Massillon edges fighting owls to reach 4-4, claws back to .500 for the season
BY CHRIS EASTERLING
Independent sports editor
MASSILLON When the play needed to be made, Massillon made it. When the defensive stop needed to be made, the Tigers were able to come up with it.
Because of that, like a cat with nine lives, Massillon’s season – and beyond – is all very much alive.
Thanks to Friday night’s 28-26 win over Cincinnati Mount Healthy, the Tigers find themselves back at .500 for the first time since after Week Two at 4-4. They also find themselves in control of their own destiny in terms of whether or not their season goes beyond the regular-season finale in two weeks at McKinley.
“We found a way to pull it out,” Massillon coach Nate Moore said afterward. “I’m proud of our kids. They fought hard to the end.” The Tigers, who led 21-7 at halftime and 28-20 with two minutes left, needed two big plays to secure their second consecutive win and third win in their last four games. One came on
defense, the other on offense.
The first came courtesy of a defense that had trouble all night trying to slow down Owl quarterback David Montgomery, who rushed for 281 yards on 32 carries. The final one of those carries was a 36yard touchdown run – his fourth scoring run of the night – with 1:57 remaining that pulled Mount Healthy to within 28-26. However, the two-point conversion play never really was able to get on track for the Owls, and Massillon intercepted the pass attempt to preserve the lead.
“That was a good football team; great player,” Moore said. “The Montgomery kid, No. 7 the quarterback, is really good. Probably one of the best players in Southwest Ohio, if not the state. He’s a real good player. We got the stop with the two-point that was huge.”
Almost as huge was the subsequent possession. After Lee Hurst II recovered the onside kick, Massillon went to work trying to kill off the final 1:56. On the second play of the Tiger possession, Keyshawn Watson got loose for a 32-yard run down to the Owl 15. From there, Massillon took a knee to run out the clock on the win.
It was one of two huge runs by Watson over the final 4:30 of the game. The other came with 4:20 remaining, when, with the Tigers clinging to a 21-20 lead, the sophomore got loose for a 45-yard touchdown run.
The score, plus the fourth Klay Moll point-after kick of the night, gave Massillon an eight-point cushion at 28-20.
“It was huge; it was huge, “Moore said of Watson’s two runs. “We were sputtering on offense. He’s was the spark we needed.”
Watson finished with 128 yards on 16 carries.
Massillon never trailed after it took the first possession of the game and marched 50 yards on six plays to take a 7-0 lead 1:15 into the game. Mike White’s 9-yard run provided the score for the Tigers.
Mount Healthy did tie the game at 7-7 after it recovered a muffed punt by Massillon at the Tiger 30. Montgomery’s 21-yard run with 7:18 left in the first quarter provided the equalizer.
The muffed punt was one of three turnovers for the Tigers on the night. The Owls turned two of those into touchdowns, including taking an interception and converting it into a Montgomery scoring run with 2:38 remaining in the third quarter.
Mount Healthy missed the PAT, though, keeping Massillon in front at 21-20.
The Tigers would take the lead for good when Seth Blankenship connected with Hurst for a 36-yard touchdown pass with 2:20 left in the first quarter. The junior quarterback and senior quarterback-turned-receiver hooked up nine times for 187 yards on the night.
Blankenship was 13-of-23 for 234 yards on the night.