ON TO THE FINAL FOUR
Tigers are regional champions
By JOE SHAHEEN
Independent Sports Editor
Rick Shepas saw that look in his players eyes at halftime. Maybe it was the Eye of the Tiger.
Whatever it was, the Massillon Tigers came out and dominated the second half of play to secure a 14‑0 Division I regional championship game victory over the Pickerington Tigers in front of 12,234 fans at Arlin Field in Mansfield, Saturday.
“I saw a difference in our kids in the locker room at halftime,” Shepas said following the post game handshake. “It was a different feeling than we’ve had in the five years that I’ve been here.” That feeling translated into a victory that sends the Tigers to the state semifinals for the second year in a row.
The Massillon defense made it all possible by holding Pickerington without a first down on three third‑quarter drives. It set up the second Tiger touchdown when Shawn Crable forced and Markeys Scott recovered a Pickerington fumble at the 30‑yard line.
“We took ownership of this football game,” Shepas said. Massillon scored the only touchdown it would need on a seven‑play, 80‑yard drive on its second possession of the third quarter.
A pair of sideline passes to James Helscel got them rolling and the march was capped off when Matt Martin hit Devin Jordan on a crossing Pattern that caught the Pickerington defense flowing the opposite direction. Jordan snared the ball at the 25 and scampered the rest of the way to pay dirt. Max Shafer hit the extra point and it was a 7‑0 game at 2:54 of the third quarter.
Following the ensuing kickoff, Scott fell on a Pickerington fumble at the Pickerington 30.
After a holding penalty against the Tigers, Martin found A.J. Collins open for a 15 yard gain to the 21. Ricky Johnson picked up nine yards up the middle and one play later Martin dropped a pass into the waiting arms of Jordan in the right corner of the end zone for the two touchdown cushion.
“A couple of the big plays we ran and moved the ball well on were called by (senior wide receiver) James Helscel,” Shepas said. “He called the scat pass for the touchdown about three plays before. Then he mentioned snag and we hit Devin in the corner on the snag pass.
“Our offense came out and did what it needed to do. I’m glad for these kids. They play hard and they deserved it. We talked about what we needed to do and they challenged themselves.”
Martin completed six consecutive passes during Massillon’s third quarter surge. But he deflected the credit to the coaching staff. “The coaches made some great adjustments,” he said. “They put some new plays in for us and we just executed. The line blocked well. The receivers caught everything. Ricky ran hard and blocked good. “We just came together in the second half.”
Pickerington never did manage a first down in the third quarter and only had six first downs to go with three turnovers in the entire second half.
“We came in at halftime and said we need to get it done for each other and came out in the second half and dominated the football game,” said Massillon co‑captain Keith Wade.
The First had tug‑of‑war a for field position as both defenses flexed their muscles while both offenses tried mostly unsuccessfully ‑ to deal with the slippery field conditions.
Massillon best drive came on its opening possession. Two consecutive Martin to Jordan passes, petted 23 yards and got the Tigers the Pickerington 42 but the drive was doomed when a shotgun snap from center sailed over Martin’s head.
Two huge plays by Shawn Crable on Pickerington’s initial drive accounted for negative 15 yards forcing the purple Tigers to punt.
The balance of the first half went about the same way as each offense managed a big play or two, only to see their possessions snuffed out by penalties, dropped passes and solid defensive play.
Massillon and Pickerington combined for only 129 yards of total offense in the first two quarters, with only 50 of that total on the orange‑and‑black’s ledger.
Massillon could have been in deep trouble, fumbling the ball three times in the first 24 minutes of play. Fortunately for the locals, they recovered all three bobbles.
One of the Massillon’s wilder miscues came on a muffed punt at its own 20. It appeared Pickerington recovered the ball but a huge pile‑up ensued and when the officials finally pulled all the bodies off the heap, it was Massillon with the pigskin.
Late in the first half, Relford returned a Pickerington punt to near midfield. On first down, Martin lofted a pass deep down the left sideline that Stephon Ashcraft caught inside the Pickerington 15. But the play was nullified when a chop block penalty was whistled on Massillon.
While that was disappointing to the Massillon sideline, the Tigers would not be denied.
“No one wanted to quit here,” said Martin. “We wanted to go the rest of the way.”
“They’re a good football team,” said Pickerington coach Jack Johnson. “No doubt about it. I wish them all the luck in the world and I hope they go all the way.”
First downs rushing 3 7
First downs passing 10 3
First downs by penalty 0 1
TOTAL first downs 13 11
Net yards rushing 46 116
Net yards passing 172 61
TOTAL yards 218 177
Passes attempted 23 17
Passes completed 12 7
Passes intercepted 2 1
Punts 5 4
Punting average 31.4 33.0
Fumbles/Lost 3/0 2/2
Penalties 6 4
Yards penalized 59 25
Massillon 00 00 14 00 14
Pickerington 00 00 00 00 00
M ‑ Jordan 40 pass from Martin (Shafer kick)
M ‑ Jordan 11 pass from Martin (Shafer kick)
Massillon rushing: R. Johnson 20‑64.
Pickerington rushing: Trapasso17‑68, Ultican 11‑27.
Massillon passing: Martin 12‑23‑112, 2TDs, 2 Ints.
Pickerington passing: Ultican 7‑15‑61, 1 Int. Trapasso 0‑1‑0.
Massillon receiving: Jordan 7‑108 2 TDs, Collins 2‑41, HeIscel 2‑21, R. Johnson 1‑2.
Pickerington receiving, J. Jablonka 1‑22. Harrison 2‑14.