Pick six turns tide for Massillon
MASSILLON The Massillon Tigers were looking to find something to get momentum going their way Friday night against St. Vincent-St. Mary. They were locked in a tie game late in the third quarter, and the Irish were knocking on the door to retake the lead.
That’s when Kentrell Taylor came up with the interception of his career. And the subsequent 93-yard return for a touchdown gave Massillon the lead for good, and the Tigers pulled away from there for a 44-23 win on a rainy night at Paul Brown Tiger Stadium.
“It was big, because our backs was against the wall,” Taylor said. “It was the red zone. God was just on my side. He put me in the right place at the right time.”
The win improved Massillon to 8-1, the most regular-season wins for the Tigers since 2005.
They will be gunning for their first nine-win season since that year Saturday when they close out the regular-season against archrival McKinley at Paul Brown Tiger Stadium.
The Irish fell to 7-2.
Taylor’s huge return, and the momentum it generated for the Tigers, helped to negate any of the bad feelings that may have been churning after a mistake-filled first half ended with St. Vincent-St. Mary leading 17-13. Massillon had three of its four turnovers in the first half, while committing five penalties for 30 yards.
“I didn’t think we played great,” Tiger coach Jason Hall said. “We turned the ball over. It was a little sloppy for us.”
That all changed in the second half. After gaining 157 yards in the first two quarters, the Tigers finished the game with 388.
“We had each other’s backs,” Tiger quarterback Kyle Kempt said. “Offensive line, running backs, defense, they all had my back tonight. When it counted, I had their backs, too.”
Massillon struck first, as Zach Volzer gave the Tigers a 6-0 lead with 5:35 left in the first quarter on a 36-yard touchdown catch from Kempt. It was one of two first-half scoring strikes for Kempt, the other a 58-yarder to Marcus Whitfield that cut the Tigers’ deficit to 17-13 with 4:20 remaining.
In between those two Tiger scores were 17 St. Vincent-St. Mary points on three consecutive possessions.
Dylan Labbe kicked a 27-yard field goal 1:45 into the second quarter to put the Irish on the board at 6-3. After St. Vincent-St. Mary’s Dante Booker picked off a pass and returned it to the Tiger 19, Williams powered in from nine yards out to give the Irish a 10-6 lead with 8:45 remaining in the half.
Mike Pruiett gave the Irish a 17-6 lead with 5:20 left with a two-yard run. That scoring drive, was all of five plays, was set up by a 34-yard Fransohn Bickley punt return to the Tiger 23.
Bickley also helped St. Vincent-St. Mary turn away a Massillon scoring chance late in the half, picking off a pass in the end zone after the Tigers had gotten the ball on the Irish 29. That was one of three first-half interceptions for the St. Vincent-St. Mary defense.
Massillon surged to a 23-17 lead by scoring on its first two third-quarter possessions. The first was a 14-yard Ryne Moore touchdown run, followed by a 27-yard Andrew David field goal.
St. Vincent-St. Mary, though, tied the game up immediately after the field goal when Parris Campbell Jr. took the subsequent kickoff 92 yards for a touchdown.
The snap on the PAT was bobbled, and Massillon snuffed out the two-point pass attempt to keep it at 23-23 with 5:18 left in third quarter.
The Irish appeared ready to retake the lead after it recovered a Massillon fumble at the Tiger 31.
But on a third-down play from the Tiger 9, Taylor came up with his huge interception.
Moore’s second touchdown run of the game, a two-yard run with 10:07 remaining, made it 37-23 Tigers. Moore finished the game with 176 yards on 33 carries.
“Moore’s a special player,” Hall said. “That’s what we expect out of him. He’s a physical kid, a grinder.”
Gareon Conley’s 31-yard touchdown catch in the fourth quarter gave Massillon the final margin.