Massillon Tigers Black Letter Logo

Tigers ground Aviators in 2nd half

Ashcraft stars with 3 scores

Independent Sports Editor

Jack Rose had a reminder for his Massillon Tigers prior to their 1993 season opener against the Alliance Aviators.

Rose warned his charges that teams coming to Massillon see the Tigers as THE opponent on their schedule and will play their hearts out.

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“But I told our guys if we keep after them, we expect to win,” Rose said. “It may take until the second quarter or the third quarter or the fourth quarter, but we expect to wear them down and win,”

The Aviators proved Rose a profit, fighting to a 6‑6 halftime tie with the Tigers with an in­spired first half of football. But Massillon came out of the lock­er room for the third quarter with a new resolve and roared to a 40‑6 victory that left no doubt among the 10,326 in attendance on a rain‑swept Friday night which team was su­perior.

“We just had to come out and play hard and that’s what we did in the second half,” said Ti­gers quarterback Mike Danzy as he enjoyed a congratulatory embrace from his mother. “The offensive line really came off the ball after halftime. The second half is going to be our half all year.”

“We got pumped up at halftime and we took control,” agreed Tigers offensive tackle Trevor Paisley. “We just went to work and we played with a lot more intensity.

”As soon as we started ham­mering it at them, we could feel them give up.”

There was no surrender in the Aviators in the first 24 minutes of play. The 6‑6 halftime tie was reflective of the game statistics to that point. But Alliance failed to get into the Tiger end zone on its second possession when the Federal League entry had first­-and‑10 at the Massillon 15. Quarterback Joe Brady tried to sweep left end and pitched the ball as the Tiger defense con­verged on him. The problem ‑ for Brady ‑ was the pitch was nowhere near the intended re­ceiver. B.J. Payne pounced on the loose ball for the Tigers and some of the air came out of the Aviators.

“We squandered that scoring opportunity in the first half and you simply can’t get away with that when you play a team like the Massillon Tigers,” ex­plained Alliance coach Ron Kuceyeski.

“Then we just got out muscled in the second half. They just played ‘iso’ football and we couldn’t stop them. But there’s no excuse for the way we played in the second half.”

Rose said Kuceyeski was right on target with his analysis.

“We did use more inside ‘iso’ plays in the second half and then we ran the option off of it,” Rose said.

“But the key to the second half was taking the opening kickoff and scoring and then pinning them deep in their terri­tory and keeping them there. After that, it was a game of field position and we kept it in our favor the rest of the half.”

Actually, the second half, didn’t start all that well for the locals. After Kevin Buckland returned the kickoff to the 33, the Tigers were caught holding on first down to set up a first­and‑22 from their 21.

But senior tailback Ali Dixon got it all back and more on first down, eluding a tackler at the line of scrimmage and squirting 26 yards up the middle to the Aviator 47. Dixon found another hole on the very next play, gain­ing 14 yards to the 39.

One play later, Danzy broke containment around right end, cut back at the 30 and outran the pursuit for a 39‑yard touchdown run to make it a 12‑6 game with less than three minutes elapsed in the second half. Danzy found a hole over left guard for the two‑point conversion and Mas­sillon was on its way with a 14‑6 lead at the 9:38 mark.

“When Danzy broke free for the first score in the second half, we just didn’t respond,” Kuceyeski said. “We knew we had to stop him to win and we just weren’t able to in that situa­tion.”

The Tigers didn’t let their foe off the hook. Randy Endsley boomed the kickoff to the Aviator 10 and the visitors were only able to return it to the 17. B.J. Payne and Tim Menches sacked Brady on second down and Alliance had to punt two plays later.

Massillon smelled blood and proceeded to put the game away. After a holding penalty set them back to the 39, the Ti­ger offensive line again began opening huge cavities in the Alliance defense. Leon Ashcraft gained 13 yards on first down. Mike Paul added nine more on two carries. Then Ashcraft found another hole in the middle, left Alliance’s Der­rick Jones grasping for air at the 5 and skated into the end zone.

The Tigers failed to convert the point after, but held a com­fortable 20‑6 lead with 5:18 to play in the third quarter.

Alliance had better field posi­tion following the ensuing kick off, but a fierce pass rush by Joel Smith on third‑and‑seven forced Brady into an incompletion and the Aviators were forced to punt once again.

Massillon moved the ball to the three‑yard line but couldn’t punch it in and lost possession on downs. Again the defense re­fused to allow the momentum to swing back to the Aviators, forcing the Carnation City crew into another three‑and‑out series of downs.

After an eight‑yard punt re­turn by Buckland, the Tigers had ideal field position at the visitors’ 36. Dixon ripped off 17 yards over left tackle. Then Danzy rolled right and fired a strike to Lonnie Simpson in the right corner of the end zone to put the game out of reach at 33‑6 with 7:46 to play.

“Those three series put us in the driver’s seat,” Rose said. “You could see them get de­flated. With that field position, they just couldn’t run their offense.”

The Tigers put the finishing touches on Alliance after the Aviators turned the ball over on downs at their own 12. Two plays later, Ashcraft found a gap and the end zone with 4:40 to play.

Ashcraft opened the scoring by powering over right tackle from five yards out to make it a 6‑0 game at the 5:32 mark of the first period. The run capped a picture perfect nine‑play, 82­yard march that consumed 4:12.

Alliance counter punched with a 10‑play, 66‑yard scoring drive, capped by Jason Sieg­fried’s 1‑yard burst over right guard that made it a 6‑6 contest at :34 of the opening period.

The Aviators moved the ball to the tune of 172 yards of offense in the first half. But when the final whistle was tooted, Alliance had managed but eight net yards in the second half.

First downs rushing 15 5
First downs passing 6 4
First downs by penalty 2 1
Total first downs 23 10
Net yards rushing 334 72
Net yards passing 103 108
Total yards gained 437 180
Passes attempted 8 15
Passes completed 7 5
Passes intercepted 0 1
Punts 1 6
Punting average 33.0 34.8
Fumbles 1 3
Fumbles lost 0 1
Penalties 7 7
Yards penalized 60 46

Massillon 0 6 14 20 40
Alliance 0 6 0 0 6

M ‑ Ashcraft 5 run (Kick failed.)
A ‑ Siegfried 1 run (Kick failed.)
M ‑ Danzy 37 run (Danzy run.)
M ‑ Ashcraft 23 run (Kick failed.)
M ‑ Simpson 19 pass from Danzy (Run failed.)
M ‑ Dixon 11 run (Endsley kick.)
M ‑ Ashcraft 2 run (Endsley kick.)

Individual statistics

Dixon 12‑94,
Paul 9-­82,
Ashcraft 10‑76,
Danzy 6‑55.
Cameron 6‑41.

Danzy 7‑8‑0 103.
Brady 5‑15‑1 108.

Simpson 5‑86,
Grif­fith 1‑10,
Paul 1-7.
Craig 2‑30,
Cameron 2‑11.

Mark Fair