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Tigers battle back, but run out of time

AUSTINTOWN In the end, there just wasn’t enough time for Massillon to complete the comeback.

Facing the largest deficit of the season and on the road against the state’s No. 4-ranked Division I team, the Tigers came close to pull ing out a memorable win on Friday night at Austintown Fitch. Instead, the time literally ran out on Massillon as it fell 30-27 to the Falcons in front of about 8,000 at Falcon Stadium.

“We’re extremely proud of the kids for the effort,” Massillon coach Jason Hall said after his team fell to 6-1. “They handled a lot of adversity in the game. With five minutes to go in the game, it just started clicking for us. We started doing some of the things we know we can do.”

The Tigers trailed 30-14 with 4:45 remaining after Fitch quarterback Antwan Harris scored his third touchdown of the game, a 1-yard plunge. But two Danny Clark-to-Reggie Rogers touchdown passes – an 80-yarder with 4:30 remaining and a 72-yarder with 2:41 left – pulled Massillon to within three points.

After forcing a three-and-out, the Tigers got the ball back with 1:06 remaining at their 35. Six
plays later, they were at the Fitch 10, then the 5 after a penalty on the Falcons.
On second-and-goal from there, Clark hit Whitfield on a pretty strike just over the goal line for
what appeared to be the go-ahead touchdown with 14 seconds remaining. But a illegal
formation flag wiped that out, moving the ball back to the 10
“Danny’s the reason we got back in this game,” Hall said of Clark, who was 16-of-23 for 358
yards on the night. “He’s a 15-year-old kid who brought the Tigers back with five minutes in
the game. He really made one of the best throws I’ve seen any quarterback I’ve ever had make
(on the Whitfield touchdown that was nullified).”

An incompletion made it third down with 10 seconds remaining. On the next play, though, the Falcon defense forced a scramble, which they tackled inbounds to close the game out.

“They got their money’s worth tonight,” Fitch coach Phil Annarella said after his team improved to 7-0. “My hat’s off to Massillon. What a great comeback. They didn’t quit. ”

Just to get to that point took quite an effort from the Tigers, who spent much of the game playing from behind. In fact, five plays into the contest, they were down 7-0 after Harris — the Fitch quarterback — took off for a 60-yard touchdown run.

The last time the Tigers would even the score up came on their subsequent drive, when Lyron Wilson capped the nine-play march with a 5-yard touchdown to make it 7-7 with 5:53 remaining. By the time Massillon would score again, on J.D. Crabtree’s 38-yard on the fourth play of the second half, it was in a hole it could never completely climb out of.

Massillon set up Fitch’s second score when it failed to convert on a fake punt attempt on fourth down from the Tiger 31. It was compounded by a late hit penalty on Massillon on the Falcons’ subsequent possession, which moved the ball to the Tiger 12, where it was fourth-and-1.

“They typically bring a lot of pressure all the time,” Hall said of the fake punt. “So we tried to bring two people from inside-out down the hashes, and they did a good job covering it. … We got them stopped (then) on third-and-long, it’s going to be fourth and at least 10, and we get a personal foul. It becomes fourth-and-1, and they get a touchdown on that.”

Harris picked up that and more, ripping off a 12-yard touchdown run to make it 14-7 Falcons with 8:36 remaining in the half. The junior quarterback, who was injured on the Falcons’ final offensive play of the game, rushed for 147 yards on 27 carries, including 102 yards in the first half.

The Fitch passing game, which has been called inconsistent by Annarella this week, provided the next score. Harris hit Joey Harrington for a 34-yard touchdown catch-and-run to make it 21-7 with 5:26 remaining in the half.

Massillon tried to cut into that before the half, reaching the Fitch 28. But a 45-yard field goal was blocked, leaving the Falcons ahead by 14 points.

Crabtree’s scoring run to open the second half pulled Massillon to 21-14. But there would be no scoring until the Fitch defense recorded a safety against the Tigers with 10:20 remaining to make it 23-14.