Tigers ditches Fitch
Strong second half helps Massillon snap three game skid vs. Falcons

By Chris Easterling
Independent sports editor

MASSILLON The power of three.

Massillon came into Friday night’s home game against Austintown Fitch looking for their first three-game win streak since the first half of the 2014 season. To achieve that feat, however, the Tigers were going to have to take care of another three-game win streak.

The Falcons’ three-game win streak over Massillon.

Nobody said accomplishing that feat would be easy. But the Tigers were able to do it, scoring the game’s final 21 points to rally for a 38-21 win over Fitch.

“We have great kids who play hard,” Massillon coach Nate Moore said. “That’s really the bottom line there. They played hard tonight for 48 minutes and came out with a win against a good team.”

The Tigers are now 4-2 on the season. Massillon will look for its first four-game win streak since starting the 2014 season 5-0 next Friday night when it plays host to undefeated Columbus Beechcroft.

If there was one major concern to emerge from the game, it was the health of two key players: Jamir Thomas and Malcolm Robinson. Thomas suffered a leg injury late in the first quarter and didn’t return, while Robinson appeared to injure his ankle with less than two minutes left.

Moore didn’t know the extent of their injuries beyond Friday night.

In Thomas’ place stepped Kordell Ford and Louis Partridge, both of whom were huge in the second-half rally after Fitch went ahead 21-17 with 8:47 remaining in the third quarter. Partridge’s 2-yard run with :28 left in the third gave Massillon the lead for good at 24-21.

That run was set up when Jesse King recovered a Fitch fumble at the Tiger 32. It was one of two Falcon turnovers.

Ford then scored on fourth-quarter runs of 44 and 5 to help provide a cushion for the Tigers. He would finish with a team-high 88 yards on 14 carries.

Partridge had 77 yards on 18 totes. The Tigers rushed for 285 yards as a team on 51 attempts.

Massillon’s first drive was virtually a thing of perfection, giving it a 7-0 lead. The Tigers used 13 plays to go 68 yards, capping the drive with a 1-yard Thomas touchdown run with 6:54 left in the quarter.

The Tigers had a 77-yard fake-punt touchdown by Austin Jasinski negated by a personal foul flag on their next drive. They would still get to the Fitch 2, but lost a net of 13 yard on the next three plays to settle for a 32-yard Nate Gregg field goal for a 10-0 lead with :32 left in the first quarter.

The change of quarters seemed to change both team’s fortunes. Fitch would get a pair of stops while adding two Randy Smith 2-yard touchdown runs for a 14-10 lead with 3:58 left in the half.

The Falcons, who had minus-3 net offensive yards in the first quarter, had 146 second quarter yards on 15 plays. That includes 6-of-8 passing by Nate Fowler in the quarter for an even 100 yards.

Fitch finished with 284 yards. One thing the Falcons did well for the first three quarters was catch Massillon adjusting defensively by breaking the huddle with less than :15 on the play clock and sprinting to the line and snapping the ball.

Once the Tigers started to neutralize that over the last quarter or so, they were able to slow down the Falcon momentum.

“We just kind of simplified everything,” Moore said. “We were having a little trouble with as fast as they were going from huddle to the line of scrimmage to the snap. We basically just simplified some things.”

It would be a Fitch mistake that would help give the Tigers a 17-14 halftime lead. A roughing the passer flag against the Falcons on a third-and-9 incomplete pass put the Tigers on the Fitch 41.

Five Partridge runs – the last a 5-yarder – would put Massillon into the end zone with :51 left in the half. Partridge, who came on with 7:47 left in the second quarter after Thomas left with the injury, rushed for 64 yards on 10 first-half carries.

Fitch took the lead at 21-17 when it marched 55 yards in eight plays on the first possession of the second half. Smith’s third touchdown run, a 5-yarder, provided the margin.

GAME STATS