back by still another clipping penalty. Again, Waite intercepted Hurst on the next play, with 10:34 left in the game.
Again, the Tigers forced a punt, getting the ball at midfield. They drove to the 12, where it was fourth and five, and they lined up to go for it. This time, it was Massillon helped by a penalty, as Warren lined up offsides, giving the Tigers a first‑and‑goal at the 7.
The “bull offense” re‑appeared, but this time Dunwiddie lined up at fullback, Liggett was beside him at wingback, and Stafford was the tailback. Stafford followed the big bulls for six yards to the 1, and followed them again to what he thought was a touchdown, but at that point found out his carry was not ruled a score, and was subsequently ejected for his reaction.
The ball was marched 15 yards backward, and then five yards ahead when Warren encroached on the next play. Hurst then hit Harig with the go‑ahead TD, and Dunwiddie, again lining up in the “bull,” carried for the two‑point conversion.
Massillon led 22‑19 with 4:29 left.
Warren had trouble with the kickoff and set up on its own 7. Waite passed the Panthers to the 20 but faced second and 10. He passed again, long down the right sideline. the ball was nearly intercepted by safety Joe Pierce but pass interference was ruled and Warren had another first down. Waite clicked for big passes of 27 and 17 yards to Keith Jordan, with the latter play having a half‑the‑distance penalty tacked on when Chad Buckland, was ruled for leading a tackle with his helmet ‑ another call that upset Owens greatly.
“That play never gets called … and to call it there,” Owens said.
Eventually, it was fourth and inches, and Waite was ruled in for the touchdown.
The Tigers now must try to rally for a battle next Saturday at Cleveland St. Joseph, which fell to 5‑2 Friday by losing to Cleveland St. Ignatius.
First downs rushing 7 6
First downs passing 6 11
First downs by penalty 3 3
Totals first downs 16 20
Yards gained rushing 192 136
Yards lost rushing 12 15
Net yards rushing 180 121
Net yards passing 158 195
Total yards gained 338 316
Passes attempted 26 36
Passes completed 13 19
Passes int. by 2 3
Times kicked off 4 5
Kickoff average 47.0 40.4
Kickoff return yards 77 49
Punts 2 5
Punting average 22.0 25.6
Punt return yards -2 0
Fumbles 2 0
Fumbles lost 1 0
Penalties 12 8
Yards penalized 149 71
Number of plays 60 63
Time of possession 21.51 26.09