This is the second 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 2 focuses on the quarterbacks in he two eras before the advent of the spread offense.
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 MULTIPLE OFFENSES (1976-1998)
In this era the offenses were transitioning from a traditional run-oriented attack to one that integrated more of the passing game. Massillon offenses, like Mike Currence’s “run-and-shoot” and Lee Owens “run-and-boot”, began to appear as the run-pass ratio decreased from 80% to 70%. Therefore, quarterbacks in this era are grouped together.
No. 1 – Willie Spencer, Jr. (1994)
- Opponent – Canton McKinley (8-1); rivalry game
- QB numbers – 6 of 13 for 103 yards and 2 touchdowns; rushed 12 times for 94 yards and 1 touchdown; 57% of the offense
- Key receivers – None with more than two receptions
- Final score – 42-41 o.t.
- The story – Spencer was perhaps the most prolific and athletic quarterback in Massillon history. And he showcased his abilities by gaining 197 yards while both running and passing the ball. He also managed of the offense brilliantly in this win over favored McKinley. Both teams scored twice in the first half, with Willie contributing a 3-yard TD run. In the third he threw two touchdown passes, the first a 62-yard flea flicker to Victor Redrick and the second a 4-yarder to Vaughn Mohler to give the Tigers a 28-21 lead going into the fourth.
Back-and-forth the scoring went until at the end of regulation it was tied at 35. McKinley tallied on its initial overtime possession, but failed on the extra point. Now it was the Tigers’ turn. On second down from the 20, Spencer headed around right end on an option play, faked a pitch, and then right before he got hit pitched the ball to Redick, who gathered the pigskin near the sideline and sped the remaining distance for the score. Nick Pribich’s PAT kick ended the game with Massillon as the victor.
It was a tremendous finish to this 100th game in the rivalry series. And the Booster Club Football Museum had previously tagged it as Massillon’s greatest victory all-time in their storied 100+ year history.
No. 2 – Brent Offenbecher (1978)
- Opponent – Canton McKinley (7-1); rivalry game
- QB numbers – 10 of 13 for 176 yards and 2 touchdowns; 89% of the offense
- Key receivers – Curt Strawder (8), Ron Wright (3)
- Final score – 13-10
- The story – Through three quarters of football McKinley owned the action and kicked a 22-yard field goal to lead 10-0 early in the fourth. But the last two Massillon drives were memorable. Using a combination of wide receiver slants and down-and-outs, Offenbecher directed the offense to a score on each of the Tigers’ final two possessions. The first started on the Massillon 43 and ended seven plays later when Offenbecher connected with Strawder on a 12-yard touchdown with 3:25 remaining in the game. Following a pass interception at the Bulldog 31, Brent went to work again, completing three straight passes, with the third a 6-yard TD to Strawder. A subsequent Tiger interception, their second of the game, then sealed the win.
Other Great Offenbecher Performances
- 1977 – Canton McKinley (9-0); rivalry game – Stats: 7 of 9 for 162 yards and 2 touchdowns – Score 21-0
No. 3 – Rick Spielman (1981)
- Opponent – Akron St. Vincent (6-0); finished the season as state champions with a 12-1 record
- QB numbers – 9 of 16 for 202 yards and 1 touchdown; rushed for 39 yards; 72% of the offense
- Key receivers – Larry Newman (3)
- Final score – 9-7
- The story – St. Vincent was undefeated and enroute to the Division 3 state title. Meanwhile, Massillon was struggling to find itself, while sitting on a 4-2 record and coming off a 26-24 upset at the hands of Barberton. Someone needed to step up and that someone was Rick Spielman. The first-year quarterback put up 241 yards of offense by running and passing and led his team to a major upset of the parochial school power. In the second quarter Rick hit George Roknich on a 64-yard touchdown pass. The Irish went ahead 7-6 in the third, but Rick responded and drove his team downfield for a game-winning 21-yard field goal by Greg Radka. The two key plays in the drive were a 43-yard pass to Gary Conley that moved the ball to the St. Vincent 30 and a 12-yard pass to Larry Newman, converting a 4th and ten. “I ran more to bring the halfback up,” said Spielman. “When I run the ball it helps the passing game. We worked a lot on our passing game this week to give me some confidence in throwing the ball and my receivers’ confidence in catching it.” – Massillon Independent
No. 4 – Lee Hurst (1989)
- Opponent – Akron Garfield (9-1); playoffs regional finals
- QB numbers – 10 of 14 for 174 yards and 3 touchdowns; 59% of the offense
- Key receivers – Rameir Martin (4), Doug Harig (3)
- Final score – 43-7
- The story – Hurst was in fire throughout and put this game in the bag by halftime, with the Massillon owning a 29-7 lead. Included in that was a 4-yard pass to Harig and his own 11-yard TD run on a naked boot. In the second half Lee added touchdown passes of 50 yards to Martin and 20 yards to Harig.
Other Great Hurst Performances
- 1989 – Middletown (1-1); finished the season 9-3 – Stats: 16 of 27 for 189 yards and 2 touchdowns – Score 17-7
- 1989 – Akron Garfield (9-1); playoff game – Stats: 10 of 14 for 174 yards and 3 touchdowns – Score: 43-7
No. 5 – Mike Scott (1984)
- Opponent – Stow (4-1); finished the season 8-2
- QB numbers – 19 of 32 for 302 yards and 2 touchdowns; 57% of the offense
- Key receivers – Bruce Spicer (8); Irwin Hastings (4); Wes Siegenthaler (4)
- Final score – 38-31
- The story – Massillon held a slim 20-19 lead in first half action, including a 40-yard TD pass from Scott to Spicer. During that 12-play, 75-yard drive, every play was a pass from Scott. Another touchdown pass in third quarter, a 10-yarder to Hastings, put the Tigers up 32-19. Massillon then held on for the win. Scott was consistent throughout the game. And his final pass of the night, coming on third and eight, was 30 yards to Spicer to seal the victory.
Other Great Scott Performances
- 1984 – Perry (7-1); finished the season 8-2; Stats: 17 of 29 for 179 yards and 1 touchdown – Score 10-0
- 1976 – Bret Traylor – Steubenville; finished the season 7-2-1 – Stats 9 of 15 for 177 yards and 1 touchdown – Score: 10-0
- 1980 – Dave Eberhart – Massillon Perry (0-0); finished the season 8-2; Stats: 9 of 11 for 85 yards and 0 touchdowns – Score: 30-13
- 1980 – Dave Eberhart – Akron Garfield (1-1); finished the season 7-2; Stats: 12 of 19 for 125 yards and 2 touchdowns – Score: 22-21
- 1982 – Brian Dewitz – Sharon, PA (6-0); finished the season 9-1; Stats: 11 of 18 for 140 yards a 1 touchdown – Score: 28-7
THE ERA OF RUN DOMINATION (1959-1975)
In this era offenses traditionally used run-oriented attacks, passing the ball around 20% of the time. In addition, the passing attacks had limited effectiveness, with teams normally completing around 40% of their attempts. Therefore, quarterbacks in this era are grouped together.
Note: Massillon did not retain Individual player statistics prior to 1959.
No. 1 – Greg Wood (1974)
- Opponent – Canton McKinley (9-0); rivalry game
- QB numbers – 7 of 10 for 119 yards and 2 touchdowns; 51% of the offense
- Key receivers – Eddy Bell (4)
- Final score – 20-15
- The story – Undefeated Canton McKinley, in position to lock up a playoff spot with a win, presented a tall task for this 5-4 Massillon team. But, in front of a sold-out crowd of 21,754, the Tigers pulled off an unbelievable upset on this sunny Saturday afternoon. Massillon surprised the Pups by tallying twice in the first half to take a 14-0 lead into the locker room. In the first quarter Wood finished off a 71-yard drive by connecting with Mark Streeter on a 24-yard touchdown pass. Then, in the second frame, Wood engineered a 63-yard drive and scored with his own 2-yard run.
But throughout the second half, up until the final minutes, it was all Bulldogs, albeit the Tigers did come up short on a field goal attempt. Two scores cut the margin to 14-12 and then, after McKinley recovered an onside kick, they played for a go-ahead field goal. The plan worked and Roch Hontas ended the short drive with a 24-yard field goal with 73 seconds left on the clock to give the Bulldogs a 15-14 lead. All they needed now to secure the win was to continue playing the outstanding defense they had all season. But Wood had other ideas.
Three down-and-out passes of 12, 9 and 12 yards to Bell less a quarterback sack advanced the ball to the McKinley 34 with just 13 seconds left. Somehow on the next play Wood sidestepped to avoid a heavy blitz and unloaded a long pass to Eddie Bell, who had beaten his defender down the right sideline. Bell then caught the ball in stride at the goal line uncontested for the game-winner. For Tiger fans, pandemonium ensued. And for that brief moment in time, Greg Wood was the most famous person in Tigertown.
“I just couldn’t believe it when I saw Eddie Bell in the open,” Shuff said of the 34-yard pass the 5-foot-10, 154-pound senior split end caught (in the end zone) from classmate Greg Wood. It came as the Tigers merely were driving for field position to give placekicker Dave Dowd a shot at a field goal attempt. “I don’t think we could call for another ounce of energy out of any of our boys,” Shuff said of the physically drained coaches and players. – Canton Repository’s Mike Zemelka
No. 2 – Ron Swartz (1963)
- Opponent – Cleveland Benedictine (6-1-1); finished the season with a 7-2-1 record
- QB numbers – 8 of 14 for 205 yards and 2 touchdowns; 67% of the offense
- Key receivers – Will Perry (4)
- Final score – 22-0
- The story – In an era when few passes were thrown in a game, Swartz lit it up with over 200 yards passing. And it was much needed, since the Bennies held Massillon to just 100 yards on the ground for the game. In the second quarter Swartz connected with Will Perry on a 78-yard touchdown pass. It came off of play-action and Perry, after having beaten the defender, secured the ball at the 40 and raced the remaining distance to the end zone. In the third quarter, Swartz again found Perry, this time from 21-yards out.
No. 3 – Kevin Westover (1972)
- Opponent – Canton McKinley (8-1); rivalry game
- QB numbers – 6 of 9 for 155 yards and 1 touchdown; 54% of the offense
- Key receivers – Terry Edwards (3)
- Final score – 12-3
- The story – In front of 22,371 fans at Tiger Stadium, Westover engineered his team’s offense to a pair of touchdowns that were sufficient to polish off an undefeated regular season and propel Massillon into the first-ever Ohio playoffs at Ohio State Stadium. The first score came in the second quarter on a 3rd and 8 situation when Westover unloaded a bomb to Greg Sullivan for a 64-yard touchdown. “That was the most important pass of my life,” Westover said of the first touchdown. I had the option of running or throwing deep. I saw Greg had him beaten and I threw it deep.” “Kevin Westover was magnificent,” bubbled Commings. “His passing was great. Greg Sullivan’s catching was great. The backs ran hard. The defense was superb. And our coach called a great game,” he quipped. – Canton Repository’s Bob Stewart
The Tigers would score again in the same frame when Westover plowed over the goal line from the one.