Offense tough to come by, but Tigers can’t capitalize on chances in defeat to Falcons
By Chris Easterling
Independent sports editor
AUSTINTOWN Massillon tried a little bit of everything to get its offense going Friday night at Austintown Fitch.
The Tigers shuffled players and formations, all trying to provide just the right spark. However, they were unable to find the exact recipe to get things jump-started in what turned into a 7-6 loss to the Falcons at Greenwood Chevrolet Falcon Stadium.
“We couldn’t get into a rhythm offensively,” Massillon coach Nate Moore said after his team fell to 2-4. “We have to get back to work this week. We need to get those things fixed.”
Massillon finished with 186 yards of offense. Both Lee Hurst II – who started the game – and Seth Blankenship had moments at quarterback for the Tigers, with Hurst rushing for a team high 52 yards, while Blankenship was 5-of-9 passing for 69 yards.
However, the Tigers’ biggest issue was finishing off drives. Five times Massillon reached the Fitch side of the 50, including two drives inside the 20, without scoring a point.
The only touchdown for the Tigers came on a 60-yard punt return by Austin Jasinski with 8:38 left in the third quarter to pull them within 7-6. The point-after kick was blocked.
“We put the ball on the ground,” Moore said. “We really couldn’t get the run game going, especially in the first half. We were just not executing, plain and simple.”
The Tigers turned the ball over four times, including a pair of fumbles on fourth down inside the Fitch 30. They also fumbled the ball away on their first play, which set the Falcons up for the only offensive score of the game.
After Massillon fumbled on its own 23, Fitch needed just four plays – along with a Tiger offsides – to reach the end zone. Randy Smith’s 3-yard run with 7:37 left in the first quarter, along with Dylan Correia’s PAT, gave Fitch a 7-0 lead.
“Is it every year like this?” asked Fitch coach Phil Annarella, whose team has won three in a row in the series, the last two by a single point. “This is phenomenal. Thank God we’ve come out on top. … We’ve been very fortunate. They played a great game and we were lucky enough to come out on top.”
Fitch managed just three first downs in the second half, but the last of those was huge. Facing fourth-and-2 from its own 47, it drew an offsides penalty on Massillon to give it a first down with less than two minutes left.
The next play, the ball appeared to pop loose and the Tigers recovered. However, the officials ruled the player down and Massillon couldn’t get the ball back.
The Falcons finished with just 154 yards. Their biggest play was a 44-yard run on a broken play set up by a bad snap.
“The defense played great,” said Moore, whose team picked up an interception from Kordell Ford. “I haven’t watched the film yet, but it looked like our front seven really played very well.
I thought our secondary played well too; they were tackling, coverage was good. … It’s a team game: You win as a team and you lose as a team, and as a team, we have to get back to the grindstone and get back to work.”