Tigers run past Middies
By CHRIS EASTERLING
For one half of Friday night’s season opener against Middletown, the Massillon Tigers looks liked a team trying to get adjusted – to the sweltering heat, to a boatload of new players and to the Middies themselves.
After halftime, though, the Tigers looked like a team which had made those adjustments, and cruised to a 42-21 victory over Middletown in front of an impressive opening-night crowd at Paul Brown Tiger Stadium.
The Tigers went from a 14-7 halftime edge to a 42-14 advantage with 2:46 remaining in the game. A big reason for that was the Massillon running game of DeVoe Torrence and K.J. Herring, who combined for 252 yards and three touchdowns on 35 carries.
“I think our running game wore them down,” Tiger coach Tom Stacy said. “I think DeVoe and K.J. started to pound on them. I think our conditioning paid off in the second half.”
Torrence led the way for the Tigers with 157 yards on 20 carries, many of those impressive runs where he churned out extra yards after the initial hit, or by dancing around the first defender he came across. It was the Ohio State recruit’s first appearance in front of the Tiger fans in a regular-season game after transferring in from Canton South in the spring.
“I was very excited,” said Torrence, who gained 122 yards in the second half. “We’ve been working hard. I knew our linemen were working hard. I was amped, though, since Day One. I had to try to prove myself.”
He did so, as he added another 49 yards on three receptions in the game.
The Tigers finished with 443 yards in the game, 228 of those after halftime.
“I think the first half, we had a lot of jitters,” Tiger center Blake Seidler said.
Middletown took advantage of the Tigers’ young defense on its first play, as Caleb Watkins hit Allen Roberts in stride down the middle of the field. Roberts took the ball to the Massillon 3, where Justin Turner finally dragged him down.
On the next play, J.J. Greenwood ran it in off left tackle for a Middies score. Zach Ferrell’s PAT made it 7-0 just 2:29 into the season.
“They had a big hit right off the bat,” Stacy said. “That was a great play on their part.”
The Tigers answered on their next possession with a crisp four-play, 57-yard scoring drive of their own. The final 37 of those yards were covered by a Willoughby-to-Kevin Massey touchdown pass down the right sideline.
Steve Schott evened it up with a PAT with 8:09 left in the first quarter
It would stay that way until Steve Yoder plowed in from a yard out with 13 seconds left in the half to make it 14-7 Tigers after the PAT. The score was set up by a bad snap on a Middletown punt try, which gave Massillon the ball at the Middie 22.
In between those two Tiger scores, the two teams took turns spinning their wheels. Massillon had a drive reach the Middletown 34, only to be halted by a fumble. Another reached the Middie 48, but also went nowhere.
The best Tiger scoring chance between the two touchdowns came on their next-to-last drive of the half, which reached the Middletown 1. However, a fumbled snap, lost yardage on a run and eventually a missed 26-yard field goal dashed Massillon’s hopes for a change to the scoreboard.
Middletown did not have much better success, only getting on the Tigers’ side of the 50 once after its initial score. That drive, which reached the Massillon 33, was snuffed out when Turner came up with an interception.
The Middies evened thing up with an eight-play, 80-yard scoring drive to start the second half, with Roberts catching a 13-yard touchdown pass with 9:11 left in the third. They would get the ball right back after Massillon fumbled the ensuing kickoff, but could do nothing with the opportunity.
Massillon, however, was able to kick it into high gear the next time it touched the ball. With Torrence carrying it six times for 52 yards on the drive, the Tigers ripped off an eight-play, 66-yard scoring drive, the last four coming on a Torrence run with 4:53 left in the third to grab a 21-14 lead.
From there, the Tigers simply took off. On their next drive, K.J. Herring ripped off a 40-yard scoring run to make it 28-14 Tiger, which was the third-quarter score.
Tiger quarterback Mike Clark added a 13-yard scoring run, while Torrence capped his night with a 36-yard touchdown scamper with 2:46 left. Middletown did score with 1:04 remaining on a Watkins 26-yard run.