Looking back, it’s hard to believe that this 6-4 Massillon team had put up 52 points on the eventual Division 1 state runner-up. It’s also hard to believe that they also lost the game. But the offenses prevailed in this one. And if you weren’t a fan of either team, then it just might have been one of the most entertaining high school games you ever saw. The final score was 56-52 in favor of Mentor.
Jason Hall’s Tigers entered Week 5 with a 2-2 record, having unexpectedly lost to both Solon and Parma Normandy. Mentor, meanwhile, dropped their opener to eventual Division 4 runner-up Youngstown Cardinal Mooney, but stormed back to take the next three, beating Strongsville (44-28), Solon (27-0) and Cleveland St. Ignatius (38-17). So there was no doubt that Mentor was the favored team. Only the Cardinals have always struggled when playing in Tigertown and this one turned out to be no different.
The two teams lit up the scoreboard right from the onset, with Mentor taking a 21-17 lead after three possessions by each squad. Following a 29-yard field goal by Steve Schott, KJ Herring scored from 50 yards out and then JB Price returned a fumbled punt 36 yards for a TD.
The onslaught continued right to halftime with 28 more points, 14 by each team, and Mentor holding onto a slim 4-point lead. For the Tigers, it was two Devoe Torrence rushing touchdowns, from nine and one-yards out, finishing off a pair of 80-yard drives. Could either team stop the other in the second half? Not likely.
Each team scored once in the third quarter to set up a thrilling fourth. Torrence had tallied his third from the nine yardline following a missed 49-yard field goal attempt from Schott. So entering the fourth quarter, Mentor was up 42-38.
It was one of those games where the team that scored last was going to win. It started quietly with a Mentor punt. Then a 24-yard TD by Torrence with 7:25 remaining, gave the Tigers a 45-42 lead. Mentor answered with a 2-yard TD with 4:01 to play, completing a 16-play methodical drive. Now it was Massillon’s turn. JT Turner returned the kickoff to the Mentor 49, with a 15-yard Cardinal penalty tacked on, placing the ball at the Mentor 34. From there, it took just eight plays, with big Steve Yoder bulling his way up the middle for 21 yards and the score, seemingly carrying half the Cardinal defense on his back. Schott’s kick was good and the Tigers were up 52-49.
But scoring was not the intent on that play and the TD came too early, leaving 1:52 on the clock. Too much time for the high-powered Mentor offense. And they did just what they were expected to. The winning 8-yard scoring pass came at the end of a 10-play, 79-yard drive, leaving a mere 24 seconds on the clock. Not enough time for Tigers to pull it out.
Massillon finished with 498 yards, rushing for 433 and passing for another 65. Chris Willoughby was 6 of 17. Devoe Torrence rushed 36 times for 283 yards and four touchdowns and KJ Herring added another 109.
Mentor rolled up 588 yards, rushing for 289 and passing for 299. Bart Tanski was 25 of 38. Tom Worden rushed 27 times for 226 yards and 3 touchdowns.
So how could a Massillon team that had been basically written off a week before do this to a Mentor team that was destined for greatness? Simple. Pure effort and intensity. And they kept that up for the rest of the season. Although they dropped a decision to Cleveland St. Ignatius the following week, the Tigers finished strong, winning their final four games and posting a winning record.