By JOE SHAHEEN
The Massillon Tigers were not about to take the 2-5 Warren Harding Raiders lightly in front of an estimated 10,000 fans at Paul Brown Tiger Stadium Friday night.
After all, Warren had won all four meetings with Massillon since this heated gridiron rivalry was renewed back in 2002.
The undefeated and No. 3 ranked Tigers got on the scoreboard first by turning a blocked punt into a touchdown and played with verve and direction until the final whistle in gaining a 13-0 victory over the Trumbull County entry.
‘This Massillon team plays with so much heart and so much passion and so much effort,” said Warren coach Thom McDaniels. “We played talented teams before and this Massillon team has its share of talent.”
“I love the way this Tiger football team plays. I LOVE the way they play. You’re supposed the play the game like that and they do that.”
The first half was close-to-the-vest football as both teams seemed to be waiting for the other to make a game-changing mistake.
Warren was the first to blink.
When a 48-yard field goal attempt by Massillon was short, the Raiders began on their own 20 after the touchback.
Twice during the series, Tiger outside linebacker Quentin Paulik made huge plays. On first down, Paulik swooped in and took Warren running back Danny Herron down for a five-yard loss on a toss sweep.
One play later, Warren tried a similar play and again Paulik was there to corral Herron for a yard loss, forcing the Raiders to punt.
Herron, who handles the punting chores for Warren, took the snap in the end zone but Tiger junior Andrew Dailey came from the left side of the Massillon line to block the kick. Brian Gamble recovered at the 3-yard line and stepped into the end zone for a Massillon touchdown.
Steve Schott drilled the point after and the Tigers led 7-0 at 5:31 of the second quarter.
Massillon returned the favor, or at least nearly so, just over four minutes later when the Tigers threw an interception near midfield. Warren’s Chris Rucker made the pick then picked his way down to the Massillon 9-yard line.
But the Massillon defense sensed the urgency of the situation and stopped two Herron running plays and a short pass to Herron for a total of six yards. An 18-yard field goal attempt on fourth-and-goal from the 3 was no good when it hit the left upright and Massillon carried a 7-0 lead into the locker room at halftime.
Massillon, so productive on offensive early in the game in its first seven contests this season, was held to just 46 total yards in the first half.
Warren didn’t do much better, piling up 71 total yards in the first half, 66 of which were by Herron. The Raiders dominated time of possession the first two quarters, 16:31-7:29.
Paulik came up huge in the second half as well. With Massillon leading 13-0 in the fourth quarter, Warren had to score to get back in the game. The Raiders drove from their 32 to the Tiger 9. On second-and-6, Warren quarterback Sidney Glover handed the ball to speedy wideout Jay Provitt on a reverse.
There was one Tiger between Provitt and a potential touchdown. It was Paulik and the senior outside linebacker made the tackle for an 11-yard loss that essentially derailed the Warren scoring drive.
“I saw the whole play happen,” Paulik said. “I saw the fake to the tailback and I just saw (Provitt) coming around and I just stayed home.”
“The defense played good and the offense knows we’ve got their back when they don’t perform as well as they can.”
McDaniels says he got what he wanted on the play.
“We got the ball in the hands of the kid who finished sixth in the state of Ohio in the 100-yard dash,” he said. “We got the wide side of the field and we’re going to ask our guy to make a play. (Paulik) made a better one than our kid did.”
That, says Tiger coach Tom Stacy, is because Paulik is finally getting over a badly injured shoulder suffered in Week Two.
“He’s a good athlete and he is finally used to a new position,” Stacy said. “Quentin played a great football game. That was his best game of the year and we needed it. With their perimeter run game we needed our outside backers to play well.”
Massillon’s second touchdown of the game was keyed by a perfectly executed slip screen from Bobby Huth to Gamble. The play covered 31 yards, moving the ball to the Warren 17.
“You got to think about players, not plays, in critical situations,” McDaniels said. “They got the ball to a big-play guy in a good situation. They executed it well and got them a big chunk of yardage on that drive.”
The Tiger junior tailback carried it in from eight yards out two plays later with 9:51 to go in the game.
Warren would threaten again but the Massillon defense, keyed by Paulik’s fine play, kept the Raiders out of the end zone and secured win No. 8 for the Tigers.
“Make no mistake, we knew it was going to be a grudge match,” Stacy said. “We prepared our kids for it. We got what we expected.”
This page was created October 15, 2005
Copyright ©2005 The Independent