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OUT OF REACH
Tigers’ mistakes, lack of consistency spell early exit from playoffs vs. Scioto

By Chris Easterling
Independent sports editor

MASSILLON One step forward, two steps back. Where that left Massillon by the end of Friday night was on the wrong end of the scoreboard and looking at an early playoff exit. The Tigers couldn’t maintain a consistent offense, and couldn’t consistently slow down Dublin Scioto in a season-ending 31-21 loss in a Division II Region 7 quarterfinal at Paul Brown Tiger Stadium.

“We would something good and make a good play – and this was both sides of the ball – and then we would turn the ball over or make an uncharacteristic mistake,” said Jon Mazur, who was serving as Massillon’s acting head coach as Nate Moore served a playoff suspension.

“We’d have a missed block or a missed tackle or a guy jumping offsides. We just did a lot of things, and when you’re playing this level of football in the playoffs, everybody’s good and you can’t beat good teams making those mistakes.”

As Moore watched from the east press box, his team struggled to maintain many of the things which had epitomized its success during a seven-game win streak to end the regular season. Instead of advancing to a regional-semifinal matchup with New Albany, the Tigers bow out at 8-3.

The Massillon run game, which was the bread-and-butter of the offense, had forgettable bookends to the season. The Tigers ran for just 142 yards on 40 total carries, the lowest total since only gaining 90 yards in the season-opening loss to Mentor.

“Our defense, I don’t know what to call it, but it’s been a very strong unit all year,” Scioto coach Karl Johnson said after his team improved to 8-3. “We’ve been very good against the run most of the year. We needed to put the offense with it, and we were able to do that.”

The centerpiece of that offense was a running game that gashed Massillon for big yards when it needed it most. The Irish ran for 253 yards on 39 attempts, the most rushing yards gained against the Tigers since Warren Harding ran for 359 yards in what was their last loss of the season.

Scioto finished with 400 yards of offense, while only turning the ball over once. The Irish, meanwhile, turned three Massillon turnovers into a touchdown and a field goal.

“The game, any game, is going to come down to explosive plays, third-down conversions and turnover margins,” Johnson said. “We probably won all of those tonight”.

That’s why we were able to win this game. Scioto didn’t lead at any point until one of those explosive plays – a 65-yard Jared Nolan run gave it a 21-14 lead 36 seconds into the second quarter. The Irish took the lead for good on a 25-yard Noah Densel pass to Weston Talentino with 11:04 remaining to make it 28-21.
Massillon’s offense came down to the passing game primarily. The Tigers scored on their first play – a school-record 89-yard Austin Jasinski catch-and-run from Seth Blankenship – for a 7-0 lead.

The Tigers also took a 14-7 lead on a Blankenship-to-Austin Kutscher 14-yard pass with 2:43 left in the first quarter. They would tie the game at 21-21 when Jasinski caught his second touchdown of the game, a 55-yarder with 8:58 remaining. Blankenship finished 7-of-15 for 203 yards with the three touchdowns and one interception. Jasinski had four of those catches and 168 of the yards.

Massillon wouldn’t score again. The Tigers had a pair of field goals blocked: a 25-yarder in the third quarter which would have given them the lead, and a 21-yarder in the fourth which would have pulled them within seven with 4:41 left.

“They did a good job of stopping the run or slowing the run down,” said Mazur, who also saw the Tigers flagged a season-high 14 times for 120 yards. “We were able to lean on the pass early and hit some big plays. In the second half, when we moved the ball and moved it down the field, we got stopped. We weren’t able to come up with the big play, whether it was in the pass or the run. We didn’t make the big play when we needed to in the second half.”

GAME STATS