Tigers overcome weather, first half turnovers to rally past SVSM
Independent sports editor
MASSILLON The weather outside was frightful. Almost as frightful as Massillon’s first-half turnovers. It would, however, all turn out delightful for the Tigers.
Shaking off the rain and four first-half turnovers, Massillon would ground and pound its way to a second-half rally to beat St. Vincent-St. Mary 21-12 on Friday night at Paul Brown Tiger Stadium.
“The weather was definitely a factor,” said Massillon coach Nate Moore after his team won its sixth in a row to improve to 7-2 heading into the regular-season finale against archrival McKinley. “We had some uncharacteristic turnovers. We just fought through it and came together as a team and got it done.”
After running for just 57 yards on 18 first-half carries, Massillon would run the football for 16 consecutive plays – gaining 65 yards in the process – to open the third quarter.
The final three yards came on a Jamir Thomas keeper out of the wildcat formation, giving the Tigers a 7-6 lead with 4:18 left in the third. That would just be the start of it in the second half. Massillon ran for 170 yards on 41 second half carries, with Thomas adding a 2-yard run with 3:28 remaining to add a cushion by making
“They have a great (offensive) line; we knew that going in,” said Irish coach Marcus Wattley, whose team fell to 5-4 and saw its three-game win streak snapped. “We did a good job using our speed to neutralize that in the first half. The second half, not so much. Once their big boys get on you, they’re hard to get off.”
Jefferson carries the load While Thomas was the one to cash two of the three second-half scoring drives in for Massillon, it was Ethen Jefferson who helped get it down in position to score. After carrying the ball just once for eight yards in the first half, Jefferson ran for 119 yards on 25 second-half carries.
That helped Jefferson finish with 127 yards on 26 carries. Over the last two weeks, the senior has run for 263 yards on 44 carries.
“He was a workhorse for us tonight,” Moore said of Jefferson. “He ran really hard. He got some tough yards. You have to give credit to St. Vincent-St. Mary; really good football team with a great defense. It was some tough sledding in there.”
Massillon would go in front 14-6 on the only real big play it picked up all night. Seth Blankenship shook off a two-interception first half to hit Austin Jasinski for a 58-yard touchdown with 2:05 remaining in the third. Blankenship would finish 2-of-7 for 61 yards on the night. “It was big for our team,” Moore said. “Those guys executed out here in the rain. It was a great throw and a great catch.”
St. Vincent-St. Mary would match that big throw-and-catch with one of their own to make things interesting early in the fourth quarter. Freshman Luke Lindsay hit Malik Wooldridge for a 47-yard touchdown pass with 9:28 remaining. Failed-two-point conversion After Massillon was called for pass interference on the initial two-point conversion try, the Irish were stuffed on a rushing attempt on the subsequent try. That kept the Tigers in front 14-12.
“He’s not your average freshman,” Wattley said of Lindsay, who accounted for 151 of the Irish’s 159 total yards with his arm. “We knew that. That’s why we trusted him in a game like this.”
Halfway through the game, the Tigers seemed to be fighting the same luck they had battled through the last three years against the Irish. They gave the ball up three times on their first four possessions, then fumbled away a lateral attempt after getting an interception on the final play of the first half.
Despite all of that, however, Massillon was still only a play away from getting the lead. All St. Vincent-St. Mary could muster from all of those Tiger turnovers was a pair of Jamie Martucci field goals, which gave the Irish a 6-0 halftime lead. That’s why, despite only 60 total first-half yards and the minus-3 turnover margin, there wasn’t a lot of hand-wringing in the locker room at halftime for Massillon.
“The coaches went in and got to work making adjustments,” Moore said. “We decided what we wanted to go to in the second half. The kids digested the information and applied it on the field.”
Which is why a frightful start ended with a delightful finish for the Tigers.