Tigers rack up points
Beating Indiana team enhances playoff chances

By STEVE DOERSCHUK
Independent Sports Editor

Coach George Pappas went back to Indiana with stars in his eyes.

His countenance was downright peaceful Saturday night despite his Indianapolis North Central team’s 37-14 loss to the Massillon Tigers.

Most of the 9,179 spectators had cleared the dust bowl/parking lot outside Paul Brown Tiger Stadium when Pappas swung by the Massillon locker room to thank – yes, thank – Tiger head coach Lee Owens.

“You have something great here,” said Pappas, who started at guard for the Purdue Boilermakers in 1964. “We’d love to come back. We’ll come back any time. Call me.”

Program Cover

Pappas told Owens of the great football that was played back when he was a schoolboy in the Chicago area.

“This was like the old days,” he said. “It took me back.”

The victory put some Tiger fans in mind of the old days, for that matter.

At 6-1, the Tigers moved closer to their first regular-season finish of 8-2 or better since 1983, when the team went 9-1.

It also put them in a spot where they can probably clinch their first playoff berth since 1982 by beating Warren Harding Friday night and Cleveland St. Joseph the following week.

Beating North Central (5-2), combined with victories for previously conquered Massillon opponents Youngstown East, Middletown and Austintown-Fitch, provided a whopping
25-5 computer playoff points, bringing the season total to 90.7.

Beating Harding on Friday would probably swell the total beyond 115. Knocking off Cleveland St. Joseph the following week would send the sum into the 140 range with the McKinley game still left to play.

The Tigers are one of 36 teams trying to earn on of four playoff spots in Division I, Region 3. Last year’s top four were Westerville North (163.0), Warren Western Reserve (145.5), Upper Arlington (134.5) and Groveport Madison (133.0). The moral of the story – 140 points should be plenty.

Cincinnati Princeton led Ohio last year with 180.5 playoff points. If the Tigers win their last three games, there is a good chance they would exceed that sum.

For the moment, McKinley will retain the No. 1 spot in Region 3 following its 21-7 win over GlenOak on Saturday. Projected standings, with approximate point totals, in Region 3 this week are McKinley 95, Massillon 90, Walsh Jesuit 73, Gahanna Lincoln 67 and Upper Arlington 64.

We’re in good shape in the playoff race,” Owens said. “A win this week would take us past McKinley and into first place, since McKinley is playing a winless team (Youngstown South).

“But while it’s a big goal of ours to make the playoffs, we still have to focus on winning each week.”

The Tigers won Saturday after trailing 14-7 at half time.

The terror of trailing was over 15 seconds into the second half, thanks to Don Blake’s
94-yard kickoff return.

Blake estimates he has come close to breaking six returns for touchdowns this season. He couldn’t have picked a better time to finally do it.

The Tigers got more than the usual pep talk at half time. Spirited would be one way to describe a speech delivered by assistant coach Gary Wells to buttress Owens’ talk.

What was running through Blake’s mind at the time?

“I was thinkin’ about bringin’ me one back,” he said.

Owens discounted the impact of the half time lectures. He said the first-half deficit hadn’t been a matter of the Tigers underestimating North Central, but the result of improper execution.

“Everyone seems to be crediting the half time talks,” Owens said. “I give more credit to the kickoff return team.”

Blake said he got a key block from Don Relford before cutting to the left sideline and blowing by 6-foot-6 kicker Kirby Bradford, who had seemed to have a good tackling angle.

Other members of the unit were Doug Harig, Lou LoCoco, Steve Brown, Duane Scott, Jim Goff, Tom Menches, Gary Miller, Scott Slicker and Falando Ashcraft.

The crowd came to life and the Tigers poured it on.

On the ensuing kickoff, North Central return man William Nelson slipped inside the
1-yard line. On the next play, sophomore linebacker Eric Wright penetrated a pile of bodies and wrestled down quarterback John Hale for a safety.

The Tigers started at their own 39 after a free kick and marched 61 yards for a touchdown. Playing like a man possessed was senior running back Ryan Sparkman, who carried four times for 40 yards and caught a pass for 25 yards on the drive. His 2-yard TD run and Gary Miller’s PAT boot made it 23-14, Tigers, with just 3:38 gone in the second half.

Sparkman later was injured during a run on a fake punt. It was the first fake punt the Tigers failed to convert into a first down after six successful tries during Owens’ two years in Massillon.

“It’s a slight muscle strain,” Owens said this morning. “We expect Ryan to be 100 percent for Friday’s game against Warren.”

Sparkman was replaced by sophomore Falando Ashcraft, who carried four times for 30 yards on a subsequent touchdown drive, including five yards for the score.

North Central’s lead was based on a near-interception by Massillon’s Chad Buckland that wound up as a tip to the Panthers’ Harvey Kelley, who turned it into a 68-yard TD play with 29 seconds left in the half. Early in the second half, Buckland intercepted a similar throw.

The Tigers were out-gained 233-112 in the first-half yardage.

“They came out in a gimmick defense we hadn’t seen before,” said Tiger offensive tackle Ray Kovacsiss. “We recognized what we had to do after making the adjustments, and we did it.”

“They were twisting their big guys around on defense,” added Tiger tight end Doug Harig. “We went back to our basic offense and we were successful.”

Harig said he was “confident the Tigers could come back while resting in the locker room at intermission.”

“But I felt a lot better after Blake brought back that kick,” he said.

Wright had a big game from his line-backing spot. At one point, he made a sack on one play and an interception on the next.

“It was probably the best game of the season for two of our linebackers, Eric Wright and Joe Pierce,” Owend\s said.

Tiger-Panther
Grid lineups
Here are the probable starting lineups for Saturday’s game between the Massillon Tigers and the Indianapolis North Central Panthers. Kickoff time is 8 p.m. in Paul Brown Tiger Stadium

TIGER OFFENSE
Quarterback – No .15, Lee Hurst, 6-3, 180, Sr.
A-back – No. 44, Lamonte Dixon, 5-9, 185, Sr.
B-back – No 34, Ryan Sparkman, 5-8, 175, Sr.
Flanker – No 8, Troy Manion, 6-0, 180, Sr.
Wide receiver – No. 21, Rameir Martin, 6-4, 170, Sr.
Tight end – No. 83, Dough Harig, 6-2, 195, Sr.;
No. 87, Steve Brown, 6-5, 195, Jr.
Center – No. 57, Nick Hill, 5-10, 165, Sr.
Guards – No. 65, Mike Silverthorn, 6-1, 230, Sr.;
No. 60, Jim Goff, 6-0, 180, Sr.; No. 77
Brent Bach, 6-1, 225, Jr.
Tackles – No. 74, Ray Kovacsiss, 6-4, 265, Sr.;
No. 66, Tom Menches 6-0, 240, Sr.

TIGER DEFENSE
Tackles – No. 55, Mark McGeorge, 5-8, 205, Jr.;
No. 54, Scott Sirgo, 5-9, 185. Sr.
Ends – No. 94, Jeff Perry, 6-1, 180, Jr.; No. 95, Mike
Martin, 6-1, 185, Jr.
Inside linebackers – No. 37, Craig Turkalj, 6-2, 206, Sr.;
No. 45, Eric Wright, 5-9, 185. So.
Outside linebackers – No. 9, Joe Pierce, 6-2, 190, Sr.;
No. 22, Kevin McCue, 6-3, 167, Sr.
Backs – No. 20, Keith Rabbitt, 6-4, 170, Sr.; No 5, Chad
Buckland, 6-0, 185, Jr.; Eddie Williams, Sr.;
No. 23, Don Blake, 6-1, 165, Jr.

****
PANTHER OFFENSE
Quarterback – No. 12, John Hale, 6-1, 185, Sr.
Running backs – No. 47, Kevin Wood, 5-10, 175, Sr.;
No. 40, Tony Nibbs, 6-1, 185, Jr.
Center – No. 51, David Cavorsi, 6-1, 220, Sr.
Guards – No. 54, Ryan Bruce, 6-1, 235, Jr.; No. 61,
John Reed, 5-10, 175, Sr.
Tackles – No. 77, Mark Tarowsky, 6-3, 220, Jr.; No. 72,
Tony Henderson, 6-2, 280, Sr.
Tight end – No. 87, John Conway, 6-1, 180, Jr.
Split end – No. 23, Harvey Kelly, 6-1, 165, Sr.

PANTHER DEFENSE
Nose guard – No. 72, Henderson.
Tackles – No. 54, Ryan; No. 74, Charles Hill, 6-0, 236, Jr.
Ends – No. 1, James Reynolds, 5-8, 170, Sr.; No. 92
Bobby Keith, 6-0, 191, Jr.
Linebackers – No. 58, Woodrow Palk, 6-0, 190, Jr.;
No. 56, Brandon Jones, 6-1, 204, Sr.
Backs – No. 4, Williams Nelson, 6-1, 155, Sr.; No. 16,
Jason Venturi, 5-10, 172, Jr.; No. 10, Greg Black,
5-11, 170, Jr.; No. 8 Walter Nelson, 6-0, 158, Sr.

Here’s a look at each possession in Saturday’s game.

INC – Start with opening kickoff on own 14. Three plays and punt.
MAS – Start on own 48. Three plays and punt. Troy Manion recovers North
Central fumble on 19. Three more plays, 36-yard field goal
attempt wide.
INC – Start on own 20. Five plays to own 38 and punt.
MAS – Start on own 22. March 78 yards in 14 plays capped by Lamonte
Dixon’s 8-yard run on sprint counter draw-play. Big play,
22-yard Lee Hurst to Rameir Martin pass. Gary Miller’s
P.A.T. kick comes at 1:37 of first quarter

Tigers 7, North Central 0
INC – Start on own 20 after kickoff. Lose a yard, then score on 81-yard
bomb from Hale to Monte Bailey. Josh Nelson’s kick good
at 0:19 of first quarter.

Tigers 7, North Central 7
MAS – Start on own 36 after kickoff. Three plays and punt.
INC – Start on own 21. Drive to Tiger 21. Hale throws interception
to Wright.
MAS – Start on own 22. Lose ball on Greg Black interception.
INC – Start on own 28. Score on fourth play, 68-yard Hale to
Kelley pass. Nelson’s kick good at 0:29 of first half.

North Central 14, Tigers 7
MAS – Blake returns second-half kickoff 94 yards for TD.
Miller kick good at 11:45 of third quarter.

Tigers 14, North Central 14
INC – Start on own 1 after kickoff. Eric Wright Hale in end
zone for safety on first play.

Tigers 16, North Central 14
MAS – Start on own 39 after free kick. Drive 61 yards in nine
plays, scoring on Sparkman’s 2-yard run. Miller’s
Kick good at 8:22 of third quarter.

Tigers 23, North Central 14
INC – Start on Tiger 48 after kickoff. Buckland intercepts
Hale’s bomb on second play.
MAS – Start on own 9. Ten plays to INC 31, lose ball on downs.
INC – Start on own 31. Five plays to 42, punt.
MAS – Start on own 19. Fall on fake punt attempt on fourth
down.
INC – Start on Tiger 47. Fail to make first down on four plays.
MAS – Start on INC 46. Score on 10th play. Ashcraft’s
5-yard run. Miller’s kick good at 3:26 of fourth quarter.
INC – Fumble at 7 shortly after ensuing kickoff. Tigers’ Mark
Murphy recovers.
MAS – Drive 7 yards for touchdown. Scott Slicker goes in
from 4 yards out. Miller’s kick good at 1:15 of
fourth quarter.

MASSILLON 37
N. CENTRAL INDY 14

STATISTICS
M INC
First downs rushing 15 2
First downs passing 4 9
First downs by penalty 1 0
Totals first downs 20 11
Yards gained rushing 264 39
Yards lost rushing 15 43
Net yards rushing 249 -4
Net yards passing 80 295
Total yards gained 329 291
Passes attempted 18 24
Passes completed 6 14
Passes int. by 1 2
Times kicked off 6 3
Kickoff average 57.5 51.0
Kickoff return yards 142 92
Punts 2 3
Punting average 35.5 41.3
Punt return yards 0 2
Fumbles 0 2
Fumbles lost 0 2
Penalties 6 8
Yards penalized 50 61
Number of plays 67 47
Time of possession 25:09 22:51

Individual statistics
Rushing
(Mas) Ashcraft 6-39, Dixon 15-62, Hurst 5-18, Sparkman 20-123.
(NC) Hale 5-minus 42, Nibbs 4-8, Wood 13-30.

Passing
(Mas) Hurst 6-18-1, 80
(NC) Hale 14-24-2, 295.

Receiving
(Mas) Harig 1-3, Martin 2-36, Manion 2-15, Sparkman 1-26.
(NC) Bailey 3-119, Kelly 3-84, Mayes 1-19, Minor 1-6, Nelson 3-64, Nibbs 1-6, Woods 2-minus 3.

N. CENTRAL 7 7 0 0 14
MASSILLON 7 0 16 14 37

Mas – Dixon 8 run (Miller kick)
NCI – Bailey 81 pass from Hale (Nelson kick)
NCI – Kelly 67 pass from Hale (Nelson kick)
Mas – Blake 94 kickoff return (Miller kick)
Mas – Safety (Hale tackled in end zone)
Mas – Sparkman 2 run (Miller kick)
Mas – Ashcraft 5 run (Miller run)
Mas – Slicker 4 run (Miller kick)

Tigers zip back
to triumph 37-14

By MARK CRAIG
Repository sports writer

MASSILLON – Not to be outdone by their opponents from Indianapolis, the Massillon Washington High School football team scored 16 points in the opening 3:38 of the third quarter Saturday night to beat North Central High School 37-14 in front of 9,179 fans at Paul Brown Tigers Stadium.

North Central got the Tigers all riled up by taking a 14-7 half time lead on John Hale touchdown passes of 81 yards to Monte Bailey and 68 yards to Harvey Kelley.

However, after one of Lee Owens’ more heated half time chats, Massillon junior Don Blake quickly erased whatever momentum the Panthers had when he took the second half kickoff and raced 95 yards for a touchdown.

“Coach said we needed a spark, and I knew it was time I take one back,” Blake said. “I’ve been close so many times this year. I just knew I’d get the TD tonight.”

The Tigers didn’t have to wait long for their next score. On the kickoff following Blake’s TD return. North Central’s deep man slipped and downed the ball inside the Panther 1.

On the first play from scrimmage. Hale tried to dive forward for some breathing room, but was smothered in the end zone by the entire interior line of the Tigers.

After receiving the punt following the safety. Massillon drove 61 yards in seven plays and scored with 8:22 left in the third. Ryan Sparkman, who led all rushers with 123 yards on 20 carries, went the final two yards, and Gary Miller tacked on the extra point.

Massillon added two more scores in the fourth quarter to complete the rout. Meanwhile, the defense, as junior defensive end Mike Martin phrased it, played like “controlled maniacs” in the second half. It limited the Panthers to 68 total yards offense in the second half, after giving up 233 in the first half.

“The way we played that entire second half seemed to be sparked by Don’s runback on the kickoff,” said Owens, whose team is 6-1. “We were so down at the half that I yelled as loud at the half as I have in a long, long time. I said things in there that can’t be printed in a family newspaper.”

Owens should have screamed at the beginning of the game.

After Massillon scored the first TD of the game on an eight-yard run by Lamonte Dixon (62 yards on 15 carries), North Central (5-2) quickly answered with Hale’s bomb to Bailey.

The Tiger defense was caught napping, which allowed Bailey to slip by the defenders, catch the ball at the Panther 40 and run untouched the rest of the way.
With less than a minute left in the half, the Panthers struck again on Hale’s bomb to Kelley. Three plays after Massillon quarterback Lee Hurst threw an interception, Hale launched a pass to Kelley that was tipped by Massillon defensive back Chad Buckland.

While Buckland was bobbling the ball at mid field, Kelley raced in, grabbed the ball and ran the rest of the way untouched for a TD with 29 seconds left in the half.

That, however, is where Massillon’s defense stopped getting hammered.

“We really didn’t do anything differently technique-wise in the second half,” said Massillon defensive coordinator Dan Boarman. “We just went after them a little bit more.”

Massillon’s defense held the Panthers to minus-4 yards rushing. Hale finished with six completions in 12 attempts for 295 yards.

Offensively, Massillon gained 329 yards total offense. The Tigers rushed the ball 48 times in 249 yards. Hurst completed 6-of-18 passes for 80 yards. Rameir Martin caught two passes for 36 yards.

North Central 7 7 0 0 14
Massillon 7 0 16 14 37

M – Dixon 8 run (Miller kick)
N – Bailey 81 pass from Hale (Josh Nelson kick)
N – Kelley 68 pass from Hale (Josh Nelson kick)
M – Blake 95 kickoff return (Miller kick)
M – Safety, Hale tackled in end zone.
M – Sparkman 2 run (Miller kick)
M – Ashcraft 3 run (Miller kick)
M – Slicker 4 run (Miller kick)

Massillon runs over
North Central, 37-14

By MARK SCHNEIDER
STAR STAFF WRITER
The Indianapolis Star

Massillon, Ohio – They take their football seriously in Ohio, particularly in Massillon, a town of about 35,000, located 50 miles south of Cleveland.

A crowd of 9,179 spectators showed up Saturday night at 20,000-seat Paul Brown Tiger Stadium, named after Massillon’s former coach and most-famous alumnus, the Cincinnati Bengals owner.

The football-crazy people of Ohio were curious to see the 5-1 and eighth-ranked North Central Panthers from Indianapolis.

And Coach George Pappas’ boys showed the Buckeye folks some fancy football,
Hoosier-style.

That is, before the Tigers kicked the door in for a 37-14 victory.

Massillon, a Division I (big school) team, blitzed North Central with a 16-point third quarter and added 14 more in the fourth period to improve its record to 6-1.

Massillon kicked in the door on the Panthers at the outset of the second half.

Don Blake ignited the Tigers’ 16-point third-quarter scoring blitz with a 94-yard return for a touchdown of the opening kickoff.

Then, on Massillon’s subsequent kickoff, North Central’s Greg Black fielded the ball inside the 1 – and slipped down to his knee on the artificial surface before he could go anywhere.

On North Central’s first play from scrimmage inside the 1, quarterback John Hale failed to get out of the end zone for a Massillon safety.

Suddenly, North Central was staring at a 16-14 deficit and Massillon fans were literally rocking and rolling I nthe stands to the tune of the pop rock song, “Shout.”

“That momentum shift was just tremendous,” acknowledged Pappas. “A momentum shift like that was just insurmountable.”

“It’s been an enjoyable trip over here, but to come out on the short end of a 37-14 score is not really too enjoyable.”

“Massillon is a great team and program. I mean, during the momentum shift the crowd reaction from down on the field was just tremendous…phenomenal.”

But that wasn’t the end of the misery for North Central.
At 8:22 of the third period, Ryan Sparkman capped a 61-yard Massillon drive with a
2-yard touchdown run to make it 23-14.

In the fourth quarter the Tigers struck twice more – Falando Ashcraft’s 3-yard run at 5:12 and Scott Slicker’s 4-yard trot at 3:26.

Massillon’s initial score came on Lamonte Dixon’s 8-yard touchdown run at 1:37 of the first quarter.

But North Central was not without its shining moments. As a matter of fact, the Panthers, now 5-2, led at half time 14-7.

Senior quarterback John Hale helped provide the fireworks for the Panthers, hitting Monte Bailey with an 81-yard scoring dart at :19 of the first quarter, and then Harvey Kelley with a 69-yarder with just :29 left before half time.

Hale finished the game on 14-of-24 passing for 295 yards.

Bailey topped North Central receivers with three catches for 119 yards and a touchdown.

Kelley and Tony Henderson had brilliant efforts for the Panthers.

All in all, it was a real eye-opener for the North Central program.

“All things considered, I think the kids played well,” praised Pappas. “I mean, we left Indianapolis at 5 a.m., got here at noon and practiced.”

“We were beaten by an excellent football team. But the kids will benefit from it all. And I think we came out a better football team because of it.”

North Central 7 7 0 0 14
Massillon 7 0 16 14 37

M – Dixon 8 run (Miller kick)
NC – Bailey 81 pass from Hale (J. Nelson kick)
NC – Kelley 67 pass from Hale (J. Nelson kick)
M – Blake 94 kickoff return (Miller kick)
M – Massillon safety (Hale tackled in end zone)
M – Sparkman 2 run (Miller kick)
M – Ashcraft 3 run (Miller kick)
M – Slicker 4 run (Miller kick)

Attendance: 9, 179

NC Mass
First downs 11 20
Rushes-yards 23-43 48-249
Passing yardage 295 80
Passes 14-24-2 6-18-1
Punts-avg. 3-41 2-35
Fumbles-lost 2-2 0-0
Penalties-yards 8-61 6-50

RUSHING
NC: Nibbs 4-8, Wood 13-30, Hale 5-minus 42.
Massillon: Dixon 15-62, Hurst 5-18, Sparkman 20-123, Ashcraft 6-39, Slicker 2-7.

PASSING
NC: Hale 14-24-2.
Massillon: 6-18-1.

RECEIVING
NC: Kelley 3-84, Bailey 3-119, Mayes 1-19, Wood 2-minus 3, Nibbs 1-6, Nelson 3-64, Minor 1-6.
Massillon: Martin 2-36, Manion 2-15, Sparkman 1-26, Harig 1-3.

Rameir Martin