Focused Tigers shut down Leopards to stay undefeated
Oct 19, 2018 11:30 PM
Chris Easterling

LOUISVILLE Louisville made a point to let undefeated Massillon know it was on the field before the ball was even teed up on Friday night. The teams had to be separated after the Leopards ran up to the Tigers while the latter waited to take the field.

Once the ball was kicked off, Massillon made sure Louisville knew it was on the field. The Tigers scored four first-quarter touchdowns, while the defense dominated, to lead them to a 41-0 win over the Leopards in front of a standing-room-only crowd at Louisville Stadium.

“That really surprised me that that even happened before the game,” Massillon coach Nate Moore said. “We certainly responded well. We got out focus back and played hard.”

The win gives Massillon it’s first 9-0 start since 2005. However, the chance for the first Week 10 showdown between undefeated and untied Massillon and McKinley teams since that season – and sixth time ever – was thwarted when Perry knocked off the Bulldogs.

Still, the Tigers have a chance to post their first undefeated regular season since 1999 with a win over McKinley in next Saturday’s 129th edition of The Game at Paul Brown Tiger Stadium.

“It’s the biggest game in high school football,” Moore said. “It’s an honor to be a part of it.”

Part of a tradition to The Game is the worry both teams have about Week 9. A potential to peak ahead to the rivalry game always seems to exist, regardless of who the opponent they may be facing.

Any doubt that the Tigers would be looking past Friday’s game was erased when the Leopards made their pregame beeline toward Massillon. While the “scuffle” was more bark than bite by either team, it certainly ignited a fire under the Tigers.

Louisville coach John DeMarco declined to comment about the pregame incident, as well as the four first-half personal fouls his team committed. However, he acknowledged what he saw over the four quarters his team played against the Tigers supported everything he saw of them on film during the week.

“They played like I thought they could play,” said DeMarco, whose team was shut out for the first since since Austintown Fitch won 26-0 in Week 3 of the 2016 season. “They’re a very good team, a very complete team. They do a lot of different things well.”

While the offense has been one of the calling cards for Massillon this season, it was the defense which set the tone throughout the game. That started with the Tigers’ first score, a 24-yard interception return for a touchdown by Max Turner with 8:42 remaining in the first quarter.

Turner’s pick – his second in as many weeks which he returned for a score – was one of three for Massillon on the night. That includes back-to-back possessions in the first quarter, as Kyshad Mack picked off the first pass of the Leopards’ subsequent possession at the Louisville 33.

That set up Massillon’s first offensive score of the night, a 1-yard Aidan Longwell touchdown run to make it 14-0 with 5:38 left in the quarter. That was the first of three consecutive touchdown drives for the Tigers, with Longwell hitting Jayden Ballard for a 74-yard scoring strike to make it 21-0 with 1:56 left in the quarter, and Jamir Thomas scoring from a yard out to make it 28-0 one play into the second quarter.

Ballard would catch a 78-yard touchdown pass with 1:51 remaining in the first half to make it 34-0 Tigers. Thomas’ second 1-yard run made it 41-0 with 5:10 left in the third quarter.

Thomas rushed for 113 yards on 17 carries. Longwell completed 8-of-11 passes for 203 yards with two touchdowns and one pick.

It was, however, the Tiger defense which set the tone.

Massillon limited Louisville to just 145 total yards. Leopard quarterback Colton Jones, who had thrown for more than 800 yards in his team’s three-game win streak entering the game, was 17-of-34 passing for 143 yards.

Not only did the Tigers keep the potent Louisville passing game in check, it did so despite having their backs to the goal line on multiple first-half possessions. Massillon had three fourth-down stops in the first half, including back-to-back fourth-and-goals in the second quarter from its own 3.

“We got down there a couple of times and weren’t able to score,” DeMarco said. “That was a little frustrating. They had a lot to do with that.”

GAME STATS

Reach Chris at 330-775-1128 or chris.easterling@indeonline.com.

On Twitter: @ceasterlingINDE