Walsh Jesuit holds on: Massillon finishes 10-2

By JOE SHAHEEN
Independent Sports Editor

Jack Rose knew 16 points would not be enough to beat the Massillon Tigers.

And he told his team that at halftime of Saturday’s Division I regional championship game against Walsh Jesuit at the Akron Rubber Bowl. The Tigers trailed the Warriors 16-0 at the time.

With 8:48 left in the contest, Rose looked like a prophet as Massillon had pulled to within 23‑20 on a 55‑yard touchdown bomb from Mike Danzy to Lonnie Simpson.

At that point, not only were the Tigers believers, so was Walsh Jesuit head coach Gerry Rardin.

“I was thinking, ‘We can’t let this happen again,”‘ confided Rardin after the game. “I was. I’ll admit it now.”

Rardin had seen Massillon come from behind to defeat his team in the 1989 playoffs and last year during the regular season. This time, however, Walsh Jesuit was able to hang on for a 30‑20 victory and a berth in the state semi-finals against Cleveland St. Ignatius on Dec. 4 at Fawcett Stadium.

The Warriors cemented the win with a clutch seven‑play, 48‑yard touchdown drive following Simpson’s TD catch. It was set up when Matt Lloyd gave his team superb field position with a hard‑driving 39‑yard kickoff return.

After quarterback Todd Riddle started things off with a 22‑yard strike to Brock Kreitzburg that moved the ball to the Massillon 26, Lloyd finished the Tigers off the way he does all of his rushes. The senior tailback carried on four of the next five plays, scoring on a two‑yard smash into the middle of the line with 4:38 to play.

“Matt Lloyd’s a great kid. Matt Lloyd’s an outstanding tailback,” Rardin said, “He just runs with a great deal of heart and determination.”

Those same remarks would apply to more than one Tiger on what turned out to be a disappointing evening. Danzy showed enormous heart in rallying his team in the second half with a 68-yard touchdown run on an option keeper and the lone bomb to Simpson. The 5‑7, 165‑pound senior was a heavyweight this day with 120 yards and 107 yards passing.

Ali Dixon and Courtney Herring played key roles also. Dixon breathed life into the running game in the second half while, Herring’s two‑way play at tailback and linebacker belied his lack of experience.

The Massillon defense, despite Walsh Jesuit’s 30 points, hung in against a well‑balanced Warrior attack. It forced and recovered two fumbles in the third quarter to get the comeback started. The second one, recovered by Chris Porrini, led to Jake Laughlin’s 3‑yard touchdown dive that made it 16‑7 with 3:39 to go in the third period.

Walsh Jesuit countered with an eight‑play, 78‑yard touchdown march. Lloyd personally accounted for 71 of those yards (54 rushing, 17 receiving) and put the points on the board with a 28‑yard scoring run on a counter gap play over the Warriors’ right side. The PAT made it 23‑7 with :07 to go in the third.

Massillon showed why if is appropriately dubbed the City of Champions by fighting right back. Danzy electrified the crowd of 11,765 with his 68‑yard TD scamper on the option keeper. His conversion pass failed but it was 23‑13 with just under 11 minutes still to play.

The Tiger defense made another stand on Walsh’s next possession, forcing the Warriors into a three‑and‑out sequence by sniffing out a screen pass to Lloyd on third down.

After the punt, Massillon had it first‑and‑10 at its own 45. Danzy rolled right found Simpson wide open along the right sideline at the ­Walsh 25 and put the pigskin on the money. Simpson did the rest, outrunning the secondary to the end zone to make it 23‑20 with just under 9:00 to go.

That’s when Lloyd and the Warriors put together their final scor­ing march, drawing the curtain down on a fine comeback season for the Tigers.

“It was a heck of a season,” a disconsolate Rose said softly in the empty Massillon locker room. “Going 10‑2 isn’t too shabby, coming back from a 5‑5 season.

“We’ve got a real nice junior class coming back and we should have another real fine season in 1994.”

Rose cited two factors contributing to the Walsh Jesuit victory; third‑down efficiency and pass protection.

“They did a real nice job on third down,” he noted. “They converted a lot of third down plays. They had to have a great percentage, (56 percent for the game) especially on that first drive when they got the field goal.

“Riddle is a strong kid. He can shake off a guy. They did a good job of protecting him and he really threw the ball (12‑for‑20, 173 yards). He was on. He can throw the ball well.”
Unlike the week before against McKinley, Walsh Jesuit was not able to be one‑dimensional on offense. The Warriors went to the air early and often – Riddle was 8 of 12 for 127 yards in the first half alone – to keep the Tigers defense off balance.

“We felt we would have to mix it up a lot more to keep them­ honest,” Rardin said: “The kids executed a lot‑of‑things well, even when it got tough and they were stuffing us. They kept their poise and they continued to execute. That was the difference.”

MASSILLON 20
WALSH JESUIT 30
M W
First downs rushing 10 10
First downs passing 3 3
First downs penalty 0 0
Total first downs 13 18
Net yards rushing 236 203
Net yards passing 108 173
Total yards gained 338 355
Passes attempted 13 20
Passes completed 3 12
Passes int. by 1 0
Times kicked off 4 6
Kickoff average 45.5 58.0
Kickoff return yards 54 83
Punts 3 1
Punting average 35.0 28.0
Punt return yards 2 3
Fumbles 2 3
Fumbles lost 2 2
Penalties 2 1
Number of plays 44 59
Time of possession 18:41 29:19
Attendance 11,765

WALSH JESUIT 3 13 7 7 30
MASSILLON 0 0 7 13 20

Mark Fair