This is the fifth part in a series on the greatest performances by Massillon players, as selected by the Booster Club Football Museum staff.   Part 4 focuses on the wide receivers throughout the timeline of Massillon football (1891-present).

Unlike in the previous Series Parts for quarterbacks and running backs, this presentation uses a completely different approach in selecting the best of the best.  A receiver does not have as much control over his performance, aside from running a good route, since he must rely on the quarterback to make a decision to actually throw him the ball and throw it accurately.  So, receptions, yards and touchdowns data can be misleading.  Therefore, the criteria used in this presentation focuses on a receiver’s impact in securing the victory via one of the following two scenarios:

  • A winning touchdown reception in the fourth quarter
  • A key reception that sets up a winning touchdown reception in the fourth quarter

To start off, here are the current record-holders for wide receivers:

Yards – Andrew Wilson-Lamp (2019)

  • Opponent – Akron St. Vincent (0-0); finished the season 8-3
  • Final Score – 44-14
  • WR numbers – 11 receptions for 232 yards and 1 touchdown
  • Quarterback – Aidan Longwell
  • The story – Wilson-Lamp caught more than half of the team’s passes in routing the Irish.  Seven of his 11 receptions went for more than ten yards, including long ones of 51, 45, 40 and 24 yards.  “I just came out ready to play,” Wilson-Lamp said after his record-setting performance.  “I wasn’t expecting to break anything.” – Chris Easterling, Independent

Receptions – Austin Kutscher (2017)

  • Austin KutscherOpponent – Canisius, NY (4-1); finished the season 8-4
  • Final Score – 35-49 L
  • WR numbers17 receptions for 208 yards and 0 touchdowns
  • Quarterback – Aidan Longwell
  • The story – Attempting to come from behind in this loss, Longwell threw 30 passes and completed 22 of them.  His primary target was Kutscher, who caught 17 passes out of 19 attempts, with long completions of 42, 26, 23 and 20 yards.

Touchdowns – Wendell Lohr (1934)

  • Opponent – Barberton
  • Final Score – 54-0
  • WR numbers5 touchdowns
  • Quarterback – Bob Shertzer and Mike Byelene
  • The story – Lohr scored the first three Massillon touchdowns on pass receptions of 16, 44 and 10 yards.  His third quarter TD of 29 yards upped the score to 40-0 and he then finished it off in the fourth with a 20-yard TD reception, the Tigers’ final TD of the night.  In between, he returned a punt 50 yards for a touchdown to give him six TDs for the night.

 Longest Touchdown – Jayden Ballard (2019)

  • Opponent – Monroeville Gateway, PA (6-1); finished the season 12-3
  • Final Score – 48-12
  • WR numbers – 5 receptions for 145 yards and 1 touchdown; long of 95 yards
  • Quarterback – Aidan Longwell
  • The story – Massillon held a 10-0 lead midway through the second quarter and had just stopped a potential Gateway score by recovering a fumble at the 4 yard line.  On 2nd and 9 from the five, in an attempt to get out of the hole, Longwell unloaded to Ballard.  The speedster separated himself from the defender along the right sideline, secured the ball in stride at 40 and then outraced the would-be tackler 60 yards to the end zone.  The score swung the momentum and gave the Tigers a commanding 17-0 lead.

Twelve times in history the Tigers came from behind to win in the fourth quarter, with the deciding points coming via the pass.  Here are those featured receivers, shown in chronological order:

Al Brown (1947)

  • Opponent – Canton Lincoln
  • Final Score – 13-7
  • WR numbers – 1 touchdown
  • Quarterback – Jack Hill
  • The story – Massillon was down 7-6 to the Lions with just over four minutes left in the game, when quarterback Jack Hill spotted Brown breaking open in the end zone.  Hill let it fly and Brown leaped high between two defenders, coming down with the ball in his arms for the winning points.

Clyde Childers (1957)

  • Opponent – Warren Harding (6-0); finished the season 9-1 and 4th in the state
  • Final Score – 20-14
  • WR numbers – 2 touchdowns
  • Quarterback – Gene Stewart; Joe Sparma
  • The story – This one was the infamous “clock game.”  With the scored tied at 14 and just seconds left in the fourth quarter, sophomore quarterback and future major league baseball pitcher Joe Sparma was inserted into the game due to his big arm.  Sparma unloaded a “Hail Mary” pass from midfield to Childers.  The 6’-4” Childers, who had scored earlier on a 29-yard touchdown pass, outjumped two defenders, tipped the ball in the air and secured it at the two yard line.  Then he lunged across the goal line for the win.

Eddie Bell (1974)

  • Opponent – Canton McKinley (9-0); rivalry game; finished the season 9-1
  • Final Score – 20-15
  • WR numbers – 4 receptions for 67 yards and 1 touchdown
  • Quarterback – Greg Wood
  • The story – It was 5-4 underdog Massillon against undefeated and playoff-bound McKinley.  The Bulldogs had erased the Tigers’ 14-0 halftime advantage and, while owning a 15-14 lead, was desperately holding on.  Massillon began its final drive from its own 35 yard line Wood went immediately to the air.  Three down-and-outs were caught by Bell and, following a quarterback sack, the Tigers had the ball at the Bulldog 33 with just 13 seconds left.  Somehow on the next play Wood avoided the blitz, stepped to his side and unloaded a pass to Bell, who had beaten his defender down the right sideline.  Bell caught the ball in the end zone and pandemonium ensued, with the Tigers savoring the win while knocking McKinley out of the playoffs.

Curt Strawder (1978)

  • Opponent – Canton McKinley (7-1); rivalry game; finished the season 7-2
  • Final Score – 13-10
  • WR numbers – 8 receptions for 91 yards and 2 touchdowns
  • Quarterback – Brent Offenbecher
  • The story – McKinley held a 10-0 lead into the fourth quarter when unbeaten Massillon finally got the offense into gear.  Strawder first caught a 12-yard touchdown pass from Offenbecher to make the score 10-6.  After Tim Reese intercepted a McKinley pass at the visitor’s 33, the Tigers were on the march again.  A pass completion to Strawder moved the ball to the 19.  Then, after a second completion advanced it to the 7, Strawder secured a look-in pass in the end zone for the winning points.

Jerry May (1992)

  • Opponent – Walsh Jesuit (1-0); finished the season 7-2
  • Final Score – 27-24
  • WR numbers – 2 receptions for 74 yards and 2 touchdowns
  • Quarterback – Mike Danzy
  • The story – Walsh led 14-0 going into the fourth quarter, but the Tigers tallied three times to take a 21-14 lead.  That third TD was a 59-yarder from Danzy to May.  Only, Walsh responded on their final possession of regulation and sent the game into overtime.  In period one, the Warriors suffered a penalty and eventually settled for a 24-yard field goal.  Now it was the Tigers’ turn.  On 3rd and 5 Danzy rolled right and found May in the right corner of the end zone for the win.  “They were biting pretty hard (on fakes to Simpson),” noted Danzy. “Jerry was to go out and up (to the right corner of the end zone.” “We hadn’t run that play since last year,” May said. “I was playing quarterback then and it was my favorite play.” – Steve Doerschuk, Independent

Vaughn Mohler (1994)

  • Opponent – Fremont Ross (8-2); playoffs first round
  • Final Score – 35-28
  • WR numbers – 1 reception for 7 yards and 1 touchdown
  • Quarterback – Willie Spencer, Jr.
  • The story – Massillon battled Ross and their stellar running back Charles Woodson to a 28-28 tie late in the fourth quarter of this playoff game.  Starting at their own 21, the Tigers moved the ball via run and pass to the Ross seven yard line.  Then, on 3rd and goal, Spencer rolled right and bought time with his scrambling until a receiver broke open.  Finally, he spotted Mohler in the end zone and threw a strike for the winning score.  “That play was supposed to go to Leon, but he was co­vered,” Spencer explained. “So I looked for my secondary re­ceiver and he was covered. I thought I was going to have to run out of bounds, but then I saw Vaughn and I threw it and he caught it.” – Joe Shaheen, Independent

Jeremiah Drobney (1999)

  • Opponent – Fremont Ross (3-4); finished the season 4-6
  • Final Score – 20-14
  • WR numbers – 1 reception for 5 yards and 1 touchdown
  • Quarterback – Dave Irwin
  • The story – Massillon was bidding for their first undefeated season since 1978, but trailed Ross 14-12 entering the fourth quarter.  The Tigers then mounted an 85-yard drive and scored when Irwin connected with Drobney in the middle of the end zone on a 5-yard touchdown pass.  Massillon then held on for the win.

Devin Smith (2010)

  • Opponent – Canton GlenOak (1-0); finished the season 4-6
  • Final Score – 28-27
  • WR numbers – 5 receptions for 116 yards and 2 touchdowns
  • Quarterback – Brody Tonn
  • The story – With the fourth quarter yet to be played, GlenOak held a 27-21 lead over the visiting Tigers.  But it only took two plays to turn the game in Massillon’s favor. Tonn first completed a pass to Smith for eight yards and then on the next play he sent the speedster deep.  Although the pass was underthrown, Smith retreated, secured the ball and ran the remaining distance to complete the 45-yard play and tie the score.  Anthony McCarthy’s PAT put the Tigers over the top for the win.  It was Smith’s second TD of the game, the first coming in the opening quarter on a 43-yard pass from Tonn that bit into a 14-0 GlenOak lead.

Tre’von Morgan (2017)

  • Opponent – Canton McKinley (8-1); rivalry game; finished the season 8-3
  • Final Score – 16-15
  • WR numbers – 4 receptions for 77 yards and 1 touchdown
  • Quarterback – Aidan Longwell
  • The story – With 9:15 left in the game, McKinley scored to take a 15-9 lead.  But Massillon came right back and marched 92 yards in nine plays for the winning points.  On 4th and 3 from the Bulldog eight, Morgan lined up in the left slot and ran a scissors route with wide receiver Austin Kutscher.  The play confused Morgan’s defender and he was late to the coverage, leaving the 6’-6” receiver wide open for Longwell’s floater.  It came at the 6:02 mark.  Klay Moll then kicked the PAT for the lead.  The game ended on a McKinley field goal attempt that was wide left.

Dean Clark (2017)

  • Opponent – Boardman (6-4); playoffs first round
  • Final Score – 28-23
  • WR numbers – 2 receptions for 44 yards and 1 touchdown
  • Quarterback – Aidan Longwell
  • The story – This first-round playoff game was in Massillon’s favor early.  But with 9:19 left in the game Boardman scored to take a 2-possession lead at 23-14.  Austin Kutcher’s 36-yard touchdown pass was able to cut the margin to 23-21, completing a 74-yard drive.  The Tigers needed one more score to win, but first they needed to stop the Spartans, which they did in three plays, forcing a punt.  Starting at their own 41, Longwell and the Tigers went to work.  The team advanced to the 19 yard line in four plays and then on the next play Longwell found Clark open on a post pattern.  He secured the ball at the five and was quickly in the end zone for the win with 5:46 left.

Jayden Ballard (2018)

  • Opponent – East St. Louis, IL (5-1); finished the season 9-3
  • Final Score – 46-40
  • WR numbers – 3 receptions for 58 yards and 1 touchdown
  • Quarterback – Aidan Longwell
  • The story – The Tigers were facing national power East St. Louis and this one turned into an offensive affair, with the lead changing hands five times.  With 3:33 left in the game, Massillon had the ball 3rd and 6 at the ESL 39 yard line.  From there, Longwell dropped back and unloaded the bomb to sophomore Jayden Ballard.  The speedster had just beaten the defender and caught the ball for the win, one step before going out the back of the end zone.

Martavien Johnson (2020)

  • Opponent – Cincinnati LaSalle (8-2); playoffs state semifinals
  • Final Score – 14-10
  • WR numbers – 3 receptions for 70 yards and 1 touchdown
  • Quarterback – Zach Catrone
  • The story – Seeking revenge for a loss in the previous year’s state finals, Massillon proceeded to wage a spirited, defensive battle with LaSalle.  But with 2:13 left in the game, the Tigers were down 10-7 and, following a Lancer punt, had the ball at the LaSalle 4.  On the first play, Catrone went play-action with Johnson running a skinny post with Jayden running a deep post to clear the secondary.  Catrone delivered a strike to Johnson, who caught the ball in stride near the 20 and sped into the end zone for the winning points.

At least six times in a game a Massillon receiver caught a big pass to set up the winning points.  Here are a few of them, in chronological order:

Curt Strawder (1977)

  • Opponent – Gahanna Lincoln (1-0); finished the season 8-1
  • Final Score – 28-20
  • WR numbers – 6 receptions for 169 yards and 1 touchdown
  • Quarterback – Brent Offenbecher
  • The story – Massillon had lost to Gahanna 10-0 the previous year and was against the wall this second time around.  It was a seemingly impossible situation with 1:11 left on the clock and the Tigers facing a 4th and 19 at their own 39.  So Offenbecher went deep and found Strawder, who dove ahead for the ball, catching it over his shoulder at the Gahanna 29, completing a 42-yard play for new life.  Three plays later Greg Carpenter scored the winning touchdown on a 1-yard run.  Strawder, the soft-spoken 5-10, 147-pount wide receiver, said of his catch: “We had to win, you know. I just kept my eye on the ball and it came to me. I felt real good after I caught it.” – Roland Dreussi, Independent

Montale Watkins (2000)

  • Opponent – Lakewood St. Edward (6-2); finished the season 7-4
  • Final Score – 28-27
  • WR numbers – 7 receptions for 147 yards and 1 touchdown
  • Quarterback – Justin Zwick
  • The story – In 1999 Massillon handled St. Edward easily on their own turf, but this time it was a more difficult task, on the road. Midway through the fourth quarter the Tigers were down 27-18 when Zwick connected with Watkins on a 20-yard touchdown pass.  That closed the gap to 27-25.  One more score was needed.  On Massillon’s final try of the night, from the 11 yard line, Zwick escaped from the pocket and found Watkins open down the right sideline.  Watkins grabbed the pass at the Massillon 45 and wasn’t tackled until he had reached 37.  The play covered 52 yards.  David Abdul then capped off the ditch drive by delivering on a 36-yard game-winning field goal.  “The cornerback pushed me to the inside, then released,” Watkins said. “The safety never came over, so I just sat there.  It seemed like the ball took forever to get there, but I just made sure I caught it before I did anything else.” – Mike Keeting, Independent

Devin Jordan (2002)

  • Opponent – Massillon Perry (10-1); playoffs second round
  • Final Score – 23-21
  • WR numbers – 7 receptions for 170 yards and 2 touchdowns
  • Quarterback – Matt Martin
  • The story – The Tigers jumped on top 13-0 in the second quarter of this playoff game, but Perry responded with two fourth quarter touchdown runs to take a 21-20 lead with 1:17 left in the game.  In a final effort, Martin completed six straight pass and then threw long to Jordan.  The pass was underthrown, but the future Buckeye reversed direction and made a back shoulder catch at the Perry 18 with just seconds remaining.  Max Shafer finished it off by kicking the game-winner from 35 yards out.

 Zack Vanryzin (2005)

  • Opponent – Cleveland St. Ignatius (4-1); finished the season 5-5
  • Final Score – 29-26
  • WR numbers – 4 receptions for 73 yards and 0 touchdowns
  • Quarterback – Bobby Huth, Shawn Weisend
  • The story – Massillon trailed 26-21 with 5:27 left on the clock and needed one more to score to secure their first-ever win over Ignatius.  Starting at their own 28, Massillon advanced to the Wildcat 42, but now faced a 4th and 15 situation.  That’s when Weisand, in the game for the injured Huth, found Vanryzin open on a crossing route.  Vanryzin gathered the ball and made it 24 yards to the Iggy 18 before he was tackled, giving the Tigers an opportunity to at least tie the game with a field goal.  Only, with ten seconds left in the game, Weisend managed to run it in from five yards out for the win.

Brian

  • Opponent – Lakewood St. Edward (12-0); playoffs state semifinals
  • Final Score – 21-17
  • WR numbers – 5 receptions for 98 yards and 1 touchdown
  • Quarterback – Bobby Huth
  • The story –   St. Edward was leading 17-14 late in the game with Massillon on the march. But the drive stalled near midfield due to an errant center snap and it was suddenly 3rd down and a long way from the first down marker.  But Huth found Gamble sprinting across the field.  The junior running back/receiver caught the ball in stride and then sprinted the required distance down the left sideline to pick up the first down.  It was simply an inconceivable conversion of a 3rd and 30 situation.  Gamble eventually finished it off with a run up the middle, with 1:56 left on the clock.  The Tigers then held St. Eds on its final possession and secured the victory.  “We were on the same page,” Gamble said. “I was supposed to run a post and I saw that they had it double covered, so I just broke it off to the inside, and I was hoping Bobby saw me. He did and I caught it, and I knew I had to get a first down and get out of bounds and stop the clock.  I think they started playing some ‘Cover 2,’ where they’d press up on me and try to double cover me. That’s what happened on the third‑and‑30 play, so I broke it off into a dig, and me and Bobby were on the same page.” – Chris Easterling — Independent

Justin Olack (2009)

  • Opponent – Twinsburg (10-1); playoffs second round
  • Final Score – 10-7
  • WR numbers – 4 receptions for 104 yards and 0 touchdowns
  • Quarterback – Robert Partridge
  • The story – The score was tied 7-7 with 2:38 left when the Tigers started their final drive of the night, starting from the Massillon 20.  After completing a 10-yard pass to Devin Smith, Partridge found Olack on a 41-yard completion to advance the ball to the Twinsburg 29 and set up a potential game-winning field goal.  After the Tigers picked up six yards on the ensuing plays, Jeremy Geier didn’t disappoint and drilled a game-winning 40-yard field goal.
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