Winning the big game in the final minute of play is every kicker’s dream. But it doesn’t happen often, maybe once in a player’s career. And at Massillon, it’s even rarer given that the Tigers usually have the game salted away well before the end. In fact, throughout the 1,258 games played, a Massillon kicker has turned defeat into victory with a last minute field goal only twice. In addition, a tie score was broken with a late game or overtime field goal just four times. Also, in just two games did a kicker boot an extra point for the win. Never has a Tiger returned a punt or a blocked kick for a touchdown in the last minute. All rare history, indeed.
Please enjoy this final story in the series.
Field Goals to Steal Victory
No. 1 – Max Shafer (2002)
- Opponent – Massillon Perry (10-2); playoffs Round 2
- Kicker numbers – 35-yard field goal as time expired
- Final score – 23-21
- The story – Massillon opened up a 20-7 lead by the end of the third quarter in this playoff game, but Perry stormed back to go up 21-20 with just minutes left. Tiger Quarterback Matt Martin then promptly completed six straight passes, the final one a back-shoulder catch by Devin Jordan, to move the ball to the Perry 18 with just seconds remaining. Max Shafer then finished it off by calmly kicking the game-winner and was instantly swarmed by his teammates. Shafer would kick eight field goals during his career as a Tiger.
No. 2 – David Abdul (2000)
- Opponent – Lakewood St. Edward (6-4)
- Kicker numbers – 36-yard field goal with 12 seconds left in the game
- Final score – 28-27
- The story – It was just a regular season affair in Lakewood against St. Edward, but it was surely a much-anticipated matchup throughout the state. And the play didn’t disappoint. The Eagles held the early lead, but Massillon eventually took an 18-12 advantage into the locker room, aided by a 52-yard Abdul field goal. Eds came right back in the second half and went up 27-18, only to see the Tigers close the gap to two points on a 20-yard halfback pass from Terrence King to Montale Watkins. But the Tigers would get one more shot when quarterback Justin Zwick connected with Watkins on a 52-yard pass to the Eagle 37. A few plays later Massillon was on the 19, setting up the winning Abdul kick, which came following three timeouts. “I didn’t mind the wait,” smiled Abdul. “Those two (St. Edward time outs) kind of relaxed me.” (The Independent). Abdul would kick 20 field goals during his career as a Tiger.
Field Goals to Win the Game
No. 1 – Jeremy Geier (2009)
- Opponent – Twinsburg (10-2); playoffs Round 2
- Kicker numbers – 40-yard field goal with 12 seconds left in the game
- Final score – 10-7
- The story – Both teams moved the ball well enough but could score just seven points apiece on account of turnovers and penalties. So it was up to Geier and his foot to win the game with just seconds left. The 40-yard field goal was Geier’s longest of his 2-year career as a Tiger kicker, which included 18 successes.
No. 2 – Lee Hurst (1988)
- Opponent – Canton McKinley (6-4)
- Kicker numbers – 23-yard field goal in overtime for the win
- Final score – 10-7
- The story – Massillon hadn’t beaten McKinley since 1983 and new head coach Lee Owens didn’t want to start his career in Tigertown on the wrong end of the rivalry. While both teams were in the midst of rebuilding years, the game became a brutal affair, eventually tied at the end of regulation, after Hurst just missed on a 47-yard attempt. In the overtime Massillon had the ball first and was held short of the end zone. That’s when Hurst kicked the presumed game-winner. But the celebration need to wait just a little longer, until the Bulldogs were also held and then missed their 38-yard try for the tie.
No. 3 – Andrew David (2013)
- Opponent – Canton GlenOak (5-5)
- Kicker numbers – 20-yard field goal in the third overtime period for the win
- Final score – 23-20
- The story – This early season game included three field goals and three overtimes. With 17 seconds left in regulation, GlenOak kicked a 31-yarder to send the game into extra frames. The first O.T. was scoreless and the second resulted in seven points apiece, so it was time to finally decide the matter. The Tigers were held in the third and Andrew David responded with a 20-yarder to give Massillon the lead. But the Golden Eagles drove to the one and went for it on fourth down. That’s when Mike Smith stopped the GlenOak runner at the goal line to secure victory. David takes credit for 32 career field goals and leads all Tigers in this category.
No. 4 – Joe Eckstein (1914)
- Opponent – Alliance
- Kicker numbers – 42-yard field goal with one minute left in the game
- Final score – 3-0
- The story – It was an unbelievable effort in this time period for a field goal of this length. And the fans accordingly took note. Here’s the report from the local newspaper: “With only one minute of play remaining and a large round-faced moon sending its first silvery rays shimmering across the field and Massillon high in possession of the ball on Alliance’s 35-yard line, fullback Joe Eckstein dropped back for a place kick. Quarterback Hollinger motioned for the ball, caught it and touched the ground. There was a thud as leather met leather and then the pigskin rose above 22 struggling gridiron warriors and sailed gracefully over the bar, bringing to the orange and black the greatest victory of the season by the score of 3 to 0 over a foe whose determination was unbendable as steel and whose grit won praises of 500 football fans Saturday afternoon at the Driving Park. For several seconds after the kick the spectators seemed rooted to the ground. They were amazed by the brilliancy of the mighty boot. Then bedlam broke loose. Orange and black clothed warriors grabbed and hugged each other and performing antics that they would not think of at any other time. Men threw their hats in the air and the fairer sex, laughed, clapped their hands and wept for sheer delight. In an instant the field was black with people. A horde of jubilant high school students grabbed Eckstein and placed him on their shoulders and carried him around the field. It was the happiest moment in the big fullbacks’ life.”
Extra Points to Win the Game
No. 1 – Nick Pribich (1994)
- Opponent – Canton McKinley (10-3); 100th Game
- Kicker numbers – Extra point kick for the win in overtime
- Final score – 42-21
- The story – Back and forth this classic went until the two juggernauts were tied at 35 by the end of regulation. In the overtime, McKinley would get the ball first and scored on a 1-yard run. But kicker Josh McDaniels missed his attempt to the right, to the astonishment of the Massillon crowd, which now sensed an opening for the win. On Massillon’s second down, quarterback Willie Spencer Jr. headed around the right side of the line, faked a pitch, and then did pitch it to Victor Redrick, who had been trailing the play. Redrick snagged the ball in stride and sped untouched into the end zone. Now was up to Tiger kicker Nick Pribich. With proverbial orange ice water in his veins he drilled the ball through the uprights to give his team the victory in this 100th game of the rivalry.
No. 2 – Bill Edwards (1922)
- Opponent – East Cleveland Shaw (6-4)
- Kicker numbers – Extra point kick for the win with 27 seconds left in the game
- Final score – 7-6
- The story – Shaw scored six points in the second quarter and held that advantage through nearly the rest of the game. That’s when “Dutch” Hill went to work, driving his team to the end zone to tie the score. In comes Bill Edwards, a future Tiger assistant coach, who had perfected the art of the drop kick. “I’ll kick that goal or die in the attempt,” said Edwards. The try was true and Massillon would take home another victory. Interestingly, the coaches had met prior to the game to negotiate the length of each quarter. With Massillon wanting 15 and Shaw 12, the two agreed on 14. Good thing it wasn’t 12.
Tiger Fans Still Remember:
- In 1919, Taylor blocked a punt through the end zone to give Massillon a 2-0 victory over Youngstown South. It was the team’s third block of the day.
- In 1976, Anthony Grizzard returned a punt 36 yards for a touchdown against Warren Harding to break a 15-all tie with 9:50 left in the game. The lead held up for a 22-15 victory.
- In 1980, Dave Eberhart kicked a 25-yard field goal with 3:39 left to give Massillon a 22-21 victory over Akron Garfield.
- In 1994, Nick Pribich kicked a 40-yard field goal with 2:58 left to give Massillon a 10-7 victory over Austintown Fitch.