The OHSAA permits three weeks of full contact practice before the first game and local teams are now just one week into that process. Two scrimmages are allowed and Massillon’s first one, traditionally with the Avon Eagles, is now in the books. Who knows what these teams will look like once the season gets underway, let along by the time the playoffs roll in. But these two Division II powerhouses at least gave some indications as to what their strengths will be down the road.
For Avon, it is the passing game, which is usually the case. And on this day, they got somewhat the better of the Tigers, moving the ball consistently down the field throughout the match. Their quarterback was very accurate in hitting short and medium passes to receivers that were running their routes well. And the Eagles also showed the poise of an experienced team.
Massillon, on the other hand, came out with a very balanced run-pass attack and substituted liberally. Although they struggled early on both offense and defense, they seemed to find a better pace, at least offensively, as the scrimmage wore on. Returning sophomore Jalen Slaughter showed improvement from last year with his handling of the quarterback duties, moving in the pocket well, hitting his receivers and knowing when to bail. And that final trait may turn out to be a real asset down the road. Willtrell Hartson is, well, Willtrell. Except that he is a much more powerful runner this year, as demonstrated by his ability to break tackles throughout the scrimmage. As did Dorian Pringle. Wide receiver Ardell Banks also had a very good showing. Defensively, the Tigers were stingy against the run, but pass defense was another story. Of course, neither team was game-planning and again it was just the first scrimmage. But the overall assessment of Massillon is that of a young but talented team that needs field experience before it will shine. But it will shine.
The first part of the scrimmage involved the offense starting at its own 35 with ten plays in the pocket. Avon’s possessions went like this:
Short touchdown pass.
35-yard touchdown pass.
55-yard pass completion to Banks to the five yard line. One play left in the series. Vinny Keller kicked a 21-yard field goal.
25-yard “jail break” pass to Banks to the six yard line. Mylen Lenix scored from the three. Keller kicked the PAT.
In the second part each team ran several series starting at the opponent’s 25. Avon:
2-yard touchdown pass.
32-yard field goal.
21-yard screen pass to Willtrell Hartson for a touchdown. PAT missed.
19-yard field goal.
In part three, each team started at the opponent’s ten. Avon:
10-yard touchdown pass.
3-yard touchdown pass.
29-yard field goal.
1-yard touchdown run by Dorian Pringle. Keller PAT.
Another 1-yard touchdown run by Dorian Pringle. Keller PAT.
The scrimmage wrapped up with special teams punting and field goal practice.
Massillon on defense. No. 10 is Zach Liebler. No. 52 is Marcus Moore. No. 34 is Dorian Pringle. No. 1 is Jaden Welch.
Jalen Slaughter passes down field. No. 77 is Michel Mercurio.
Ardell Banks catches the long bomb and carries it to five.
Willtrell Hartson runs the outside zone for good yardage. No. 75 is Michael Looney. No. 52 is Marcus Moore.
Overthrown Avon pass. Good coverage by the Massillon defender.
Ardell Banks on the “break pass” reception is headed for the end zone.
Vinny Keller connects on a 21-yard field goal No. 14 is Kalix Collins.
It’s full pads and hitting this week as the Massillon Tigers continue their preparation for their 2022 season. In just two weeks time the Tigers will host Cincinnati Moeller in a high-powered opener. But first they need to manage a couple of scrimmages, with both slated for the friendly confines of Paul Brown Tiger Stadium. On Saturday at 11:30 am, Massillon will entertain Avon in a match that has become a tradition over the past few years. Both teams have aspirations of winning their respective playoff regions and moving onto the state semifinals. The following Friday at 7:00 pm Akron Buchtel will pay a house call as the Griffins they strive to regain the top spot in the Akron City Series. Meanwhile, please enjoy the photos of Thursday’s practice.
Some of the best high school football in Ohio this year will occur in Week 1, with many games involving some of the best teams in state, if not the country. Massillon typically, at least under Head Coach Nate Moore, has opened the season against a powerhouse. This time it’s Cincinnati Moeller. A huge crowd is expected and the game is sure to grab state-wide attention. Below is a rundown of this one and some of the other top games around the state.
Massillon at Cincinnati Moeller – The Tigers are one of the best teams in Division 2, while the Crusaders are one of the best in Division 1, so this one presents an intriguing matchup. Last year Massillon (11-3) finished as regional runner-up after playing in three consecutive state finals. But this year, with a wealth of skill talent on hand, the finals are once again within reach. Meanwhile, Moeller (11-4) has experienced a recent resurgence and they advanced last year to the state semifinals before losing to Springfield (13-2), 22-21. With a host of talent returning, their goal is surely to grab the top prize away from Lakewood St. Edward, a team they defeated on the road last year. The Crusaders own a 10-2 advantage over the Tigers in an on-and-off series that began in 1980. Twice they met in the state finals, 1980 in Cincinnati and 1982 at Ohio State Stadium, with Moeller winning both. The two Massillon wins came in 1995 (21-18) and 1996 (20-15) under Coach Jack Rose. The Tigers almost grabbed a third in 1990 under Coach Lee Owens. Unfortunately, an incomplete pass on fourth down was ruled a catch and the Crusaders scored the winning points on the very next play with just seconds left. This game is a chance for Massillon to make a statement about this year’s team, while Moeller can use a victory as a springboard to another successful campaign.
Canton McKinley at Mentor – The Bulldogs will play in a hostile environment for the first of six road games. Last year McKinley finished 8-5, with a 49-7 loss to the Cardinals (5-6), while working under a new coaching staff and system. But this Bulldog team is expected to be much improved. So, this time around the game may be much closer, if not go the other way.
Toledo Central Catholic at Lakewood St. Edward – Last year the Eagles (15-1) bested the Irish (11-3), 33-10. Can Central make a game of it this year and perhaps find that elusive signature win?
Springfield at Cleveland St. Ignatius – Springfield (13-2) got off to a fine start last year by defeating the Wildcats (8-5), 24-20. Then, they nearly ran the table, losing by one point to Miamisburg and 23-13 to St. Edward in the state finals.
Cincinnati St. Xavier at Lakota West – St. X has been dominating the Greater Catholic League of late, while West has been the force in the Greater Miami Conference. Last year these two met in the regular season opener and the Bombers (10-3) came out on top of their 11-2 opponent, 31-14. But in the playoffs, West turned the tables with a 12-2 victory, only to lose to Moeller 21-17 the following week.
Cincinnati LaSalle at Cincinnati Colerain – Both teams struggled through their seasons last year, with LaSalle finishing 7-6 and Colerain, 5-6. But this year is a chance for both teams to right the ship. Colerain hopes to reverse a 20-14 setback from last year.
Cincinnati Elder at Covington Catholic, KY – Last season the Panthers (6-6) defeated Covington (7-3), 28-6. But this time the game is in Kentucky.
Walsh Jesuit at Cleveland Benedictine – It took two overtimes last year to find a winner, with the Bennies (8-3) coming out on top of the Warriors (11-3), 35-34. Will this one be more of the same?
Jim Letcavits, like most Wall of Champions inductees, distinguished himself as both an outstanding player and as a coach of young men. But what sets him apart from other inductees is that he always maintained his roots in Massillon and returned to his hometown right after wrapping up his professional playing career. There he became an assistant coach for the Tigers, a position he held for 27 years. In 1998, he was inducted into the Massillon Wall of Champions.
Letcavits was born in Massillon on December 1, 1935, and joined the Massillon Tiger football team as a sophomore in 1951. There he played offensive end, defensive end and punter under Head Coach Chuck Mather. He also shared in the successes of those years, with his teams compiling a record of 29-1 and capturing three state and two national championships.
As a senior, Letcavits caught four touchdown passes from his split end position, including a 44-yarder against Canton McKinley in a 48-7 rout. Although he didn’t carry a large frame for football, he excelled, nonetheless. “He only weighed 160 pounds, but he was a very competitive player,” said Dave Putts, Letcavits’ position coach at Massillon. “He used his speed and was a very good receiver.” (1)
As an award for his outstanding performance, he was named 1st Team All-Ohio offensive end. The 3-sport letter-winner was also the Most Valuable Player in the Ohio North-South All-Star Football Game, which was played the following summer.
After high school Letcavits accepted a football scholarship to play for the University of Kansas, under new Head Coach Chuck Mather, who had departed Massillon following the 1953 season. There he played tight end, while completing a Bachelor of Science Degree in Physical Education. “Jim was such a great player for me all through high school and college,” Mather said. “He seldom made mistakes. He was a football coach’s dream.” (1) As such, he was named All-Big Eight in 1956 and 1957.
1957 University of Kansas Football Team
The next stop was professional football. But he needed to choose between the NFL and the Canadian Football League, ultimately selecting the Edmonton Eskimos, where he played five seasons as a tight end and punter. “I thought I had a better chance to play if I went to Canada.” Letcavits said. “I really wasn’t that big. It was something new, and I made some great friends up there.” (1) Four times his team won second place.
With his playing career coming to an end, Letcavits returned to the local area in 1964 and was hired by Jackson as an assistant coach. But in 1969 he was lured away by new Massillon Head Coach Bob Commings. “When he came home during the offseason, he always was a substitute teacher,” Nancy (Jim’s wife) said. “When Bob Commings came here, he interviewed, and Bob Commings hired him on the spot.” (1) And the following year he became part of Massillon’s last state championship team.
Commings left after five seasons, but Letcavits stayed on and ended up coaching in Tigertown for 27 years, until 1995, while serving under six different head coaches. During that time, the Tigers compiled a record of 221-64-5, including nine playoff appearances during a time of limited team qualifications. In 1980 and 1982 Massillon reached the state championship game.
Letcavits was also the head track and field coach during that span. His best years came in 1983, when his team placed third in the state, and 1984, when they placed fifth.
1983: Jim Bushe 2nd in the 300 low hurdles and 3rdin the 110 high hurdles, Craig Johnson 5th in the 100 dash and Charles Calhoun 1st in the shot put.
1984: Craig Johnson 1st in 100- and 200-yard dashes and Chris Spielman 4th in the shot put.
He also served as Athletic Director in 1985 during the transition from Mike Currence to John Moronto. Meanwhile, his primary high school assignment was Coordinator for the Occupational Work Experience Lab.
Outside of Massillon he was president of the Stark County Coaches Association for two years and was later inducted into the Stark County High School Football Hall of Fame.
Letcavits was married to Nancy, and they were the parents of four children. Unfortunately, he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 2004 and died in Massillon on February 3, 2015, at the age of 77. Today, his memory is honored by “Team Tiger,” a group of Massillon residents that participate in the annual Alzheimer’s Memory Walk.
Every high school football team has a few good players that stand above the rest and lead their teams to whatever success they can achieve. One website that attempts to identify these athletes is 247sports.com, which ranks players across the country. Below are the ranked players from Massillon and those from the teams the Tigers will or may face this year. The ranking numbers correspond to Ohio’s composite list, without regard to playing position:
No. 26, Class of 2023 – Ardell Banks – wide receiver, 6′-4″, 180
No. 35, Class of 2023 – Willtrell Hartson – running back, 5′-9″, 200
Not ranked, Class of 2025 – Jalen Slaughter – quarterback (ranked by cleveland.com)
No. 3 Class of 2024 – Luke Hamilton – offensive tackle, 6′-5″, 290
No. 32, Class of 2023 – Tennel Bryan – wide receiver, 5′-10″, 162
No. 87, Class of 2023 – Isaiah Summerlin – safety, 6′-3″, 186
No. 103, Class of 2023 – Mattew Seliga – safety, 5′-11″, 180
No. 107, Class of 2023 – Peyton Wilp – defensive lieman, 6′-2″, 275
No. 115, Class of 2023 – Joe Ginnotti – linebacker, 6′-2″, 225
No. 3, Class of 2024 – Jordon Marshall – running back, 5′-10″, 105
No. 27, Class of 2024 – Karson Hobbs – cornerback, 6′-1″, 180
No. 88, Class of 2023 – Mekhi Bradley – linebacker, 6′-0″, 225
No. 22, Class of 2024 – Ryan Powell – running back, 6′-1″, 215
Lakewood St. Edward
No. 22, Class of 2023 – Michael Kilbane – edge rusher, 6′-4″, 240
No. 43, Class of 2023 – Wyatt Gedeon – linebacker, 6′-1″, 235
No. 9 – Class of 2024 – Ben Roebuck – offensive tackle, 6′-7″, 320
No. 41, Class of 2023 – Cam Smith – athlete, 5′-11″, 184
No. 101, Class of 2023 – Jamell James – running back, 5′-11″, 215
No. 10, Class of 2024 – Brian Robinson – edge rusher, 6′-4″, 230
None ranked in Delaware
Canisius, New York
None ranked in New York
No. 8, Class of 2024 – Garett Stover – athlete, 6′-2″, 195
Cincinnati Winton Woods
No. 10, Class of 2023 – Jermaine Mathews – athlete, 6′-0″, 175
No. 15, Class of 2023 – Cameron Calhoun – cornerback, 6′-2″, 175
No. 43, Class of 2023 – Trey Cornist – running back, 5′-11, 209
No. 88, Class of 2023 – KC Spears – athlete, 5′-10″, 190
No. 104, Class of 2023 – Lorenzo Hudson – safety, 6′-3″, 170
No. 110, Class of 2023 – James Minor – running back, 5′-10″, 200
Not ranked, Class of 2025 – Raphael Green – offensive lineman (cleveland.com)
No. 45, Class of 2023 – Braden Awis – athlete, 6′-0″, 180
No. 20, Class of 2024 – Jackai Long – quarterback, 6′-2″, 195
Coach Paul E. Brown is unique in the football world in that he has won national championships at all levels: high school, college and professional. And, while he is certainly responsible for the spearheading the success achieved by the Massillon Tigers throughout their long history, he is also perhaps considered as the father of the modern professional game as well, as evidenced by his influence within the ranks of owners throughout the NFL.
While a myriad of books have been authored that appropriately convey the Paul Brown story, from his early days at Massillon to Ohio State and throughout his lengthy professional career with the Browns and Bengals, it is not the intent of this biography to cover every aspect of his life. It does, however, focus mostly on his time in Massillon as a player and then a coach, while amply making the case for induction into the Massillon Wall of Champions, the highest honor that can be achieved by a former Massillon Tiger.
Massillon has always relished the reputation of being a football town, from its earliest beginnings in 1891 to the current years as an annual state championship contender. So what better place for Brown to springboard his career. The community has always rallied around its football program through copious attendance at the games and participation in the many off-season events. And it has continuously provided generous financial support when needed. Plus, the facilities are considered second to none. “The difference between the people of Massillon and people in other places is that Massillon people care more, said former Tiger coach Bob Commings. (1)
The Early Years
Brown was born on September 7, 1908, in Norwalk, Ohio, to parents Lester Brown(e), a railroad dispatcher, and Ida Sherwood Brown. In 1915, while Paul was in the fourth grade, his father was transferred to Brewster. So the family set up residence in nearby Massillon.
Immediately introduced to playground football, Brown later joined the Jones Junior High football team when he came of age. However, because of his smallish stature, he received little playing time. Nevertheless, Brown did excel in track as a pole vaulter, where he was able to compete at the varsity level as a freshman.
Massillon High School
Now at Massillon’s Washington High School as a sophomore, Brown received his first exposure to high school football under the tutelage of the very successful Coach Dave Stewart (38-9). His position was quarterback.
In 1923, the team produced an 8-2 record, including a victory over 9-0 Canton McKinley. The losses were to Youngstown South and Harrisburg Tech, PA, although Harrisburg was considered as an adult high school.
In 1924, the Tigers finished 9-1 with a 6-0 win over McKinley and a lone loss to Youngstown South via forfeit following Stewart’s disagreement with the referees. But 1924 also marked the year that Brown became a starter at quarterback.
In Brown’s senior year the team finished 7-2, losing 6-3 to McKinley and 7-0 to Akron South. But they did defeat Alliance 13-6 in a game that is considered by this website as one of Massillon’s greatest ever victories during the 1920s. For the season Brown tossed five touchdown passes.
Massillon’s 1925 team. Paul Brown is pictured in the second row, fifth from the left.
Although he was a 2-year starter for the football Tigers and shared in the successes the team achieved on the-field, his greatest takeaway was his relationship with Coach Stewart, whose influence led him to pursue a career in football coaching.
“Dave Stewart was wonderful,” said Brown. “He gave me a love of football and winning.” (2) “Dave Stewart made me enjoy coaching,” said Brown. “I’d go over to Sharon (PA) before I went back to school (college) in the fall and help him out. I was just obsessed with it. I enjoyed it. I was a goner. He recognized this.” (1)
Brown was a 3-sport athlete, also lettering in both basketball and track.
Massillon’s 1925 basketball team. Paul Brown is pictured in the the first row holding the basketball. Coach Dave Stewart is pictured in the second row, fourth from the left.
After high school Brown enrolled at Ohio State, but it just didn’t feel right to him. So he immediately transferred to Miami of Ohio, where he eventually graduated in 1930 with a combination degree of English and History. Along the way, he played a little football as a starting quarterback.
High School Coaching
Now it was time to try the coaching profession. His first stop was Severn Prep, which is located in Maryland. Brown spent two years there and achieved immediate success, compiling a record of 16-1-1. But home was calling. Especially after Massillon in 1931 had slipped to a 2-6-2 record and Coach Elmer McGrew had been released. Enter former Coach Dave Stewart, now coaching at Sharon, PA, who recommended his subordinate to the Massillon School Board. So Paul Brown, at the age of 24, was hired as the next head coach of the Massillon Tigers with task of rebuilding the program and returning it to the glory days of earlier years.
The greatest attributes Brown brought to team were innovative football schemes and player discipline. The coaching success he achieved while at Massillon is obvious from his record, where he utilized offenses he had learned from several college coaches. At the same time he leaned toward quickness instead of strength. He integrated the coaching schemes of the junior highs with that of the high school. And he insisted that every player make the team; there would be no cuts. In addition, he made sure his squad was properly fed.
But the players mostly remember the discipline part. There were rules to be followed and discipline for breaking them. For example, players were required to stand during the games; no sitting on the bench. And always be on time for practices and meetings. No smoking or drinking; the penalty was removal from the team. No riding in a car. No dances. No dates. In bed by 10:00 pm.
“Don’t miss practice,” said former player Odell Gillom. “There was no excuse. And don’t stay out of school–or you’d hear it from Paul Brown. You’d hear it from all the coaches—the players, too. Brown would make them work harder. If you miss a day, you’re going to make up for it—because he was mad that you missed. You didn’t miss practice with Paul Brown, because you’d catch hell from him and the players.” (1)
“His was a fantastic way to do it,” said former player Mike Byhelene. “He came right to the point. He didn’t flower any speeches. He just came to exact words. He knew certain words, whether it was cutting, complimentary, to make you work harder or that he means business.” (1)
But Brown had also refined his coaching methods very early on. In fact, he was way ahead of other coaches in the Xs and Os and the ways to teach his methods to his players. And he stayed with those traits throughout his coaching career. “I was so obsessed with it, I don’t think I really knew my own limitations,” said Brown. (1)
“Brown’s methods were the same from high school to college to the pros, so it was easy for me to follow him,” said former player Tommy James. “I knew more what to expect, how he held his practices, better than some rookie coming in from college into pro ball. I went to college at Ohio State and he ran his practices just like he did here in Massillon” (1)
Brown was also an innovator. He tested the athletic capabilities of his players, instituting the 40-yard dash. He prepared playbooks. He developed the facemask. And he formed the Massillon Tiger Football Booster Club to support the players and coaches and address public opinion.
Although the team had initially worn tattered uniforms and played on a shoddy field, Brown turned his charges into a championship-caliber team within a year of taking over. Admission charges to the games took care of the uniform problem and later a new stadium remedied the field issues.
The following is a synopsis of his nine years as the coach of Massillon, where he compiled a record of 80-8-2 and captured six state and three national championships. He also recorded a 6-3 mark against Canton McKinley, winning his final six.
1932 – Won his first five games enroute to a 5-4-1 record. Lost to McKinley 19-0. Was nearly removed from the coaching position.
1933 – Finished 8-2 with losses to Barberton 6-0 and McKinley (9-1) 19-0.
1934 – Shut out the first nine opponents, including a 27-0 victory over Sharon, PA, which was coached by Dave Stewart. But lost to McKinley 21-6 in front of 20,000 fans, the largest ever crowd for an Ohio high school game. For the first time ever, both teams entered the contest undefeated. He also survived another removal attempt.
1935 – It all came together and the team finished with a 10-0 record with eight shutouts and was named both state and national champions. It was the highest scoring team in Massillon history up to that time (48 ppg). Brown defeated McKinley for the first time, 6-0.
1936 – Repeated as state and national champions with another 10-0 record and eight shutouts. Beat undefeated McKinley 21-0.
1937 – Slipped to 8-1-1, losing to New Castle (coached by Stewart) and tied Mansfield. Defeated unbeaten McKinley 19-6. Running back Bob Glass wrapped up his career during which he scored 47 touchdowns.
1938 – 10-0 record and state champs. Defeated unbeaten McKinley 12-0 in front of 18,000 fans. Held future pro running back Marion Motley to just 28 yards.
1939 – Started the season by dedicating newly opened Tiger Stadium with a 40-13 victory over Cleveland Cathedral Latin. Continued the winning streak with another 10-0 record. Named both state and national champions. Beat McKinley 20-6 in front of 22,000 fans.
1940 – Final season at Massillon. Shut out the first nine opponents while compiling a 10-0 record, extending the winning streak to 33 games. Again, named both state and national champions. Averaged 48 points per game. Achieved the largest margin of victory over McKinley throughout the first 45 games in the series with a 34-6 win. The Bulldogs were the only team to dent the Tiger end zone. Defeated West Virginia state champion Weirton 48-0. Squashed Toledo Waite’s state title hopes with a 28-0 win. The entire starting lineup was named 1st Team All-Ohio.
Prior to the 1940 season Massillon traveled to Kent State University for a spring scrimmage and came out on top 47-0 (spring football was permitted in those days). “We went to scrimmage Kent State,” said former player Ray Getz. “We all got on the bus with our practice uniforms on. ‘The referees have striped shirts on. Paul Brown said, ‘They want a football game, you give it to them.’ We were only juniors then. It was in spring. We beat them so bad they walked off the field before the fourth quarter was over. We clobbered ‘em. They went on to win the conference (Ohio Conference) championship that year.” (1)
Brown also coached the Tiger basketball team, finishing state runner-up in 1937 and state semifinalist in 1940 and 1941.
There was nothing else to accomplish at Massillon and Ohio State was calling. So, Brown departed and headed to Columbus. Several assistant coaches also went into collegiate and professional coaching, some at Ohio State.
Brown was the head coach at OSU for three years, from 1941 to 1943, until the military called him up for service on account of World War II. He finished 6-1-1 during his first year, including a 3-1-1 Big 10 mark, and then captured the A.P. National Championship the following year with a 9-1 record, the lone loss coming to No. 3 Wisconsin on account of illnesses due to drinking bad water on the train. But, with his roster depleted during his third year on account of the war, the record slipped to 3-6.
Of course, as a high profile football coach, he was assigned in the military to lead the Great Lakes Naval Academy, a tour that lasted two years. His 1944 team finished 9-2-1 and was ranked No. 17 in the college poll. The following year the record was 6-4-1.
Professional Coaching and Management
With the war over, Brown returned to Ohio State, but failed to win back his job. The door to Southern Cal, his second choice, was also closed. So in 1946 he formed his own team in Cleveland as part of the professional All-American Football Conference (AAFC) and became both head coach and general manager. The team nickname? Browns, of course.
With limited rules in securing players, Brown was able boost salaries in order to bolster his lineup and his team ended up winning the conference championship in each of its four years in the AAFC, while compiling an overall mark of 47-3-2.
The professional game also provided an opportunity for Brown to explore new innovations, including the following:
Tested the mental aptitude of his players to assess learning potential. His tests were the predecessor of the Wonderlic Test used by every NFL team today.
Devised a method to send in plays from the coach. He would rotate two messenger guards who would relay the play to the quarterback in huddle.
Placed a radio receiver in the quarterback’s helmet to save time in communicating plays. Although it was outlawed by the NFL shortly thereafter, it is currently in use today.
Created the draw play, specifically for fullback Marion Motley.
Invented the “taxi squad,” a group of promising players who did not make the roster, but were kept on reserve. To finance the taxi squad, Browns team owner, Mickey McBride, placed them on the payroll of his taxi company, although they did not actually drive cabs.
During the game, located several assistant coaches in an elevated press box, who maintained constant communication with the sidelines. This provided a significant advantage over opponents.
With the Browns now lacking competition in the AAFC, it was time to test the waters of the NFL. And Brown again achieved immediate success. In fact, the Browns won the championship the first year out of the gate and then captured two more along with three runners-up during the next five years. Brown continued to coach through 1962, building his NFL record to 104-38-4, but a disagreement with new owner Art Modell following the 1962 season left him on the outs.
So once again, in 1968, it was time to form a new team. This time it was the Cincinnati Bengals. The colors?: orange and black, after Massillon. The nickname?: Bengals, like the tiger; but, not the Massillon Tigers. It was gleaned from tiger-face logo displayed on the front of the leather helmet of an early 1900s Cincinnati professional team.
Brown was owner, general manager and head of coach of the Bengals, and held those positions for eight years. After that, he was simply the owner, until 1991, the year he passed away. Brown’s team never made it to the Super Bowl while he was coach, but several teams did achieve divisional success, while his overall record was 55-56-1. But as General Manager, both his 1982 and 1989 teams did advance to the Super Bowl, losing both times to San Francisco in close games.
Brown’s son Mike now leads the Cincinnati Bengals. He was always impressed with his father’s approach to the game. “The intensity, that was always there,” he said. “The ability to organize. The ability to express himself forcefully, succinctly—that impressed players over a 50 year span.” (1)
During his professional career, Paul Brown was honored several times for his success:
AP NFL Coach of the year 1970
UPI NFL Coach of the Year 1957, 1969, 1970
Sporting News Coach of the Year 1949, 1951, 1953
Cleveland Browns Ring of Honor
Cincinnati Bengals Ring of Honor
Brown coached at all levels of football in several different cities but always called Massillon home. “Paul loved Masssillon, said his sister Marian Evans. “Massillon was everything to him. He’d say, ‘When I die I want to go back to Massillon.’” (1)
“When he was really famous and very successful, he never forgot his friends in Massillon,” said former teacher and friend Tom McConnaughy. “You just can’t imagine how tickled he was to see you and how anxious he was to do something for you.” (1)
Annually, he would visit Massillon’s Tiger Stadium just to have a look around. And in 1976 Massillon renamed the stadium in his honor: “Paul Brown Tiger Stadium.”
Brown married Kathryn Kester on June 10, 1929, and they had two sons, Mike and Robin. Paul died in Cincinnati at the age of 82 on August 5, 1991. And his body was brought back to Massillon according to his wishes.
Winning the big game in the final minute of play is every kicker’s dream. But it doesn’t happen often, maybe once in a player’s career. And at Massillon, it’s even rarer given that the Tigers usually have the game salted away well before the end. In fact, throughout the 1,258 games played, a Massillon kicker has turned defeat into victory with a last minute field goal only twice. In addition, a tie score was broken with a late game or overtime field goal just four times. Also, in just two games did a kicker boot an extra point for the win. Never has a Tiger returned a punt or a blocked kick for a touchdown in the last minute. All rare history, indeed.
Please enjoy this final story in the series.
Field Goals to Steal Victory
No. 1 – Max Shafer (2002)
Opponent – Massillon Perry (10-2); playoffs Round 2
Kicker numbers – 35-yard field goal as time expired
Final score – 23-21
The story – Massillon opened up a 20-7 lead by the end of the third quarter in this playoff game, but Perry stormed back to go up 21-20 with just minutes left. Tiger Quarterback Matt Martin then promptly completed six straight passes, the final one a back-shoulder catch by Devin Jordan, to move the ball to the Perry 18 with just seconds remaining. Max Shafer then finished it off by calmly kicking the game-winner and was instantly swarmed by his teammates. Shafer would kick eight field goals during his career as a Tiger.
No. 2 – David Abdul (2000)
Opponent – Lakewood St. Edward (6-4)
Kicker numbers – 36-yard field goal with 12 seconds left in the game
Final score – 28-27
The story – It was just a regular season affair in Lakewood against St. Edward, but it was surely a much-anticipated matchup throughout the state. And the play didn’t disappoint. The Eagles held the early lead, but Massillon eventually took an 18-12 advantage into the locker room, aided by a 52-yard Abdul field goal. Eds came right back in the second half and went up 27-18, only to see the Tigers close the gap to two points on a 20-yard halfback pass from Terrence King to Montale Watkins. But the Tigers would get one more shot when quarterback Justin Zwick connected with Watkins on a 52-yard pass to the Eagle 37. A few plays later Massillon was on the 19, setting up the winning Abdul kick, which came following three timeouts. “I didn’t mind the wait,” smiled Abdul. “Those two (St. Edward time outs) kind of relaxed me.” (The Independent). Abdul would kick 20 field goals during his career as a Tiger.
Field Goals to Win the Game
No. 1 – Jeremy Geier (2009)
Opponent – Twinsburg (10-2); playoffs Round 2
Kicker numbers – 40-yard field goal with 12 seconds left in the game
Final score – 10-7
The story – Both teams moved the ball well enough but could score just seven points apiece on account of turnovers and penalties. So it was up to Geier and his foot to win the game with just seconds left. The 40-yard field goal was Geier’s longest of his 2-year career as a Tiger kicker, which included 18 successes.
No. 2 – Lee Hurst (1988)
Opponent – Canton McKinley (6-4)
Kicker numbers – 23-yard field goal in overtime for the win
Final score – 10-7
The story – Massillon hadn’t beaten McKinley since 1983 and new head coach Lee Owens didn’t want to start his career in Tigertown on the wrong end of the rivalry. While both teams were in the midst of rebuilding years, the game became a brutal affair, eventually tied at the end of regulation, after Hurst just missed on a 47-yard attempt. In the overtime Massillon had the ball first and was held short of the end zone. That’s when Hurst kicked the presumed game-winner. But the celebration need to wait just a little longer, until the Bulldogs were also held and then missed their 38-yard try for the tie.
No. 3 – Andrew David (2013)
Opponent – Canton GlenOak (5-5)
Kicker numbers – 20-yard field goal in the third overtime period for the win
Final score – 23-20
The story – This early season game included three field goals and three overtimes. With 17 seconds left in regulation, GlenOak kicked a 31-yarder to send the game into extra frames. The first O.T. was scoreless and the second resulted in seven points apiece, so it was time to finally decide the matter. The Tigers were held in the third and Andrew David responded with a 20-yarder to give Massillon the lead. But the Golden Eagles drove to the one and went for it on fourth down. That’s when Mike Smith stopped the GlenOak runner at the goal line to secure victory. David takes credit for 32 career field goals and leads all Tigers in this category.
No. 4 – Joe Eckstein (1914)
Opponent – Alliance
Kicker numbers – 42-yard field goal with one minute left in the game
Final score – 3-0
The story – It was an unbelievable effort in this time period for a field goal of this length. And the fans accordingly took note. Here’s the report from the local newspaper: “With only one minute of play remaining and a large round-faced moon sending its first silvery rays shimmering across the field and Massillon high in possession of the ball on Alliance’s 35-yard line, fullback Joe Eckstein dropped back for a place kick. Quarterback Hollinger motioned for the ball, caught it and touched the ground. There was a thud as leather met leather and then the pigskin rose above 22 struggling gridiron warriors and sailed gracefully over the bar, bringing to the orange and black the greatest victory of the season by the score of 3 to 0 over a foe whose determination was unbendable as steel and whose grit won praises of 500 football fans Saturday afternoon at the Driving Park. For several seconds after the kick the spectators seemed rooted to the ground. They were amazed by the brilliancy of the mighty boot. Then bedlam broke loose. Orange and black clothed warriors grabbed and hugged each other and performing antics that they would not think of at any other time. Men threw their hats in the air and the fairer sex, laughed, clapped their hands and wept for sheer delight. In an instant the field was black with people. A horde of jubilant high school students grabbed Eckstein and placed him on their shoulders and carried him around the field. It was the happiest moment in the big fullbacks’ life.”
Extra Points to Win the Game
No. 1 – Nick Pribich (1994)
Opponent – Canton McKinley (10-3); 100th Game
Kicker numbers – Extra point kick for the win in overtime
Final score – 42-21
The story – Back and forth this classic went until the two juggernauts were tied at 35 by the end of regulation. In the overtime, McKinley would get the ball first and scored on a 1-yard run. But kicker Josh McDaniels missed his attempt to the right, to the astonishment of the Massillon crowd, which now sensed an opening for the win. On Massillon’s second down, quarterback Willie Spencer Jr. headed around the right side of the line, faked a pitch, and then did pitch it to Victor Redrick, who had been trailing the play. Redrick snagged the ball in stride and sped untouched into the end zone. Now was up to Tiger kicker Nick Pribich. With proverbial orange ice water in his veins he drilled the ball through the uprights to give his team the victory in this 100th game of the rivalry.
No. 2 – Bill Edwards (1922)
Opponent – East Cleveland Shaw (6-4)
Kicker numbers – Extra point kick for the win with 27 seconds left in the game
Final score – 7-6
The story – Shaw scored six points in the second quarter and held that advantage through nearly the rest of the game. That’s when “Dutch” Hill went to work, driving his team to the end zone to tie the score. In comes Bill Edwards, a future Tiger assistant coach, who had perfected the art of the drop kick. “I’ll kick that goal or die in the attempt,” said Edwards. The try was true and Massillon would take home another victory. Interestingly, the coaches had met prior to the game to negotiate the length of each quarter. With Massillon wanting 15 and Shaw 12, the two agreed on 14. Good thing it wasn’t 12.
Tiger Fans Still Remember:
In 1919, Taylor blocked a punt through the end zone to give Massillon a 2-0 victory over Youngstown South. It was the team’s third block of the day.
In 1976, Anthony Grizzard returned a punt 36 yards for a touchdown against Warren Harding to break a 15-all tie with 9:50 left in the game. The lead held up for a 22-15 victory.
In 1980, Dave Eberhart kicked a 25-yard field goal with 3:39 left to give Massillon a 22-21 victory over Akron Garfield.
In 1994, Nick Pribich kicked a 40-yard field goal with 2:58 left to give Massillon a 10-7 victory over Austintown Fitch.
Massillon has built quite a resume over the past seven years in the Ohio high school football scene, the span of time during which Nate Moore has been the head coach. Consider that the Tigers have qualified for the playoffs in six consecutive years, advanced to the regional finals five times and advanced to the Division II state finals three times. In addition, over the past four years the Tigers have lost just seven times out of the 56 games played, four of which occurred during the playoffs.
But although the offense has been spectacular, most of the credit for the improvement goes to the defense, particularly the defense against the run. In the past four years, Massillon has surrendered a mere 3.3 yards per carry, which is a full two yards per carry better than during Moore’s first three years, a time when he was installing his program. Also, the mark is significantly better than that of the previous coach.
From the fan perspective, credit a change in the scheme in that the Tigers now heavily involve the free safeties in run support. This is something that has evolved as defenses must counter the more mature spread offenses. Prior to the spread, the offenses were throwing the ball 20 to 30 percent of the time. So the defenses aligned with four or five linemen and three or four linebackers to stop run-oriented teams. But now, with offenses throwing around 40 percent of the time, more support was needed in the secondary. However, this came at the expense of the defensive line, which was reduced to three or four lineman. With fewer linemen at the point of attack, defenses became more vulnerable to the run, particularly to the outsides. That’s where the safeties now come into play. Whereas previous safeties focused almost exclusively on pass protection, safeties must now also run downhill to the edge to defend the run and not be shy about delivering the big hits.
Years ago, if a team’s safety was the leading tackler, there was a serious problem on defense. Not anymore. In 2019, Robbie Page recorded 3.9 tackle points per game, fourth best on the team. Austin Brawley has similar numbers in 2020. And then last year, Brawley AND safety teammate Ryan Zentkovich chalked up 5.1 and 5.3 tackle points per game, respectively, leading the entire defense in that category.
But Massillon’s defensive improvement against the rush has also had a marked impact on scoring. Whereas the Tigers gave up 26 points per game during Moore’s first three years, that number has been lowered to just 11 points, which is an excellent result against the spread offense. And that also translates into wins.
Meanwhile, the defense against the pass has remained fairly constant, hovering around 6.4 yards per pass attempt. This statistic is not unlike that of previous Massillon coaches that gamed against the spread offense.
Offensively, from Moore’s first three years through his next four, it has been “steady Eddie.” Points have increased by about a touchdown a game, yards per rush have increased by 1.3 yards per game and yards per pass attempt have increased by 0.6 yards per game, about what one would expect as a new system settles into place.
Now, with the 2022 season fast approaching, the Tigers return several starters that man the front seven positions. And many of those are underclassmen. So, one would expect the defense against the run to again be very strong, for at least the next two years. Trust me. It will be a fun group to watch.
The Ohio High School Athletic Association (OHSAA) has released its playoff regional assignments for the upcoming season and the Tigers will remain in Division II, Region 7. The region is dominated by Columbus-area teams, but also features several local ones.
Last year Region 7 had 25 teams. But this year, the number has been increased to 28. Whereas Regions 5 and 6 remain at 28, Region 8 has been reduced from 25 to 22.
Upgraded to Division I from last season’s Region 7 are Olentangy Berlin and Olentangy. Downgraded to Division III are Columbus Whitehall and Logan. Meanwhile, Columbus Briggs, Columbus Franklin Heights, Teays Valley and Columbus West have transferred in from Region 8. Newcomers include to Division II are Dover and Columbus DeSales.
Region 7 is not considered a challenging division top-to-bottom, but it still has several teams capable of taking the crown, including Massillon, which won the region four straight times from 2017 to 2020, and Green, which upset the Tigers in last year’s regional finals. Others in contention include Perry, Lake, North Canton, Big Walnut, Dublin Scioto, Westerville South and Worthington Kilbourne, plus newcomers Dover and Columbus DeSales.
Changes in the other divisions:
Region 5: Solon, Shaker Heights and Cleveland John Adams have entered from Division I, Akron St. Vincent has entered from Division III, Barberton and Cleveland Rhodes have transferred in, Cleveland Benedictine, Bedford, Kent Roosevelt, Madison and University School have dropped to Division III, and Cleveland John Marshall has moved up to Division I. Akron Hoban and Walsh remain.
Region 6: Toledo Start has entered from Division I, Ashland and Sylvania Southview have entered from Division III, Barberton and Cleveland Rhodes have transferred out, and Wadsworth has moved up to Division I. Avon and Toledo Central Catholic remain.
Region 8: Cincinnati Aiken, Cincinnati Northwest and Hamilton Ross have moved in from Division III, Columbus Briggs, Columbus West, Columbus Franklin Heights and Teays Valley have transferred out, and Tecumseh and West Carrollton have dropped to Division III. Cincinnati LaSalle and Cincinnati Winton Woods remain.