This is the first part of a 7 part series that relives some of the greatest Massillon Tiger victories in the Massillon vs. Canton McKinley rivalry. These games were chosen by the writers as critical games throughout Massillon’s football history.
The 1964 game pitted two of the rivalry’s greatest coaches against each other. Massillon’s Earle Bruce and Canton McKinley’s Don Nehlan. Both would go on to have great college football coaching experiences.
The Tigers’ come back victory at the time was one of their greatest and ultimately lifted them to an undefeated season and a State Championship.
TIGER CHAMPS AWAIT CROWNING
State Title Assured By Comeback Victory Over McKinley, 20-14
By STEVE HAPANOWICZ
There’s no truth to the rumor the ABC Television Network has offered the 1964 Massillon Tigers mass employment as scriptwriters.
The network well might hire the Tigers because the Ohio State high school football champions came up with as great a finish to a perfect season as any scriptwriter could dream up in his wildest imagination.
Trailing 14-0 going into the fourth quarter of Saturday’s game against Canton McKinley, a game that had the state championship at stake, an undefeated season hanging in the balance, 22,685 emotionally charged fans watching in Tiger stadium and un-numbered thousands viewing on television, the Tigers staged one of the greatest come-from-behind victories any Massillon team has put together to win 20-14.
The Tigers, who led the Associated Press poll voting as the No. 1 team in the state most of the season, should be officially crowned state champs when the final poll comes out Tuesday.
Outplayed by the hard hitting McKinley squad, stopped at the 1-yard line by the McKinley defense in the second quarter, stopped again at the 14 and at the 3-yard line in the 3rd quarter, Massillon for better than 2½ quarters of the game was a toothless Tiger held at bay by a pack of angry Bulldogs.
BUT THEN the unwritten script began to unfold, putting junior quarterback Dave Sheegog in the starring role. Sheegog, 5’ 10”, 170-pounds, came into the contest on offense when regular quarterback Steve Kanner went out with cramps in his leg. The Tigers started to move with Sheegog at the controls and by the time the gun went off signaling one of the greatest mob scenes ever seen in the stadium, the Tigers were on top, with a brand new set of teeth that look like they will last another year.
There were other hero’s in the Tiger comeback that will rate as one of the greatest in Massillon football. Gene Biddle replaced the injured John Muhlbach at center in the second half when Muhlbach sustained a severely bruised hip; Jim Lawrence, who was the most consistent runner for the Tigers beside Sheegog, and Walt Lemon who took some of the pressure off Sheegog in the late stages of the drive with his running.
Determination and persistence paid off for the Tigers who kept the pressure on McKinley despite the 14-point deficit and wore down the Bulldogs. McKinley played almost the entire game without Ed Jones, the roving cornerback, in the “monster” defense and Larry Haines who broke a finger in the second quarter, but managed to come back and almost bring the Bulldogs into the lead with a drive in the wining second of the ball game. In the final analysis, Massillon’s depth told the story. The Tigers had Sheegog, Biddle and Lemon.
The Bulldogs broke on top with 5:32 left in the first quarter. Massillon took the opening kickoff and on the third play from scrimmage lost the ball on a fumble by Ed Herring on the McKinley 49. With Kalogeras banging into the line for consistent yardage and Fred Mathews picking up a 12-yard gain, the Bulldogs took 11 plays to get to the 9 from where Haines hit Emanuel Bradley all alone in the end zone for the first score. Guard Henry Vafides kicked the extra point to make it 7-0.
Sheegog fumbled the ensuing kickoff with the Bulldog’s guard Tom Bradbury recovering on the Massillon 19. Kalogeras picked up 15 yards on 4 carries. With a third and 9, Haines hit end Nick Roman with a pass but Roman was stopped inches short of the goal. With fourth and inches, Kalogeras plowed over for the score. Vafides kicked what was to be the Bulldog’s final point.
THE TIGERS MOUNTED one offensive more in the second quarter moving from their own 46 to the McKinley 1. A penalty against McKinley for grabbing a facemask gave the Tigers the ball at the Bulldog 10 with first down. Lawrence picked up a yard up the middle, Kanner sneaked out for 3 and Hewitt went 5 to the one. With fourth and 1 Lawrence went high into the middle of the line but McKinley replused him short of the goal.
The third quarter looked no better for the Tigers despite the recovery of 2 McKinley fumbles. On the second play from scrimmage following the kickoff for the second half, Willie Hall fumbled and end Wes Goodnough recovered at the Bulldog 23. Lawrence gained 6 yards in 2 carries and Herring 3. With the ball at the 14 the Bulldogs held Lawrence on a fourth and 1 to no gain.
McKinley moved the ball to the 21 when Will Hall fumbled and Massillon’s Tom Whitifield recovered on the 19. Lawrence picked up 6 to the 13 and another 5 to the 9. After a 2-yard loss, Bobby Hewitt carried to the 4. Lawrence gained a yard and on fourth and 3 Herring was stopped at the 2 by Mathews the last man with a chance to get him.
After moving to the 11, the Bulldogs punted, Romans’ kick coming to rest at McKinley 40. There were 3 minutes and 54 seconds left in the third quarter when the Tigers started their greatest comeback in many a year.
Hewitt picked up 2 and Kanner 3. Kanner left the game and Sheegog came in. Giving a sign of things to come, Sheegog picked up 10 yards on a roll out. Hewitt picked up 4 on a second down and with third and 6 Sheegog hit end Ken Gillmore with an 8-yard pass putting the ball on the 13 with a first down coming up. Lemon squirted off for 6 yards as the quarter ended. With second and 4, Herring went to the 4 and then to the one from where Lawrence scored the first touchdown at 10:11. The extra point run by Lawrence failed and the score stood at 14-6.
McKinley couldn’t move the ball and punted to the Tiger 39 where the Tigers started a 9 play 61-yard drive. Sheegog picked up 6 yards and then hit Herring with a pass up the middle to the Bulldog 35. Lawrence gained 4 and Lemon 9 before Sheegog hit Lawrence with a pass at the 10. Lemon picked up 7 to the 3 and Lawrence 3 more.
Sheegog gained a yard to the 2 and with fourth and 1 Hewitt just made it over the goal line for the score. Sheegog tied the score at 14-all by scoring the extra points over the left side with 3:32 left in the game.
McKINLEY TOOK Paul Marks’ kick to the 12 and gained 6 yards in 3 carries. Roman punted to the Massillon 45 where Sheegog fielded the ball and returned it 33 yards to the Tiger 17.
Massillon missed connections on a pass and Sheegog gained 3 yards to the 14. With third and 7 Sheegog faked to Lawrence going into the line, kept the ball and went over right tackle. He broke into the clear only to be met by McKinley’s Ray Kinnard at the 3 and Mark Mathieu at the 1, but he just strained forward for the touchdown that put the Tigers ahead 20-14 with 54 seconds remaining.
But the ball game wasn’t over. With 48 second left on their own 24 the Bulldogs moved to the 42 on an 18-yard gain picked up by Haines. A halfback pass from Mathews to Hall picked up 8 yards and another pass from Haines to Mathews, the Bulldogs most dangerous runner, put the ball on the Tiger 24. On first down, Haines tried to hit Mathews with a pass inside the 5-yard line but Dave Whitfield deflected it and Mathews never had a chance for it with 11 seconds left. Mathews got another pass to move it to the 17. Thinking time had run out Massillon fans swarmed on the field, but with 1 second left to play, officials and 15 Massillon policemen cleared the field and McKinley tried one more play, Haines throwing the ball to center Jim Roman after being rushed by the Massillon defense.
Bedlam reigned for a long time on the field and in the Tiger locker room.
Coach Earle Bruce being congratulated in a packed office said, “I still can’t believe it.” Asked if he made any adjustments in the second half, Bruce replied, “No. Sheegog came through with flying colors. He’s a calm, cool and collected quarterback. We went with the quarterback keep off the inside belly series. Our game plan was to run the ball. We fumbled in the first half and didn’t in the second. Physically we came on in the second half.”
Asked if he thought the Tiger could come back while trailing 14-0, Bruce said. “You know, once you’ve come back, you always think about coming back,” Bruce said referring to the Niles game. “They just made mistakes in the second half. We made ours in the first half.”
FOR DON NEHLEN, who brought the Bulldogs up to contention for the state title after taking over a team that was 6-4 last year, it was a bitter defeat.
“Massillon didn’t beat us. We beat ourselves. Our mistakes beat us,” he said after the game.
“Sheegog was great for them, but Kalogeras was by far the best football player on the field. We just didn’t have quite the depth.”
Asked if his team tired late in the game, Nehlen said, “No, I don’t think so. You’d look that way too if you had your back to the wall like that. Let’s just say our daubers were down a bit.”
Nehlen was unhappy with the officiating.
“We recovered 3 of their fumbles, but we didn’t get the ball. None of the officials even looked at it,” he said.
Statistically, Massillon had the slight edge getting 215 yards to 214 for the Bulldogs and 10 first downs to McKinley’s 7. The Tigers got 158 yards rushing while McKinley had 156. In passing it was 58 for McKinley to 57 for Massillon. Massillon held the ball for 57 plays while McKinley had it for 51.
First downs—rushing 10 7
First downs—passing 4 2
First downs—penalties 1 0
Total first downs 15 9
Yards gained rushing 173 170
Yards lost rushing 15 14
Net yards gained rushing 158 156
Net yards gained passing 57 58
Total yards gained 215 214
Passes attempted 10 7
Passes completed 5 5
Passes intercepted by 1 0
Yardage on passes intercepted 22 0
Times kicked off 4 3
Kickoff average (yards) 46.5 53.3
Kickoff returns (yards) 62 27
Times punted 1 5
Punt average (yards) 34.0 30.6
Punt returns (yards) 52 0
Had punts blocked 0 0
Fumbles 4 3
Lost fumbled ball 2 2
Penalties 0 5
Yards penalized 0 40
Touchdowns rushing 3 1
Touchdowns passing 0 1
Touchdowns by interception 0 0
Miscellaneous 0 0
Total number of plays 57 51
McKINLEY – 14
Ends – N. Roman, E. Bradley, Ring, Chaney.
Tackles – Scott, Miller, Carpenelli, R. Kinnard, Dodd,
Guards – Spencer, Bradbury, Vafides, Ra. Spencer.
Center – J. Roman.
Backs – Haines, Mathieu, Mathews, Hall, Rippey. E. Bradley,
MASSILLON – 20
Ends – Gilmore, Franklin, Paige, Goodnough, Garcia,
Tackles – Binge, Morgan, Rambaud.
Guards – T. Whitifield, Laursel, Zorger.
Centers – Muhlbach, Biddle.
Backs – Kanner, Sheegog, Herring, Hewitt, Lawrence, Frieg,
Pribich, Manson, Lemmon, Conti, Marks, Schenkenberger.
Massillon…………. 0 0 0 20 – 20
McKinley………… 14 0 0 14 — 14
Touchdowns – McKinley: Bradley (9-yard pass from Haines); Kalogeras (1-yard run).
Massillon: Lawrence (1-yard); Hewitt (1-yard run); Sheegog (14-yard run).
Extra points – Vafides 2 (kicks); Sheegog 2 (run).
Referee – Tony Pianowski (Cleveland).
Umpire – Harold Rolf (Ironton).
Head Linesman – Joe Romano (Mansfield).
Field Judge – Russ Kemper (Cincinnati).