Category: <span>History</span>

Massillon and Valdosta to Face Off in 2023. Finally!!!

It’s an intriguing matchup that’s been years in the making, one that is sure to receive national exposure.  And it’s finally going to happen to open the 2023 football season.  Valdosta, Georgia, the current No. 1 team in the U.S. in  terms of historical wins, will play Massillon, a previous holder of the top spot.

The game will be part of the Northeast Ohio Big School High School’s Showcase, also featuring three other Ohio teams, including Lakewood St. Edward, Akron Hoban and Cleveland Glenville.  Their opponents have yet to be named.  The venue for all games is Massillon’s Paul Brown Tiger Stadium, which seats 16,884.  While Massillon is scheduled play on the Friday, the other games are slated for Saturday as part of a triple-header.


The Wildcats first fielded a team in 1913 and since that time have compiled an overall record of 944-262-44, which is seven wins ahead of the No. 2 team, Louisville Male of Kentucky.  They have won six national championships (between 1962 and 1992) and 24 Georgia state championships, the most recent coming in 2016.   In 2008 Valdosta was named as ESPN’s “Titletown USA.”  Later, Netflix created an 8-part series titled, “Titletown High,” which chronicles the 2020 season.

In 2022 Valdosta finished with a record of 8-3, losing 28-13 to Westlake in the first round of the state playoffs.  Their record over the past five years is 33-26.  Four times in that span they qualified for the playoffs and, as their best performance, advanced to the Division 6A state semifinals in 2020.

The Wildcats return defensive lineman Eric Brantley (co-Region 7A-1 Defensive Player of the Year), offensive lineman Demauree Bennet (1st Team All-Region), offensive lineman Jalen Burgess (1st Team All-Region), inside linebacker Aman Tomblin (1st Team All-Region), and 3-star recruit outside linebacker Jaylen Bentley (1st Team All-Region).


Massillon owns an historical record of 932-338-32 and is currently fourth in the national rankings, one win behind Mayfield, Kentucky.  The Tigers began playing football in 1891 and have won 9 national championships and 24 Ohio state championships (the most recent being in 1970).  Twenty-three times they finished the regular season unbeaten.  As the subject of numerous books and films, the most popular entry was the theater production, “Go Tigers,” which covered the 1999 season.

In 2022 Massillon finished with an overall record of 12-2, losing 41-20 the Division 2 state semifinals to Akron Hoban.  The lone regular season loss was to Cincinnati Moeller, which advanced to the Division 1 state semifinals.  A signature win came in Week 5 against Lakewood St. Edward, which went on to capture the Division 1 state championship.  The Tigers’ record over the past five years is 61-9, which includes five appearances in the state playoffs, four regional championships and three state finals appearances.

Massillon returns 8 starters on offense and 9 on defense, including linebacker Dorian Pringle (1st Team All-Ohio), offensive lineman Evan Sirgo (Honorable Mention All-Ohio), linebacker Cody Fair (Honorable Mention All-Ohio), and highly recruited 6’-6” tight end Nolan Davenport.

Jim Reichenbach – Wall of Champions

It’s been said that you can take the boy off the farm, but you can’t take the farm out of the boy.  How true that is for Massillon legend Jim Reichenbach, who excelled in football both as a player and as a coach and then, following his coaching retirement, returned to the 125-acre family farm he must have dearly loved.

Reichenbach was born in Massillon on January 15, 1933, and the big farm boy got his first taste of organized football at Lorin Andrews Junior High under coach Roger Price.  That opened the door to varsity football under coach Chuck Mather, where he started at offensive guard for three years running, 1948-50.  And success followed throughout his high school and college years.

He was a bull of a player as recalled by Jim Schumacher (1948-50).  “Reichenbach and I could work the blocking sled like a team of horses,” he said.  “We hit that thing a lot.  We could drive that baby 15 yards.  We were good because we were a team.” – Massillon Memories, Scott Shook.

In his sophomore year the Tigers finished 9-1 and were declared INS state champions.  The only loss that year was 14-0 to Alliance (9-1), which later in the season lost 46-7 to Canton McKinley (9-1).  But the Tigers defeated the Bulldogs 21-12 a few weeks later, thus earning the title.

The following year Massillon repeated its 9-1 finish and was named AP state champion.  This time the loss was 16-12 to Mansfield (8-1), a squad that was mentored by former Tiger coach Augie Morningstar.  The Tygers finished 8-1 that year but lost 34-27 to unranked Akron South in the season opener.  Following the season the Mansfield community declared itself state champs based on the win over Massillon, but the AP voters seemed to differ.  Reichenbach was named 1st Team All-County.

Reichenbach marked his third year as a starter and added punting and goal line defense to his repertoire of duties.  He was also selected as the team captain.  The Tigers finished 10-0 and captured its third consecutive state championship.  The 1950 team was also considered to be one of Massillon’s best ever.  They averaged 41 points and gave up 4 per game.

Against McKinley, the Tigers rolled up 464 yards of offense in a 33-0 rout.  Reichenbach had fond memories of that game.  “The McKinley week in Massillon is a week that is hard to describe,” he said.  “A lot of schools try to duplicate that with other great rivalries, but I’m not sure any of them really reach the magnitude you find in Massillon/McKinley.” – Massillon Memories, Scott Shook.

At season’s end, Reichenbach was named 1st Team All-County and 1st Team All-Ohio.  That led to his being recruited by Woody Hayes to play for Ohio State.


At OSU, Reichenbach played offensive lineman and defensive middle guard and was a starter for four years, from 1951-54.  His years there went like this:

  • 1951 – Record of 4-3-2. Lost to Michigan, 7-0.
  • 1952 – Record of 6-3. Defeated Michigan, 27-7.  Reichenbach was named 2nd Team All-American.  Grantland Rice noted that he was one of the Midwest’s top players and worthy of All-American status.
  • 1953 – Record of 6-3. Lost to Michigan, 20-0.
  • 1954 – Record of 10-0 (first undefeated season in the school’s history). Defeated six ranked teams, including Michigan, 21-7, and No. 2 Wisconsin, 31-14.  Defeated Southern Cal in the Rose Bowl, 20-7. Captured the national championship, ahead of No. 2 UCLA.  Reichenbach blocked for team MVP Howard “Hopalong” Cassady, who won the Heisman Trophy the following year.

There was come controversy surrounding OSU’s championship award following the 1954 Rose Bowl.  Unbeaten UCLA had defeated USC 34-0 in the regular season but was barred from the Rose Bowl due to the “no repeat” rule in place at that time.  Although Ohio State’s margin of victory against USC was less, the Rose Bowl was played in a driving rainstorm and OSU did put up 370 yards of offense, while USC’s lone score came via a punt return.

Nevertheless, at the end of the season Reichenbach was named Paramount News 1st Team All-American Guard.  And he is a member of the Varsity “O” Club.

“Jim was a terrific football player, and he also was a terrific guy,” said Dick Brubaker, a co-captain on that 1954 Ohio State team. “He had the right values.  He was understated, he was quiet, and he was smart.  Just a nice guy.  I had nothing but the utmost respect for him.”

Post-Ohio State, Reichenbach earned a master’s degree from Kent State University.  And he also served time in the military as an Air Force captain.


Football stayed with Reichenbach following his playing days and his first stop was as an assistant coach under former Massillon head coach Lee Tressel at Baldwin-Wallace.  In 1961 he became head coach of Glenwood and stayed there for nine years, compiling a record of 53-35-2.   The next ten years were as an assistant coach under John Brideweser (1970-79).  Reichenbach returned to the head position in 1980, first at Tuslaw (23-7) and then at Dover (13-8).  Three times his teams finished 9-1, including Glenwood in 1966, Tuslaw in 1982 and Dover in 1987.  He finished with a combined head coaching record of 98-50-2.

“You grow up, and I don’t think I’ll ever change very much from when I was 16 years old playing for Coach Reichenbach,” said Pro Football Hall of Fame offensive lineman Dan Dierdorf, who played at Glenwood for Reichenbach. “I was deathly afraid of him. He looked to me … to be eight feet tall. He was an imposing guy.

“He got me ready to play for Bo Schembechler. (Reichenbach) was such a taskmaster … but he wasn’t stern. He wasn’t mean. When I played for him, I preferred he didn’t know my name.

“As he would win an award, it pleased me that people remembered what a great player and coach he was,” Dierdorf said. “He was fairly young when he quit coaching, and he could’ve kept going.

“In my mind, he will always look the same. It was a long time before I was able to be around him when I stopped being afraid of him. He was a no-nonsense guy and a no-nonsense coach, who taught me early on that’s what football was about. He made it clear very clear early on that if you were looking for a social experience, you better go try out for a different sport.”

In 1964 he was inducted into the Massillon Wall of Champions.  He was also inducted into the Stark County Hall of Fame.


After retiring from coaching, Reichenbach returned to the family farm with his wife, Ruth.  They have two sons, John and Fred.  Jim died on May 11, 2009, at age 76.

1891 Varsity Football Team

The Game of Football Was a Lot Different for…

If there’s one sport that draws Americans closer together more than any other it’s the game of football.  It attracts the largest crowds, receives the greatest media attention and is played at all levels, from the many youth organizations, through over 14,000 high schools and several hundred colleges, and culminating with the professional organizations.  During the season the teams may play games just once a week, but in between football is the talk of the sports world each and every day.

Football has been around for over a hundred years, the first game having been played between two college teams, Rutgers and Princeton, in 1869.  High schools picked up the sport in the 1880s and then the game added play-for-play by professional athletes in the late 1890s.

Massillon got its  start in 1891 and has now been fielding teams for 127 years.  But the game those early Tigers played is quite dissimilar to the one we see today.  Different scoring rules, drop kicks, off sides and many other nuances were all in vogue at that time and some were subject to different interpretations by the referees as opposed to now.

In addition, many locals were unfamiliar with the new sport, although interested in either watching or participating.  So, in order to educate those new to the game, the Massillon Daily Independent in January of 1890 made a stab at publicly explaining the complex rules.  Below is that article.  Some of it is confusing, so I hope you can understand the rules better than this writer does.




Diagram and Dimensions of the Ground – The Players’ Positions and Other Interesting Points About the Great Collegiate Sport

Foot-ball as now played by the American colleges is a game that arouses the enthusiasm of the spectator to a higher pitch of excitement than any other sport, and there is no game where the requirements of the participants are greater or more diversified.  The elements so essential to the success of the runner or tennis player are far different from those demanded by the oarsman or wrestler; but the foot-ball player needs them all, and in no athletic contest can the display of pluck, strength, endurance, agility, and quick judgment been seen to better advantage.

The best player is not necessarily he who makes the longest runs or kicks, says the Chicago Inter Ocean, but the one combining good, hard individual play with team work, and is always willing to let the man make the brilliant play whose chances are the best.  The training to thoroughly fit one’s self for a match game is as arduous as it is for a boat race; in addition to the daily practice, a run of two to three miles is necessary for the wind; smoking, drinking, pastry, and rich food must be given up, and plenty of sleep taken.  Five minutes of brisk work will cause the player who enters a game in poor condition to make many good resolves for the future.

The grounds must be 330 feet in length and 160 feet in width, with a goal placed in the middle of each goal line, composed of two upright posts exceeding 20 feet in height, and placed 18 feet 6 inches apart, with a cross-bar ten feet from the ground.  The following diagram will illustrate:

There are eleven men on a side, generally seven in the rush line, a quarterback, two half-backs, and a back.  The prime qualifications of the rushers should be weight, strength, and endurance, for on them devolve the duty of forging ahead by running with the ball.  They need know little or nothing about kicking, and should never touch foot to the ball except in case of a free kick.  Even then it is not necessary, for a place kick can be taken instead by one of the other players, and is generally preferable.  Weight is not so essential for the rest of the team, but in addition to the other qualifications of the rushes they must be good kickers; also they should be sure tacklers to stop an opponent if he succeeds in breaking through the rush line.  The following diagram shows the relative position of the players:

The game is commenced by placing the ball in the center of the field, and, if there be no wind, the side winning the toss choosing as a general thing to kick off.  But if the wind be blowing, however slightly, the winner will of course play with the wind, for this is a most important factor in foot-ball, a stiff breeze deciding whether the game shall be a kicking or running one.  We will suppose the ball has been kicked off and stopped by one of the opposing half-backs, this player tackled and prevented from returning the kick; the ball must then be called down, which is a technical expression signifying a temporary suspension of hostilities in order to get the ball again in play.  The middle rusher then takes the ball, and placing his foot upon it snaps it to the quarter-back or to one of the other rushers, but to whomever he may thus give it that player must pass it to still another before the ball can be run forward with.  If in three consecutive downs by the same side that side does not advance the ball five or take it back twenty yards, the opposing side is then entitled to it, and as an aid in determining the distance parallel lines five yards apart are often marked across the field.

This is one of the new rules, and was introduced in order to diminish the chances of a draw game, which result could easily be brought about in the past where the strength of the competing teams was nearly equal.  We will now suppose that the side kicking off has forced the ball ahead, and a player on that side succeeds in crossing the goal line and touches the ball on the ground; this is called a touch-down; then a player of the side scoring the touch-down, and called the placer, brings the ball out from the place where the touch-down was made, and at right angles to the goal line.

Having reached a suitable distance the placer, lying down and acting under the direction of the goal kicker, carefully poises the ball about an inch from the ground.

When the point of the ball is at the proper altitude, the seam in a line with the object point, and allowance made for the wind, the goal kicker gives the signal, the ball is placed on the ground, and the try for goal is made.  The instant the ball touches the ground the opposing team may charge, and if the ball touches the person or clothing of any player before going over the cross-bar or posts the goal does not count; the slightest deviation made by the placer in putting the ball on the ground or failure of the goal kicker to kick in precisely the one correct spot will cause the ball to veer widely from the mark, and no goal is made.

If the goal counts the ball is brought to the center of the field, and the losing side kicks off.  If the try for goal fails the other side kicks the ball out and must do so within the twenty-five yard line.  Now, we will again suppose that one side has forced the ball up to the opponents’ goal, but instead of making a touch-down, as in the former case, they lose the ball.  The other side, having gained possession of it, is of course in a much better position than before, but nevertheless still in great danger, for they in turn may lose it any instant.  In this dilemma there is an avenue of escape, and that is by touching the ball down behind their own goal line and making what is termed a safety touch-down.  Although this counts against it is not nearly so expensive as a touch-down by the other side.

The value of points in scoring is as follows:

  • Goal from touch-down – 6
  • Goal from field kick – 5
  • Touch-down – 4
  • Safety touch-down – 2

A drop-kick is made by letting the ball fall from the hands and kicking it the very instant it rises.

A place-kick is made by kicking the ball after it has been placed on the ground.

A punt is made by letting the ball fall from the hands and kicking it before it touches the ground; a goal made by a punt-kick does not count.

The time of a game is an hour and a half, each side playing forty-five minutes from each goal, with an intermission of ten minutes between the two halves.

No one is allowed to wear projecting nails or iron plates.

A scrimmage takes place when the holder of the ball places it on the ground and puts it in play by kicking it or snapping it back.

A player is off side if during a scrimmage he gets in front of the ball or if the ball has been last touched by his own side behind him, and when off side he is not allowed to touch the ball.

A player being off side is put on side when the ball has touched an opponent or when one of his own side has run in front of him either with the ball or having touched it when behind him.

No player shall interfere with an opponent in any way unless he has the ball.

A foul shall be granted for intentional delay of game, off-side play, or holding an opponent unless he has the ball; the penalty of a foul is a down for the other side.

A player shall be disqualified for unnecessary roughness, hacking, throttling, butting, tripping up, intentional tackling below the knees, and striking with the closed fists.

In case a player be disqualified or injured a substitute shall take his place.

A player may throw or pass the ball in any direction except toward the opponents’ goal; it shall be given to the opponents if it be batted or thrown forward.

If the ball goes out of bounds a player on the side which touches it down must bring to the spot where it crossed the line, and there either bound the ball in the field of play or touch it with both hands at right angles to the line, and then run with it, kick it, or throw it back, or it may be thrown in at right angles or be taken out in the field of play at right angles to any distance not less than five nor more than fifteen  yards, and there put down the same as for a scrimmage.

There is an umpire and also a referee.

The umpire is the judge for the players as regards fouls and unfair tactics.

The  referee is judge in all matters relating to the ball, and all points not covered by the duties of the umpire.

Six Tigers Named All-Ohio for 2022

Six football players from Massillon’s 12-2 team have been named by the Ohio Prep Sportswriters Association to the Division II All-Star Team.  They include:

  • Willtrell Hartson – Senior running back – 1st Team
  • Ardell Banks – Senior wide receiver – 1st Team
  • Dorian Pringle – Junior inside linebacker – 1st Team
  • Marcus Moore – Senior defensive lineman – 2nd Team
  • Evan Sirgo – Junior offensive lineman – Honorable Mention
  • Cody Fair – Junior inside linebacker – Honorable Mention

All six were previously named 1st Team Northeast Inland All-District.  Strangely missing from the list was De’Airre Pringle, who  was also named 1st Team Northeast Inland All-District.

The Offensive Player of the Year is Akron Hoban running back Lamar Sperling.  The Defensive Player of the Year is Jermaine Matthews, Cincinnati Winton Woods.  The Co-Coaches of the Year are Dave Bors of Painesville Riverside and Maurice Harden of Xenia.

All-Ohio Players from Tiger opponents:

Cincinnati Moeller

  • Jordan Marshall – running back – 1st Team – Co-Offensive Player of the Year
  • Brandon Martin – defensive lineman – 1st Team
  • Joe Ginnetti – linebacker – 1st Team
  • Tennel Bryant – wide receiver – 3rd Team
  • Ethan Page – punter – 3rd Team

Canton GlenOak

  • Avantae Burt – running back – 3rd Team
  • Romeo Magueyal – offensive lineman – Honorable Mention


  • Ricky Mills – defensive lineman – 1st Team
  • Mekhi Bradley – linebacker – 1st Team
  • Amarr Davis – defensive back – 1st Team
  • Duke Reese – quarterback – Honorable Mention
  • Sean Putt – kicker – Honorable Mention

Austintown Fitch

  • Josh Fitzgerald – offensive lineman – 1st Team
  • Davion Pritchard – defensive back – 2nd Team
  • DeShawn Vaughn – quarterback – 3rd Team
  • Brian Robinson – defensive lineman – 3rd Team
  • Cam Smith – defensive back – 3rd Team
  • Jamell James – running back – Honorable Mention

Lakewood St. Edward

  • Ben Roebuck – offensive lineman – 1st Team
  • Ricky Wolverton – offensive lineman – 1st Team
  • Michael Kilbane – defensive lineman – 1st Team
  • Wyatt Gedeon – linebacker – 1st Team – Co-Defensive Player of the Year
  • Ben Levelle – punter – 1st Team
  • Marvin Bell – running back – 2nd Team
  • Casey Bullock – quarterback – 3rd Team
  • Kyan Mason – wide receiver – 3rd Team
  • Devontae Armstrong – offensive lineman – 3rd Team
  • Deonte Armstrong – offensive lineman – 3rd Team
  • Nate Gregory – linebacker – 3rd Team

Canton McKinley

  • Cynceir McNeil – wide receiver – 1st Team
  • Garrett McCole – offensive lineman – 2nd Team
  • Kylier Jenkins – defensive lineman – 2nd Team

Massillon Perry

  • De’Andre Church – running back – 3rd Team
  • Max Millin – offensive lineman – Honorable Mention

Canal Winchester

  • Harlee Hanna – linebacker – 3rd Team
  • Mason Fry – offensive lineman – Honorable  Mention

Big Walnut

  • Nate Severs – running back – 1st Team
  • Ethan Clawson – linebacker – 2nd  Team
  • Matt VonAlmen – offensive lineman – 3rd Team
  • Cam  Gladden – punter – 3rd Team

Uniontown Lake

  • Evan Brady – linebacker – 1st Team
  • Will Butler – defensive back – 1st Team
  • Dylan Snyder – wide receiver – 2nd Team
  • Celton Dutton – punter – 2nd Team
  • Jack McAvinew – offensive lineman – 3rd Team

Akron Hoban

  • Lamar Sperling – running back – 1st Team – Offensive Player of the Year
  • Drew Holt – offensive lineman – 1st Team
  • Jason Martin III – defensive lineman – 1st Team
  • Tysen Campbell – defensive back – 1st Team
  • Devin  Bell – defensive lineman – 2nd Team
  • Rickey Williams – linebacker – 3rd Team
  • Jayvian Crable – wide receiver – Honorable Mention
  • William  Satterwhite – offensive lineman – Honorable Mention




Twelve Tigers Earn All-District Award

The Ohio Prep Sportswriters Association (OPSWA) has released its Northeast Inland District All-Star Team for Division II.  Twelve Massillon players are included, with special recognition going to Dorian Pringle, who was named Co-Defensive Player of the Year.  Massillon finished the 2022 season with an 12-2 record and was the regional champion.

First Team

  • Ardell Banks – Senior wide receiver.  3-year starter.  Caught 43 passes for 791 yards and 12 touchdowns.  Averaged 20.0 yards per catch.  Caught six passes against Warren Harding and six against Massillon Perry.  Second on the team in scoring with 74 points.  Honorable Mention All-District in 2021.  Holds several offers from Division 1 colleges, including Kentucky, Pittsburgh, Arizona State and Iowa State.
  • Willtrell Hartson – Senior running back.  3-year starter.  Led the team in rushing with 2,042 yards, setting a new single-season rushing record.  Tied a season scoring record that was set 100 years ago.  Also, finished in the Top 10 of several other rushing and scoring categories.  Against Austintown Fitch, rushed 40 times for 274 yards and three touchdowns.  Led the team with 34 touchdowns and 208 points.  Received the Touchdown Club’s Hardnose Award.  Honorable Mention All-State in 2020.
  • Marcus Moore Jr. – Senior defensive lineman.  2-year starter.  Recorded 33.0 tackle points (17-32).  Had 5.5 tackles-for-loss and 2.0 quarterback sacks.  Helped defense hold opponents to 3.0 yards per rush.  Also played some on the offensive line.  First Team All-District and Second Team All-Ohio in 2021.  Will play for the University of Akron next year.
  • De’Airre Pringle – Senior defensive back.  Tied for second on the team in tackle points with 63.5 (50-27).  Recorded 4.5 tackles-for-loss and 5 pass breakups.  Had 11.0 tackle points against Akron Hoban.
  • Cody Fair – Junior inside linebacker.  Tied for second on the team in tackle points with 63.5 (40-47).  Recorded 13.5 tackles-for-loss (2nd on the team) and 1.5 quarterback sacks.  Recovered two fumbles.
  • Dorian Pringle – Junior inside linebacker.  Named NE Inland District Co-Defensive Player of the Year.  Led the team with 69.5 tackle points (50-39).  Set a new Massillon single season record with 21.5 tackles-for-loss.  Recorded 5.5 quarterback sacks.  Had 12.0 tackle points against Division 1 state finalist Lakewood St. Edward.  On offense, rushed 54 times for 298 yards and scored six touchdowns.
  • Evan Sirgo – Junior offensive lineman.  Instrumental in helping the team average 35 points per game, rush for 207 yards per game and limit opponents to just 13 quarterback sacks.

Second Team

  • Jalen Slaughter – Sophomore quarterback.  2-year starter.  Completed 139 of 234 passes (54.7%) for 2,043 yards and 24 touchdowns.  Had an efficiency rating of 146.4.  Threw for 295 yards and 3 touchdowns against Division 1 state finalist Lakewood St. Edward, including a 24-yard game-winner with eleven seconds remaining in the game.  Threw for 248 yards and 4 touchdowns against Warren Harding.  Honorable Mention All-District in 2021.
  • Michael Wright Jr. – Sophomore defensive lineman.  2-year starter.  Recorded 28.0 tackle points (28-16).  Second on the team with 6.0 quarterback sacks and tied for second on the team with 13.5 tackles-for-loss.  Helped defense hold opponents to 3.0 yards per rush.  Honorable Mention All-District in 2021.

Honorable Mention

  • Sam Snodgrass – Junior offensive lineman.  2-year starter; moved from center to tackle for 2022.  Instrumental in helping the team average 35 points per game, rush for 207 yards per game and limit opponents to just 13 quarterback sacks.  Honorable Mention All-District in 2021.
  • Nolan Davenport – Sophomore tight end.  Used principally as a blocker.  Caught one pass for a 34 yard touchdown.  Has good size and potential at 6′-6″, 230 lbs.  Has a Division 1 offer from Pittsburgh.
  • Michael Looney – Sophomore offensive lineman.  Instrumental in helping the team average 35 points per game, rush for 207 yards per game and limit opponents to just 13 quarterback sacks.

The Offensive Player of the Year was Lamar Sperling of Akron Hoban.

The Co-Defensive Player of the Year, along with Dorian Pringle, was Roosevelt Andrews of Barberton.

The Coaches of the Year were Mike Gibbons of Medina Highland and Jeff Gough of Hudson.

Willtrell Hartson Receives Touchdown Club Award

At the end of each season, the Touchdown Club honors one of the players with the “Bob Commings Memorial Hardnose Award.” That player would have received the most votes from among weekly tallies taken by the club members. Past players honored include John Mulbach (Ohio State), David Whitfield (Ohio State), Chris Spielman (Ohio State), Shawn Crable (Michigan) and Brian Gamble (Illinois/Ashland).

Bob Commings was a very successful coach for the Tigers from 1969 to 1973, compiling a record of 43-6-2, including Massillon’s last state championship (1970) and qualification for Ohio’s first ever state playoff games (1972). Commings departed following the 1973 season to become head coach of the University of Iowa and later coached at GlenOak High School, for which their field was later named.

This year’s hardnose award winner is Willtrell Hartson, the Tigers’ record-setting running back, who led his team this year to a 12-2 record and playoff regional championship.  Willtrell received the award from George Mizer, this year’s president of the Touchdown Club.

Hartson burst onto the Massillon football scene as a sophomore running back in 2020 against Canton McKinley, as a replacement for the injured Raekwon Venson.  A little used backup prior to the game, Hartson proceeded to rush for 188 yards and scored two touchdowns in a 35-7 victory.  He continued to excel throughout the playoffs and finished the year with 1,110 yards (8.0 ave.), with nearly all coming in the final seven games of the season.  He also scored 13 touchdowns.  For his performance he was named Honorable Mention All-Ohio.

His junior year was hampered by an injury and he only played in six games.  But he did manage to rush for 831 yards (7.3 ave.) and score 9 touchdowns.

Hartson , now at 5′-10″, 200 lbs.,  had a breakout year this past season, rushing for 2,042 yards (6.1 ave) and scoring 31 touchdowns, while tying or breaking many records along the way.  With his speed, power, and deceptive cutting ability, and the attributes to run the ball both inside and out, he became the main focus of the offense, accounting for 41% of the total yardage production and 42% of the points scored.  He was recently named All-Stark County and All-Northeast Inland District.  Hartson is also a team co-captain.

Here are Hartson’s many record book accomplishments:

  • Single game rushing yards – 324 vs. Westerville South in 2020 (1st); 287 vs. Warren Harding in 2021 (3rd); 274 vs. Austintown Fitch in 2022 (5th)
  • Single game rushing attempts – 40 vs. Austintown Fitch in 2022 (tied for 3rd); 40 vs. Uniontown Lake in 2022 (tied for 3rd)
  • Single game rushing yards per attempt – 15.1 vs. North Canton in 2020 (tied for 8th)
  • Single game rushing touchdowns – 4 vs. North Canton in 2020 (tied for 10th); 4 vs. Warren Harding in 2021 (tied for 10th); 4 vs. Austintown Fitch in 2022 (tied for 10th)
  • Single season rushing yards – 2,042 in 2022 (1st) *
  • Single season rushing attempts – 334 in 2022 (2nd)
  • Single season rushing yards per game – 145.9 in 2022 (2nd)
  • Single season rushing touchdowns – 31 in 2022 (2nd)
  • Single season touchdowns – 34 (tied for 1st) *
  • Single season points – 208 (2nd)
  • Career rushing yards – 3,983 (2nd)
  • Career rushing attempts – 586 (2nd)
  • Career rushing yards per game – 132.8 (1st) *
  • Career rushing touchdowns – 53 (2nd)
  • Career touchdowns – 56 (2nd)
  • Career points – 340 (3rd)


  • The record for single season rushing yards was previously held by Travis McGuire, who rushed for 1,976 yards in 1991.
  • The record for single season rushing touchdowns is held jointly with Edwin “Dutch” Hill, who scored 34 touchdowns in 1922.
  • The record for career rushing yards per game was previously held by Homer Floyd, who rushed for 118.5 yards per game in 1952-54.

Left to right: Hardnose Award winner Willtrell Hartson, Touchdown Club President George Mizer, Head Coach Nate Moore, Assistant Coach and previous Hardnose Award winner Bo Grunder, defensive lineman Marcus Moore and long snapper Angelo Salvino.

Willtrell Hartson receiving the Hardnose Award from Bo Grunder.

Willtrell Hartson and family

Head Coach Nate Moore with Willtrell Hartson.

2022: Akron Hoban 41, Massillon 20

Hoban, Sperling Too Much for Massillon in State Semifinal Loss



In high school football a single player can turn a good team into a great one, mostly through his individual performance, but often just by being on the field.  That was the case in Akron Hoban’s win over Massillon in the Division II state semifinals, which played at The University of Akron’s Infocision Stadium in front of an estimated 8,000 fans.  Lamar Sperling, the heir-apparent for Ohio’s Mr. Football award, rushed for 226 yards and scored four touchdowns to lead his team to a 41-20 victory.  But he also had a big impact in the passing game, in spite of not catching a pass.

Over the past several years, the Tigers have been extremely stingy against the run.  Not only do they have athletic players in the front-7, they also get the safeties involved in run support, which is a big part of this scheme.  Knowing the talent possessed by Sperling, the safeties were surely needed to keep the speedster in check.  So they played closer to the line of scrimmage than normal.  And it worked well at the beginning.  Except, with the safeties cheating up, it made the secondary vulnerable to the deep pass.  That’s the tradeoff.  So, on Hoban’s second possession, JacQai Long, a 5-star recruit from West Virginia, faked a handoff to Sperling on play-action, which froze the safeties.  He then delivered an easy toss to a wide-open slot receiver Deon Rogers for 50-yard touchdown.  The safeties, of course, had bit on the fake and were not in position to cover.

On the Knight’s next series, they did the same thing, this time to Jalen Crable for a 64-yard touchdown.  Now, Massillon was forced to play both safeties deeper, which of course opened up the edge for Sperling.  It just wasn’t a good matchup now, especially against Hoban’s 311 lb. offensive line.  Such was the impact of Sperling on the entire defense.

Those two plays put the Tigers in a 14-0 hole and they were forced to play from behind, something you don’t want to do against a good team.

Offensively, Massillon had hoped to establish the run and throw when necessary.  But Hoban game-planned to take away the run and force Jalen Slaughter, the sophomore quarterback, to beat them with his arm.  In essence, the Knights covered each wide receiver man-to-man, with a single safety over the top, cheating over toward Ardell Banks.  The remaining players they committed to the box to stop the run.  In essence, they always had more defenders to block that available blockers.

In addition, on EVERY play they blitzed the house, giving Slaughter little time to set up, while closing off all the running lanes.  In the end, they limited 2,000 rusher Willtrell Hartson to just 58 yards on 20 carries and forced three pass interceptions out of Slaughter, who completed 15 of 32 passes for 200 yards,while nimbly avoided the sack for the most part.  Fortunately, Massillon found some passing routes that worked in the second half and were able to put up a couple scores.  Nine of the receptions went to sophomore Braylyn Toles, who totaled 135 yards, most often on skinny post routes, as he was able to blow past the cornerback.

The Tiger offense was completely stymied throughout the first quarter, but started to get untracked in the second with a nice touchdown drive.  Hartson finished it off with 20-yard run off an outside zone play.  Left tackle Marcus Moore effectively sealed the edge and Hartson was able to easily turn the corner, quickly threading his way through the Hoban secondary and into the end zone.  The PAT failed, making the score 14-6.

Hoban followed that up with an 11-yard touchdown run by Sperling, making the halftime score 21-6.  The score was set up by a long catch-and-run pass completion to Crable.

In the third quarter, the Tigers scored again when Dorian Pringle went over from the seven and Slaughter converted a 2-point PAT with a pass to Ja’Meir Gamble.  The score was now 21-14 and the Tigers certainly were in it.

But the defense appeared to tire.  And it didn’t help that offensive tackle Sam Snodgrass could not go due to an injury in the Lake game and Marcus Moore was required to play both ways.  But he hung in there, while taking few breaks.

Nevertheless, the Knights dominated the rest of the way on Sperling runs both inside and outside.  Massillon did manage to sneak in a 20-yard touchdown pass from Slaughter to Hartson, during which Willtrell literally stole the ball from the defender in the end zone.  Meanwhile, Sperling tallied three more TDs, including a long one of 55 yards.

Hoban (13-1) will now face Toledo Central Catholic (13-1) next Thursday in the state finals at Benson Stadium.  Toledo defeated Kings 52-49 in the other semifinal game to advance.  For each of these teams, their only loss was against Lake St. Edward, which will play in the Division I finals next Friday.  Massillon bows out at 12-2, having won their 15th playoff regional title and their fifth in the past six years.

Strangely, beating St. Edward comes back to haunt Massillon football vs. Hoban in OHSAA state semifinal


By Steve Doerschuk, The Repository

AKRON — In terms of raw postseason winning, these are the good old days for Massillon football.

In terms of raw satisfaction, the Tigers keep ending on the note of a Rolling Stones tune dating to before the OHSAA playoffs were born 50 years ago.

They try. And they try. They succeed quite a bit. In the end, they can’t get any satisfaction.

In the frigid final moments of a 41-20 loss to Akron Hoban on Friday night, quarterback Jalen Slaughter turned the open end of his orange helmet toward a blast roaring from a tubular heat blower.

Slaughter had another series to play. He popped his warmed helmet on. But it was too late.

He was replaced at the heat blower by a teammate, who sighed and said, “Maybe next year.”

Akron Hoban, 14-1, advanced to Thursday’s state finals in Canton, against Toledo Central Catholic. Massillon, 12-2, dropped the Division II semifinal in front of an estimated 8,000 at the University of Akron.

“We have a great group of kids who played their tails off all year,” Massillon head coach Nate Moore. “I’m proud of them.”

It seemed plenty plausible the 50th anniversary of the start of Ohio’s playoff system could bring the Tigers their first tournament championship.

Their 12-game winning streak featured a 31-28 win over defending Division I state champ Lakewood St. Edward. It was St. Ed’s only 2022 loss, and the Eagles are back in the D-I title game after trouncing Gahanna Lincoln 31-7 Friday.

Hoban, on the other hand, fell 41-20 to St. Edward in a regular-season finale.

“Our heads were really big at the time we were going into the St. Ed game,” Hoban head coach Tim Tyrrell said. “I talked to them all week about the difference between being arrogant and confident. We were arrogant.

“Our coaches get mad at me for saying this, but St. Ed needed to whip our butt. If we had beat Ed’s, I don’t know if we’d be here at right now.

“And I think it helped St. Ed that that Massillon beat them. Ed’s has not looked like that since then. Sometimes undefeated is not the best thing.”

Did somebody mention good old days?

At the 40th anniversary of the OHSAA playoffs, when Massillon competed exclusively in the OHSAA’s big-school division, the program’s postseason record was 27-20.

Across the last 10 seasons, since the Tigers went to Division II, the record is 25-9.

Few in Ohio in any division have been as hot as the Tigers, who have won 23 postseason games across the last six years under Moore.

“We can definitely play with anybody,” Moore said. “We had to go out and play well tonight. We just didn’t play well enough.

“Credit to Hoban. They’re really good.”

The Tigers struggled against two Hoban seniors, Ohio Mr. Football finalist Lamar Sperling and 6-foot-3 receiver Jayvian Crable. Through three decisive quarters, Sperling had 226 rushing yards; Crable had 139 receiving yards.

Crable transferred from Massillon to Hoban before the 2020 season. The son of former Massillon All-Ohioan Shawn Crable, Jayvian Crable played quarterback last year before transfer JacQai Long claimed the position this year.

“JacQai is a really good quarterback,” said Crable, whose 2022 positions are receiver and linebacker. “It was great playing against Massillon and some guys who are my friends, but the goal was to get to the state championship game. That’s all I was thinking about the whole time.”

The Tigers fell to 1-3 in playoff games against 10th-year Hoban pilot Tyrell, who has a slight connection to Tigertown. It traces to Lee Tressel, who was Massillon’s head coach in 1956 and ’57.

Lee’s son Jim was two weeks short of his fifth birthday when Joe Sparma ran for a touchdown and threw for another in Massillon’s win over McKinley in the ’57 season finale.



These Teams Have Withstood the Test of Time

Over 700 teams participate annually in Ohio High School football.  Once the season is over, almost half qualify for the post-season playoffs, distributed among seven divisions, with each division having four regions.  At the end of four weeks of playoffs, regional championships are awarded and state champs are crowned two weeks later.  It would appear on the surface that every team has decent odds of qualifying for the playoffs in any given year, but this is not necessarily the case.  That’s because there is a group of schools that make it in nearly every year, significantly reducing the odds for the remaining schools.  Here’s a look at that group.

This is the 51st year of the playoffs and the study arbitrarily draws a line beneath the teams in each division that have qualified for the playoffs at least 20 times.  Below are some interesting facts from 1972, the inaugural year of the playoffs, through the 2021 season:

  • There are 57 teams in the overall group, which comprises just 8% of the total number of teams playing football.  Note that Akron Hoban, with 17 qualifications, has been added as the 58th team based on recent success.
  • 38 (66%) have won at least one state title.
  • 55 (95%) have won at least one regional title.
  • 49 (86%) have won more playoff games than they have lost.
  • 12 teams are still alive in the 2022 playoffs through the regional finals.

Among D1 and D2 schools:

  • Cincinnati Moeller (37), Cleveland St. Ignatius (31) and Pickerington / Pickerington Central (30) have the most playoffs appearances.
  • Cleveland St. Ignatius (11), Cincinnati Moeller (9) and Akron St. Vincent (6) have the most state titles.
  • Huber Heights Wayne, Toledo Whitmer, Mentor, Dublin Coffman, Euclid, Massillon and Dover have never won playoff state title.
  • Cincinnati Moeller (17), Cleveland St. Ignatius (15) and Massillon (14) have the most regional titles.
  • Only Euclid has never won a regional title.
  • Cleveland St. Ignatius (74), Columbus DeSales (61) and Pickerington / Pickerington Central (59) have the most playoff wins.
  • Cleveland St. Ignatius (.787), Columbus DeSales (.709) and Lake St. Edward have the highest playoff game winning percentages.
  • Euclid, Solon and Dover have lost more playoff games than they have won.
  • Massillon (14), Columbus DeSales (9), Cincinnati Moeller (8) and Pickerington / Pickerington Central (8) have the most losses in the state semifinal and state final games.

Below is the complete list of teams and their respective playoff data:


2022: Massillon 48, Perry 7


Don Engelhardt,

Massillon Rolls Past Perry, Advances to Playoffs Second Round

MASSILLON Top-seeded Massillon (9-1) wasted no time in establishing dominance in this playoff game enroute to a 48-7 pasting of neighborhood rival and No. 16 Perry (4-7).  On the first play from scrimmage sophomore quarterback Jalen Slaughter unloaded deep to senior wide receiver Ardell Banks on a 72-yard touchdown.  Banks, who had beaten two defenders with his 4.44 speed, first juggled the slightly overthrown ball and then quickly secured it, sprinting untouched the rest of the way.  The remainder of the night was “ground and pound” as the Tigers scored touchdowns on seven of their eight possessions, while punting only once.

For the game, Massillon rolled up 410 yards of offense in just 38 plays, while averaging a whopping 10.8 yards per play.  Leading the attack was senior running back Willtrell Hartson, who recorded his 10th consecutive 100-yard game, matching the record set a few years ago by Jamir Thomas.  He finished night with 14 carries for 111 yards and three touchdowns.  For the season Hartson has now gained 1,448 yards (7th all-time; the record is 1,976) and scored 23 rushing touchdowns (4th all-time; the record is 33).

Slaughter also had a fine outing, completing 7 of 9 passes for 143 yards and a touchdown.  His main target was Banks, who recorded six catches for 150 yards and two scores.  The latter came via a halfback from wide receiver Braylyn Toles.

Also matching a record was Nate Moore, who won his 80th game as Tiger head coach, matching that of the great Paul Brown, who set the mark in 1940.

It was an uncharacteristic night of football; a night of chippyness and cheap shots and the fans of both teams vociferously disagreeing with many referee calls.  But in between, some great football was played.

Perry tried their best to establish a ground game with their antiquated Wing-T offense, but the Tiger D was just too large, too quick and too talented to allow the Panthers to finish any drive until the second team was inserted late in the game.  The Perry passing game didn’t help any, as it was simply ineffective (2 for 10 and 2 interceptions.).

Massillon scored twice in the second quarter to take a 21-0 lead into the locker room.  The first came at the end of a 10-play, 83-yard drive when Hartson bulled up the middle for a 4-yard touchdown.  The third of the night TD was set up by a 50-yard pass interception return by Zach LIebler, who had stepped in front of the intended receiver to snag the ball.  Three plays later the Tigers were sitting in the end zone courtesy of Hartson’s 19-yard run around the left end.

The onslaught continued in the second half, with Massillon scoring on three straight possessions: a 37-yard power run up by the middle by Hartson, the aforementioned 28-yard halfback pass to Banks and a 3-yard run by Mylen Lenix.  The third score came at the end of a 5-play, 98-yard drive.

With a 42-0 score and a running clock now in effect, it was time to insert the second unit to finish the game.  Perry’s lone score came against this group when Garrett Laubacher raced 67 yards to the end zone.  Up to that point Perry in their first seven possessions had punted four times, had a pass interception and lost the ball on downs.

Not to be outdone, the younger Tigers came right back and pounded one in with 39 seconds left in the game (no love lost there!).  The points were tallied by Lenix, a player who could replace Hartson next year in the backfield.  He finally had an opportunity to showcase his talent, as he rushed six times for 99 yards and scored twice.  Peytton Mitchell, who is also in contention, added six strong carries for 33 yards.

Perry had some success moving the ball on the ground in the first half, almost exclusively from sophomore quarterback Austin Mattox, a former Massillon Tiger player.  He rushed 16 times for 61 yards.  Nothing was to be gained up the middle, but he did find some room around the end.  Only, the Tiger defense eventually took this away when they spread their alignment a bit.  After that, it was all Massillon.  Four defensive players put up some good tackle numbers, including Shon Robinson (7.0), Cody Fair (7.0), De’Aire Pringle (6.0) and Ryan Page (6.0).  And Ma’Taeaun Frazier added a pick that prevented a score.  Overall, it was a good performance by the entire defense.

The downside of this game was a few injuries, some via game action and others via cheap shots.  Hopefully, these Tigers will heal up in time to support the playoff challenges that lie ahead.

With the win, Massillon advances to the second round of the regionals and will face first-time opponent Canal Winchester (7-4), a 23-6 winner over Columbus Independence.  The game will be held next Friday at home with kickoff scheduled for 7:00 pm.


The Time When the Tigers Faced an Inconceivably, Unlikely…

It’s playoff time and once again the Tigers are poised to make a run for the state title.  The post-season has been around since 1972, some 51 years, and during that time Massillon has qualified more times than not.  While it was difficult to qualify back in 1972 when only one team from each region was selected, now sixteen teams qualify from each region.  So, it’s much easier for a state power like Massillon to make it in every year going forward.  If only the format was that way from the beginning.  Research shows that the Tigers would have qualified each and every year with a sixteen-team format.  And not may schools can say that.

Nevertheless, there have been times when Massillon was on the bubble, which was particularly the case in 2008, when the format called for eight teams per region.  Here’s a story from Gary Vogt that shows how the stars aligned that year to put the Tigers in.


“In what is one of the most unlikely chain of events, the Massillon Tigers qualified for the playoffs in 2008.  After week nine there were four teams vying for the eighth and final spot in Division One, Region Two.  Massillon finished in eighth place and qualified with 21.4912 points, ninth was Fremont Ross with 21.4187, then came Toledo St. Johns with 21.1429 and finally Akron Garfield with 21.0500.  These four were vying for the eighth spot.  And there could have been another contender had Nordonia lost to Garfield Heights.  But Nordonia won 32-12 and thus locked up the sixth seed.

The following series of events had to occur in order for the Tigers to make the playoffs that year:

  1. Massillon had to defeat Canton McKinley which they did, 17-0.
  2. Parma Normandy (5-5) which the Tigers defeated earlier in the season had to beat North Royalton (5-5) which they did, 35–21.
  3. Brantford Ontario Collegiate defeated highly favored Pauline Johnson 20–17 by completing an eighty yard hook and lateral pass on the last play of the game, giving the Tigers the essential computer points.
  4. Holland Springfield (6-4) defeated Perrysburg (6-4), 40-24.  If Perrysburg wins, Fremont Ross would have qualified with 21.9742 points. Had any of the above three events not occurred, Fremont Ross would have qualified for the playoffs.
  5. Toledo Bowsher defeated Toledo Rogers in overtime, 23-16. If Rogers wins Toledo St. Johns would have made the playoffs with 21.7551 points.
  6. Beaver Local (4-6) defeated Akron North (6-4), 15-14. Akron North was ahead 14-0 at the end of three quarters. Beaver scored a TD minutes into the fourth quarter to cut the lead to 14-7.  With less than two minutes left in the game Beaver scored again and was successful on their two conversion to win by a point.  Had Akron North won, Akron Garfield would have made the playoffs with 21.5500 points.

This unlikely series of events led Massillon to qualify for the playoffs in 2008.  Unfortunately, the Tigers lost the next week to 14-7 North Canton Hoover and bowed out of playoff contention.

It is amazing that all six of these events had occur for the Tigers to qualify.  This is certainly one of the most unlikely scenarios that led to a team making it in.  Think about it, a win in a rivalry game, two wins by teams whose opponents had like records, a win by successfully going for a two point conversion, an overtime win and an eighty yard touchdown on the last play of a game played outside the Unite States.  In the history of the playoffs in Ohio, there probably have been other remarkable scenarios whereby a team qualified, but very, very few that were more astounding than the 2008 Massillon Tigers.”