The state playoffs began last week, but for the Tigers it was a first-ever bye week. It was a time to get over the funk traditionally experienced following the McKinley game. Also, a chance to heal the bumps and bruises from that 35-7 victory and refocus on this week’s opponent, Columbus Walnut Ridge.
Two years ago Massillon faced the Scots in the first round of the playoffs and came away with a 45-14 victory. But it was a game in which it took awhile to adjust to some unusual offensive and defensive formations. In fact, the Tigers led just 17-14 until late in the third quarter. Eventually, a 21-0 fourth quarter put the game away. Walnut Ridge loaded the box on defense and effectively shut down the Massillon ground game. So it was up to quarterback Aidan Longwell and his talented receiving corps to respond. And he did just that with a big night, completing 22 of 33 passes for 216 yards and a touchdown. Jaydan Ballard had eight catches and Kyshad Mack grabbed six. The Scots were held to just 27 yards on the ground, but had success passing, finishing with 229 yards.
In other contests:
- 7th Grade (3-3): Was idle. Plays the Western Crusaders on Wednesday away at 5:30 pm.
- 8th Grade (6-0): Defeated Mentor, 40-6. Plays Canton on Wednesday away at 5:00 pm.
- 9th Grade (5-1): Defeated lost to Kirtland JV, 10-7. Plays Louisville on Thursday at home at 6:00 pm.
- JV (4-3): Defeated Lakewood St. Edward, 28-18. Plays Wooster on Saturday at home at 10:30 am.
The guest co-captains were quarterback Zach Catrone and linebacker Xavier Andrews. “The team is really looking forward to this week,” said Andrews. “We’re ready to make a good run in the playoffs.” Catrone talked at length about the opportunity during the bye week to heal the bruises and get refreshed in preparation for the dive into the playoffs.
Head Coach Nate Moore was unable to attend the Booster Club meeting, so in his place were several assistant coaches.
Strength and Conditioning Coach Dan Studer was first up and focused on his two assignments: (1) preparing the Tigers physically for battle and (2) keeping the players off the field during the game. He jokingly referred to the latter responsibility as the “get back coach.” Studer talked about the difficulties encountered during the off-season on account of the Covid pandemic. “It’s been rough,” he said. “We took that long break from March to June.” It did help that the Booster Club purchased conditioning-related software that the coaches could use to define workouts and the players would use to report on progress. Not all players had access to weights and they did what they could, but without physical coaching access to the players it was just not the same. “Coming back, I didn’t think we were really at full capacity until two weeks ago, both physically and mentally,” he said. “The tougher schedule was a benefit.” But the coaches are just now figuring out who are the top performers. “We’re in a pretty good spot now,” he added. “The bye week was the best thing that happened from a strength and conditioning standpoint. It let us rest up and get refocused.”
Defensive Coordinator Craig McConnell addressed the Walnut Ridge offense. This is a 100% senior-laden group and some of the players participated in the game played two years ago. The Tigers will need to contain running back Javarus Leach, a 5′-10″, 208 lb., 3-year letterman (he also lays inside linebacker). McConnell said that he is a pretty good player, thick and runs hard. Aside from running back, he will also line up at other skill positions in order to take advantage of his talent. In essence, they tend to want him to touch the ball on nearly every play. As a sophomore in the 2018 game, he carried the ball 17 times for 50 yards. The quarterback Howard Thornton. His favorite target is William Felts (5′-11″, 165 lbs.). The best linemen is 6′-6″, 267 lb. Jamarius Dinkins, a 3-year starter. He is very physical and comes off the ball well. He has offers at the next level from Michigan State and Kentucky.
Addressing the other side of the ball was Offensive Coordinator Jarrett Troxler. Trox said the Scots play defense like an old-school 50-defense. All three interior linemen go both ways, with Dinkins and 6′-4″, 240 lb. Ras Anderson considered the better players. The defensive backs are athletic and utilize a lot of man coverage. “The defense loaded the box two years ago and the run game took some adjustments to get going,” said Troxler. So the coaches will need to game-plan for many potential alignments.
Cornerbacks and special teams coach Jason Jarvis addressed the special teams.
Note: There will be no public sale of tickets for all playoff games.