Tigers unveil aerial attack
By JOE SHAHEEN
Independent Sports Editor
The Massillon Tigers accomplished three things with Saturday’s 41‑6 dismantling of the Central Catholic Crusaders in front 11,350 fans at Paul Brown Tiger Stadium.
First, they improved to 6‑1 on the season, leaving the door open for their fourth post‑season playoff berth in the last five campaigns.
Second, Massillon won its 700th game in the storied history of America’s most famous high school football program.
Third, by flashing an effective passing game to go along with their already established running attack, the Tigers gave Cincinnati Moeller something else to think about as they prepare for a showdown of Ohio gridiron giants this coming Satuday at Nippert Stadium in the Queen City.
Massillon generated 365 yards of total offense against Central Catholic, 130 of that through the air. Starting quarterback Tip Danzy completed 10 of 17 aerials for 120 yards and a touchdown as the Tigers had their first proficient passing game of the 1997 campaign. Another TD pass was dropped in the end zone.
“They threw it better than we’ve seen them throw it all year,” said Crusaders head coach Lowell Klinefelter.
Danzy deferred the praise for his big night to his receivers and the Massillon coaching staff.
“Coach told us we were going to throw the ball,” Danzy said afterward. “They called the pass plays, I did my best to go Out and execute them and the receivers did a good job of catching the ball tonight.”
“We threw ball better tonight,” understated Tigers coach Jack Rose. “We’re trying to loosen up the defense. We wanted to throw a couple deep balls on them early. We wanted to hit them and more important to get them back off the line of scrimmage.”
Rose indicated a couple of the pass plays were ad libbed.
“We threw to a couple guys because they were uncovered,” he revealed. “We tell the quarterback anytime he sees guys uncovered to get the ball out to them and let them do what they can.”
Of course, the Massillon running attack was not ignored. The Tigers put up 235 net yards rushing, led by Christian Morgan’s 141 yards in 17 carries.
The senior tailback, who has rushed for 781 yards this season, set the tone for the game with a 66‑yard touchdown run off an option pitch around left end on the hosts’ first play from scrimmage. Josh Hose’s conversion kick made it 7‑0 at the 10:43 mark of the first period.
“That play kind of took the wind out of our sails early,” Klinefelter said.
Actually, Central regrouped pretty well from the Tigers early strike, marching from its 34 to the Massillon 6 on 10 plays. But Josh Kreider killed the drive and dashed the Crusaders hopes for an upset with an interception in the end zone at 6:25 of the first quarter.
Massillon got another big play early in the second quarter, this time from its special teams when Jamie Allman blocked a Central Catholic punt and recovered the ball at the Crusaders’ 25 yard line.
Mike James made a leaping catch of a Danzy pop pass over the middle for a first down at the Central 14. But the drive stalled and Hose ‑ after two consecutive false start flags ‑ boomed a 37‑yard field goal to make it a 10‑0 game at 8:01 of the second quarter.
Central couldn’t get anything going on its next possession and punted the ball away, the Tigers taking over at midfield. On the fifth snap of the drive, Danzy kept the football on the option around the right side and found a seam in the Crusaders defense. He finally stopped running when he hit pay dirt 28‑yards later. Hose was true with the PAT and Massillon led 17‑0 with 4:22 to go in the half.
“I prefer to run the ball and the cutback is my favorite move,” Danzy said. “There was nobody back there but the safety so I took the opportunity to get into the end zone.”
“Tip’s getting better,” Rose said. “And our offensive line is maturing and that’s giving him sonic opportunities to make some plays.”
Massillon polished up the passing game on its next possession, which began near midfield. On a fourth-and six, Danzy rolled right and hit Clint Dean along the right sideline for 12 yards and a first down. On the next play, Danzy bootlegged left and hooked up with tight end Seth Venables for 13 more yards to the Central 18.
The senior signal caller completed his next two throws, but penalties set up a first and goal from the Central 21. Danzy again ran the bootleg, this time to the right, and found Dave Hodgson at the 4. The senior fullback did the rest, running over a Central defender at the 1 for the touchdown. Hose’s kick made it 24‑0 Massillon with 1:20 to play in the first half.
Central Catholic came right back, just as Walsh Jesuit did the previous week, scoring a touchdown through the air in the waning seconds of the half. Mike Bajornas, who displayed a deft touch most of the evening when he had time to throw, found Jerrit Marsh at the goal line. Marsh came down with the ball amidst three Tiger defenders for the score and it was 24‑6 at the break.
Danzy scored again on a three‑yard run that capped an 8‑play, 62‑yard drive on Massillon’s first possession of the second half, effectively putting the game away at 31‑6 midway through the third quarter.
Hose’s 27‑yard field goal at 5:02 of the third and Ron Lynn’s 16‑yard interception return for a TD with just over three minutes to play closed the scoring.
Rose was encouraged by the Tigers lack of turnovers (one interception, no lost fumbles), but was not pleased with his charges’ nine penalties for 80 yards. Two Massillon TD’s were negated by penalty flags.
“We have to play error free to beat Moeller,” Rose said. “We can’t have penalties like we did tonight. We’re taking care of the ball better now. We’re starting to demonstrate we can hold on to it. What worries me is the penalties are hurting us on big plays. This offense has big play potential but we can’t miss big plays due to penalties. It flattens us out.”