This is the fourth part in 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 4 focuses on the running backs during the eras prior to the spread offense (1959-1997), combining both the era of the multiple offenses and era of run domination.
In determining the best running back performance and similar to the ranking of quarterbacks, it’s not necessarily about the player who had the best stats. The primary factor is the caliber of the opponent and the resulting impact of the performance. The criteria then are follows:
- The opponent must have had a top-level record and presented a significant challenge to the offense.
- The running back must have had better than average rushing statistics.
- The running back must have contributed a significant percentage of the total offense.
- If required, the running back must have been a significant factor in pulling out the win at the end.
No. 1 – Travis McGuire (1991)
- Opponent – Canton McKinley (6-3); rivalry game
- RB numbers – 36 carries for 302 yards and 5 touchdowns; 8.4 yards/att.; 75% of the offense
- Final score – 42 – 13
- The story – McGuire’s 302 yards surpassed a record that had stood for 37 years, long since Homer Floyd amassed 263 yards against this same opponent in 1954. And it’s a feat that’s still talked about to this day. It was well-known at the time that this future Ohio State Buckeye was one of two stellar running backs on Coach Lee Owens’ team, the other being Falando Ashcraft. But Ashcraft was limited in this one due to a sprained ankle and only had three carries. That left it up to McGuire to shoulder the load. And he did just that, through sure exhaustion, leaving it all on the field. He ended up toting the ball on 36 of his team’s 60 attempts, going through and around the defense, spinning his way to five touchdowns. Owens also a times employed an unbalanced line to give McGuire plenty of blockers.
McGuire’s initial score came in the first period from 14 yards out, which broke a 7-7 tie. On Massillon’s next possession it was an 11-yard TD run in the second quarter. Only, McKinley was still in the game at halftime, trailing just 21-13. But the second half was all Tigers. In the third, McGuire opened the margin to 22 points on runs of 6 and 1 yards. Then he iced it in the fourth with a 79-yard sprint to the end zone, while glancing back often to assure that he couldn’t be caught.
“He’s a fine young man,” remarked Owens following the game when asked about McGuire’s 302 yards. “He said, ‘just give me the ball, coach, and we will win the game.’ And the offensive line played hard all game.” – WHBC television broadcast
“You can’t really explain it,” said McGuire after the game about the 302 yards and five touchdowns. “When I get home and go to sleep, it will probably hit me. We weren’t sure Falando would be able to play this week. So I took it upon myself to work harder, because I knew I would need to carry the load on offense. And I just made the best of it when I had the chance.” – WHBC television broadcast
Other Great McGuire Performances
- 1991 – Akron Ellet (9-1); playoff first round – Stats: 19 carries for 198 yards and 2 touchdowns 10.4 yards/att. – Score 28-6
- 1991 – Toledo St. John’s (8-2); playoff regional finals – Stats: 29 carries for 229 yards and 3 touchdowns; 7.9 yards/att. – Score 42-21
No. 2 – Tom Hannon (1972)
- Opponent – Upper Arlington (1-0-1); finished the season 6-2-2
- RB numbers – 23 carries for 212 yards and 0 touchdowns; 8.8 yards/att.; 65% of the offense
- Final score – 14-0
- The story – For the previous five years Upper Arlington had ranked right up there with the best teams in the state, taking home the state title three times (1967, 68 and 69), against one title for Massillon (1970) and one for Warren Harding (1971). The Golden Bears also had a pair of wins over the Tigers (1966 and 67). But now was time for the Tigers to right the ship against UA. Playing in front of a sold out crowd at Marv Morehead Stadium, all eyes were on Massillon and speedy running back future pro Tom Hannon.
The defense did its job all night, shutting out Upper Arlington and holding them to 130 yards of offense, while Hannon did the rest. Although he didn’t score in the game, he was instrumental in helping his team to a pair of second half touchdowns for the win. The first was set up with Hannon’s 19-yard draw play to the one. On the second TD drive, he contributed a 12-yard run. Hannon would have put up a third Tiger score, one of 58 yards, but a cramp put him on the ground prematurely.
“Massillon is a great team,” said Golden Bears Head Coach Pete Corey. “They execute as well as any football team I have ever seen. That Tom Hannon is one of the best runners we have ever faced. He can seem to be running at top speed and then shift into high gear. He’s a fine one.” – Check Hess of the Massillon Independent
No. 3 – Homer Floyd (1954)
Opponent – Canton McKinley (8-1); rivalry game
- RB numbers – 28 carries for 263 yards and 2 touchdowns; 9.4 yards/att.; 59% of the offense
- Final score – 26-6
- The story – Homer Floyd saw to it that that once-beaten McKinley would not get the better of his team in the annual rivalry game by setting a new single season rushing record and averaging a whopping 9.4 yards per carry. Floyd rushed for 125 yards in the first half on 19 carries and then added another 138 yards in the second on just 9 carries. His two touchdowns came in the second half, which gave Massillon an insurmountable 20-0 lead. The first was on a 28-yard run and second, a 13-yard run. He also had a long run of 55 yards, but he was stopped at the three yard line, just short of the end zone.
No. 4 – Art Hastings (1960)
- Opponent – Cleveland Benedictine (1-0); lost 7-0 in the Cleveland championship game; finished the season 8-3-1
- RB numbers – 8 carries for 177 yards and 3 touchdowns; 22.1 yards/att.; 57% of the offense
- Final score – 36-6
- The story – Hastings only carried the ball eight times in this game against Cleveland power Benedictine, but he made the most of them with three touchdowns and a massive yardage average. His first TD came from ten yards out on Massillon’s initial possession and then he added two more scored in the second half, on runs of 69 and 49 yards.
Other Great Hastings Performances
- 1959 – Warren Harding (6-0); finished the season 9-1 – Stats: carries for 169 yards and 2 touchdowns; 9.4 yards/att. – Score 38-8
- 1960 – Canton McKinley (5-4); rivalry game – Stats: 14 carries for 213 yards and 4 touchdowns; 15.2 yards/att. – Score 42-0
No. 5 – Mike Mauger (1970)
- Opponent – Cleveland Benedictine (1-0); finished the season 9-1
- RB numbers – 11 carries for 220 yards and 3 touchdowns; 20.0 yards/att.; 61% of the offense
- Final score – 32-7
- The story – Mauger scored three first-half touchdowns, on runs of 89, 3 and 70 yards, to open an 18-0 lead and the Tigers never looked back. The first time he touched the ball he took a pitch out and rumbled 84 yards for a score. But it was called back due to a penalty. So the Tigers ran the same play on the next try and this time the TD counted. Mauger added a fourth touchdown in the third quarter on an 80-yard run.
Other Great Mauger Performances
- 1970 – Niles McKinley (3-0); finished the season 7-2-1 – Stats: 14 carries for 138 yards and 0 touchdowns; 9.9 yards/att. – Score 22-3
No. 6 – Falando Ashcraft (1991)
- Opponent – Toledo St. John’s (8-2); playoff regional finals
- RB numbers – 18 carries for 165 yards and 3 touchdowns; 9.2 yards/att.; 35% of the offense
- Final score – 42-21
- The story – With the Tigers trailing 21-7 early in the third quarter, Ashcraft took it upon himself to score three of the five second-half touchdowns to turn the game around. His 3-yard run in the third quarter closed the gap to 21-14 and then an 80-yard jaunt early in the fourth gave Massillon a 28-21 lead that they didn’t relinquish. His final score came from two yards out. Along the way, Ashcraft averaged a whopping 9.2 yards per carry. Running mate Travis McGuire also contributed 229 yards and three touchdowns.
No. 7 – Charlie Brown (1961)
- Opponent – Cincinnati Roger Bacon (5-0); finished the season 4th in the state with a 9-1 record
- RB numbers – 23 carries for 165 yards and 1 touchdown; 7.2 yards/att.; 44% of the offense
- Final score – 12-0
- The story – Roger Bacon tested the state title waters in 1960, but lost at Massillon, 8-0. This second time around Bacon was the host and, with a much improved team, was ready to turn the tables. Only, future pro Charlie Brown seemed to have gotten in the way. Brown simply took over the game, putting up 165 of the Tigers’ 374 yards of offense against the much larger opponent. On the first drive, which ended with a score by Fred Philpott, Brown carried the ball twelve times, including a 21-yarder to the red zone. Then, he scored a touchdown on a 60-yard run in the third quarter that put the game away.
No. 8 – Lamonte Dixon (1989)
- Opponent – Walsh Jesuit (8-1); playoff first round
- RB numbers – 10 carries for 181 yards and 1 touchdowns; 18.1 yards/att.; 40% of the offense
- Final score – 42-24
- The Story – The situation was dire in this playoff contest. Massillon’s game plan of throwing the ball was just not working and the Tigers were behind at the half, 24-6. But in the second half they went mostly to the run, which opened the door for Dixon to have a stellar night. Although he only scored one touchdown, a 6-yard run in the third quarter, he was instrumental in the comeback, averaging 18.1 yard per carry. In addition, following an interception at the Massillon 11, Dixon on the very next play broke through a slew of would-be tacklers and sped 80 yards to the Walsh nine. The Tigers then scored on the next play to give themselves a 2-score advantage into the fourth quarter.
No. 9 – Sam McDew (1979)
- Opponent – Cleveland Benedictine (4-0); finished the season 7-1-1
- RB numbers – 15 carries for 145 yards and 2 touchdowns; 9.7 yards/att.; 50% of the offense
- Final score – 38-6
- Story – Against the undefeated Bennies, McDew scored his first touchdown in the opening period on a 7-yard sweep to the left. He followed that up with an 85-yard jaunt on a trap play up the middle for a second score. With McDew’s 140 yards rushing on 14 carries and two touchdowns, coupled with a Jeff Fry field goal, Massillon was able to take a commanding 17-0 lead going into the locker room. The game eventually turned into a rout. It became Benedictine’s only loss of the season.
No. 10 – Bill Harmon (1975)
- Opponent – Cleveland Benedictine (3-1); finished the season 8-2
- RB numbers – 27 carries for 201 yards and 3 touchdowns; 7.4 yards/att.; 59% of the offense
- Final score – 36-8
- Story – As a 6’-1”, 237 lb. running back, Bill Harmon was load for any defense. And for Benedictine it was no exception. Harmon rushed for over 200 yards and scored three touchdowns in this one, which turned out to be the best performance of his career. In the first half he tallied from nine yards out, but the Bennies answered and the halftime score was tied at eight apiece. Two Harmon third quarter TDs, of 2 and 48 yards, opened up a 22-8 lead and the Tigers held the advantage the rest of the way. Harmon also ran for two PATs. “We tried a couple new plays tonight, to get Harmon wide,” Coach Shuff said. “That sweep was one of them.” Harmon’s brother, Keith, scored the final points on a pass from Dave Smith.
- 1952 – Lee Nussbaum – Canton McKinley (6-2-1); rivalry game – Stats: 21 carries for 180 yards and 2 touchdowns; 8.6 yards/att. – Score 41-8
- 1965 – Walt Lemon – Niles McKinley (4-0); finished the season 6-2-2 – Stats: 11 carries for 124 yards and 0 touchdowns; 11.3 yards/att. – Score 22-8
- 1971 – Willie Spencer, Sr. – Barberton (6-0); finished the season 7-1-1 – Stats: 12 carries for 124 yards and 2 touchdowns; 10.3 yards/att. – Score: 46-0
- 1982 – Jim Bushe – Canton GlenOak (6-1); finished the season 8-2 – Stats: 13 carries for 142 yards and 1 touchdown; 10.9 yards/att. – Score 42-14
Greatest Performance in a Loss
Tom Hannon (1972)
- Opponent – Cincinnati Princeton (9-0-1); playoff state semifinals
- RB numbers – 22 carries for 159 yards and 1 touchdown; 7.2 yards/att.; 53% of the offense
- Final score – 14-17
- Store – It was the first ever year of the playoffs and undefeated Massillon was facing Cincinnati Princeton at Ohio State Stadium. On the second play of the game, Hannon took a pitch and broke loose on a 64-yard touchdown run, followed by 2-point conversion run. Two subsequent drives fell short, but Tigers pushed one in late in the second quarter to lead 14-0. But on the final play of the half, Princeton kicked a remarkable 47-yard field goal. Unfortunately, that score turned the momentum in their favor, which they maintained throughout the second half, in spite of a gallant effort by the Massillon offense. Ironically, the Tigers led in total yards, 299-247.