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Stanfield Wells – Wall of Champions

Stanfield Wells – Wall of Champions

Stanfield Wells was Massillon’s first collegiate All-American, earning that distinction at the University of Michigan.  But his claim to fame went well beyond that and he did something in football that very few other players had done up to that time.  Here is his story.

Stanfield Wells was born on July 25, 1889, growing up in the great plains.  In 1906, prior to his senior year of high school, his family moved to Massillon and he was introduced to the game of football for the first time in his young life.  It came at the behest of his classmates, who needed to talk him out of his reluctance join.

“That was my senior year,”  Wells recalled much later in life in a letter to Charles Gumpp, President of the Massillon Football Booster Club. “I was a ‘new boy’, having just moved to Massillon that summer from the wide open spaces of South Dakota, Wyoming and Nebraska. The first day at school several of my classmates came around to suggest that of course I was coming out for football.  And although I protested that I had never had a ball in my hands, they countered with the argument that I was a good-sized lump of a boy and would make a fine prospect.  So, I promised.

“Well, the only preparation necessary was to take an old pair of shoes down to the town cobbler and have some cleats nailed on them. I think the athletic association must have had some football pants, but I do remember distinctly that you had to furnish your own stockings (any color) and an old sweater.  Put these on and you were in business.

“I can’t believe that there were more than eleven candidates out because I made the team the first afternoon.  Nor did we have a regular coach.  A boy named Fritz Merwin, who I think had played the year before was our coach.  If you ask me, he’s the one whose picture ought to be hanging up around there someplace.  He didn’t get paid anything.  And if a coach ever had an awkward squad of eleven nitwits, he did.  But he was out there every afternoon, early and late, teaching us fundamentals instead of fancy razzle-dazzle plays, and in the end it paid off because we won a few games.”

Wells must have made an immediate impact on the team, because he was named team captain, playing left halfback along with his twin brother, Guy.  But the season wasn’t as successful as he recalled, with the team having posted a 1-5 record, including a 21-0 win over Wooster and a pair of losses to Canton Central.

Staying with sports, he was then captain of basketball team.

A few years later he enrolled at the University of Michigan, where joined the football team as a tackle, with his 1909 team posting posting a record of 6-1.  The following season the Wolverines finished 3-0-3, defeating Minnesota 6-0 to win the Western Conference championship.  Wells was stellar. playing the first three games at right tackle and then moving to right end for the remainder of the season.  For his effort he was named 1st Team All-American by Walter Camp.

But it was also when Wells put his name in the sports chronicle.  Football was considered a very dangerous sport in its inaugural years due to the violence entailed with eleven offensive players constantly crashing into eleven defensive players.  So dangerous was it that in 1905 there were 18 fatalities recorded, mostly among high school players.  Even U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt, whose son was on the freshmen team at Harvard University, took notice and was about to ban the sport if changes were not made.  So, a large number of universities met to develop modifications to the rules, including banning the flying wedge on kickoffs, creating a neutral zone between the opposing linemen and increasing the first down requirement from five yards to ten.

But the greatest change was legalizing the forward pass.  However, several restrictions were also added to the concept.  Passes could not be thrown over the middle of the line, within five yards on either side of the center.  A dropped pass resulted in a 15-yard penalty.  And a pass that went untouched resulted in the offense forfeiting the ball to the defense.  Obviously, the coaches steered totally away from the pass due to the penalties involved, while also believing a pass not to be a “manly” and ethical in regard to the traditional physical nature of the game.  Nevertheless, the first pass was completed on September 5, 1906, by St. Louis University in a game against Carroll College.  The following year Carlisle, under coach Pop Warner, used the pass as a part of its offensive package, finding great success with it.  History will note that Knute Rockne was the father of the passing game, only he didn’t utilize it until 1910, three years later.

That brings us back to Wells, also in 1910.  Six minutes remained in the game between Michigan and Minnesota with the two teams battling to a scoreless tie and Michigan having possession of the ball at their own 47.  With the running attack stymied through, Wells dropped back and fired a pass to Sanley Borleske for a gain of 27 yards to the Gopher 30.  On the next play he again connected with Borleske, who secured the pass and raced to the three yard line.  Wells then carried for no gain.  Finally, he managed to just breach the goal line on his second attempt for the winning score and the conference championship, scoring his only points of the season.  Subsequently, the entire on-field Michigan contingent swarmed Wells and his teammates and it took several minutes before the pandemonium could be quelled and the game resumed.  Wells’ effort certainly had an influence on his being named All-American.  He was also named all-conference.  Eventually, the penalties for an incomplete pass were removed and the aerial game was thereafter embraced by all teams at every level.

Wells completed his career at Michigan by playing right end and then right halfback, with the team finishing the season 5-1-2 and Wells scoring four touchdowns.  Wells was again named 1st Team All-American, this time by both the New York Globe and Dr. Henry L. Williams.  He was also awarded 3rd Team by Walter Camp.  In addition, he was selected for Outing magazine’s Roll of Football Honor and 1st Team All-Western Conference.

Following college Wells played professionally for the Akron Indians, the Cleveland Indians and the Detroit Heralds, although his participation was not documented in the semi-accurate pro football archives.

Luther Emery of the Independent visited Wells while he was at Michigan and printed this: “Stanfield Wells was Massillon’s first All-American.  He was a fine man, big fellow, played a little pro ball.  I went up to Michigan to meet him.  He was overjoyed.  He got to talking and asking about some of the Massillon people he graduated with.  He went back in his bedroom and came out with his Massillonian in his hand.  He asked me about quite a number of ones who were in there.” (Ref. Massillon Memories, by Scott Shook).

Following football, Wells became manager of an insurance company in Nashville, Tennessee.  He died on August 17, 1967, at the age of 78

In 1994 he was inducted into the Massillon Wall of Champions and in 2016 he entered the Massillon Football Hall of Fame


David Canary – Wall of Champions

David Canary – Wall of Champions

Story by Bill Porrini

Wow?  David Canary: Alias Candy, Bonanza; Stuart Chandler, All My Children; Russ Gehring, Peyton Place; Dundee, Cimeron Strip; Cultrane, S.W.A.T.; and on and on; 35 TV shows in all!

David was an acclaimed and accomplished actor, starring on TV, in dinner theater, and on and off Broadway.  But he first starred as an acclaimed Massillon Tiger.  Born in Elwood, Indiana, he moved to Massillon at age five and grew up there.  As a Tiger, he played both ways, at offensive and defensive end, and was awarded 2nd Team All-Ohio honors following his senior year, in 1955, on a team that finished second on the state.  He attributed his success to his work ethic, which he learned while traversing through the city’s various schools.  He always gave 120 percent every time the ball was snapped.  He said he wasn’t very fast or big.  But he was a good student of the game because he had to be.  He just did what the coaches said and learned the fundamentals and tried as hard as possible on every play.  He said, “I owe a lot to football!”  He also played baseball for the Tigers.  High school friends called him “A nice guy, a humble guy.”

“Dave Canary was the toughest, hardest-nosed kid I ever coached.  One night he blocked an extra point against Mansfield that preserved a 12-12 tie.  He blocked it with his face.  He ruptured a blood vessel in his eye and his eye was shut.  He just kept right on going.  He was solid as a rock and tough.  Intelligent.  He knew what he wanted to do.” – Former Massillon coach Tom Harp,

After graduating, David continued his athletic career at The University of Cincinnati on a football scholarship.  There, he continued to play both ways.  In spite of having a small stature for a lineman (5’-11”, 172 lbs.) he was good enough to be named All-Conference.  He was also a fine student and was recognized as a Pop Warner Academic All-American.  At the end of this time at Cincinnati, Canary graduated with a degree in Voice, and was then selected in the second round of the American Football League draft by Denver.  Only, tired of football, he instead joined the Army, where he was also a member of the theater group.  He even won an All-Army entertainment contest.

Following discharge, it was time to tackle his loves: theater, music and performing, becoming a regular or appearing in 35 different TV shows.   In fact, he spent his entire career starring in TV, Off-Broadway, Broadway and Dinner Theater.  Dave often returned to Massillon to visit and perform, usually at the local Carousel Dinner Theater.

In 1964 Canary was inducted into the Massillon Wall of Champions.  In 1991 he was honored as a Washington High School Distinguished Citizen.  Then, in 2016 inducted into the Massillon Football Hall of Fame.  He died on December 16, 2015, at the age of 71.


Six Additional Tiger Football Players Sign with Respective Colleges

Six Additional Tiger Football Players Sign with Respective Colleges

Six Massillon Tigers off of the Division II state championship football team participated in a recent signing ceremony and will continue their athletic and academic careers at their selected colleges.  Three previous football players signed last fall, including Chase Bond (North Carolina State), Cody Fair (U.S. Navy) and Dorian Pringle (Bowling Green).  The recent signees are as follows:

Stephen Hogan II – Central State University.  Hogan, used principally as a blocker, played tight end for an offense that averaged 39 points 387 yards a game.  He also caught a pass for 12 yards.

Zach Liebler – Mount Union University.  Liebler was a 2-year starter at cornerback, this year recording 29 tackles, 2 for loss, a pass interception and 5 pass breakups.

Adonis Marshall – Mercyhurst University.  Marshall started at cornerback, recording 48 tackles, 2 for loss, 3 pass interceptions, a fumble recovery and 12 pass breakups.

Da’One Owens – Slippery Rock University.  Owens started at quarterback, completing 94 of 158 passes for 1,414 yards and 17 touchdowns and rushing 140 times for a team-high 1,302 yards and 15 touchdowns.  He is the only Massillon quarterback to rush for over 1,000 yards in a single season.  He also led the team in scoring with 92 points.

Ryan Page – Walsh University.  Page was a 2-year starter at free safety, this year recording 67 tackles, 2.5 for loss, 1.5 quarterback sacks, a pass interception, a fumble recovery and 5 pass breakups.

Nick Paul – Kent State University.  Paul was a backup on the offensive line.  He will continue his career as a baseball player.

Six other non-football athletes also announced their future plans.  They include:

  • Trinity Lamp – Cleveland State University – Track
  • Gavin Marceric – Tiffin University – Baseball
  • Lea Newman – Notre Dame College of Ohio – Softball
  • Andria Pullin – Ashland University – Stunt
  • Natalie Stolte – Ashland University – Stunt
  • Hailey Walters – Malone University – Softball





Steve Studer – Wall of Champions

Simply put, Steve Studer is a Massillon legend.  Very few other players, coaches or contributors have earned the respect that he has for his contributions to the Massillon football program.  He fully grasped the concept of the Massillon tradition and embraced passions for the many activities he did throughout his life.  But largely, he served many young Tigers as both an exceptional athletic trainer and a close personal mentor.  But as fate would have it, he left us too soon.  Fortunately, his influence on the program has remained.

Numerous legacy families have come through the Massillon system during its long history and the Studer family was no exception.  Junie and his wife Delores were long-time supporters of the football program, with the two of them founding the Studer Library of Football History.  Junie also served as Booster Club President in 1972.  In 2016 the pair were inducted into the Massillon Football Hall of Fame.

They raised two sons: Steve and Joe.  Steve played center for the Tigers from 1969-71 and Joe played center in 1972-74, earning All-Ohio honors his senior year.  Both went on to become involved in high school sports, Steve as a Massillon strength and conditioning coach and Joe as a football coach at several schools.  And both were subsequently inducted into the Tiger HOF.  Finally, Steve’s two sons, Dan and Joey, each suited up for the Tigers and wore Number 55, like their father.  Dan played in 1997-99 and is the current Massillon strength and conditioning coach, while Joey played in 2007-09 and is a Massillon assistant coach.

Steve Studer, affectionally known as “Stu” to everyone in the Massillon sports community, was born on February 4, 1953.  Growing up, he always had a fondness for football.  “I singled out Ben Bradley, he was my hero.  I’d go to the games with my dad.  I had this old pair of binoculars.  I’d sit up there and focus in on Ben Bradley the whole game.  As a little, kid, I remember telling my dad, ‘I want to play center for the Massillon Tigers.’  That’s because Ben Bradley was my idol.”  – Massillon Memories, Scott H. Shook.

He would get his chance to become a varsity starter in 1970 as a junior on a team comprised of mostly seniors.  And what a start it was.  Playing under head coach Bob Commings as a 5’-11”, 200 lb. center, the Tigers fashioned a perfect 10-0 record and were never seriously challenged in any game.  In fact, they outscored their opponents by an average margin of 41-3, while rushing for 277 yards per game.

In his senior year, now at 5’-11”, 215 lb., he played on a Massillon team that finished 8-2, with two 1-point losses, to 7-2-1 Niles McKinley and 10-0 state champion Warren Harding.  The team rushed for 288 yards per game (9th all-time) and outscored the opposition by an average of 30-3.  Following the season, Studer was named All-American center by both Letterman Magazine and Gillette.  He also participated in the Ohio North-South All-Star game.

Aside from football, he was captain of the wrestling team and earned three letters, while winning a sectional championship during his senior year.

His next stop was Bowling Green to continue his football career, choosing the Falcons over interest from Ohio State and Miami of Ohio.  His four years were as follows:

  • Freshman (1972) – Played center at 6’-1”, 218 lbs. 5th on the depth chart.  One of two freshmen to earn a letter, assuming the duties as short snapper for kicks and long snapper for punts.  Of course, his jersey number was “55.”  The team finished 6-3-1.
  • Sophomore (1973) – Played center at 6’-0”, 223 lbs. 2nd on the depth chart.  The team finished 7-3.
  • Junior (1974) – Starting center, playing at 6’-0”, 224 lbs. 2nd Team All-MAC.  The team finished 6-4-1.  Coach Don Nehlen’s pre-season evaluation – “Steve could develop into the best center in the MAC. e is a good blocker and has great upper body strength.”
  • Senior (1975) – Starting center, playing at 6’-0”, 240 lbs. Co-captain along with Art Thompson (Massillon).  Joined on the team by brother Joe, who was a freshman center.  1st Team All-MAC and A.P. and Parade Magazine Honorable Mention All-American.  1976 East-West Shrine Classic.  The team finished 8-3.  Coach’s comment – “One of the best centers in the Midwest who is very underrated in agility and quickness because of his great strength.  A very good one-on-one blocker.”

After Bowling Green, Studer had a try-out with the Chicago Bears, but failed to make the team.  So he returned to Massillon and in 1985 landed a position as both strength and conditioning coach and physical education instructor.

His pride and joy was the weight room that he established at Massillon and the strength program he instituted, which is still in place today.  “Our weight room is 55’ by 70’,” said Studer.  “It’s the same size as the weight room we had at the old high school.  When we built the new high school we patterned it after the old one. It pretty much consists of free weights.  We really compare the weight room to a lot of Division 1 colleges. There’s going to be your Tennessees, your Nebraskas and your Michigan  where they have a better facility than this.  I would compare this to any MAC school.  Our core lifts are the squat, the clean, the bench press, and the dead lift. The machines that we have in the weight room are pretty much hammer-strength machines and it’s all top-of-the-line equipment.  It’s the same equipment that they use at Michigan, Notre Dame and a lot of the NFL teams.”  Studer also formed a powerlifting team in 1994 and the Tigers won the state championship in 1996.

An Interview with Steve Studer

“He was a true Tiger,” said Jack Rose, who as head coach of the Tigers from 1992-97 worked with Studer.  “If you ask someone what is a Massillon Tiger, their answer would be Studer.  He loved training kids, helping make them stronger for football.  He had a great rapport with the players.” – Dave Hutton, Masssillon Independent.

“A lot of what the program is about begins and ends in the weight room,” said former head coach Rick Shepas.  “Stu has been probably more valuable than any coach who has ever been there.” – Todd Porter, Massillon Independent.

“I don’t know if there has been a coach who has had more impact on those Massillon kids than Steve,” said Rose.  “He epitomized what a Massillon Tiger was.  The kids loved him.  He taught them how to work hard, how to set goals.  He was just a special person.” – Todd Porter, Massillon Independent.

“A lot of the things he taught us and instilled in us, not only football and weightlifting, was about being a good person and the approach you take to be the best you can be,” said former player Rick Spielman.  “Along with my parents, he’s one of the most influential people in my life.” – Todd Porter, Massillon Independent.

“Playing for him, and being around him, you were just afraid to fail for him,” said Craig McConnell, a former captain for Washington’s football team.  “You were afraid to work in his weight room and not to exceed.  You had that much respect for him.  Everything was Massillon to him – this tow, this program, this school.  He was what everyone in this city wanted to be.” – Elbert Starks III, Akron Beacon Journal.

Even outside of his career as a high school coach, he pursued personal weight training, participating in drug-free power lifting, where he became a state champion in 1988.  Then, there was the “Torture Chamber”, where he trained many college and professional athletes, including Chris Spielman.  “I’m 15, I’m not even driving yet, I’m walking by his house every Saturday night, trying to get up the nerve to go in there and ask him if he would teach me.  Finally, I did.  He took me in.  He taught me.  If it weren’t for him, I wouldn’t be where I am today.”  – Chris Spielman on Steve Studer – Massillon Memories, Scott H. Shook.

Aside from sports, the Bowling Green art major was heavily involved as a graphic artist and sign painter in his father’s business, Studer Sign Company, and also the original Tiger Store.

But this extraordinary man died suddenly on February 9, 2004, at the young age of 51 following a heavy workout in the WHS weight room.  Fortunately for everyone who follows, his high school weight training program lives on, now managed by his son, Dan.

In 1996, Steve Studer was inducted into the Massillon Wall of Champions.  And his jersey number, “55”, has been retired; the only number retired by the Tigers, as a tribute to the respect shown by the community to “Stu.”


Bob Pflug – Wall of Champions

Bob Pflug – Wall of Champions

J. Robert Pflug spent his entire career involved with football and found great success as both a player and a coach. As such, he was deservedly honored for his achievements in both Ohio and Pennsylvania.

Pflug was born in Massillon on October 4, 1905, and had the opportunity to play high school ball throughout his entire Tiger career under legendary Coach Dave Stewart.

As a junior in 1922 the team finished 10-0 and captured the state championship, tied with
Toledo Scott.  Pflug started on both the offensive and defensive lines, with the Tigers outscoring their opponents, 379-28.  He also kicked three extra points.

For his senior season, the 175 lb. Pflug was named captain and again started on both sides of the line, in addition to being the punter, place kicker and punt returner.  The Stark County champions finished 8-2 that year, with losses to Harrisburg Tech (which was an adult team), 26-0, and Youngstown South, 19-6.  Harrisburg was the first out-of-state team to ever play Massillon.

Against Salem, he kicked eight extra points, setting a record that was not broken until Jason Brown converted nine during a game in 1991.  The current record is fourteen, which is held by Alex Bauer (2018).  For the season, Pflug kicked 26 PATs and three field goals, including a long of 31 yards versus Wooster.

His best game surely came against Canton McKinley in a 9-0 victory after which he was named Most Valuable Player.  Lauded by the media for his great line play, he also booted twelve long punts while averaging in excess of 40 yards, scored a drop-kick field goal from the 17 yard line and blocked a punt.

Football wasn’t his only sport, as he also lettered in basketball and track.

After high school, Pflug enrolled at Grove City College, where he played football from 1924 to 1927.


His first stop as a coach was at Knox High School in Pennsylvania from 1928-31, where he compiled a record of 20-10-1.  After that came Bradford High School from 1932-50, which he left with a remarkable record of 126-29-5.  Seven times his team was undefeated.  He had a 31-game unbeaten streak (1933-36) and a 25-game unbeaten streak (1937-40) overlapping the great years of Massillon’s Paul Brown.  But unfortunately, the two teams never met.  He departed Pennsylvania as the winningest all-coach in the Big 30, which included teams in northern Pennsylvania and southern New York.  In 1968, Bradford named their football stadium J. Robert Pflug Field.

College was next on the resume.  From 1951 to 1956 he was a line coach at Brown University and then from 1957 to 1969 a defensive line coach at Princeton University.


Pflug was inducted into the Pennsylvania High School Coaches Hall of Fame 1989 and the Massillon Wall of Champions in 1994.

He died on August 15, 1991, in Browns Cove, Virginia.


Don James – Wall of Champions

Don James – Wall of Champions

Massillon native Don James grew up in a family of football players, with four of the five brothers pursuing the sport at least at the high school level.  One sibling, Tom, went on to play for Ohio State and the Cleveland Browns, while Don opted for the coaching ranks, spending more years than any of them in the football arena, as a player at Miami of Florida, then and as a head coach at  both Kent State University and the University of Washington.

Standing: Don, Tommy and Art; Seated: Bob

Donald Earl James was born in Massillon on December 31, 1932, and it was a natural that he play football for the Tigers.  “Massillon’s got that wonderful tradition, so from the day you’re born that’s all you hear about,” said James.  “The great teams, the great players, the successes.  You know the people in this town just really respect the young people – and they want to help them to do well.  They’ve got something a lot of people are never going to be able to capture.” – Massillon Memories, Scott H. Shook, 1998.

James played varsity football in 1948 and 1949 as a quarterback under Head Coach Chuck Mather.  In his junior year he was the backup, throwing one touchdown pass, a 25-yarder to Irvine “Ace” Crable.  The team finished 9-1 that year and was named state champion.

In his senior year, James was promoted to the starting quarterback position and he led his team to another 9-1 record and state championship.  The Tigers that year outscored their opponents, 395-91, with James throwing five TD passes, the shortest being 26 yards.  Only once-beaten Mansfield and unbeaten Canton McKinley mounted any serious challenge.  Massillon lost to the No. 2 Tygers 16-12, but defeated the Bulldogs, 6-0.

The McKinley game was special to James.  “You know, the week of the game there’s not a helluva lot on anybody’s mind but the [Massillon-McKinley] game,” he said.  “So much is brought up about the tradition and history and former games and former players – and there’s a little hatred mixed in there – competitive hatred.  You don’t want to lose to these guys if you lose to anybody.  I would compare McKinley Week to, as a coach out at Washington, getting ready to play USC or the Rose Bowl or the Orange Bowl – not just any Bowl – one of the big ones, here there’s so much on the line and so much visibility involved.” – Massillon Memories, Scott H. Shook, 1998.

Following the season James was awarded a scholarship to play for the University of Miami in Florida, under Head Coach Andy Gustafson, where he was a starter at quarterback during his junior and senior years.  In 1952 the Hurricanes finished 4-7 and then went 4-5 the following year, with James completing 39 of 75 passes for 450 yards and three touchdowns.  Along the way he set three Miami single-season records, including completions (121), yards (1,363) and completion percentage.  Later, in 1992, he was inducted into the University of Miami Sports Hall of Fame.

Having completed his degree in education, James was commissioned as a lieutenant in the U.S. Army, where he served from 1954-56.  Following discharge, he began to pursue his coaching interests.

The first stop was at the University of Kansas as a graduate assistant under Mather.  “Chuck Mather was extremely organized,” said James, recalling his time at Massillon.  “Playing quarterback you got to spend a little more time with him.  I just idolized those coaches.  In fact, that’s when I decided to coach.” – Massillon Memories, Scott H. Shook, 1998.  His tenure at Kansas also allowed him to complete a Master’s degree in education.  Following a year as an assistant at Southwest Miami High School, he put in twelve seasons as a college assistant at Florida State, Michigan and Colorado, until then being offered a head coaching position at Kent State.

James served four years (1971-74) guiding the Golden Flashes, while compiling a 25-19-1 record.  His best season was in 1972 when his team finished 9-2 as Mid-American Champion and was invited to the Tangerine Bowl.  Unfortunately, they lost that game 21-18 to Tampa.  But along the way he had the opportunity to coach Jack Lambert (Pittsburgh Steelers player), Nick Saban (current Alabama coach) and Gary Pinkel (Missouri coach).

The University of Washington hired James away from Kent in 1975 and he stayed with the Huskies through the 1992 season, enjoying great success along the way.  The highlight was winning the 1991 National Championship.  By the end of his eighteen years there he had compiled an overall record of 150-60-2 and a PAC-8/PAC-10 mark of 97-38-2.  Six times his team captured the PAC championship and played in the Rose Bowl against the winner of the Big-10.  Here are his years:

  • 1975: 6-5 record
  • 1976: 5-6 record
  • 1977: 8-4 record, 1st in the PAC, defeated Michigan 27-20 in the Rose Bowl
  • 1978: 7-4 record
  • 1979: 9-3 record, 2nd in the PAC, defeated Texas 14-7 in the Sun Bowl
  • 1980: 9-3 record, 1st in the PAC, lost to Michigan 23-6 in the Rose Bowl
  • 1981:10-2 record, 1st in the PAC, defeated Iowa 28-0 in the Rose Bowl
  • 1982: 10-2 record, 2nd in the PAC, lost to Maryland 21-20 in the Aloha Bowl
  • 1983: 8-4 record, 2nd in the PAC, lost to Penn State 13-10 in the Aloha Bowl
  • 1984: 11-1 record, 2nd in the PAC, 2nd in Coaches Poll, 2nd in the AP, defeated Oklahoma 28-17 in the Orange Bowl
  • 1985: 7-5 record, lost to Colorado in the Freedom Bowl
  • 1986: 8-3-1 record, lost to Alabama 28-6 in the Sun Bowl
  • 1987: 7-4-1 record, defeated Tulane 24-12 in the Independence Bowl
  • 1988: 6-5 record
  • 1989: 8-4 record, defeated Florida 34-7 in the Freedom Bowl
  • 1990: 10-2 record, 1st in the PAC, defeated Iowa 46-34 in the Rose Bowl
  • 1991: 12-0 record, 1st in the PAC, 1st in Coaches Poll, 2nd in the AP, defeated Michigan 34-14 in the Rose Bowl
  • 1992: 9-3 record, tied for 1st in the PAC, lost to Michigan 38-31 in the Rose Bowl

Washington’s 1991 national championship was awarded by the Coaches Poll, but Miami was named No. 1 by the Associated Press.  It came down to a matter of bowl game matchups.  The A.P. rankings entering the post-season were:

  1. Miami
  2. Washington
  3. Florida
  4. Michigan
  5. Florida State

In today’s world Miami would have played Washington for the title.  But back then the winner of the PAC was committed by contract to play the top team in the Big Ten, that year being No. 4 Michigan, which the Huskies defeated soundly, 34-14.  Whereas, Miami was matched against Nebraska, which was tied for first in the Big-8 and ranked No. 11.  The Hurricanes defeated the Sooners 22-0 in the Orange Bowl and hung onto their No. 1 ranking in the A.P.  But the Coaches Poll saw it differently and elevated Washington to the Number One spot.

James’ final season was 1992, after which he resigned in protest following allegations that several players on that team had received improper benefits, which resulted in an investigation by the NCAA.  Although the coaches were cleared of any wrong-doings regarding the players, Washington was cited for exhibiting “lack of institutional control” of recruiting funds and thereby received a 1-year bowl ban.  So that was the end of James’ long coaching career.  Nevertheless, Washington has never forgotten this very successful coach and honored him with a bronze statue that sits in the Husky Stadium plaza.

Don James remained close to his roots and in 1952 married Carol Hoobler of Massillon.  Together they had three children: Jeff, Jill and Jeni.  He died in Kirkland, Washington, on October 20, 2013, of pancreatic cancer.

James received many deserving awards throughout his career, including:


It Was an Award-Winning Year for the 2023 Tigers

It Was an Award-Winning Year for the 2023 Tigers

The Massillon Tigers continue to reap rewards for the success of their 2023 football campaign, which culminated in winning the Division II State Championship.  Recently, Head Coach Nate Moore (99-22) was named by as their National Coach of the Year, having already won a similar accolade in the state of Ohio.  But, if you ask the coach about all that, he would quickly credit the dedication and hard work his team and coaches put in prior to and throughout the entire season, as they compiled a 16-0 record and captured Massillon’s first state title in 53 years.

Deservedly, six players were named All-County, twelve All-District and ten All-Ohio, led by Dorian Pringle, who was named Ohio Division II Co-Defensive Player of the Year.  Here’s a look at all the awards and milestones gathered to date by the team and players:


  • Division II State Championship, the Tigers’ first state title during the playoff era
  • 25th state championship, the most among all Ohio schools
  • 16 wins in a season, setting a new Massillon record
  • 24th undefeated regular season and first fully unbeaten season during the playoff era
  • New record set for Harbin System points, which are used to qualify for the playoffs
  • Moved into a tie for second place for the most historic wins in the country (948)
  • Ranked No. 10 in the country by (No. 3 among all public schools)
  • Ranked No. 10 in the country by USAToday (No. 3 among all public schools)

 Head Coach Nate Moore

  • Ohio Prep Sportswriters Association Division II Co-Coach of the Year
  • National Coach of the Year

Dorian Pringle – Senior linebacker / running back

  • All-County
  • 1st Team All-District
  • District Co-Defensive Player of the Year
  • 1st Team All-Ohio
  • Ohio Co-Defensive Player of the Year
  • SBLive High School Football All-American Team
  • Set new season and career records for tackles-for-loss and tackles-for-loss yards
  • Signed with Bowling Green

Da’One Owens – Senior quarterback

  • Great American Rivalry Series Most Valuable Player in the Canton McKinley Game
  • All-County Coach’s Selection
  • 1st Team All-District
  • District Co-Offensive Player of the Year
  • 1st Team All-Ohio

Michael Wright Jr. – Junior defensive lineman / running back

  • All-County
  • 1st Team All-District
  • 1st Team All-Ohio
  • Set new season and career records for quarterback sacks and quarterback sack yards
  • Set a new record for quarterback sacks in a McKinley game (3.0)

Chase Bond – Senior defensive lineman

  • All-County
  • 1st Team All-District
  • 2nd Team All-Ohio
  • Signed with North Carolina State

Nolan Davenport – Junior offensive lineman

  • All-County
  • 1st Team All-District
  • 2nd Team All-Ohio

Cody Fair – Senior linebacker

  • 1st Team All-District
  • 3rd Team All-Ohio
  • Signed with the U.S. Naval Academy

Brady Jones – Senior offensive lineman

  • All-County
  • 2nd Team All-District
  • Honorable Mention All-Ohio

Tyler Hackenbracht – Junior safety

  • All-County
  • 2nd Team All-District
  • Honorable Mention All-Ohio

Jacques Carter – Junior wide receiver

  • 2nd Team All-District
  • Honorable Mention All-Ohio

Ja’Meir Gamble – Junior running back

  • 2nd Team All-District
  • Honorable Mention All-Ohio

Adonis Marshall – Senior cornerback

  • Honorable Mention All-District

Braylyn Toles – Junior wide receiver

  • Honorable Mention All-District

Jalen Slaughter – Junior quarterback

  • Set new season record for quarterback efficiency
  • Set new season record for passing yards per attempt



Six Tigers Announce Their Future Plans On Early Signing…

Six Tigers Announce Their Future Plans On Early Signing Day

The early college commitment signing for high school athletes was held on December 19 across the country.  And Massillon was no exception.  Six athletes, three for football and three for golf, joined their families in this joyful event, all attired in their respective college colors.  The football players are Chase Bond (North Carolina State), Cody Fair (U.S. Naval Academy) and Dorian Pringle (Bowling Green), while the golfers are Brock  Jenkins (Central Methodist University), Trent Lautenschlager (Malone) and Owen Robinson (Shawnee State).

Massillon Athletic Director and Head Football Coach Nate Moore conducted the ceremony.  He opened by citing all the hard work that the players put it in to get to this point.  “It also represents a lot of hard work by all of your parents and guardians, who worked behind the scenes to make sure that you got to fulfill your dreams,” he added.  “So, thank you.  It’s truly appreciated.  The best thing that we can do is share a day like today where the student-athletes are pledging to continue their athletic, but also academic careers at the next level.  I’m very, very proud of these guys.”

Chase Bond – “First and foremost, I would like to thank God and my family.  Without them none of this would be possible.  I would like to give a few words to my teammates and coaches.  You guys helped me to build memories that will last a lifetime.  And the coaches, to develop where I am today.  There are two things I learned about being a Tiger.  Everything earned; nothing really given.  That’s a great life lesson.  Not just football or golf.  That’s everywhere in life.  I will be enrolling in North Carolina State University to continue my athletic and academic career.  The reason why I chose NC State is that it felt like home.  It was the closest thing to Massillon. I love what they’re doing with me on the defensive side of the ball.  It’s very similar to what Coach Leno does.  It was a no-brainer to me.  It felt like nothing else.”

Brock Jenkins – “I would like to thank God and my family for always sticking with me.  It’s been a long run with the golf team.  I’ve been part of this golf team for years now.  Ever since Day 1, I’ve learned at Massillon that it takes a lot of dedication.  It’s been a great couple of years.  It would be great to continue my athletic and academic career at Central Methodist University.  They have a great coach will continue supporting me to continue my golf career.”

Cody Fair – “First, I would like to thank my parents and God.  Without them I wouldn’t be as successful as I am today.  I wouldn’t be the person I am today.  Next, I would like to thank my teammates for being my brothers to me.  Throughout all the thick and thin.  Throughout all the years.  Next, I would like to thank my coaches for turning me into the player and person I am today.  And I would like to thank the City of Massillon for all the constant support throughout my career.  What I learned from being a Tiger is you can’t just be successful on the field.  You need to also be successful in the classroom and have a presence in the community.  I will be enrolling in the United States Naval Academy.  I chose the Naval Academy because it felt like home and have the opportunity to serve my country.  Go Navy, Beat Army!”

Trey Lautenschleger – “First of all, I would like to thank God, my teammates and my coach.  Without them I wouldn’t be committing to a college and playing college golf.  I would like to thank my parents.  Every day, taking me to a course and taking me home.  Without that I wouldn’t be where I am today.  I would also like to thank my coach.  I know for me and Brock we wouldn’t be able to play in college.   For me being a Tiger means that everything is earned and you need to put the work in to get where you’re at.  I will be enrolling at Malone University to continue my athletic and academic career.  I chose the school because it just screamed my name; it just screamed ‘home.’  And because it’s close to home.”

Dorian Pringle – “First, I would like to thank God and my family for pushing  me to  be the best that I can be every day, on and off the field.  And my dad, especially, for being there every step of the way and showing me that life is hard.  I would like to thank my coaches and my teammates for pushing me at practice every day.  I wouldn’t be this far without them.  What stuck out for me for Bowling Green is that it just felt like home to me.  I went on three visits there and it feels like they support me all the way and all the decisions came from the heart and I just can’t go wrong.”

Owen Robinson was not available the event.

Massillon student-athletes sign their letters-of-intent

Coach Nate Moore with the Massillon Football players

Chase Bond and family

Brock Jenkins and family

Cody Fair and family

Trent Lautenschleger and family

Dorian Pringle and Family



2023 Championship Football Season Wraps Up with Awards Ceremony

Gary Vogt contributed to this story

2023 Championship Football Season Wraps Up with Awards Ceremony

This one was 53 years in the making.  For it’s been that long since Massillon last won a state championship in football.  But, what a memorable year 2023 was.  A 16-0 record, winning more games than any previous Tiger team.   A defense that surrendered just one touchdown on the ground when the first unit was on the field.  A spectacular season-opening win over Valdosta, Georgia, which owns more wins than any other school in the country.  A second consecutive victory over Lakewood St. Edward, which has won the last three Division I state titles.  A 35-0 victory over Canton McKinley, recording the first shutout against the Bulldogs in 15 years.  Holding high-scoring, up-tempo Cincinnati Anderson to a single touchdown in a blowout win at Historic Crew Stadium.  A victory over Akron Hoban, on the back of a great defensive effort.  And that elusive Division II State Championship.  It all culminated in an awards ceremony for a host of deserving players.

In prior years an elaborate dinner banquet was held.  But, with the high demand for tickets on account of the state championship, it was changed to an awards ceremony at the high school auditorium.

Father Ed Gretchko opened the event with the invocation.  Father Ed has been a mainstay with the Tiger program, having been involved now for 25 years.  In fact, he  has led the team in grace over 250 times.

Rob Maylor, outgoing Booster Club President, gave his final address.  He also introduced next year’s president, Ed Starcher.

Trainer Lee Kuntz presented awards to the team student trainers, followed by Randy Berkley, who presented awards to the student team managers.

Three players were honored for their exceptional performances on the JV team.  They included Offensive Player of the Year Bishop Cupp, Defensive Player of the Year Jadyn Williams and Lineman Player of the Year Frankie Salvino.

Annually, Through the Roof and Ray Jeske of WTIG have an opportunity to present their season-ending awards, which included a couple of new ones this time around.  This year’s winners were:

  • Offensive Player of the Year – Da’One  Owens
  • Defensive Player of the Year – Dorian Pringle
  • Next Man Up Award – Shon Robinson
  • Leadership Award – Cody Fair

In an earlier event, the Touchdown Club presented its Hardnose Award to Dorian Pringle.

Each of the position coaches recognized their players and presented participation awards.  This was followed by the following player performance awards:

  • Coach of the Year – Spencer Leno (defensive coordinator)
  • Captain Awards – Chase Bond, Cody Fair, Zach Liebler, Da’Owens, Ryan Page, Dorian Pringle and Sam Snodgrass
  • Brandon Burlsworth Character Award – Sam Snodgrass
  • John Pizzino, Sr. Academic Football $1,000 Scholarship – Zach Liebler
  • Paul David Memorial Academic Award – Evan Sirgo
  • Bob Smith / Bill Snyder Sportsmanship Award – Malachi Card and Nick Paul
  • Coach Lee Tressel Citizenship Award (Sideliners) – Evan Sirgo
  • Offensive Scout Team Player of the Year – Bishop Cupp
  • Defensive Scout Team Player of the Year – Shon Robinson and Frankie Salvino
  • Offensive Player of the Year – Da’One Owens
  • Defensive Player of the Year – Michael Wright Jr. and Chase Bond
  • Special Teams Player of the Year – Lucas Shertzer and Tyler Hackenbracht
  • Carl “Ducky” Schroeder Outstanding Lineman Award – Brady Jones and Sam Snodgrass
  • Lifter of the Year – Cody Fair
  • Tom Harp Coaches’ Award – Ryan Page and Shon Robinson
  • Most Valuable Player – Dorian Pringle

Several new player and team records were set, including:

  • Jalen Slaughter – Single Season Yards per Pass Attempt – 11.4
  • Jalen Slaughter – Single Season Pass Efficiency – 188.7
  • Mateo Herera – Single Season PAT Kick Percent – 100% (tie)
  • Emy Lewis Jr. – Single Season Kickoff Return Touchdowns – 2 (tie)
  • Dorian Pringle – Single Season  Tackles for Loss – 24.5
  • Dorian Pringle – Single Season Tackles for Loss  Yards – 126
  • Michael Wright Jr. – Single Season Quarterback Sacks – 10.5
  • Michael Wright Jr. – Single Season  Quarterback Sacks Yards – 76
  • Dorian Pringle – Career Tackles for Loss – 46
  • Dorian Pringle – Career Tackles for Loss Yards – 240
  • Michael Wright Jr. – Career Quarterback  Sacks – 19.0
  • Michael Wright Jr. – Career Quarterback Sacks Yards – 134
  • Team – Tackles for Loss – 117
  • Team – Tackles for Loss Yards – 504
  • Team – Quarterback Sacks – 45
  • Team – Quarterback Sack Yards – 308

Ten players were named All-Ohio, including:

  • Dorian Pringle – Senior inside linebacker – 1st Team (Co-Defensive Player of the Year)
  • Da’One Owens – Senior quarterback – 1st Team
  • Michael Wright Jr. – Junior defensive lineman – 1st Team
  • Chase Bond – Senior defensive lineman – 2nd Team
  • Nolan Davenport – Junior offensive lineman – 2nd Team
  • Jacques Carter – Junior wide receiver – Honorable Mention
  • Ja’Meir Gamble – Junior running back – Honorable Mention
  • Tyler Hackenbracht – Junior defensive back – Honorable Mention
  • Brady Jones – Senior offensive lineman – Honorable Mention



Recapping the 2023 Massillon State Championship Football Season

Recapping the 2023 Massillon State Championship Football Season

What a great season it was.  Division II state champions.  Perfect 16-0 season.  Defeating the Division I state champion for the second consecutive year.  Besting the team having the most wins in the country.  The national rankings.  And on and on.  Here is a recap of a season to remember and one that all future teams will surely be measured against.

Pre-season outlook – Under ninth-year head coach Nate Moore, Massillon has over the last five years won 61 of its last 70 games and advanced to the state championship finals three times.  In 2022 the Tigers compiled a record of 12-2, which included a victory over Division 1 state champion Lakewood St. Edward.  With the return this season of eight starters on each side of the ball, plus newcomer quarterback Da’One Owens, the Tigers set their sights on a seventh trip to the state championship game and perhaps the title.

Schedule – The slate was one of the most formidable that Massillon has ever assembled, highlighted by three national powers, including Valdosta, GA, Lakewood St. Edward and St. John’s College, D.C.  Two other out-of-state teams were also on the schedule: Elkhart, IN, and Middletown, DE.  In addition, traditional rival Canton McKinley was waiting at the end.

Da’One Owens

Valdosta, GA, game – The game was part of the Northeast Ohio vs. America Showcase.  It also received more media hype than any other Massillon game in recent history, given that Valdosta was the winningest team in the country, with the Tigers, a previous No. 1 team, close behind.  Massillon was down 14-0 early when Valdosta hit on a couple of big plays.  But the Tigers were able to regroup and came away with a hard-fought 28-17 victory.  While both Owens and Jalen Slaughter were slated to share the quarterbacking duties this year, it was Owens that sparked the win, rushing 13 times for 241 yards and two touchdowns, including runs of 69 and 75 yards.

Canton GlenOak game – The Eagles were completely dominated as the Tigers led 49-0 at the half and rolled up 467 yards of total offense.  Slaughter completed 4 of 6 passes for 153 yards and two TDs.  Peytton Mitchell rushed for 127 yards.  Final score: 56-7.

Mansfield game – The Tygers finished the season 10-3, but they were no match for Massillon and their 320 yards rushing, resulting in a 51-10 margin.

Elkhart, IN, game – With a 48-0 halftime lead and 457 yards of total offense the Tigers cruised to another win, 55-0.

Lakewood St. Edward game – The defending Division 1 state champions paid a return visit to Massillon and, with revenge on their minds, should have won this game.  But the Tigers proved to be the better team that night, rolling up nearly 300 yards of offense and winning 15-13.  Only, Massillon could have scored more.  After suffering their only loss of the season, the Eagles went on to repeat as Division 1 champions.

Jalen Slaughter

Middletown, DE, game – Owens was not available as his eligibility regarding residency was held up by the OHSAA, this being the sixth game of the season (open enrollment rules).  Thus, Jalen Slaughter was alone at quarterback for this one and responded with his best performance of the season, completing 15 of 29 passes for 293 yards and three touchdowns in a 41-7 win.  Jacques Carter caught eight balls for 142 yards and a score.  Unfortunately, Slaughter was injured at the end of the game and didn’t return until the end of the season.

St. John’s game – With Slaughter out and Owens fighting eligibility issues, freshman quarterback Manny Patterson entered the picture as the potential starter.  However, Owens was cleared to play on the day of the game and Massillon went on to defeat the Number 1 team in D.C., 28-7.   But the match was marred by 23 penalties.  It also ended about a half quarter early when proper sportsmanship between the two teams waned away.  Don’t expect St. John’s to be back on the schedule any time soon.

Ja’Meir Gamble

Austintown Fitch game – The Falcons repositioned their linebackers to stop the rushing prowess of Owens.  However, the strategy opened up the running lanes for Ja’Meir Gamble, who rushed 17 times for 233 yards and two touchdowns in a 42-7 victory.  Owens was held to 134 yards on the ground.

Warren Harding game – The Raiders, after blocking a punt deep in Massillon territory, scored the first and only rushing touchdown against the Tiger first unit the entire season.  But Warren proceeded to fall behind 42-7 by halftime and eventually lost, 48-14.  Owens completed 16 of 22 passes for 277 yards and three scores.

Canton McKinley game – Ranking services tabbed Massillon as a 35-point favorite and all that did was ignite problems on the field, as the 7-2 Bulldogs took offense to the slight.  It also didn’t help matters when the Tigers scored on a long bomb on their first play of the game, while taking a 28-0 lead into the locker room.  Chippy throughout, it ended with a post-game melee and the two teams promptly leaving the field, forgoing any award ceremony.  Final score: 35-0, with Dorian Pringle scoring twice.  It was the first shutout in the series in fifteen years.  McKinley never threatened during the game and was held to just 65 yards of total offense.

All-County team – Seven Massillon players were selected, sans Owens, who became the coach’s selection.  Other deserving players were also excluded.

Computer playoffs ranking – Massillon finished on top of Division II, Region 7, with a computer point total that was more than any other team in the history of the playoffs, regardless of division.  The strength of the Tiger schedule had a significant influence on this number, as nine of the ten opponents qualified for their respective playoffs.

Braylyn Toles

Grove City Central Crossing game – Massillon opened the playoff season with a 41-6 victory.  Owens had a career day passing, completing 20 of 27 for 341 yards and four touchdowns.  Eight passes went to Braylyn Toles for 125 yards and two scores.

Westerville South game – The Tigers put the game away early, leading 42-0 at the half.  A balanced attack and a stingy defense led to a 50-7 win.  Unfortunately, star linebacker Pringle was lost to an injury at the beginning of the game and was out for four weeks.  Nevertheless, Shon Robinson filled in admirably and led the team in tackles during three of those four weeks.

Uniontown Lake game – The Blue Streaks always play a good brand of defense, and they were behind just 14-6 at the half.  But it wasn’t enough to stop Massillon from eventually winning 35-6, behind 421 yards of total offense.  Owens rushed for 164 yards and Gamble added 131.

Uniontown Green game (regional finals) – The Tigers were seeking revenge from a 26-25 upset to the Bulldogs in the 2021 regional finals.  This time around it was no contest, as Massillon cruised to a 31-6 victory.  Green was held to negative 19 yards on the ground, while the Tiger offense racked up 413 total yards.  With the win Massillon captured its 16th regional championship (second most among all large schools) and advanced to the state semifinals.

All-District team – Twelve players were named to the team, including Owens (Co-Offensive Player of the Year) and Pringle (Co-Defensive Player of the Year).  Four other players were named first team, including Chase Bond, Nolan Davenport, Cody Fair and Michael Wright Jr.

Cincinnati Anderson game (state semifinals) – The once-beaten Raptors were scoring over 40 points per game with their up-tempo offense.  However, after tallying on their first drive, they kept off the board the remainder of the night, as Massillon’s defense made the necessary adjustments.  Coupled with a balanced scoring attack, the Tigers prevailed, 55-7.

Akron Hoban game (state finals) – It was two great high school defenses battling it out in front of a near-capacity crowd (fifth largest in a Division II finals) at Tom Benson Stadium, with each team held below 200 yards of offense.  Massillon tallied in the second quarter on a 6-yard run by Mylen Lenix, only to surrender a safety later in the period.  The Knights, however, although stymied throughout most of the game, were in position to take the lead late in the fourth quarter, following a failed fake Tiger punt near midfield.  An errant 3rd down snap led to a 4th and 8 at the 17, setting up a Hoban pass into the end zone for the win.  But Pringle closed on the intended receiver and reached him just in time to break up the pass, securing both the game and the state title.  Pringle had returned from injury for this game and led both teams with 14 tackles and 3.0 tackles-for-loss.  The title was No. 25 for Massillon and the first in the playoff era.  Following the game Tiger fans welcomed the team back to town with a rousing celebration.  A parade with fireworks was held the following week as a formal salute.  And commemorative merchandise went flying off the shelves.

National rankings – (12th), USAToday and (12th) (20th) and Play Football (9th), all rated Massillon in their Top 25s.  The Tigers also moved into the Number 2 position for all-time wins in the country, tied with Louisville Male and just four games behind Valdosta.

Dorian Pringle

All-State team – Ten players received all-state honors, including Pringle, who was named Division II Co-Defensive Player of the Year.  Owens and Wright were also awarded 1st Team.  2nd Team went to Bond and Davenport, with Cody Fair was 3rd Team.  Honorable Mention: Jacques Carer, Ja’Meir Gamble, Tyler Hachenbracht and Brady Jones.  Coach Nate Moore was named Division II Co-Coach of the Year.

Mike Wright Jr.

Single Season Player Records – Slaughter set new records for Yards per Pass Attempt and Quarterback Efficiency.  Pringle set new records for Tackles-for-Loss (46) and Lost Yards (240).  Wright set new records for Quarterback Sacks (10) and Lost Yards (134).  Matero Hererra tied a record for PAT Kick Percent (100%) and Emy Lewis Jr. tied a record for Kickoff Return Touchdowns (2).  These players and several others also finished in various Top 10s.

Single Season Team Marks – Massillon’s 25 state championships are the most among all Ohio schools.  The sixteen wins was the most ever for the Tigers in a single season.  It was the 24th perfect regular season and first fully unbeaten/untied season during the playoff era.  This is the second time in a single season that the Tigers won at least ten games at home.  A running clock was in effect during 11 of the 16 games. Per game, the offense averaged 38.6 points, 387 yards and 6.6 yards per rushing attempt (4th all-time).  The defense averaged 7.3 points, 40.6 yards (3rd all-time) and 1.7 yards per rushing attempt (2nd all-time).  Only four teams rushed for 100 yards or more.  They also set records for tackles-for-loss and quarterback sacks.

Miscellaneous –Coach Nate Moore recorded his 99th win as head coach at Massillon.  The freshmen team compiled a fine 9-2 record, with 1-point losses to Lakewood St.  Edward (13-2) and Akron Hoban (9-1), and a 44-0 victory over Canton McKinley (6-2-1).