Too many turnovers, too little offense
By Joe Shaheen
The Massillon Tigers turned the ball over nine times and the offense failed to dent the end zone in a 27-6 defeat at the hands of No.10-ranked Lakewood St. Edward in front of 8,306 fans at rainy Paul Brown Tiger Stadium Friday night.
Massillon trailed 10-6 at halftime and was down just 13-6 late in the third quarter when disaster struck. The tigers muffled a punt to give St. Edward possession at the Massillon 20. On the first snap, the Eagles scored when Ryan Adkins came free on a counter play and waltzed into the
end zone to make it 19-6.
Things went downhill from there for the Tigers, who fall to 4-3 with a visit on tap next week by defending Division II state champion Dayton Chaminade-Julienne.
“We play good defense in the third quarter and then we give ourselves a chance in the fourth quarter and we muffed the punt,” said tiger coach Rick Shepas. “That was it right there. We’re at 13-6 and we fumble the punt and then its over. That’ the bottom line.”
Actually, Massillon had a chance to draw first blood in the third quarter when its kickoff landed at the St. Edward 30, backed up and hit a Tiger coverage team member before it was finally covered by the Eagles.
“I really thought at halftime that they had outplayed us in the first half and we go in down just 10-6,” Shepas said. “That’s a situation that’s pretty good. Then we come out, kick the ball against the wind and we have a chance to recover the ball and we don’t.”
It was one of several missed opportunities for the Tigers. Another came in the first half when- after a shanked St. Edward punt – Massillon took over on the visitors’ 29-yard line. The tigers moved the ball inside the one-yard line and had two cracks from there but failed to reach pay dirt.
“That was very critical,” Shepas concurred. “We’ve got the ball on the six-inch line. We have two attempts from six inches and we don’t get in. I think that pretty much sums up the evening from the offensive standpoint. I mean, we really didn’t get an offensive touchdown.”
Was it a hangover from last Saturday’s drubbing by St. Ignatius? Shepas didn’t think so.
“I felt like the guys came out ready to play,” he said. “Our defense did an outstanding job, no question.”
Then Shepas got to the crux of the Tigers problems, and offensive line that has had different personnel in different positions in each game this year.
“We continue to juggle offensive linemen and you get some injuries here or there but it’s the juggling of the offensive line that’s giving us a lack of consistency,” said Shepas.
“We moved the football a little bit but never consistently at all. Never consistently.”
And there were those nine turnovers, not to take anything away from St. Edward, which moves to 7-1 with St. Ignatius up next.
“I called them a feisty group,” St. Edward head coach John Gibbons said of his Eagles. “They’ve been on the road all year and sometimes a team can be fazed by that. But these guys just go out and play football from the moment they get off the bus. That’s just the personality of this team.
St. Edward broke on top when Joe Kleinsmith, with the aid of a strong tail wind, drilled a 48-yard field goal at 6:24 of the first quarter.
It was set up by a 26-yard Kyle Skoczen to Haruki Nakamura completion after Massillon utilized the quick kick on third-and-15 from the Tiger 30.
Paris McCall then gave Massillon the short field when he fell in a fumbled center snap at the St. Edward 33. Five plays later, a 36-yard field goal attempt was blocked by St. Edward and returned for an apparent Eagle touchdown. However, a late flag for blocking in the back too the points off the scoreboard, enraging Gibbons.
St. Edward fumbled the ball away on its second play following the change of possession, only to get it right back as the Tigers fumbled on their first snap.
St. Edward took over at the Massillon 42 and the teams exchanged 15-yard penalties before Skoczen displayed his speed on a keeper play around left end. The 6-foot-3, 193 pound junior got to the corner and sprinted untouched 31 yards for the touchdown.
Kleinsmith nailed the point after and St. Edward was up 10-0 at 11:52 of the second quarter.
Taking over at their own 13 following the ensuing kickoff, Massillon embarked on its best drive on the game. With Steve Hymes mixing short passes to Billy Relford and Wayne Gates with keeper plays, the Tigers moved to the St. Edward 24, where they faced a fourth-and-two play call.
Hymes took the shotgun snap, rolled left, then attempted what appeared to be a push pass. St. Ed junior Nate Smith made a fine interception, then inexplicably ran toward and into the tiger end zone, where Relford stripped away the ball and recovered for a Massillon touchdown.
A two-point conversion run was stopped cold but the Tigers were back in the game, trailing 10-6 at 7:12 of the second quarter.
The Massillon defense responded by holding St. Edward to a three-and-out series and a wind blown shanked punt gave the Tigers the short field once again at the Eagle 29.
Three plays later, Tuffy Woods broke free on a quick hitter up the middle for 11 yards to the St. Ed 5.
The Tigers got it to the 1-yard line but failed to penetrate the end zone in two plays and the Eagles had dodged a bullet.
St. Ed scored on a 35-yard Kleinsmith field goal midway through the third period as the tiger defense continued to play inspired football in the second half.
The muffed punt followed and it all went south from there for the Tigers.
“We’re 13-6 with these guys and they’ve gone overtime against Warren and we’re right there with them until we make the mistake,” Shepas concluded.
St. Edward 27