By JOE SHAHEEN – The Independent
It’s back to the drawing board for the Massillon Tigers, who dropped their seventh game in a row dating back to last year and fell to 0-2 on the season with a 34-7 shellacking at the hands of defending Division III state champs Cleveland Benedictine at Paul Brown Tiger Stadium, Friday.
Massillon was in the game at halftime, trailing just 14-7, and it was a 17-7 game after three quarters. But the wheels fell off the Tiger wagon when Benedictine scored two touchdowns in a 15-second span in the fourth quarter, one on the Bengals’ second interception return for a touchdown of the game. Massillon came into the season with the idea of running the football but injuries to running backs Jermaine Moncrief and Lanale Robinson forced the Tigers to rely more on the passing game and the result against Benedictine was five interceptions and five other potential pickoffs that the Bengal defense dropped.
“I thought we got a little bit better,” said Tiger head coach Rick Shepas. “We couldn’t establish the run game like we wanted to.” We’ve just got to get better. The interceptions hurt. We had five today. We’ve just got to continue to work hard and get better. We’ve got a lot of young kids and we’re just going to go from here.”Benedictine, which improves to 1-1, rushed for 222 yards to the Tigers’ 23.” I think we had found our identity but we have to stay healthy at the running back position,” Shepas said. “We’re not the same without Moncrief and Paris (McCall) running at full strength. It makes a difference.” I even asked (Benedictine) coach (Art) Bortnick ‘What do you think we need to work on?’ He said, ‘Moncrief makes a difference.'”
Benedictine built on its seven-point halftime lead when Alex Steigerwald nailed a 26-yard field goal midway through the third period to make it 17-7.Massillon appeared in position to negate that score with a field goal of its own, but the kick was blocked and momentum seemed to leave and never return to the host’s sideline.Steigerwald added another three-pointer a minute into the fourth quarter for a 20-7 Benedictine lead but the Tigers again looked poised to respond when junior quarterback Shawn Weisend hooked up with Troy Ellis for a 56-yard pass and run to the Bengal 28. But four straight incompletions ensued and the Tigers would never threaten again. Benedictine junior tailback Jahmal Brown, who finished with 167 yards in 24 carries, broke the game open with a 58-yard scoring scamper with 7:21 to play.
The icing on the cake came on Massillon’s next play from scrimmage when Bengal senior Rashad King returned an interception eight yards to paydirt with 7:09 to play to close the scoring. “We make three out of five plays,” Shepas said. “Then we make a mistake on the fourth play and then that critical mistake on the fifth play.” That’s the way things go when you’re trying to work some thigns out.”
The Tigers were dogged by the big play in the first half, just as they were a week ago in the season-opening loss to Buchtel. Benedictine began the game with superb field position when King fielded the opening kickoff at the 4 and didn’t stop running until Massillon’s Neil James tracked him down from behind 79 yards later at the Tiger 17.On third-and-nine from the 16, Bengal tailback Chris Austin went over his left tackle virtually untouched into the end zone. Steigerwald tacked on the extra point and Benedictine led 7-0 at 9:32 of the first quarter. Midway through the first quarter, Ellis gave Massillon field position with a 54-yard punt return to the Benedictine 45.Tiger signal caller Quentin Paulik found tight end Wayne Gates open over the middle for an 11 yard gain that gave Massillon a first down at the 26. After a near interception – Benedictine’s second dropped pickoff of the first quarter – Paulik drilled Kurt Jarvis with a laser at the 1 and the diminutive senior turned into the end zone for Massillon’s first and only score of the game. Steve Schott’s conversion kick was true and the Tigers had tied the game at 7-7 at 4:52 of the first quarter. Benedictine took the lead for good early in the second quarter when its play. Bengal junior linebacker John Dunn stepped in front of a Massillon pass at the Tiger 20 and went unimpeded into the end zone for the go-ahead score. Steigerwald’s kick was good and Benedictine was up 14-7 with 10:32 remaining until halftime. It appeared Massillon was going to tie the game late in the first half as two Paulik completions, one for 16 yards to Jarvis and the second for 12 yards to Ellis, moved the ball inside the Benedictine 10. But on first and goal, Bengals’ junior linebacker Nick Valentino snared an overthrown pass at the 1-yard line for a drive-killing interception.