TURNING IT ON
Massillon puts it together after half to defeat Knights
By CHRIS EASTERLING
Independent sports editor
MASSILLON When Massillon and Nordonia met in a first-round playoff game last year at Paul Brown Tiger
Stadium, the Tigers wasted no time laying waste to the Knights’ hopes for an upset. They led by 14 after one
quarter, and 35 at halftime after they scored 63 points in the win.
On Friday night, the two teams met against in a first-round playoff at Paul Brown Tiger Stadium, this time as
Division II members. And matching the division they reside in now, it took until half No. 2 for the Tigers to hit
Still, hit the accelerator Massillon did, as it once again ended Nordonia’s season with a 33-17 win in front of
6,371 at Paul Brown Tiger Stadium.
“I think this game was a wake-up call,” said Tiger linebacker Danny Robinson, whose fourth-quarter
interception helped set up Massillon’s final score. “I think we were taking them lightly at the beginning. The
second half, we turned it on, and that’s how we have to play the rest of the playoffs.”
Next up for Massillon, which is now 9-2, is a regional semifinal Friday night against top-seeded Highland at a
site to be announced Sunday. The Hornets improved to 11-0 by beating Avon Lake in a first-round matchup.
But it was a while before the Tigers could start thinking about next week. First, they had to take care of a
Nordonia team that had plenty of experience back from last year’s team, which had suffered a 63-34 loss to
Massillon in the Division I playoffs.
Massillon had its own pair of adversaries in the first half, which ended with the Tigers leading 16-14. One was
an injury bug that left the Tigers shuffling players around on the offensive line, which lost Ronnie Humphrey to
a leg injury while playing without center Nathaniel Devers due to illness.
“We handled some adversity,” Massillon coach Jason Hall said. “We had Ronnie go down; Nate’s sick. So, I’m
just really proud of our guys and that depth that came in and played on that offensive line. I was proud of them.”
The second adversity was some miscues that opened the door for the Knights to twice hold leads. The first, after
the Tigers netted minus-3 yards on a first-drive punt, resulted in Nordonia taking a 7-0 lead when David Murray
hit Alex Alders in stride for a 31-yard touchdown.
The second came after the Knights jarred the ball loose after a Massillon completion for a fumble. Alders
picked it up and ran it back 25 yards to give Nordonia a 14-13 lead 4:55 left in the half.
Those two scores, though, were basically all the Tigers allowed Nordonia’s explosive offense to get. Massillon
limited the Knights to 232 total yards, the second-lowest four-quarter yardage total for the Knights this season,
while they were only 18-of-42 passing for 145 yards.
The Tigers also forced three Knights turnovers in the game, including a pair of interceptions in the second half.
Two of those turnovers ended up turning into points — a fumble that led to Andrew David’s 29-yard field goal
with 1:06 left in the half for a 16-14 lead; and Robinson’s pick that was turned into a J.D. Crabtree’s second
touchdown run for a 33-14 lead with 11:19 remaining.
“We prided ourselves on our defense the whole year,” Massillon linebacker Devon Ingram said. “We knew we
just had to come out and play Massillon ‘D’ like we usually do. We knew we’d be all right.”
It also didn’t hurt the Tigers one bit that, even with all the line shuffling, Lyron Wilson continued his torrid end
of the season. One week after gaining a combined 289 yards against St. Vincent-St. Mary and McKinley, the
senior rushed for 149 yards against Nordonia.
Crabtree added 89 yards and a pair of second-half touchdowns for the Tigers.
“We continued to run the ball,” said Wilson, who gave Massillon a 13-7 second-quarter lead with a 1-yard run.
“We continued to run the ball well. A big shout-out to the ‘O’ linemen, because they helped us do it.”
And what the Tigers did was once again move past Nordonia and into the second round of the playoffs