ROUGH FINISH
Tigers can’t stop Harding’s Bowden, surrender two-TD lead in setback

By Chris Easterling
Independent sports editor

MASSILLON The first two games, Massillon struggled with getting off to good starts. In the Tigers’ third game, the start wasn’t an issue.

The finish, however, was a major one.

Massillon could neither hold onto a two-touchdown lead nor contain Warren Harding’s Lynn Bowden in a 41-28 loss at Paul Brown Tiger Stadium on Friday night.

“I thought that we were going to be able to keep it going on offense,” Tiger coach Nate Moore said after his team fell to 1-2. “I thought we needed one stop on defense, and we got that. I thought we were going to win the game.

We ended up getting two stops on defense, but ended up with two turnovers. That’s a net zero, and that’s the loss right there.

The Tigers had three different two-score leads: 14-0, 21-7 and 28-13. However, those leads slipped through their fingers the way Bowden slipped through would-be tacklers.

The sensational Warren quarterback ran left, right and up the middle for 266 yards on 21 carries. He also had six touchdowns, including a 4-yard scoring run just under three minutes into the fourth quarter that put the Raiders in front 33-28.

He added a game-sealing 3-yard run with 1:18 left.

“When we got down, we didn’t hang our heads like most teams will do,” said Bowden, who rushed for 212 yards in last year’s 48-41 Warren win. “We want to be the best. To be the best, you’ve got to take steps and you go through adversity.”

Massillon, which trailed by two scores in the first quarter of each of its first two games, came flying out of the gate. Sort of.

The Tigers used a methodical 10-play, all-run drive to take a 7-0 lead on Jamir Thomas’ 1-yard run with 7:32 left in the first quarter. They made it 14-0 after recovering an onside kick and then marching 44 yards in six plays, with Thomas taking the final two yards for the score with 5:02 left in the first quarter.

Thomas would score two more times in the first half, on runs of two and four yards. The sophomore finished with 95 yards on 33 carries, 72 of those yards on 23 first-half carries.

Massillon, which led 28-21 at halftime, had 190 first-half yards. The Tigers, who play Ursuline next Saturday afternoon at Mollenkopf Stadium, finished with 99 yards in the second half on 31 plays.

“We were missing some blocks inside,” Moore said of the second-half offensive difference. “It was a team loss.”

Bowden, though, put on a one-man show. He scored on six of Warren’s eight possessions, save for its final one where it took a knee.

The only two times Massillon stopped the Raiders were on the first two second-half drives, both three-and-outs. However, the Tigers turned the ball over on both subsequent possessions – a fumble on the first at the Tiger 33 and an interception at the Warren 30.

Massillon would march to the Raider 22 on its drive after Warren took the lead.

However, a fourth-and-4 end-around pass went incomplete and the Raiders responded with one final scoring drive to seal it.

GAME STATS