This is the first part of a series on the greatest performances by Massillon players, as selected by the Booster Club Football Museum staff. Three distinct eras are considered in order to account for the variations in offensive styles. Part 1 focuses on the quarterbacks during the era of the spread offense (1998-2021).
In determining the best quarterback performance it’s not a matter of which player had the most yards or the most touchdown passes or the highest efficiency rating. If you’re interesting in those numbers you can read about them in the Records section of this website. Surely, the stats for a QB should be better than average. But what’s missing in many of those records is the challenge presented by the caliber of the opponent. This then is a key component. Another factor is the degree to which the quarterback had influence in the outcome. Was the running game shut down, forcing a move strictly to a passing attack? Was the quarterback a major factor at the end in pulling out a win? Here then are the criteria used in this analysis?
- The quarterback must have had better than average passing statistics.
- The opponent must have had a top-level record and presented a significant challenge to the offense, particularly coming from the secondary.
- The passing game must have contributed a major percentage of the total offense.
- If required, the quarterback must have been a significant factor in pulling out the win at the end.
Finally, let’s not forget the receivers who were on the other ends of these outstanding passing performances.
THE ERA OF THE SPREAD OFFENSE (1998-2021)
Massillon began using the spread offense in 1998 when Rick Shepas became the head coach and it has been the offense of choice for all Massillon coaches since. With anywhere between three and five wide receivers in the formation, the tendency has been to throw the ball around 40% of the time, more than during previous years. Therefore, the presentation groups the quarterbacks from this era together.
Since passing is more prevalent with the spread offense, it stands to reason that there would be many great quarterback performances from which to choose, making the selections extremely difficult. But two performances stood above the rest: Bobby Huth in the 2005 playoff game against Lakewood St. Edward and Aidan Longwell in the 2018 game against East St. Louis. And even choosing the best between these two was a difficult task. But in the end it was the St. Edward game due to the significance of the outcome at the time; i.e. the state semifinals. The next eight are also outstanding and perhaps could have been ranked in any order. Here is our list:
No. 1 – Bobby Huth (2005)
- Opponent – Lakewood St. Edward (12-0); Division 1 State Semifinals
- QB numbers – 14 of 20 for 230 yards and 2 touchdowns; 91% of the offense
- Key receivers – Brian Gamble (5), Zack Vanryzin (3)
- Final score – 21-17
- The story – A large Rubber Bowl crowd of 14,100 huddled together to watch two of Ohio’s state powers do battle on this cold and snowy Saturday afternoon. For local fans it was an opportunity to see if Massillon (11-1) could to return to the state finals for the first time in 23 years. But first they needed to get by one of the best teams in the state, if not the country; one that was undefeated also craving its first playoff state title. Throughout the game St. Edward held the vaunted Tiger running game in check, eventually limiting it to 24 yards in total. That forced the Tigers to the air. In the first quarter Huth connected with a wide-open Vanryzin on a 67-yard touchdown bomb to give his team a 7-0 lead. But the Eagles quickly settled down and began to pound away, eventually leading 17-7 midway through the fourth quarter.
That’s when Bobby did his best work. First, he engineered an 8-play 62-yard drive, with Gamble securing an 18-yard pass in the end zone for a score, cutting the margin to three points. Along the way Huth completed passes to Brett Huffman of 6 and 13 yards and another to Gamble for 14. The Tigers held St. Eds in the ensuing possession and Huth then drove his team downfield for the winning score, moving 55 yards in eight plays. But the drive was not without some nail-biting toward the end. On first and ten at the Eagle 29 the center snapped the ball prematurely and Huth was forced to fall on it near midfield, some 30 yards from the first down stick. After an incomplete pass, Bobby found Gamble on a crossing route and Gamble sprinted the remaining distance down the left sideline to pick up the first down. It was simply an inconceivable conversion of a 3rd and 30 situation. Huth, who was 5 for 6 on the drive, then hit Gamble on a 9-yard pass to the five. Finally, Brian finished it off with a run up the middle, with 1:56 left on the clock. The Tigers then held St. Ed’s on its final possession and secured the victory.
“I was looking for B.G.,” Huth said. “He was supposed to run a deep post over the middle, and he saw the safety over the top. We were just on the same page. I just threw it to him, and he was there. He had a good run after the play.” – Independent story
“Once they started going pass first and spreading, we didn’t come up with the answer,” said Eagle Coach John Gibbons. “We tried to get the ball quick out of the quarterback’s hand, and he was very elusive and he found guys. It was hard for us to run with those guys in man, especially when the quarterback was getting in open spaces. Then we tried to mix it up and use some zone coverages and take the pressure off that way and they seemed to adjust their routes. They just made great plays.” — Independent story
Other Great Huth Performances
- 2006 – Massillon Perry (9-1); Division 1 playoffs first round – Stats: 11 of 16 for 260 yards and 3 touchdowns – Score: 41-20
No. 2 – Aidan Longwell (2018)
- Opponent – East St. Louis, IL (5-1); finished the season 9-3
- QB numbers – 16 of 26 for 260 yards and 3 touchdowns; 65% of the offense
- Key receivers – Tre’von Morgan (8), Jamir Thomas (4); Jayden Ballard (3)
- Final score – 46-40
- The story – Massillon was surely the underdog while facing this out-of-state national power, a team that possessed unbelievable team speed and athleticism. But Massillon held its own and kept it close throughout, with the final points coming late in the fourth quarter. ESL scored on its first possession. Two minutes later the Tigers responded when Longwell hit Morgan on a 16-yard touchdown pass, closing the gap to 8-7. In the second quarter Aidan again hooked up with Morgan, this time for 39 yards, but the Tigers ultimately trailed 20-10 at the half.
That was about to change, at least for a while. A 39-yard TD pass to Morgan, his third of the night, cut the deficit to 20-17. And then Longwell called his own number with a double lateral and throwback pass from Ballard to the QB for a 19-yard score to take a 24-20 lead. But it was short-lived. ESL came right back with a pair of touchdowns to lead 34-24. The Tigers battled back, but were behind 40-38 with 5:26 remaining.
So it was time for the game-winning drive. It started with 22-yard completion to Thomas on a wheel route that advanced the ball to the ESL 43. After two rushing attempts gained four yards, Aidan unloaded a 3rd down pass to Jayden Ballard, who snagged the bomb in the end zone just before going out the back end. It was the final points of the night and the Tigers were able to control the remaining three and a half minutes to take home the win.
“The offense kept us in the game,” Massillon coach Nate Moore said. “The defense got the stop when they did. Hats off to the kids for keep playing hard.” – Massillon Independent
Other Great Longwell Performances
- 2018 – Austintown Fitch (4-1); finished the season 8-3 – Stats: 13 of 20 for 263 yards and 4 touchdowns – Score 42-14
- 2018 – Wadsworth (12-1); Division 2 regional finals – Stats: 17 of 25 for 305 yards and 4 touchdowns – Score 41-19
- 2019 – Akron St. Vincent (0-0); finished the season 8-3 – Stats: 20 of 23 for 322 yards and 2 touchdowns – Score: 44-14
- 2019 – Penn-Trafford, Harrison City, PA (4-0) – Stats.: 14 of 15 for 225 yards and 4 touchdowns – Score: 42-21
- 2019 – Massillon Perry (9-2); Division 2 playoffs – Stats: 19 of 26 for 337 yards and 5 touchdowns – Score 35-7
No. 3 – Matt Martin (2002)
- Opponent – Massillon Perry (10-1); Division 1 regional finals
- QB numbers – 21 of 29 for 293 yards and 2 touchdowns; 90% of the offense
- Key receivers – Devin Jordan (7), Stephon Ashcraft (4), Billy Relford (4)
- Final score – 23-21
- The story – Martin was on fire the entire night and he needed to be, because Perry had held Massillon on the ground to just 33 yards and owned a 21-20 lead late in the fourth quarter. One more big completion was needed and it came on a bomb to Jordan, who secured a back-shoulder pass at the 25 yard line. Then, with time running out, Max Shafer drilled a game-winning 35-yard field goal. Matt completed six straight passes during the 57-yard drive.
No. 4 – Kyle Kempt (2012)
- Opponent – Austintown Fitch (6-0); finished the season 9-2
- QB numbers – 18 of 25 for 308 yards and 4 touchdowns; 57% of the offense
- Key receivers – Marcus Whitfield (6), Gareon Conley (5), Erne Baez (3)
- Final score – 34-14
- The story – Kempt threw four touchdown passes in the first half to help Massillon open a 27-7 halftime lead. He then controlled the action the rest of the way to secure the win. It was Fitch’s only regular season loss.
Other Great Kempt Performances
- 2012 – Steubenville (4-0); finished the season 9-3 – Stats 12 of 18 for 160 yards and 2 touchdowns – Score 24-7
- 2012 – Akron St. Vincent (7-1); Division 3 state champion – Stats: 14 of 22 for 216 yards and 3 touchdowns – Score 44-23
No. 5 – Justin Zwick (2001)
- Opponent – Canton McKinley (8-1); rivalry game; finished the season 8-3
- QB numbers – 16 of 25 for 256 yards and 2 touchdowns; 61% of the offense
- Key receivers – Devin Jordan (10)
- Final score – 29-26
- The story – Massillon led at half on the strength of two Zwick touchown passes. The first was an 11-yarder to Stephon Ashcraft and the second a 36-yarder to Jordan. But McKinley came back in the third quarter to lead 26-22 with 2:52 left in the game. Justin then grabbed his moment in the sun by moving the team 72 yards for the game-winning score. Along the way he completed both of his passes for 27 yards, setting up a final run by Robert Oliver. An interception in the end zone by Craig McConnell on the Bulldogs’ final possession sealed the victory.
Other Great Zwick Performances
- 2000 – Akron Garfield (1-1); finished the season 8-2 – Stats: 29 of 43 for 375 yards and 2 touchdowns – Score: 51-26
- 2001 – Akron Garfield (1-1); finished the season 7-3 – Stats: 16 of 23 for 233 yards and 3 touchdowns – Score: 59-0
- 2001 – Mansfield (4-1); finished the season 7-4 – Stats: 24 of 37 for 231 yards and 0 touchdowns – Score: 17-14
- 2001 – Canton McKinley (8-2); playoffs second round – Stats: 24 of 33 for 239 yards and 3 touchdowns – Score: 35-19
- 2001 – North Canton (11-1); playoffs third round – Stats: 23 of 28 for 252 yards and 2 touchdowns – Score: 27-7
No. 6 – Zach Catrone (2020)
- Opponent – Massillon Perry (9-0); Division 2 regional finals
- QB numbers – 10 of 10 for 234 yards and 3 touchdowns; 70% of the offense
- Key receivers – Jayden Ballard (7)
- Final score – 43-13
- The story – Catrone couldn’t miss in this playoff game and engineered his team to a 43-13 victory over previously undefeated Perry. In the first half he tossed a 72-yard bomb to Jayden Ballard, but that was Massillon’s only score and they trailed 7-6 while headed to the locker room. In the second half, the Tigers caught fire and scored five times, including two TD passes to Ballard, of 15 and 33 yards, to win going away. Massillon was held to just 102 yards on the ground for the game, but Zach made up for the deficit by completing all ten of his pass attempts.
No. 7 – Seth Blankenship (2015)
- Opponent – Massillon Perry (0-0); Division 2 state runner-up
- QB numbers – 15 of 20 for 188 yards and 2 touchdowns; 57% of the offense
- Key receivers – Keyshawn Watson (7); Austin Jasinski (5); Todd Fichter (3)
- Final score – 41-37
- The story – It was Nate Moore’s first game as a Massillon coach, against a favored Perry team. But the Tigers jumped on the Panthers early. In the first quarter Blankenship connected with Watson on a 52-yard touchdown pass to open a 20-0 lead. Then in the third quarter, he extended the lead to 34-7 with a 33-yard TD pass to Jasinski. But Perry mounted a fierce comeback and eventually took a 37-34 lead with 5:17 on the clock. That’s when Blankenship led his Tigers on a 60-yard drive to secure the win, with Dakota Dunwiddie scoring from two yards out with just 3:34 left.
No. 8 – Dave Irwin (1999)
- Opponent – Massillon Perry (4-2)
- QB numbers – 18 of 25 for 273 yards and 3 touchdowns; 74% of the offense
- Key receivers – Joe Price (6); Rocky Dorsey (3); Anthony Battle (3)
- Final score – 35-14
- The story – The first half was a defensive affair and the two teams entered the locker room tied at seven. But in the second half, the Tigers went to work behind the accurate arm of Dave Irwin. After a Jesse Scott 5-yard run for the lead, Irwin tossed three touchdown passes. The first came in the third quarter. a was a 22-yarder to Dorsey. After a Perry score cut the margin to 21-14 in the fourth, Irwin capped the night by finishing off two scoring drives with touchdown passes of 43 yards to Dorsey and 9 yards to Price.
Other Great Irwin Performances
- 1999 – Canton McKinley (7-2); finished the season 8-4 – Stats: 12 of 130 yards and 3 touchdowns – Score 35-7
No. 9 – Robert Partridge (2009)
- Opponent – Warren Harding (4-2-1); finished the season 6-3-1
- QB numbers – 17 of 27 for 260 yards and 5 touchdowns; 67% of the offense
- Key receivers – Devin Smith (5); Bo Grunder (5); Brandon Pedro (3)
- Final score – 39-21
- The story – The first five Massillon touchdowns were courtesy of Partridge’s arm as the Tigers opened up a 32-14 lead late in the third quarter. In the first half he connected for TDs with Smith for 32 yards, Justin Olack for 30 yards and Tyler Allman for 16 yards. In the second half it was a pair of touchdowns tosses to Smith for 13 and 19 yards. The final points were scored on the ground by Alex Winters from one yard out. The five touchdown passes ranks second all-time.
Other Great Partridge Performances
- 2009 – Mentor (5-3); finished the season 6-4 – Stats: 14 of 20 for 233 yards and 3 touchdowns – Score: 28-20
Greatest Performance by a Massillon Quarterback in a Loss
Danny Clark (2013)
- Opponent – Austintown Fitch (6-0); finished season 12-1 and state semifinalist
- QB numbers – 16 of 23 for 358 yards and 2 touchdowns; 70% of the offense
- Key receivers – Marcus Whitfield (6); Reggie Rogers (5); Beau Huffman (3)
- Final score – 27-30
- The story – Down 30-14 with 4:45 left to play, Clark connected with Reggie Rogers on passing touchdowns of 80 and 72 yards to close the gap to 30-27. After forcing Fitch to punt, Danny drove his team to the ten yard line, completing 5 of 8 passes for 60 yards. But, following a procedure penalty that negated a touchdown, Clark’s run on the final play of the game was stopped at the four as time expired.