Tiger Victory ‘heals a lot of wounds’
By STEVE DOERSCHUK
Independent Sports Editor
EUCLID ‑ Brother, did the Massillon Tigers need a win.
And, boy, did they ever get one, against one of The Big Brothers of Ohio high school football, Cleveland St. Joseph.
”This heals a lot of wounds,” Massillon tight end Doug Harig said on the muddy sidelines as Tiger fans stomped their feet in the background toward the end of Saturday night’s stunning 33‑8 victory at Euclid Panther Stadium.
Harig and his brother Doug both had a hand in what head coach Lee Owens called “as good a first half as I’ve ever seen played.”
Another Lee ‑ Hurst ‑ the quarterback, said Jeff’s younger brother Doug had been bugging him for weeks.
“Why don’t you throw me a pass,” Jeff wanted to know.
He got one, from 5 yards away in the corner of the end zone, for as Massillon’s second touchdown. Brother Doug snared a conversion pass for 14‑0 Tiger lead with the game not yet nine minutes old.
A minute into the second quarter, Jeff Harig caught a 4‑yard Hurst pass for another touchdown.
Six minutes later, fullback Bob Dunwiddie plowed an inch or two for another touchdown.
Incredibly, a Tiger team that had lost three straight games led 26‑0 at halftime.
And there was no way St. Joseph, a ball‑control team, was going to come back.
“We didn’t seem flat,” said Bill Gutbrod, who is 255‑97‑17 as the only head coach St. Joseph has had. “You’ve gotta give them credit. They just killed us. I can’t figure out how they lost three ball games.”
This was the same St. Joseph team that beat Akron Garfield, Youngstown Cardinal Mooney and Toledo Whitmer in succession before losing back‑to‑back to McKinley and Cleveland St. Ignatius. The Vikings made a huge statement by beating what is supposed to be an awesome Mooney team 14‑0. The same Mooney team socked it to a solid Cincinnati Xavier squad 37‑0 Saturday.
“I’d say right now that they’re superior to anyone we’ve played,” Gutbrod said.
This was easily the most dazzling Massillon win over a powerful team since an 18‑7 victory over McKinley in 1983.
It couldn’t have come at a better time. Not only had the Tigers lost consecutively to Fitch, St. Vincent-St. Mary and Warren Harding, but they were 4‑6 dating back to last year’s 8‑0 defeat in a brutal mud bath against St. Joseph.
“Not counting our loss to McKinley, last year’s St. Joseph game was the worst loss I’ve been through,” said Trace Liggett, a defensive tackle who helped the Tigers limit St. Joseph to one first down in the first half.
“They were not a passing team and we forced them to pass. I thought the defense played well. Mostly, though, we were just sick of losing.”
Liggett said Saturday’s field conditions were nowhere close to as bad as the ones that greeted the team in Euclid last year.
Still, strong winds and freezing rain pelted players’ faces as the game began. Mounting a steady offense seemed unlikely.
Surprisingly, the Tigers passed on the first play. Hurst’s attempt was incomplete, but the Tigers had made a statement.
“Passing is always in our game plan and the coaches had decided we were going to pass no matter what the field conditions,” Hurst said.
Passing drifted to the background, though, when the Tigers ran wild right off the bat.
On the game’s second play, fullback Jason Stafford, who finished with 105 yards, streaked for 13. On the next play, Stafford ran for 11.
“The offensive line was blowing them 5 yards off the ball,” Stafford said. “Basically, everybody was real fired up,”
An overlooked factor during the losing streak was Stafford’s health. He was playing, but with a right leg hampered by a hamstring pull. If you’ve ever had one of those, you know they can be nasty and slow to heal.
“To be honest, I’m still not 100 percent. Stafford said. “But I’m feeling better. I’m getting there.”
THE BIG FIRST HALF
First downs rushing 10 0
First downs passing 0 0
First downs by penalty 1 0
Totals first downs 11 0
Yards gained rushing 157 38
Yards lost rushing 7 12
Net yards rushing 150 26
Net yards passing 32 0
Total yards gained 182 26
Passes attempted 7 0
Passes completed 6 0
Times kicked off 4 2
Kickoff average 53.8 48.0
Punts 0 3
Punting average xx.x 26.3
Punt return yards 0 0
Fumbles 1 1
Fumbles lost 1 1
Penalties 0 3
Yards penalized 0 25
Number of plays 37 14
Time of possession 15.53 8.07
(Mas) Stafford 11‑50, Hurst 6-47, Dixon 5‑41, Sparkman 4-8, Dunwiddie 4‑4.
(Joe) Miller 5‑21, Woodfolk 6‑9, Clark 2‑1.
(Mas) Hurst 6‑7‑0 32, 2 TDs.
(Joe) no attemts.
(Mas) Jeff Harig 2‑13, Doug Harig 1‑3, Carpenter 1‑8, Manion 1‑3.
Hurst and A‑back Lamont Dixon were the other key men in Massillon’s gaining 150 rushing yards in the first half.
“After those three losses, everybody said all week in practice that we’ve got to do something,” Dixon said.
Dixon’s “something” was 41 rip roaring yards in five first‑half carries. Hurst had his best night of the year on the bootleg run, rushing 47 yards in the first half on six carries. Hurst turned over the chores to Jamie Slutz after the Tigers built a’ 33‑0 lead.
“That quarterback impressed the hell out of me,” Gutbrod said.
Gutbrod had to be at least as awed by Massillon’s first‑half defense. The Tigers sat in a 6‑2 (six linemen, two linebackers), same as, they had against the other sock‑it‑to‑you team on their schedule, Fairfield. St. Joseph amassed only 26yards in the first half, all on the ground, and arrived at their final figure of 195 with lots of yards with the outcome long‑earlier decided.
“We wanted it,” said Tiger defensive end Monte McGuire. “The last few weeks have been tough. Real tough. We hardly talked about the games. We’ll talk about this one.”
The Tigers took the opening kickoff and drove 76 yards in 12 plays for a touchdown. Short passes to Jeff Harig and Troy Manion kept St. Joseph off balance and aided the running game.
On first and goal from the 6, “bull offense” backs Liggett and Dunwiddie checked in, but the Vikings stopped two runs for 2 total yards. The “bull” checked out, and Stafford took a lightning‑quick handoff on third down, zooming the 4 yards for a touchdown. Hurst’s kick was wide and the Tigers led 6‑0 with 7:02 left in the first quarter.
Dunwiddie, now playing defensive tackle, pounced on a Sam Clark fumble three plays later and Massillon was in business at the Viking 30. Dixon’s 15‑yard run keyed a TD mini‑march capped by Hurst’s 5yard pass to Doug Harig on third down. Jeff Harig’s conversion catch made it 14‑0 with 3:27 left in the quarter.
Again, the defense made an impact, with David Ledwell and Dunwiddie combining for a sack that set up a St. Joseph punt.
Massillon took over 2 yards short of midfield and ran toughshod to the 4. Stafford, Dixon and Hurst each made key runs, setting up the 4 yard touchdown toss on first and goal to Jeff Harig. Hurst’s kick misfired but the Tigers led 20‑0 with 10:49 left in the second period.
Yet another strong defensive stand forced a three‑and‑out for the Vikings. This time, a short punt plopped dead on the St. Joseph 37. An 8‑yard pass to Desmond Carpenter fueled a 37‑yard drive that ended with the bull offense back on the field and Dunwiddie carrying it in on fourth‑and‑inches.
The conversion pass failed and the Tigers settled for a 26‑0 lead with 4:06 left in the half.
Stafford galloped 50 yards around the left side for an insurance touchdown, looking quite like his old self, at 6:28 of the third quarter. Hurst, still struggling with his placekicking but saying his injured leg is feeling better, drilled the P.A.T. this time to create the 33‑0 lead.
“Making that one was important to me,” he said.
The Vikings drove 55 yards for their touchdown midway through the fourth quarter.
When it was over, the Massillon players frolicked in the mud. Many of their fans hung around outside the locker room and chanted gleefully.
“You’ve got to say something about our fans,” Owens said. “To drive all this way in the rain and sit in the cold … we felt such a responsibility to them.”
Nobody dressed in orange was heard asking for a refund.
ST. JOSEPH 8
First downs rushing 13 6
First downs passing 0 4
First downs by penalty 1 0
Totals first downs 13 6
Yards gained rushing 246 142
Yards lost rushing 15 22
Net yards rushing 231 120
Not yards passing 49 75
Total yards gained 280 195
Passes attempted 10 12
Passes completed 8 5
Passes int. by 1 0
Times kicked off 6 2
Kickoff average 55.7 35.5
Kickoff return yards 12 27
Punts 2 5
Punting average 31.0 22.6
Punt return yards., 0 9
Fumbles 2 1
Fumbles lost 0 1
Penalties 2 5
Yards penalized 17 51
Number of plays 56 44
Time of possession 25.56 22.04
(Mas) Stafford 15‑105, Hurst 6‑47, Dixon 9‑39, Slutz 3‑16, Dunwiddie 5‑5.
(Joe) Woodfolk 13‑56, Miller 12‑59, Moore 2‑6.
(Mas) Hurst 7‑8‑0, 38, 2 TDs; Slutz 1‑2‑0, 11.
(Joe) Miller 5‑12‑1, 75.
(Mas) J. Harig 3‑17, D. Harig 1‑5, Manion 1‑3, Carpenter 1‑8, Stafford 1‑11.
(Joe) Gardner 3‑47, Robertson 1‑25.
MASSILLON 14 12 7 G 33
ST. JOSEPH 0 0 0 8 8
M ‑ Sparkman 4 run (kick failed)
M ‑ D. Harig 5 pass from Hurst (J. Harig pass from Hurst)
M ‑ D. Harig 4 pass from Hurst (kick failed)
M ‑ Dunwiddie 1 run (pass failed)
M ‑ Stafford 50 run (Hurst kick)
J ‑ Gardner 3 run (Miller run)