With Ohio’s high schools scrambling to fill schedules for a 6-game modified slate, the Tigers and Eagles have agreed to face each other in Game No. 1 at Paul Brown Tiger Stadium on Friday, August 28. The two teams will not be unfamiliar with each other since they had originally planned to face off in the final scrimmage prior to the previous 10-game schedule, something they’ve done in each of the last few years. But in addition to the shortened season, scrimmages have also been canceled, so this game makes sense.
Massillon had originally planned to open with Bishop Gorman from Las Vegas as part of Nike’s high school football classic at Canton’s Benson Field. But the impact of Covid-19 forced Nike to cancel the 12-team event.
Then just a few weeks ago it was Pickerington North from the Columbus area. The game was slated for a Sunday afternoon kickoff, while being aired on ESPN2. But then the Ohio High School Athletic Association opted to shorten the season when the Ohio Department of Health preferred that all fall contact sports be wrapped up prior to Thanksgiving, fearing that the virus would rebound during the winter months. The OHSAA released a plan that included six regular season games followed by seven weeks of playoffs, with every team eligible to participate. This was the best chance for schools to play football this fall, while keeping it fair. And it appears likely that this will happen.
With the 6-game restriction and all current game contracts nullified, most leagues are opting to schedule league games only. In the case of Pickerington North, they have six teams in their division of the Ohio Capital Conference. Their league games will occur on Weeks 2 through 6. However, the league selected Pickerington Central for their opener since it is a rivalry game. Incidentally, ESPN will be airing the game, presumably because North has Ohio’s Number 1 recruit, Jack Sawyer and ESPN loves to showcase the Division 1 athletes. But just in the last couple of days, Sawyer elected to forego his high school season, graduate in December and then enrollment at Ohio State with the hope of playing spring football for the Buckeyes in their modified season.
So all of this means that large independent schools like Massillon and St. Edward are left to schedule mostly other independent schools.
The last time the Tigers and Eagles faced each other in a game that counted was the 2005 Division 1 state semifinals, which was played at Akron’s Rubber Bowl. In that one, Massillon overcame a two touchdown deficit to win the game 21-17 and advance to the state finals against Cincinnati St. Xavier. The Tigers’ Brian Gamble scored both of the game-winning touchdowns, the first on an 18-yard pass from Bobby Huth and the second on a 5-yard run with 1:56 remaining in the game. Massillon leads the overall series 3-2.
St. Edward is one of the most successful Ohio teams over the last ten years, having compiled an overall record of 114-20, including a regular season mark of 83-14 and a playoff record of 31-6. During that time they have lost only twice to a public school in the regular season, both of those setbacks occurring during the last two years and both to Mentor by single digits. Four times in that period they captured the Division 1 state championship: 2010, 2014, 2015 and 2018.
With the Tigers expected to have one of their better teams, this should be a great matchup. In addition, with these national powers taking the field, it is undoubtedly the biggest matchup in the state for that week. It may also influence the coaches who are voting for the playoff seeding since Akron Hoban also plays Eds the following week.
So strap it up. The 2020 season is about to get underway.