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2024 Massillon Football Schedule Released

2024 Massillon Football Schedule Released

Defending Division II state champion Massillon is in preparation to embark on a journey to defend its title with perhaps the most difficult regular season schedule they have ever faced in their 130+ years of football.  Every opponent on the slate was a playoff qualifier last year (except the one from Canada) and three of them captured state championships.  Here is the schedule:

  1. NFL Academy – London
  2. Canton GlenOak – A
  3. Bergen Catholic, NJ – H
  4. Canisius, NY – H
  5. Lakewood St. Edward – A
  6. DeMatha Catholic, MD – H
  7. Football North (Clarkson), ONT – H
  8. (open)
  9. Warren Harding – A
  10. Canton McKinley – H

Unfortunately, Tiger fans will get to enjoy just five home games.  The last time that occurred was 1935, during the time of Paul Brown.  Credit 10th-Year Head Coach Moore (99-22) for at least managing to find nine games to fill the schedule.  But there is still an opportunity to enjoy an additional two home games if the Tigers finish in the Top-4 of the computer rankings by the end of the season.

The Tiger program has steadily improved since Moore was hired nine years ago.  Last season his team captured its first playoff state championship with a 16-0 record, following a 55-7 win over Cincinnati Anderson in the Division II state semifinals and a 7-2 victory over Akron Hoban in the finals, adding to 24 previous state titles awarded by the sportswriters.  The corresponding success and national ranking, coupled with the fact that Massillon is not in a league, has created an unprecedented challenge in finding opponents, as many teams shy away from scheduling the Tigers.  Only four teams return from last season’s slate, highlighted by Lakewood St. Edward.  And they would not have played the Tigers this year unless they hosted the game, having traveled to Massillon the last three times.

So, the Tigers, with just four Ohio schools inked, are faced with more of a national schedule, with teams from New Jersey, New York and Maryland, plus a squad from Ontario that is an all-star group designed to play exclusively U.S. opponents.  There is even a team from Europe.  This undoubtedly creates quite a challenge.  Fortunately, each of these teams is expected to win their fair share of games, which bodes well for playoff computer points even if Massillon falters a few times, they are almost certain to make the playoffs.  And it’s in the playoffs that the local Ohio teams cannot duck them.

The Tigers will open with a pair of road games, including NFL Academy-London and Canton GlenOak.  The match against London is sponsored by Nike as part of their annual Kickoff Classic and will be played on a Thursday evening at the Nike sports complex, which is located in Beaverton, Oregon.  It will also be televised on the NFL YouTube Channel and the NFL Network.  Nike has partnered with the NFL, which hopes to increase football participation in Europe at the high school level.

Bergen Catholic provides the Week 3 home opener.  They have a record over the past five years of 54-7.  Last season they finished 11-1 and captured the Non-Public Class A championship.  Next up is Canisius, New York, which visits Massillon for the fourth time in a series in which the Tigers hold a 2-1 edge.

Back on the road, the orange and black travels to Lakewood St. Edward, the 3-time defending Division 1 state champion.  The Eagles’ coach Tom Lombardo has had enough of Paul Brown Tiger Stadium and got his way to host the game.  Massillon won the last two encounters, by scores of 31-28 and 15-13.

The Tigers return home for the next two games, when they will face DeMatha from Maryland and Football North (Clarkson) from Ontario, Canada, before a Week-8 open date.  DeMatha’s 5-year record is 35-13, which includes a pair of wins last year over St. Johns College, DC, a team that Massillon faced last year.  DeMatha is a common opponent of St. Edward.  Football North also plays St. Eds regularly, in addition to Cleveland St. Ignatius.  They are an all-star team that plays by American rules and only schedules U.S. teams.

The Tigers will wrap up the season with a trip to Warren Harding and a then home game against traditional rival Canton McKinley, Federal League co-champions last year.

So, it appears to be a monumental schedule that Massillon will face this year.  Fortunately, they return ten starters on offense, needing to replace as starters just a couple lineman.  Defensively, they have just three players returning, but several others saw significant duty when the games were on the line.

Enjoy the following opponent breakdowns, plus a preview of the Tigers:

Week 1 – NFL Academy London

  • The NFL constantly strives to promote American football in Europe and this year has invited Massillon to participate in a game against NFL Academy London. Staged in conjunction with Nike, the game will be played at the Nike sports complex, which is located in Beaverton, on Thursday, August 22, at 3:30 pacific time.  The team is expected to fly to Oregon on the Tuesday prior to the game, practice on Wednesday, play on Thursday and then return to Ohio on Friday.
  • The game will not be considered directly in the overall tally of Harbin points for playoff qualification purposes. However, Massillon will receive a seasonal average number of computer points for that week.
  • Per the NFL website: “The NFL Academy is a major global initiative by the NFL and it aims to provide full-time high-school education alongside intensive training in American football under the guidance of a world class coaching staff. This is a key pillar in the NFL’s investment in global football development and creating pathways for international talent.”
  • Over a thousand high students from across Europe try out for the Academy each year, with the goal of earning scholarships to American universities and eventually finding their ways to the NFL. Eighty will secure spots on the team.  There, they receive a heavy education in American football, along with taking a full load of high school-level academics.  They also adhere to the age limits that American schools use for playing eligibility.
  • The Academy this year has played several spring games against other European teams. To date they are 4-0, having outscored the opposition on average, 57-12.
  • The game will be held on August 22 at Ronaldo Field, which is located on the campus of the Nike World Headquarters in Beaverton, Oregon. Kickoff is scheduled for 3:30 pm Oregon time (6:30 pm Ohio time).  It also will be aired live on the NFL YouTube Channel and via delay broadcast on the NFL Network on Saturday, August 31

Week 2 – Canton GlenOak – A

  • League: Federal League
  • Playoff Division: 1
  • 2023 Overall Record: 7-5
  • 2023 Playoff Results: Lost 35-0 to Lakewood St. Edward in Round 2
  • 2023 Calpreps.com: Ranked No. 29 in D1; rated 29.6
  • 5-Year Record: 15-36 (.294)
  • 5-Year Playoff History: 4 appearances; 1-4 record
  • Last Time vs. Massillon: Lost 56-7 to Massillon in 2023
  • Historical Series Massillon vs. Canton GlenOak: 15-4
  • Bonus: Lost a lot through graduation; returns alternate senior quarterback Adrian Burt; against Massillon he rushed for 54 yards and scored one touchdown; returns 3 of 4 linebackers.

Week 3 – Bergen Catholic, NJ – H

  • League: New Jersey Super Football Conference – United Red Division
  • Playoff Division: Non-Public Group A
  • 2023 Overall Record: 11-1
  • 2023 Playoff Results: Defeated Delbarton to win the Non-Public A state championship
  • 2023 Calpreps.com: Ranked No. 1 in New Jersey; rated 62.8
  • 5-Year Record: 54-7
  • 5-Year Playoff History: State champions in 2021, 2022 and 2023; 9-1 record (no playoffs in 2020)
  • Last Time vs. Massillon: n/a
  • Historical Series Massillon vs. Bergen Catholic: 0-0
  • Bonus: Returns 7 starters on offense and 7 on defense, including No. 1 quarterback Dominic Campanile (131-221-2,208, 30 TDs), No. 2 running back Dante Kain (69-398-5.8, 16 TDs), No. 1 wide receiver Quincy Porter (41-969, 16 TDs), No. 2 wide receiver (35-334, 3 TDs), No. 3 tackler Ethan Cohall Jr. (27-34, 5.5 TFLs) and No. 4 tackler Kaden Irby-Mason (25-35, 9.0 TFLs). In 2023 lost to Chaminade, FL, 61-21; in 2022 defeated Saguaro, AZ, 28-7; in 2021 defeated Akron Hoban, 42-7; Opens the season with IMG Academy.

 Week 4 – Canisius, NY – H

  • League: Monsignor Martin Athletic Association
  • Playoff Division: Ohio equivalent 2
  • 2023 Overall Record: 5-6
  • 2023 Playoff Results: Lost 21-20 to St. Francis, NY, in the semifinals
  • 2023 Calpreps.com: Ranked No. 33 in New York; rated 14.5
  • 5-Year Record: 27-22
  • 5-Year Playoff History: 4 appearances (no games in 2020); 5-3 record; in 2019 defeated Cardinal Hayes (Bronx) 25-24 to capture the Catholic State Championship
  • Last Time vs. Massillon: Lost to Massillon 42-7 in 2022
  • Historical Series Massillon vs. Canisius: 2-1
  • Bonus: In the 2022 game vs. Massillon, Jalen Slaughter completed 7 of 16 passes for 141 yards and 3 TDs. Kyler Wiggins caught 2 passes for 82 yards and a TD and Ja’Meir Gamble caught 2 for 43 yards and a TD and rushed one time for 16 yards.  Peytton Mitchell rushed 4 times for 31 yards.  Mike Wright recorded 2.0 tackles for loss.

Week 5 – Lakewood St. Edward – A

  • League: None
  • Playoff Division: 1
  • 2023 Overall Record: 15-1
  • 2023 Playoff Results: Defeated Springfield 31-21 to capture the state championship
  • 2023 Calpreps.com: Ranked No. 1 in D1; rated 66.6
  • 5-Year Record: 62-7 (.899)
  • 5-Year Playoff History: 5 appearances; 21-2 record; state titles in 2021, 2022 and 2023
  • Last Time vs. Massillon: Lost to Massillon 15-13 in 2023
  • Historical Series Massillon vs. St. Edward: 5-4
  • Bonus: 3-time defending Division 1 state champs.  Finished No. 31 nationally in 2023.  Returns 3 starters on offense and 5 on defense, plus backup quarterback Casey Csanyi (6’-2”, 180). Against Massillon last year Csanyi completed 14 of 29 passes for 153 yards and two touchdowns.

Week 6 – DeMatha Catholic, MD – H

  • League: Washington Catholic Athletic Conference
  • Playoff Division: League Playoffs
  • 2023 Overall Record: 9-2
  • 2023 Playoff Results: Lost 7-0 to Our Lady of Good Counsel, MD, in the 2nd round
  • 2023 Calpreps.com: Ranked No. 2 in Maryland; rated 62.0
  • 5-Year Record: 35-13
  • 5-Year Playoff History: League runner-up in 2022 and 2023; 2-4 record
  • Last Time vs. Massillon: n/a
  • Historical Series Massillon vs. DeMatha: 0-0
  • Bonus: In 2023, defeated Springfield, OH, 35-7 and St. John’s College, DC, 21-14 in the regular season and 21-3 in the playoffs.

Week 7 – Football North (Clarkson), ONT – H

  • League: East Coast Power Prep League (plays exclusively teams from the USA)
  • Playoff Division: n/a (game does not count in Harbin System)
  • 2023 Overall Record: 3-3
  • 2023 Playoff Results: n/a
  • 2023 Calpreps.com:
  • 5-Year Record: 9-21 (no games in 2020)
  • 5-Year Playoff History: n/a
  • Last Time vs. Massillon: n/a
  • Historical Series Massillon vs. 0-0
  • Bonus: Regular plays Lakewood St. Edward and Cleveland St. Ignatius. In 2023, lost to St. Edward 35-15 and St. Ignatius 24-21.  In 2022, defeated Mentor and lost to Akron Hoban, St. Edward and St. Ignatius.

Week 8 – Open Date

Week 9 – Warren Harding – A

  • League: All-American Conference
  • Playoff Division: 2
  • 2023 Overall Record: 5-7
  • 2023 Playoff Results: Lost 24-21 to Hudson in Round 2.
  • 2023 Calpreps.com: Ranked No. 23 in D2; rated 24.4
  • 5-Year Record: 25-29 (.463)
  • 5-Year Playoff History: 4 appearances; 4-4 record
  • Last Time vs. Massillon: Lost 48-14 to Massillon in 2022
  • Historical Series Massillon vs. Warren: 60-25-3 (second-longest series)
  • Bonus: Returns 3 starters on offense and five on defense, including quarterback Coleman. Against Massillon last year Coleman completed 9 of 20 passes for 164 yards and two touchdowns

Week 10 – Canton McKinley – H

  • League: Federal League
  • Playoff Division: 1
  • 2023 Overall Record: 9-4
  • 2023 Playoff Results: Lost 41-27 to Lakewood St. Edward in Round 3
  • 2023 Calpreps.com: Ranked No. 109 in D1; rated 42.3
  • 5-Year Record: 37-21 (.638)
  • 5-Year Playoff History: 5 appearances; 7-5 playoff record
  • Last Time Massillon vs. Massillon: Lost 35-0 to Massillon in 2023
  • Historical Series vs. McKinley: 76-53-5; Massillon has won 12 of the last 13
  • Bonus: Returns 7 starters on offense and 5 on defense, including 4-star linebacker / wide receiver Dante McClellan (6’-2, 190) (2nd Team All-Ohio), 3-star offensive lineman Dior Garner (6’-4, 285), 2-star running back Nino Hill (6’-0, 200) and 2-star wide receiver Keith Quincy (6’02, 180) (2nd Team All-Ohio). Last year against Massillon McClellan recorded four tackles and caught one pass, Hill rushed 8 times for 2 yards and Quincy caught 4 passes for 35 yards.  Running back Jamar Johnson transferred in from GlenOak.

The Book on Massillon

  • League: Independent
  • Playoff Division: 2
  • 2023 Overall Record: 16-0
  • 2023 Playoff Results: Defeated Akron Hoban 7-2 to capture the Division 2 State Title
  • 2023 Calpreps.com: Ranked No. 1 in D2; Rated 69.7
  • 5-Year Record: 63-8 (.887)
  • 5-Year Playoff History: 5 appearances; 23-4 record; advanced to the state finals in 2019, 2020 and 2023; state champion in 2023; regional champion in 2022
  • Bonus: Coming off a 16-0 season and Division 2 State Championship; defeated Division 1 State Champion Lakewood St. Edward for the second year in a row; returns 10 starters on offense and 3 on defense, plus the punter, the kicker, the long snapper and the short snapper; returning starters include:
    • Quarterback Jalen Slaughter (6’-0, 163); 4-year starter; 34 of 60 for 685 yards and 9 TDs; 4,112 career yards and 49 career TDs
    • Running back Ja’Meir Gamble (5’-9, 190); Honorable Mention All-Ohio; 142 attempts for 948 yards and 5 TDs
    • Running Peytton Mitchell (6’-0, 200); 71 carries for 444 yards and 2 TDs
    • Running back Mylen Lenix (5’-10, 203); 64 carries for 332 yards and 6 TDs
    • Wide receiver Jacques Carter (5’-10, 165); 2nd Team All-District; 41 receptions for 796 yards and 8 TDs
    • Wide receiver Braylyn Toles (5’-8, 145); 3-year starter; Honorable Mention All-District; 46 receptions for 619 yards and 8 TDs
    • Tight end Deangelo Zimmerman (6’-1, 216); 9 receptions for 136 yards and 1 TD
    • Offensive lineman Nolan Davenport (6’-6, 280); 3-year starter; 2nd Team All-Ohio
    • Offensive lineman Mike Looney (6’-0, 243); 3-year starter
    • Offensive lineman Gavin Kappes (5’-11, 250); 2-year starter
    • Defensive lineman Michael Wright Jr. (5’-10, 280); 1st Team All-Ohio; 4-year starter; 28.0 tackle points; 15.5 tackles-for-loss; 10.5 quarterback sacks
    • Linebacker Vito McConnell (6’-4, 215); 27.5 tackle points; 4.0 tackles for loss; 3 pass interceptions
    • Defensive back Tyler Hackenbracht (6’-2, 207); Honorable Mention All-Ohio; 4th leading tackler with 38.5 tackle points; 3 pass interceptions; punter
    • Kicker Mateo Herrera (5’-7, 128); 22 of 22 extra points
  • Current streaks
    • Wins, all games: 16
    • Wins, regular season games: 18
    • Wins, public schools: 23
    • Wins, home games: 18
    • Scoring in games, offense: 202
Obie Logo (Large) News

2024 Massillon Football Season Officially Kicks Off

2024 Massillon Football Season Officially Kicks Off

 The upcoming Tiger football season is officially underway, christened by the annual Summer Kickoff Event, which was held at Eagles 190.  In front of a packed house of avid Massillon fans, Head Coach Nate Moore and his staff reviewed the challenges ahead within the upcoming schedule and spoke about the returning players and promising varsity newcomers.  The event was led by this year’s Massillon Tiger Booster Club President, Ed Starcher.

The Tigers enter the campaign on the heels of a 2023 Division II state championship, during which they posted a 16-0 record, including a victory in the regular season over Division I state champion Lakewood St.  Edward.  According to Moore, all of that that makes Massillon the undisputed champion of the entire state, regardless of division.  But he was quick to underscore that the Tigers are not satisfied with winning their first ever playoff title (to go along with 24 other crowns) and they plan, with the outstanding talent on the roster this year, to make another deep run at the title.

“It’s great to be here,” said Moore.  “Massillon is a special place.  Home to the 2023 state champions.  In an era when it’s not supposed to happen.  A public school is not supposed to win that.  But try to find another city like Massillon that’s doing what we’re doing.  I’m proud to be the head coach at Massillon.  But we’ve now turned the page.”

Moore then reviewed the 2024 schedule, providing the following remarks.

  • Week 1 – Nothing to report at this time.
  • Week 2 – at Canton GlenOak – Glad that the series continues. As long as Coach Scott Garcia is there, this shouldn’t change.
  • Week 3 – Bergen Catholic, New Jersey – Once again, a challenging home opener, this time against the best team in New Jersey. A national Top 25 team.  Big, talented and very well coached.
  • Week 4 – Canisius, New York – Fourth time on the schedule. The Tigers lead the series 2-1.
  • Week 5 – at Lakewood St. Edward – Division I state champs the last three years. A national Top 25 team.  This has turned into quite a rivalry.
  • Week 6 – DeMatha Catholic, Maryland – On of the best teams in the D.C. area. National Top 25.  Big up front.  Very skilled.
  • Week 7 – Football North (Clarkson), Ontario – This is not a typical Canadian team, like Massillon has seen before. They play a U.S. schedule.  This is a good football team.  Several Division 1 players.  Best players in Canada.
  • Week 8 – Nothing to report at this time. Moore is disappointed that Austintown Fitch “tapped out” and dropped the Tigers from the schedule.  Apparently, they had enough.
  • Week 9 – at Warren Harding – This is the final game with the current contract. Discussions to continue the series are underway.
  • Week 10 – Canton McKinley – The greatest game in high school football. At least for us, this will always be the featured game on the schedule.  The Bulldogs return a fair number of good players.  It should be a much better game.  Great players all over the field.  Ecstatic that it is at home this year.

Next up were the various position coaches.

Dan Studer (strength and conditioning) – The off season has ended.  The effort and production was on par with last year.  Great attendance.  The lifting numbers are well up, with four players squatting over 500 lbs.  Conducted speed training.  Three players are sub 4.4 seconds in the 40-yard dash.  Moving into pre-season this week.

Joey Studer / Chris Spruill (defensive line) – There will be some new names this year lining up next to 4-year returning starter Michael Moore Jr.  A young group.  They have a lot of heart and Tiger pride.  Now we’re going to get them technically sound.

Bo Grunder (cornerbacks), also subbing for Dan Hackenbracht (safeties) – Tyler Hackenbracht returns at free safety, with the other spot currently open.  Eager to see who wants to make a name for himself.  At corner, Lennox Lemon and Daylan Pringle are showing promise and will get the first look.

Dave Weber (outside linebackers) – Vito McConnell returns at the position, with many young players in the wings.  But there are a lot of promising kids.

Spencer Leno (inside linebackers / defensive coordinator) – A lot of open spots.  Looking for players who can check the boxes for knowledge, trust, effort, physicality and consistency.  The defensive goals this year is to hold opponents to 17 points or less, limit the run to 100 yards, limit the pass to 150 yards, no big plays, create turnovers and get off the field on third down.

J.P. Simon (offensive line) along with Chip Robinson – J.P. has moved from defense to offense this year.  “We’re going to come off the ball.  We’re going to be physical.  We’re going to win games.  We’re coming for another state title.  There’s no letup.”  Nolan Davenport, Michael Looney and Gavin Kappes return and were either starters or saw significant action last year.  Chris Fair is also in the mix.

Travis McGuire (running backs) – “I’m excited about my room.  I have a lot of guys.  My problem is who to give the ball to in the new offense.”  Returning starters are Jameir Gamble, Mylen Lenix and Peyton Mitchell.

Cale Miller (wide receivers) – “I’m blessed with riches every single year.  I just try not to screw it up!”  The Tigers return starters Braylyn Toles, Jacques Carter and Ricardo Wells.  “Plenty of experience.”  We also have some young guys coming up.”  Gio Jackson and Deonte Malone.

Alex Wood (quarterbacks / offensive coordinator) – “Thank you to the Tigers Booster Club.  I’m excited to be here.  Jalen Slaughter, a 4-year returning starter, is in the lead for the quarterback position based on his experience.  Two other players are in the mix, including sophomore Manny Patterson and junior Eli Moore.  Patterson is on the smaller side, but throws a nice football.  And he can run.  Eli has come a long way and will push the other two guys.  Look for a different style of offense this year, in both the run and pass games.  It will be explosive.  Multiple formations and personnel.  The scheme is to get the ball into the hands of the guys that can make plays.  The ultimate goal is to score at least 28 points in every game.  But in order to that, the Tigers will need to run AND throw well.

Moore wrapped up his presentation by giving kudos to the coaching staff, in particular to the fact that ten members are former Tiger players, making it very unique.  Because of that, the coaches are able to pass the Massillon traditions onto the players.  “Our kids will stay in the fight longer,” he emphasized.  “Credit the work and investment of our coaching staff.  Our kids understand the tradition.  It means more to them.  Any of these guys (coaches) can be hired at any school in the country.  But they want to be here.”

The next formal event will be the ring ceremony, which is scheduled for June 27 at Paul Brown Tiger Stadium at 6:00 pm.

There will also be a home 7-on-7 scrimmage at noon on June 25.

Go Tigers.

Editorial

Massillon is Once Again the Odds-On Favorite to Win…

Massillon is Once Again the Odds-On Favorite to Win Region 7

The Ohio High School Athletic Association this year re-assigned several schools to various playoff regions based on changing enrollment and current competitive balance adders, with consideration for consolidating geographic locations.  While Region 7 gained a few and lost a few, there appears to be no impact on Massillon’s projection as the clear favorite to once again win out in the region and advance to the state playoffs.  That is based on the Tigers having won last year’s Division II state title, having defeated the Division I champion in the regular season for the second consecutive year, winning four of the last five regional titles and returning a wealth of talent on both sides of the ball.  They also last year outscored their four regional opponents, 157-25.

The Makeup of Region 7

Seven teams have vacated the region from last year, including local schools Green, Lake and North Canton, which have been reassigned to Region 5, and Columbus-area schools Grove City Central Crossing, Watkins Memorial, Columbus Independence and Columbus West.  Taking their places are New Albany and Westerville Central from Division I and Ashland and Columbus Whitehall from Division III.  The region, which is comprised of 25 playoff participants, is heavily laden with teams from Columbus proper, while there are just three from the local area: Massillon, Perry and Wooster.

Regional Powers

The chart below shows the regional playoff performances over the past five years of all the teams in this year’s Region 7.  Massillon clearly stands out above the rest, with four regional titles and 19 playoff wins through inter-regional play.  Behind the Tigers are New Albany, Big Walnut and Columbus DeSales, followed by Canal Winchester and Westerville South.  The remaining teams have had little success in this span time and fall away from those mentioned above.

Note 1: In 2019 only eight teams qualified for the playoffs; there have been at least sixteen since.  So, in order to balance the data across the five years in the chart, the next eight regional placers in 2019 were recognized as having playoff appearances.

Note 2: First round play-in games during the 2020 Covid year are not included in the data.

New Albany – The Eagles have returned to the region having spent the last four years in Division I.  Their best year there came in 2022 when they ranked third in their region with a 7-3 record and went on to defeat Westerville North, Hilliard Davidson and Upper Arlington in the playoffs, before losing to Gahanna Lincoln.  Last year, they beat Westerville Central, but lost to Pickerington Central, 42-16.  In 2017 they lost 24-6 to Massillon in the Division II regional finals.

Big Walnut – The Golden Eagles have played ten playoff games over the past five year and have achieved modest success.  In 2022 they finished first in the regional rankings and commenced the playoffs with wins over Olentangy and Canal Winchester.  But in the third round they lost to Massillon, 42-21.

Columbus DeSales – The Stallions had a great year in 2020, although it occurred in Division III.  During that Covid year they finished the regular season with a 5-1 record, with the lone loss coming at the hands of Columbus Watterson.  Once in the playoffs, the ran off five straight wins before falling in double overtime to Chardon in the state finals.

Canal Winchester – The Indians have been a regular in the playoffs, but have never reached the regional finals.  Last year they managed to win a couple of playoff games, but fell 10-0 to Green.   In 2022 they faced Massillon in Round 2 and lost 23-0.

Westerville South – The Wildcats are a hit and miss in regards to qualifying for the playoffs.  Twice previously they faced the Tigers.  In 2021 they lost 50-19 and last year they lost 50-7.

Aside from those teams and possibly newcomer Westerville Central, there is not a lot of competition for the Tigers.  Approximately half of the teams in the region have not won a playoff game in the past five years.  And six did not even qualify, although three of them are Columbus City schools.  So, the bottom line is that if Massillon takes care of business, they should be considered the favorite in a head-to-head matchup against any other team in the region.

State Powers

The chart below lists the better Division II teams in the state based on playoff performance.  But when it comes to annually having a realistic chance to win a state title, just three teams at this moment rise to the top: Akron Hoban, Massillon and Avon.  Toledo Central Catholic, the 2022 champion, would have been included in this group, but they were downgraded to Division III a year ago.  Also, there appears to be a level of parity within the top group in that no team has won more than a single title in the past five years.

Akron Hoban – The Knights have an outstanding program and are annually considered as the team to beat in Division II.  However, it hasn’t always played out as expected over the past five years.  In 2020 they defeated Massillon in the finals to win the title, but since that time have come up short in state finals games, losing to Cincinnati Winton Woods, Toledo Central and Massillon.  In addition, they lost to Massillon in the 2019 regional finals.  But they have at least advanced to the state finals in four of the five years.  Their primary competitors are Hudson and Walsh Jesuit.

Massillon – The Tigers captured the crown last year with a 7-2 victory over Hoban, bolstered by a tremendous defensive performance.  It was their first title since 1970, having lost in the state finals in six previous attempts, and now claim 25 titles.  They also have more regional championships than any other large public school.  And they have reached the state finals in three of the five years.

Avon – The Eagles appear to be always the bridesmaid, but never the bride.  Although they have captured four regional titles in the last five years, they have never advanced to the state finals in Division II since the regional modifications occurred in 2013.  Three times they lost to Hoban in the state semifinals and Massillon defeated them 35-10 in the 2019 semis.  Also, their lone regional finals loss was to Toledo Central, which went on to take the crown that year.  But don’t count them out.  They always have a formidable team with great coaching.  Their primary competitors are Highland and Olmsted Falls.

Also of note is that Cincinnati Winton Woods, winner of the state title in 2021, has been moved up to Division I on account of an increased competitive advantage adder.

Wrapping up, look for Akron Hoban in Region 5, Avon in Region 6 and Massillon Region 7 to once again advance to the state semifinals.  Region 8 may be up for grabs.  But if any team stands out there it is probably Cincinnati Anderson, as they return stellar quarterback Justice Burnam.  But the Raptors will need to figure out how to climb the hill, based on their 55-7 state semifinal blowout loss to the Tigers last year.  Also keep an eye on Cincinnati LaSalle and Kings.

History

Chris Spielman – Wall of Champions

Chris Spielman – Wall of Champions

It took just one game for Massillon fans to realize that Chris Spielman was heading for something special.  On a warm September evening, in front of a season-opening crowd of 15,653, the Tigers were enroute to a 33-0 shellacking of the visiting Perry Panthers.  On the team was a lone sophomore, who managed to work his way onto special teams during the preseason.  Massillon kicked off to start the game and the play ended with the announcer stating that Chris Spielman made the tackle.  Not a big deal.  But then, he repeated that remark again on each of the next three kickoffs.  Plus, all of the tackles were made inside the 20 yard line.  Finally, on the fifth kickoff, the announcer said, “This time the tackle was NOT made by Chris Spielman.”  Suddenly, the young sophomore was high on the radar of the avid Tigers fan base.  And it pretty much set the tone, as the stalwart inside linebacker / running back held sway for the next three years, leading his team to a 28-5 record and a trip to the elusive playoff state finals.  He continued that success as an All-American at Ohio State and then as an All-Pro performer in the NFL.  Although he was not the biggest or the fastest defender on the field, he had an uncanny ability to (1) anticipate the play based on the formation and (2) respond quicker to his reads than any other player.  He also performed with extreme physicality.

The Early Years

Charles Christopher Spielman, known to everyone as “Chris,” was born in Plain Township on October 11, 1965, to “Sonny” and Nancy Spielman as the second born son, the first being Rick, also a future Tiger.  The Spielmans were a football family, with Sonny serving at the time as the head coach of Timken, so it was natural that Chris would be engrossed in football during his early years.  He was on the practice field with his father every day and when old enough played midget ball.

Just prior to entering junior high, the family moved to Canton and Chris set his sights on playing for the best team in the city: Canton McKinley.  But as fate would have it, a potential athletic director position for Sonny at McKinley did not materialize.  So in 1980 the family moved again, this time to Massillon, where Sonny was hired as an assistant coach under Mike Currence.

At Longfellow Junior High as a freshman, Chris played both linebacker and running back and his team won every game.  He also impressed the varsity coaching staff with his play in a post-season match against the sophomore team.  So, the stage was set for that fateful game against Perry.

High School

Sophomore year (1981) – He was assigned No. 33 and he kept that number throughout his time at Massillon.  At that time life as a Tiger would begin on the sophomore squad, as only juniors and seniors were permitted to suit up for varsity.  But his size (6’-1”, 195 lbs.), strength and athletic ability were immediately evident.  And it didn’t take long for him to become a starter at inside linebacker, joining his senior quarterback brother Rick in the lineup.  Massillon finished with a 7-3 record that year, nearly upsetting state champion McKinley in the final game.  Meanwhile, Chris recorded three pass interceptions, one coming in a 14-7 victory over Warren Harding and another against Niles that he returned for 27 yards.

“To start as a sophomore you had to be good and you had to be lucky,” said assistant coach Dale Walterhouse.  “And you had to be lucky in that you better not have an All-Ohio player ahead of you in that position.” – Massillon Memories, by Scott Shook.

“People said that I couldn’t start as a sophomore at Massillon,” said Spielman.  “I just felt like that didn’t have anything to do with me.  I just thought that I’d be starting.  It turned out things worked out for me.” – Massillon Memories, by Scott Shook.

Junior year (1982) – The junior year was a breakout season for this young player.  Now up to 206 lbs, he was also assigned the position of starting running back, along with Jim Busche, and rushed for a team-high 844 yards and 15 touchdowns.  He also caught 15 passes for 154 yards and a TD.  On special teams, he returned 16 punts for 83 yards and blocked a field goal against Sandusky that turned the playoff game in the Tigers’ favor.  He scored in every outing except one and tallied 96 points.  On defense he recorded 156 tackles, intercepted four passes and recovered two fumbles.  For his outstanding performance, Chris was named First Team All-Ohio Linebacker.

The team finished with a record of 12-1, while coming up short in the playoff state finals to Cincinnati Moeller.  “We were a great football team in 1982,” Spielman said.  “We were 12-1, got beat by Cincinnati Moeller.  We were outmatched, when they were getting kids from three different states and all over Cincinnati.  Like they were, it was very tough to compete against them.  Any other school in the state or the nation, I believe, we would have beaten them handily.  I think that was one of Massillon’s finest teams.”  – Massillon Memories, by Scott Shook.

Season highlights:

  • Perry – Rushed 10 times for 130 yards (13.0 ave.) and one TD in a 29-8 victory.
  • Canton McKinley – Rushed 19 times for 101 yards (5.3) and scored the only touchdown of the game on a 1-yard run in the fourth quarter. Caught 5 passes for 50 yards.
  • Sandusky – Rushed 23 times for 113 yards (4.9) in a playoff 29-7 victory.
  • Moeller – Caught 5 passes for 60 yards in a 35-14 loss.

Senior year (1983) – It was another outstanding season of running back and linebacker play.  But this time, in addition to earning First-Team All-Ohio honors, he was named All-County running back (the offense was voted on first), Northeast District Lineman of the Year, Akron Beacon Journal Player of the Year, Ohio National Guard Player of the Year, Parade Magazine All-American, Armour-Dial Male High School Athlete of the Year and Street and Smith Magazine National Top 15.  He was Parade Marshall of the Massillon Downtown Merchants Christmas Parade.  Plus, he was featured on the cover of the Wheaties Box, with the award made in New York City.  However, as a shy young man, he just didn’t want to embrace all the fuss and the obligations that went with it.

“Being on the Wheaties box was great – but it was also very difficult for a 17-year-old kid,” said Spielman.  “Over night I became a role model for a lot of kids.  It was the first time I had people start staring at me, recognizing me.  It made me feel funny.  I became very self-conscious.  You feel like you have to live up to their standard.  I was just trying to hang out with my buddies.  I was visiting sick kids in the hospital.  And that was great.  If I could make a kid who was sick feel better, or get better, I certainly didn’t mind doing that.  But at 17, I wasn’t prepared for it.  Every time I was in public I felt like I had to live up to ‘the boy that was on the Wheaties box.’  I was afraid to be myself.” – Massillon Memories, by Scott Shook.

For the season, Spielman rushed for 459 yards and scored 8 touchdowns, while teaming with All-Ohio running back and state champion track speedster Craig Johnson (No. 34 in photo above).  He also caught 10 passes for 151 yards and 3 TDs.  On defense, he recorded 112 tackles, 6 pass interceptions that he returned for 126 yards and recovered two fumbles.  Again, he returned punts, this time 17 of them for 245 yards.

Unfortunately, playoff hopes were squashed when Massillon (9-1) suffered an early-season loss to Akron Garfield, 14-10.  The Golden Rams were led by Charles Gladman (U. Pittsburgh), who was named Ohio Back of the Year.  Garfield advanced in the playoffs that year to the state finals, but lost to Cincinnati Princeton.

Chris finished his football career at Massillon with single season records for tackle points and unassisted tackles.  The following summer he participated in the Ohio High School All-Star Football Game.  But his time on the field was cut short with a sprained ankle, which would hamper him at the next level.

Spielman credits Steve Studer and his tortuous workouts for giving him a great start to his football career, preparing him to play with great physicality.  “I’m 15, I’m not even driving yet,” he recalled.  “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.” – Massillon Memories, by Scott Shook.

A 3-sport athlete, Spielman played basketball and earned All-County honors in that sport.  He also participated on the track team, where he placed in the shot put at the state meet.

Chris relished his time playing for the Tigers.  “Every time I tell someone I played at Massillon a feeling of pride comes over me.” – Massillon Memories, by Scott Shook.

Recruiting – High on Spielman’s list of colleges were, in order, Michigan, Ohio State and Miami of Florida.  The Buckeyes, under head coach Earle Bruce, recruited him hard, with Bruce even bringing his squad to Massillon for a preseason scrimmage and Ohio Governor Richard Celeste getting in on the action.  Dozens of OSU boosters would flock to any airport Chris flew into to add their support.  But he still leaned toward Michigan.  Until, that is, his father intervened and pushed him the other way.  So, it was Ohio State.

College

Freshman year (1984) – Spielman was slated to be the starting inside linebacker for the opening game against Oregon State.  Only, just prior to the game, he reinjured the bad ankle and was forced to the bench.  But that didn’t stop him from pacing the sidelines and nagging Bruce to put him in.  So, he got the call in the fourth quarter and on his first play he broke through the line and sacked the quarterback.  He ended up playing just shy of ten minutes in that game, but recorded ten tackles and was named Defensive Player of the Game.  For the remainder of the season he would play on and off as the ankle would permit.  The Buckeyes finished with a record of 9-3, losing to USC 20-17 in the Rose Bowl.  But they did win the Big Ten championship.

Sophomore year (1985) – As a starting linebacker, he recorded 140 tackles, 9 tackles for loss and three pass interceptions.  He was also named All-Big Ten.  His team posted a 10-2 record and repeated as Big Ten champions.  Then they defeated BYU 10-7 in the Florida Citris Bowl.

(Eleven Warriors photo)

Junior year (1986) – Chris had another good year, with a team-high 205 total tackles, 9 tackles for loss and 6 pass interceptions.  He also tied a school record with 29 tackles against Michigan.  After the season, he was named All-Big Ten and First Team All-American by Associated Press, Kodak, Football Writers Association, Sporting News and Football News.  He was also a finalist for the Lombardi Award and the Butkus Award.  Earle Bruce called him, “the most intense player I have ever seen.”  The Buckeyes finished with a record of 10-3, losing to Michigan 26-24, while tying the Wolverines in the standings for conference first.  In the Cotton Bowl, they defeated Texas A&M 28-12, with Spielman returning a pass interception 29 yards for a touchdown and being named Top Defensive Player of the Game.

Senior year (1987) – Chris wrapped up his career at Ohio State as expected, with a team-high 234 tackles, 10 tackles for loss, 4 quarterback sacks, 3 forced fumbles and 4 pass interceptions.  He was a team captain.  He was named the team’s Most Valuable Performer.  He was named All-Big Ten.  He was named All-American.  He won the Lombardi Award.  And he left with a school record of 283 career solo tackles.  However, the Buckeyes finished 6-4-1 and did not receive a bowl bid.  Thus, Spielman’s sensational career at Ohio State had come to an end.  As had Earle Bruce’s.

In 2000 Spielman was inducted into the Ohio State Hall of Fame and in 2009 he was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame.

Professional

The Detroit Lions selected Chris Spielman in the second round as the 19th pick overall of the 1988 NFL draft.  Spielman would spend the next eight years in Detroit as the starting linebacker, under had coach Wayne Fontes.  In his first year, he was named NFC Rookie of the Year.  Four times during his time at Detroit he was selected to play in the Pro Bowl and twice he was named the team’s defensive MVP.  And he was All-Pro twice.

Detroit had four playoff appearances during his 8-year span, with best one in 1991, when they finished 13-5 and advanced to the NFC championship game against the Washington Redskins.  Spielman finished with the Lions as the all-time leading tackler with 1,138 stops.  He also led the NFL with 195 total tackles in 1994.  The Lions later recognized his achievements by adding him to the stadium’s Ring of Honor

In 1996 Spielman signed with Buffalo and played for two seasons.  But he heroically walked away from the game when his wife, Stephanie, was diagnosed with breast cancer.  Two years later, with the disease under control, Chris connected with the Cleveland Browns.  Only, a neck injury in an exhibition game led to a permanent retirement.

For his NFL career, Spielman finished with the following statistics:

  • 148 games
  • 148 starts
  • 985 solos, 378 assists
  • 11 sacks
  • 12 forced fumbles
  • 19 fumble recoveries (1 TD)
  • 6 pass interceptions

Post-Football

Tragedy struck in 1998 when his wife Stephanie died at the young age of 42, leaving behind four children.  Prior to that, the pair managed to raise millions of dollars for Ohio State’s James Cancer Hospital.  Their story is documented in a book he co-authored, titled, “That’s Why I’m Here.”

The  following year Spielman began a career as a TV color commentor for college and professional games, working alternately for Fox, ESPN and Lions Preseason TV and spending nearly twenty years in that capacity.

In 2009 Chris tried his hand at coaching, assuming the head position with the Arena Football League’s Columbus Destroyers.  However, a 2-15 record made that stint short-lived.

Finally,  in 2020, he landed his current position, special assistant to Detroit Lions chairman and president and CEO.

In 1994 Spielman was inducted into the Wall of Champions.  In 2016 he was inducted into the Massillon Football Hall of Fame.

Obie Logo (Large) History

The Changing Landscape of Massillon Football – Part 7:…

The Changing Landscape of Massillon Football – Part 7: Game Attendance

 This is the last entry of a 7-part series, which includes the following installments:

Introduction

“With an overflow crowd of 15,000 spectators looking on, the Washington high school Tigers … opened their fine new football plant with a 40-13 triumph over a plucky Cathedral Latin high school team of Cleveland.”  Those were the words of legendary sportswriter Luther Emery as he opened his story that covered the first game of the 1939 football season.  It ever in the new Tiger Stadium and a capacity crowd was on hand to witness the event.  Glowingly, it was far cry from the paltry crowds of just a few decades before.

Tiger Stadium would grow in size a few years later in order to accommodate crowds of nearly 20,000 each and every week.  But the circus-like spectacle would not last.  For various reasons, the average season attendance at Massillon games would slowly but steadily decline from then on to the present day.

Throughout its long history Massillon has played home games at eight different fields and the capacity limits of these venues have certainly had an influence on the number of fans that could attend.  While most of the early fields had a small number of portable bleachers, the capacity increased exponentially when Massillon Field with 6,500 seats and then Tiger Stadium were built.  A complimentary influence on crowd size was the instant success that the team achieved when Paul Brown became the coach.  Suddenly, patrons were flocking to the games in droves.  Thus, the need for a larger stadium.

Part 7 of the series takes a look back at the attendance at some of Massillon’s early games and then the seasonal averages from 1940 and on.  It also presents the trends associated with the attendance at Massillon-McKinley games after Tiger Stadium and Canton’s Fawcett Stadium were opened.

The Early Years (1891-1923)

The first time the local media recorded the attendance for a Massillon home game was in 1894 when 200 fans attended a match against Canton Central, later to be named Canton McKinley.  The contest was most likely played either on a Saturday or Friday afternoon, since there were no stadium lights at that time.  And perhaps most of the attendees were high school students.

By 1908, 1,000 fans were in the North Street Field stadium to watch the Tigers defeat Alliance, 64-0.  The following year, when Massillon captured its first state title, it was a throng of 2,000 patrons that witnessed a 9-0 win over Oberlin Academy, with everyone returning the following week to enjoy a 21-5 victory over New Philadelphia.

Home attendance continued to increase thereafter, particularly when the team played at Jones Field on Pearl Street.  A crowd of 3,000 attended the 1920 Toledo Scott game, 6,000 were at the 1922 Cleveland Shaw game and 8,000 showed up for the 1924 game against McKinley.  Suddenly, it was time for a bigger stadium.

Meanwhile, Tiger road games also saw an explosion in attendance numbers: 9,500 at the 1925 Canton McKinley game, 10,000 at the 1932 Alliance game, 10,000 at the 1933 McKinley game and 12,000 at the 1935 McKinley game.

Massillon Field (1924-38)

In 1924 Massillon opened a new stadium, one with permanent seating and a capacity of 6,500.  It also had lights to accommodate night games.  On occasion, additional portable seating would be brought in for a major opponent that boosted the capacity to 8,000 or more.  But by 1935, when Brown was coach, the average home attendance swelled well above the 6,500 seat capacity.  And in 1938, the last year of Massillon Field, the average home attendance was a whopping 11,500, with 18,000 squeezing in for the game against McKinley.  Fortunately, by then, construction a new stadium was well underway.

The Tigers would leave Massillon Field with a home record of 71-16-4.  Brown’s mark there was 41-4-2.

Paul Brown Tiger Stadium (1939 to present)

Tiger Stadium, later named after Paul Brown, opened in 1939 with a seating capacity of 14,000.  It would soon be increased, including temporary sideline and end zone seats, to 22,500.  Now Massillon had a stadium large enough to accommodate any football crowd.  After some eighty years of use, Massillon’s current record there sits at 526-90-6.

Home attendance was immediately impacted in that 1939 season with an average attendance of 13,200.  The following year, owing to a home game against McKinley, the average was 17,450, a number that has stood since as an all-time record.  Below is a chart of the average home attendance by decade from 1940 to the present.

In the decade of the 1940s, the average home attendance was 14,476.  But that number has steadily declined over time  and now stands at 5,901, although perhaps still higher than any other school in the state.  There are perhaps several reasons for this trend:

  • Advent of television – TV was not prevalent throughout households in the 1940s, so high school football was akin to the circus coming to town and most city residents flocked to local stadiums for an evening’s entertainment.  Massillon was no different.  This was especially true with the tremendous program left in place by Coach Paul Brown, who departed in 1941 for Ohio State.  Although Massillon’s high level of success has continued into the present day, the attendance has not kept pace.  In the 1950s televisions found their way into American homes, and even in Massillon the phenomenon created competition for high school football on Friday nights.  The impact was felt again in the mid-1960s when Massillon Cable TV was introduced and it began airing delayed broadcasts of the games.
  • Opening of schools adjacent to Massillon – In the 1940s Massillon students resided not only in Massillon proper, but also in areas surrounding the city.  However, in 1956 Perry High School was opened, followed shortly thereafter by Jackson and Tuslaw.  Over time, all served to shrink the total area from which Massillon High School drew both students and sports fans.
  • Dissolution of the All-American Conference – In 1963 a league consisting of some of the top teams in Ohio (Massillon, Canton McKinley, Warren Harding and Niles) was formed.  The addition of Steubenville in 1966 and Alliance in 1969 only made the league more prominent.  Games against these rivals created tremendous fan interest and provided some of the most competitive and highly-attended games in the state.  Because of this, attendance at Massillon games remained fairly steady during the 1960s and 1970s.  But by the late 1970s, Niles, Steubenville and Alliance could not maintain competitiveness due to declining enrollment as a result of the steel mills closing and the All-American Conference played its final games in 1979.  This consequence brought an immediate drop in fan attendance as league games one by one vacated the schedule.
  • Declining enrollment – The 1980s also saw Massillon’s enrollment begin a steady decline, now leveling off at about 30% less.  Although having modest impact on attendance, there are now somewhat less students and associated parents attending the games.
  • Recession – The early 2000s brought the onset of an economic recession, which impacted the job prospects and incomes of many workers in Massillon.  There was an obvious need for families to trim their household budgets and football tickets may have been one of the first items to go.  The result was the largest decline in attendance, from 11,229 in the 1990s to 9,125 in the 2000s, or a reduction of 19%.
  • Aging Fans – Many fans in the 1940s, 50s and 60s were captivated by the success of the football team and continued to remain loyal to the program for many years thereafter, always hopeful of yet another state championship.  However, there comes a time when a person is just too old to attend the games.  Fans that were in their 20s during the 1940s are now aging out.  To maintain the attendance level their losses needed to be recouped by younger fans.  Unfortunately, young fans in the 1970s and beyond did not get to experience those championship years and are not as prone to embrace the football program and purchase tickets after graduation.

Games Against Canton McKinley

The attendance for the McKinley games has also seen a reduction, although of a different sort.  Rather than a constant decline, there was a step change for home games beginning in 1982.  From 1940 to 1980, the average attendance was 20,752.  Afterwards, it has been 17,146 (not including the Covid year of 2020), or a decline of 17%.  In addition, last year’s attendance of 14,474 was the lowest home attendance for this game since 1926 (not counting the Covid year).

In case you were wondering about games in Canton, there was a similar step change, but theirs did not occur until 2007.  From 1939 to 2005, the average was 20,883.  Since then, it has been 14,610, or a decline of a whopping 30%.  Also, the attendance of 2023 was 42% below the prior number.

Best Attended Home Games

It’s no secret that the best attended games are those against McKinley.  Over the past thirty years these contests have drawn on average over 16,000 fans.  Next up are the games against the large parochial schools, followed by the season openers.  For the openers, it’s the anticipation of a new season and the weather is warm.  And of late the competition has been high-caliber.  Below are the 30-year averages for various categories:

  • 17,200 – Canton McKinley
  • 12,351 – Large Parochial Schools
  • 10,075 – Season Opener
  • 9,388 – Rival Public Schools
  • 8,432 – Mid-size Parochial Schools
  • 8,231 – Non-rival Public Schools
  • 8,777 – Out-of-state
  • 8,352 – Playoffs

 Attendance Records

The home record for attendance was set in 1964 when 22,685 fans attended the game against McKinley.  The Tigers won that one 20-14.  Just behind  are the 1972 game, which drew 22,371, and the 1968 game, which drew 22,305, followed by four games in which the estimated crowd was 22,000.

On the road, the Number One attended game was against Cleveland Cathedral Latin in 1945, which was held at Cleveland Municipal Stadium.  The final score was 6-6.  Here are the Top 5:

  • 51,409 – 1945 – Cleveland Municipal Stadium – Cleveland Cathedral Latin
  • 33,000 – 1940 – Akron Rubber Bowl – Alliance
  • 31,409 – 1982 – Ohio State Stadium – Cincinnati Moeller (playoffs)
  • 30,129 – 1964 – Akron Rubber Bowl – Niles McKinley
  • 29,871 – 2001 – Akron Rubber Bowl – Cleveland St. Ignatius (playoffs)

Summary

The average seasonal attendance at Massillon home games has declined steadily over the past eighty years for a number of reasons.  But that does not deter a sizeable number of Tiger fans from still attending the games.  For Massillon continues to outdraw every other school in Ohio.  Nevertheless, there still seems to be a measurable decline as of late in attendance for the McKinley game.  But this may have been influenced more by Canton’s declining support of the game than by Massillon’s, as evidenced by the 2023 game in Canton in which the Tigers outdrew the Bulldogs in their own stadium.

At times the attendance, and particularly season ticket sales, has seen a bump the following year when the Tigers win a championship or even when they advance in the playoffs to the state finals.  It will be interesting this year to see how it plays out with Massillon fresh off of a Division II state championship.

News

2024 Lift-a-thon Results

2024 Lift-a-thon Results

A good crowd was on hand in the WHS gym for the annual Steve Studer Memorial Lift-a-thon.  It was surely an energetic and muscle-burning event, yet just one more step to the finish line as the Tigers continue the preparation to defend their 2023 Division II state championship.  Once again, Strength Coach Dan Studer did a fantastic job of organizing and conducting the event.

Three lifts were performed by each participant: clean lift, bench press and squat. Each lifter selected his preferred weight for each lift and then attempted as many lifts as he could until his arms or legs gave out. A composite score was then used to determine the winner of each of eleven weight classes based on the total weight lifted and the number of reps (max. 10).  Achievement medals were then awarded to the top three lifters in each category. Here are the winners:

  • 140 lb. weight class – Gregory Corsale (So.)
  • 150 lb. weight class – Richard Harris (Jr.)
  • 160 lb. weight class – LoQuan Young (Sr.)
  • 170 lb. weight class – Griffiths (Sr.)
  • 180 lb. weight class – Lennox Lemon (Jr.)
  • 190 lb. weight class – Jameir Gamble (Sr.)
  • 200 lb. weight class – Ransom Els (So.)
  • 215 lb. weight class – Savior Owens (So.)
  • 230 lb. weight class – Vito McConnell (Sr.)
  • Heavy weight class – Michael Looney (Sr.)
  • Super heavyweight class – Michael Wright Jr. (Sr.)

140 lb. weight class – (l-r) (2) McIntyre, (1) Gregory Corsale, (3) Stephens

150 lb. weight class -(l-r) (2) Braylyn Toles, (1) Richard Harris Jr., (3) Chayce White

160 lb. weight class – (l-r) (2) Manny Patterson, (1) Lo’Quan Young, (3) Nehemiah Stone

170 lb. weight class – (l-r) (2) Deontay Malone, (1) Griffiths, (3) Jacques Carter and Eli  Moore (tie)

180 lb. weight class – (l-r) (2) Lucas Shertzer, (1) Lennox Lemon, (3) Ricardo Wells

190 lb. weight class – (l-r) (2) Francesco Salvin0, (1) Jameir Gamble, (3) Tra’yon Williams

200 lb. weight class – (l-r) (2) Jadyn Williams, (1) Ransom Els, (3) Stephen  Reinhart

215 lb. weight class – (l-r) (2) Peytton Mitchell, (1) Savior Owens, (3) Deangelo Zimmerman

230 lb. weight class – (l-r) (2) Logan Allman, (1) Vito McConnell, (3) Martin

Heavyweight class – (l-r) (2) Andrew Brumfield, (1) Michael Looney, (3) Andrew Robinson

Super heavyweight class – (l-r) (2) Chris Fair, (1) Michael Wright Jr., (3) Nolan Davenport

The following photos are by Rob Engelhardt

The following photos are by Don Engelhardt

 

News

George Whitfield Jr. to be Inducted into the Massillon…

George Whitfield Jr. to be Inducted into the Massillon Wall of Champions

This coming July, in conjunction with the Booster Club’s Reverse Raffle event, George Whitfield Jr. will be inducted into the Massillon Wall of Champions.  Whitfield will join 42 other former Tiger athletes in that exclusive group and will be honored along with five others who will find their way into the Massillon Tiger Football Hall of Fame.

The Wall of Champions recognizes those Massillon graduates who have participated in any Massillon High School sport and then beyond at the college and/or professional level as either a player or a coach or in another capacity, such as a sports or civic-related endeavor.  Inductees are selected by a committee comprised of designated Booster Club members.  Each inductee is honored with a formal public ceremony and receives a plaque that displays his or her achievements.  A duplicate plaque is mounted in the WHS Sports Hall.  Inductees are welcomed with a formal ceremony and then later presented on the field during the year’s first home football game.

The name “Whitfield” is synonymous with football in Massillon in that three uncles of George Jr., Charlie (1959-61), Tom (1962-64) and Dave (1963-65), each played football for the Tigers, under coaches Leo Strang and and Earl Bruce.  Dave moved on after Massillon to Ohio State University under Coach Woody Hayes and was a starter on the 1968 Buckeye team that captured the national title.  Then there was George Sr. (1966-68), the father of George Jr., who excelled under Coach Bob Seaman and later played football at Wichita State University.  In fact, George Jr. is the sixth of seven Whitfields to play for the Tigers, which also included Dick (1954-56) and Marcus (2011-13).

George Jr. played for Massillon in 1993-95 and became the starting quarterback during his senior year, suiting up at 6’-2”, 209 lbs.  Playing under Head Coach Jack Rose, the team finished the season with a record of 7-3, with close losses to Mansfield, Miami Southridge, FL, and Canton McKinley.  It was against McKinley that Whitfield had his best game of the year, when he completed 18 of 30 passes for 210 yards and two touchdowns.  Down 17-7 at the half, he and his teammates nearly pulled off the upset, eventually losing 24-21.  The game ended when the Tigers unfortunately fumbled at the Bulldog five yard line with less than a minute remaining.  For the season, he completed 71 of 140 passes for 929 yards and 6 touchdowns.  Subsequently, he was named the team’s Most Valuable Player and Honorable Mention All-Ohio.

Following high school, Whitfield was recruited by Coach Jim Tressel to play football at Youngstown State University.  After one year during which he was red-shirted, George transferred to Tiffin University and enjoyed a successful 4-year career.  He departed in 2000 as the 3rd all-time leading passer in yards and touchdowns, with 368 completions for 4,391 yards and 30 touchdowns.  He was also named to the All-Mideast League team.

From there, Whitfield began a transition into the coaching arena, serving as a graduate assistant for the University of Iowa in 2001-02.  But playing on the field was never off the table.  In 2003-07 he was a quarterback in the Arena Football League and then attended training camps held by the Washington Redskins and the Minnesota Vikings of the NFL.  His final stop was San Diego, where he served as a coaching intern.

All of the experience Whitfield gained throughout his years with football helped him to establish a solid base of quarterback fundamentals, which led to the creation in 2004 of Whitfield Athletix, a specialized quarterback training academy located in San Diego, California.  It began modestly when he was asked by the owner of a San Diego brewing company to tutor her 5th grade son.  Suddenly, he found his calling.  Soon he was instructing  high school quarterbacks.  But his career really took off in 2010 when Pittsburgh Steelers’ quarterback Ben Roethlisberger hired him to be his personal coach.

George Whitfield Jr. with Johnny Manziel (Whitfield Athletix Photo)

Today, Whitfield is sought after by quarterbacks at every level.  And he can look back at several high-level QBs that were the beneficiaries of his knowledge, including Can Newton, Andrew Luck, Donovan McNabb, Josh Allen, Johnny Manziel, Vince Young, Brady Quinn and Jameis Winston.  He also worked with Ohio State’s Terrell Pryor and Braxton Miller.  Three of his students players were NFL No. 1 draft picks.  Even former Massillon quarterback Kyle Kempt spent some time with him while in high school.

One of the draws of his coaching expertise is his unique approach to instruction.  A broom may be used to simulate contact, or the quarterback may be working out in the sand or water at the beach, or he might be dodging sandbags, or he may even be throwing blindfolded while reacting to the sound of a hand clap.  But ultimately, all of the students believe that Whitfield has made them better field generals.

As an aside to this, Whitfield has been a member of the Elite 11 coaching staff and also worked as an ESPN college gameday analyst, having won four Emmy Awards in that position.

In 2016 Whitfield was inducted into the Tiffin University Hall of Fame and now he will be a member of the Massillon Wall of Champions.  The induction ceremony will be held on July 18 at the Eagles 190 in conjunction with the Reverse Raffle event.

Congratulations to George Whitfield Jr.

History

State-Level Induction Awaits Former Massillon Coach Lee Owens

State-Level Induction Awaits Former Massillon Coach Lee Owens

Former Massillon Coach Lee Owens has been selected by the Ohio High School Football Coaches Association to be inducted into their Hall of Fame.  The ceremony will be held at Hilton Easton in Columbus on June 14, with a social hour at 6:00 pm, followed by the dinner and ceremony at 7:00 pm.  For those wishing to attend, banquet tickets and hotel rooms at a discount can be purchased at ohsfca.net.

Owens was the head coach of the Tigers in 1988-91 and compiled a record of 35 wins and 14 losses.  During that time, he qualified for the playoffs three times, won six of nine playoff games and captured two regional championships.  And he won three of four games against the Bulldogs.  He also spearheaded an effort to install the first ever artificial playing surface at Paul Brown Tiger Stadium and was instrumentation in making many other stadium improvements.

Following Massillon, he was an assistant coach at Ohio State for three years, parlaying that experience into a head coaching position at the University of Akron, a post he held for nine years.  In 2000 the Zips finished first in the MAC East and in 2003 they were second.  But his greatest achievement there might have been making an immediate impact on player graduation rate, improving it from 18% to 83%.

His next eighteen seasons were spent leading the Ashland University Eagles of the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference.  His overall record there was a very fine 123-44, with his teams capturing four league championships and securing six NCAA Division II playoff qualifications.  Four times he was named Conference Coach of the Year.

Congratulations to Coach Lee Owens.

 

History

The Changing Landscape of Massillon Football – Part 6:…

The Changing Landscape of Massillon Football – Part 6: Stadiums

 Bailey Yoder (MassMu), Gary Vogt and Bill Porrini contributed to this story.

This is the sixth of a 7-part series, which includes the following installments:

Introduction

Part 6 of the series presents a look back at all of the football stadiums that the Massillon Tigers have called home over their 130+ year history.  Six different venues were used, some more than once, before settling on Paul Brown Tiger Stadium.

1891 (Unknown field)

Massillon’s first school building was opened in 1848.  Called The Union School, it housed all of the educational grades, from primary through high school.  In 1854 the primary students were relocated to a new facility.  But by 1879, The Union School was no longer suitable to handle the growing enrollment and it was replaced by North Street School.  Located at North Street and 5th St. NE, the property was later and for many years the site of Longfellow Junior High.  More recently, it was sold to the Salvation Army and they have their main office there.

North Street School was also home to the first Massillon high school football team, which was fielded in 1891.  Although there is no record of the squad having played its two home games there that year, it is certainly in the realm of possibility, since games were documented as having been held there several years later.  The other potential site is Russell Park.

North Street School and Football Field (1903, 1907-14)

1893-94 (Russell Park)

Older Massillon fans remember that the land on which the Meadows Plaza currently sits, home to both Target and Giant Eagle, was previously the site of a golf driving range.  And it was often referred to at various times Driving Park.  But in 1893 it was Russell Park.  Game stories from 1893 and 1894 show that the Tigers played several home games there.

Russell Park is historical in that Massillon played its first ever game against Canton, in 1894.  Unfortunately, the local team lost, 12-8.  Here’s an interesting quote from the game story: “Class spirit and inter-urban rivalry ran high and fierce at Russell Park on Saturday afternoon.  The Massillon high school football eleven had undertaken a large and difficult contract and were abetted by numerous charming young women, whose umbrellas, hats and coats were decorated with yellow and black and who did not hesitate to indulge in a very fetching yell when matters progressed their way.”  Note that Massillon’s original colors were yellow and black.

Game stories from 1895, 1896 and 1899 (no games were recorded for 1897 and 1898) do not identify the home field.  But it is believed that these games were also at Russell Park.  By 1899 Massillon was able to assemble its first significant schedule, which listed seven different games, six of which were at home.

Russell Park (1893-94)

1900 (Sante Fe Park)

Sante Fe Park was primarily a baseball field and was accessible from a trolley that ran the length of Lincoln Way.  Fans simply needed get off at 16th St. NE and walk up the hill to the field.  The grounds were also large enough to hold football games and the high school team relocated there in 1900.  Today, the Park is a residential neighborhood.

Trolley on Lincoln Way with a sign pointing to Sante Fe Park (1900, 1904-06)

1903 (North Street School / Sante Fe Park)

There were no games recorded for 1901-02 and in 1903 the team played at North Street School.

1904-06 (Sante Fe Park)

After one year at North Street, the team went back to Sante Fe Park for the next three.

1907-14 (North Street Field)

In 1907 the Massillon team returned to North Street Field and remained there through a portion of the 1914 season.  The best run during that stretch was in 1909 when Coach Hap Fugate led his squad to a 9-0-1 record and captured Massillon’s first state championship.  During the season they won a pair of games against Canton by scores of 6-2 at home in front of 1,500 fans and 11-6 on the road.

1914-16 (Driving Park)

Midway through the 1914 season, the team left North Street Field and finished the home slate at Driving Park (previously named Russell Park).  They remained there for the next two years.  John Snavely was the head coach for all three seasons and he enjoyed great success at that time, fashioning a combined 24-3 record.  In fact, his 1916 team was 10-0 and was named state champion, Massillon’s second crown.

1917-19 (Massillon Blues Athletic Company)

Yet another move came in 1917 when the Tigers relocated to the Blues Field, where the semi-professional Blues played football for a time.  Later it was known as Central Steel Field.  But locals today always recall it as The Agathon, which over many years hosted the Agathon baseball team and later a multitude of recreational softball games and tournaments.  Today the site is occupied by the Massillon Recreation Facility.

The Massillon football team played there for three years.  John Snavely was again the coach and his record was 17-5-2, with a 10-2-1 mark at home.  One of those home games was a 7-6 victory over Canton Central, a school  that would be renamed Canton McKinley the following year, in 1918.

Massillon Blues Athletic Company (1917-19)

1920-24 (Pearl Street)

Pearl Street was the location of Jones Junior High.  But adjacent to it was Jones Field that the Tigers used for five years.  Elmer Snyder was the head coach for one season and then Dave Stewart took over, fashioning a 31-7 record, including an undefeated state championship team in 1922.  In addition, his record against the Bulldogs was 4-0.

Jones Field on Pearl Street, with Jones Junior High in the background (1920-24)

1924-38 (Massillon Field)

In 1924 Massillon completed construction of its first real stadium, just in time for the annual game against McKinley.  The facility was located at what is currently called Shriver Park, at Shriver and 3rd St. SE, in the southeast part of town and just blocks from Pearl Street.  It was considered at the time as the finest high school stadium in the state, with field lights for night games and a seating capacity of 6,500.

The big game that year drew 8,000 fans, which was the largest crowd for the rivalry game to date.  The event also involved an elaborate dedication, led by Superintendent H. R. Gorrell, who spoke through a doubled-barreled megaphone.  The guest speaker was Congressman John McSweeney of Wooster.  Following an invocation by Rev. F. B. Hax of St. Paul’s Lutheran Church and a speech by WHS senior Louise Hunter, the field was officially christened likening to a newly launched ship when Miss Hunter broke a bottle filled with water against the south goal post.  The ceremony concluded with a rousing display of fireworks.

The game itself was played in a quagmire of a field owing to a rain deluge the previous day.  Nevertheless, Massillon’s Elwood Kammer found some footing in the first quarter and returned a pass interception 65 yards for a touchdown.  So, at the half, the Tigers led 6-0.

At the break, the students of the two schools sang their respective alma maters and then the two bands joined to entertain the crowd.  Halftime wrapped up with the Massillon American Legion Post 221 presenting an American flag to the school for use at the facility.  The flag was accepted by E.P. McConnaughey and then the combined bands performed the National Anthem as the flag was raised.

With the field conditions being nearly unplayable, there was no scoring the second half and the 6-0 lead held up for the Massillon victory.  It was Head Coach Dave Stewart’s fourth win over the Bulldogs in four tries.  The captain of the Massillon team was future Wall of Champions inductee Bill Edwards.  Noteworthy was that Paul Brown was a junior on the squad.  Fifteen years later Brown, now as coach of the Tigers and having won four state titles on Massillon Field from 1935-38, abandoned the facility in favor of a newer and larger stadium.

Massillon Field (1924-38)

 1939-present (Paul Brown Tiger Stadium)

In 1938, construction of the present football facility got underway.  It came about as a result of the demand for tickets on account of the success that Paul Brown achieved as he developed his storied program.  The stadium was partially funded by the federal government’s Works Project Administration (WPA), which was designed to create meaningful jobs during the depression era of the 1930s at a total cost of $246,000.  Originally named “Tiger Stadium,” it was renamed in 1976 as “Paul Brown Tiger Stadium” in honor of Brown, who later coached Ohio State and the professional Cleveland Browns and Cincinnati Bengals.

Whereas Massillon Field was not deemed adequate enough for expansion, a new stadium was commissioned on a 5-acre track located within South Sippo Park, which was owned by the City of Massillon.  Employing a land swap, the school took possession of the stadium plot and the City took over the Massillon Field land, which is today called “Shriver Park.”

During construction, the home stands of Massillon Field were dismantled and relocated to the visitors’ side of the new stadium.  The roof was also taken down and installed on the home side to shelter a portion of those stands.  When completed, the stadium seated 12,000 patrons, 7,650 on the home side (40 rows) and 4,250 on the visitors’ side.

Tiger Stadium; darkened stands were relocated from Massillon Field

The stadium was dedicated in 1939 and the Massillon players initiated it with a 40-13 shellacking of Cleveland Cathedral Latin, breaking their 17-game winning streak.  Halfback Tommy James scored the first two touchdowns in the new facility on runs of 39 yards and 31 yards.  With the score sitting at 33-0 midway through the third quarter, Brown removed his starters for the rest of the night.

Since that time there have been several major upgrades, including the following:

  • Additional seating added to increase the capacity to 22,500
  • Construction of permanent end zone seating and elimination of track seats, which reduced the capacity to 16,884
  • 1955, 1989 – Installation of new lights (relocated behind the stands in 1989)
  • 1967, 1982, 2005 – Replacements of scoreboards, the last one being massive and all digital
  • 1989 – Installation of Omni-Sand Turf (first artificial playing surface)
  • 1989, 2023 – Upgrades of the sound system
  • 1990 – Construction of the east side press box (loge box, meeting rooms and rest room facilities)
  • 2019 – Third replacement of artificial playing surface
  • 2020 – Rebuild of the structural support steel on the home side and replacement of fiberglass seat benches on both sides

The stadium has held up fairly well during its 84 years of use, although preservation efforts for the national historical site are always underway.  Through the 2023 season, the home record stands at 526-90-6 (.850).  In addition, 18 different state champions have made their mark on the field, including the 2023 Massillon Tigers.  In addition, the facility over the years has been host to many OHSAA state championship games, Ohio North-South All-Star Games, band reviews and July 4th fireworks displays.

Tiger Stadium under construction

Tiger Stadium, 1940 game against Canton McKinley with extra seating added in the end zones

Tiger Stadium with a grass playing surface and larger capacity end zone seats (circa 1970s)

 

Current Paul Brown Tiger Stadium

News

Regional Assignments for the 2024 Football Playoffs Have Been…

Regional Assignments for the 2024 Football Playoffs Have Been Released

The Ohio High School Athletic Association has released its divisional and regional assignments for teams participating in the 2024 football playoffs.  With the release, it is noted that defending Division II state champion Massillon will remain in Region 7, which features primarily teams from the Columbus area and a couple from the Stark County area.  Last year the Tigers defeated Uniontown Lake in the regional finals 35-6 and then went on to down Cincinnati Anderson 55-7 in the semifinals before topping Akron Hoban 7-2 to take the crown.

There are only modest changes to Region 7 from last year, including the following:

  • New Albany and Westerville Central have been moved down from Division I
  • Ashland and Columbus Whitehall have been moved up from from Division III

Other changes of note affecting Division II are as follows:

  • Stow and Wadsworth have been moved down from Division I and assigned to Regions 5 and 6, respectively
  • Louisville and Trotwood Madison have been moved up from Division III and assigned to Regions 5 and 8, respectively
  • Cincinnati Woodward has been moved up to Division I, most likely due to a high competitive advantage number
  • Green, North Canton and Lake have been moved from Region 7 to Region 5
  • Hamilton Badin has been moved up from Region 12 to Region 8

The 6-week span of post-season play will begin on November 1, with the Division II finals presumably on Thursday, December 5.