Tag: <span>1989 OHSAA Playoffs</span>


1989: Massillon 21, Cleveland St. Ignatius 42

No state title, but what a season!

Independent Sports Editor


“The season has been great,” Massillon co-captain Joe Pierce said a few minutes before midnight Saturday. “It’s been wonderful.”

Pierce was back in the Paul Brown Tiger Stadium locker room after his team had fallen 42‑21 to Cleveland St. Ignatius in the Division I state semifinals before a crowd of 18,206 in the Akron Rubber Bowl.

Every locker was plastered with a copy of the USA Today clipping that hyped Ignatius as the No. 1 high school football team in the land.

“If we had to lose,” Pierce said, “it might as well have been to the No. 1 team in the country.

“We hated to lose. But things just didn’t go our way.”

Robert Erickson, the Tigers’ team doctor had the same idea as Pierce as he watched the end of the game from the sidelines about 90 minutes earlier.

“They had a lot of fun this season,” Erickson said as Ryan Sparkman fought valiantly for an extra three yards, lunging backward with tacklers draped on him, as Ignatius led 42‑15.

“They accomplished a lot. They played hard. Heck, a lot of people said they’d never get past McKinley.”

Saturday’s game was played in bitter cold. The defeat kept the Tigers from reaching their goal of a first state playoff title to go along with 22 Ohio poll championships.

The mood around midnight in Tiger Stadium, however, seemed more warm than bitter.

Players talked quietly. Head coach Lee Owens seemed to take the loss hardest. He seemed lost in thought when a passerby gently clutched his arm.

Owens looked up and managed a smile.

Senior Lou LoCoco stopped to shake the coach’s hand just before leaving the locker room for the last time.

“I enjoyed it,” LoCoco said. “You meant a lot to me.”

When hindsight replaces the abruptness of Saturday’s defeat, it probably will become clearer that the 1989 season meant a lot to Tigertown.

It will be recalled that the learn made the playoffs for the first time since 1982 … that McKinley was defeated soundly … that a 42‑24 victory over Walsh Jesuit grew out of a 24‑6 halftime deficit and was one of the great comebacks in Tiger history.

It will be remembered that only two teams in Massillon history, the 1961 squad that went 11‑0 and the 1982 edition that went 12‑1, won more games than the 1989 crew that finished with a 10‑3 mark.

It will be noted the ’89 team’s two playoff wins were as many as were attained by the 1980 and ’82 teams that made it to the state finals, when only two victories were needed to do so.

It will be said that two of the teams to defeat the ’89 Tigers ‑ Moeller and Ignatius – met for the Division I state championship, and that the other, Cleveland St. Joseph, was a Division II state finalist.

Meanwhile, in the Ignatius camp, there was quiet celebration. The Wildcat starters showered in the Rubber Bowl visitors’ locker room, where there is barely room for a basketball team. The extras jammed an adjoining hallway.

Senior quarterback Joe Pickens is Ignatius’ best known star, but for whatever reason he undressed with the extras.

This kid stands 6 feet 4, weighs 210 pounds, and is going places. He says he has narrowed his college preferences to Ohio State, Illinois, Michigan State, Stanford, West Virginia, Alabama and Boston College.

On his way to the big time, the Tigers gave him a night to remember.

It’s different playing Massillon.” he said. “They have a different kind of crowd … they have a lot of fans. But we looked at it this way: We weren’t playing the Massillon town. We were playing the Massillon team.

“We had a good night. But Massillon is definitely a good team. They have a lot of quickness.”

Another Ignatius player headed for the bright lights, albeit two years from now since be is a junior, is 6‑foot‑5, 255‑pound tackle Trent Zenkewicz.

Zenkewicz said nobody was looking at Saturday’s affair as just another game.

“When we scrimmaged them in the pre‑season, they came out like it was a championship game,” Zenkewicz said.

“We’d won the state championship last year and I guess that fired them up. There was some taunting. It was an unusual scrimmage. We wanted revenge.”

Ignatius jumped to a 13‑0 lead in Saturday’s clash, held on for a 13‑7 halftime edge, their blew it open in the third quarter. Zenkewicz had his revenge.

Owens found it hard to swallow.

“I feel bad,” he said, “as though there’s something more I could have done.”

Some day the loss will melt into the big picture. The coach should feel better when he steps back and takes a look at that.

Title dream ends
Tigers can’t make comeback last after nearly taking halftime lead vs. Ignatius

Independent Sports Editor

AKRON ‑ Team Comeback struck again, but this time the rally came too fast and didn’t last.

The Massillon Tigers punched their way out of a 13‑0 corner Saturday to nearly take a halftime lead on Cleveland St. Ignatius. They got lost in a black hole of a third quarter on whose other side was a 42‑21 defeat in the Division I state football playoff semifinals.

Ignatius, which had never faced Massillon, stretched its winning streak to 28 and headed for a Sunday state championship showdown against Cincinnati Moeller.

The Tigers left the 1980s with a 10‑3 season record and an 81‑27‑1 mark for the decade.

Massillon had a controlling share of Saturday’s crowd ‑ 18,206 in the ice‑cold Rubber Bowl, where snow was caked on the sidelines after a pregame scrape job.

“We’re in it!” a Tiger fan making a coffee run yelled after his team ralled from a 13‑0 deficit to trail 13‑7 at halftime.

And why wouldn’t he think so?

Team Comeback had rebounded from a loss to Moeller with a convincing win over Austintown‑Fitch. It rallied from a stunning loss to Cleveland St. Joseph to dominate McKinley. It came back from the dead of a 24‑6 halftime deficit against Walsh Jesuit to win a playoff opener 42‑24.

As far as the fans were concerned, it was play‑it‑again‑Sam time.

Ryan Sparkman’s one‑yard touchdown run with 2:37 left in the half set up a 13‑7 game. Moments later Tiger end Jeff Perry creamed Ignatius quarterback Joe Pickens and Massillon tackle Scott Sirgo pounced on the resulting fumble near midfield.

Ignatius end Matt Cooney, pesky as a gnat all night, had a bear hug on quarterback Lee Hurst’s legs on fourth and five, but Hurst amazingly flicked a strike to Rameir Martin to keep the drive alive.

When Hurst connected with Martin for 12 yards to the nine with more than 30 seconds left, Team Comeback had its fans humming.

“A great play by their defensive back” is what head coach Lee Owens said kept the Tigers from converting a touchdown pass that could have created a halftime lead.

The Tigers had to hurry their field goal unit in place and the half ended with Gary Miller’s 28‑yard field goal attempt sailing wide right.

“We thought we should have had an extra timeout in there, but they charged us with one we don’t believe we took,” Owens said. “We came out of the huddle on one play and were ready to roll when they charged us with a timeout. They never did explain who asked for the timeout.”

On the opposite sideline, Ignatius head coach Chuck Kyle was smiling.

“They had their chance and they didn’t put it in,” he said.

Owens remembers the second half starting to his liking.

”We kicked the ball exactly where we wanted it,” he said, “Deep in the corner away from No. 48 (Tim Kennedy), who returned one for a touchdown against Euclid last week.”

Nonetheless, deep man Peter Fitzpatrick proceeded to rearrange the game, skirting right around the coverage wall and running 71 yards to the Tiger 24‑yard line.

Five players later, Fitzpatrick followed the block of 6‑foot‑3, 236‑pound tight end John Jaeckin into the end zone on a 10‑yard scoring play. A Pickens‑to‑Jaeckin conversion pass made it 21‑7.

A Tim Ruddy interception and a 48‑yard “junk play” touchdown – Pickens lateraling to split end Pat Friend, and Friend throwing a bomb to a wide‑open Jaeckin made it 28‑7.

A Massillon fumble on its own 24 set up Fitzpatrick’s third touchdown and a 35‑7 Ignatius lead with 11: 12 left in the game.
Still, Team Comeback wouldn’t roll over.

“I had a good feeling after we cut it to 35‑15,” Owens said. “We had more than nine minutes left (after Hurst’s 40‑yard scoring bomb to Doug Harig). And we got the ball right back (on Chad Buckland’s interception).”

Unfortunately, Cooney got in the way on third‑and‑11, intercepting a screen pass and scoring easily on a 21‑yard run to make it 42‑7.

The Tigers drove 93 yards and Sparkman scored his second touchdown with 1:24 left to create the final, score.

The stats were considerably more even than the score.

At halftime, Ignatius led 157‑133 in total offense. The late, long scoring drive gave the Tigers a 354‑272 lead in total offense for the game.

Pickens, a 6‑foot‑4, 210‑pound senior who is expected to make first team All‑Ohio and possibly wrestle this year’s Mr. Football award a way from incumbent Robert Smith of Euclid completed just

First downs rushing 9 7
First downs passing 4 12
First downs penalty 0 1
Total first down 13 20
Net yards rushing 149 122
Net yards passing 123 232
Total net yards 272 354
Passes attempted 15 36
Passes completed 5 17
Passes intercepted 1 5
Fumbles/lost 1‑1 1‑1
Punts 4 3
Punting average 28.8 29.7
Penalties 8 3
Yards penalized 83 31
St. Ignatius 7 6 15 14 42
Massillon 0 7 0 14 21

I ‑ Fitzpatrick 19 run (Hearns kick)
I ‑ Spear 1 run (kick failed)
M ‑ Sparkman 1 run (Miller kick)
I ‑ Pickens 10 run (Pickens pass to Jaeckin)
I ‑ Friend 42 pass to Jaeckin (Hearns kick)
I ‑ Fitzpatrick 2 run (Hearns kick)
M ‑ Hurst 40 pass to Harig (Hurst pass to Carpenter)
I ‑ Cooney 21 Pass interception return (Hearns kick)
M ‑ Sparkman 1 run (pass failed)


Individual Statistics

(I) Fitzpatrick 21‑102, Pickens 6‑33 Kennedy 6‑18, Spear 2‑3.
(M) Sparkman 18-81, Dixon 9‑28, Hurst 4‑13.

(I) Pickens 4‑14 1 81, Friend 1‑1‑0 42.
(M) Hurst 17‑35‑4 232, Manion 0‑1‑1 0.

(I) Jaeckin 4‑86, Ruddy 1‑37.
(M) Martin 6‑86, Sparkman 4‑28, Harig 3‑82, Manion 2-20, Carpenter 1‑9, Dixon 1‑7.

Kickoff returns
(I) Fitzpatrick 1‑71, Kennedy 1‑28,
(M) Blake 5‑72, Ashcraft 2‑28.


four of 14 passes for 81 yards. Hurst, the MVP on the coaches’ all‑county team, completed 17 of 35 passes for 232 yards, but with four interceptions.

“Their quarterback did an outstanding job, considering the pressure we had on him,” said Ignatius’ 6‑foot‑5, 255‑pound junior tackle Trent Zenkewicz.

Fitzpatrick wound up with 102 rushing yards in 21 carries. Sparkman produced 109 yards, 81 on the ground in 18 carries, and 28 more on four receptions.

The Tigers’ Martin and the Wildcats’ Jaeckin each gained 86 yards, Martin on six catches and Jaeckin on four.

Harig caught three passes for 82 yards.

The Tigers tried to compensate for their size disadvantage by mixing up the defense.

“They were bringing people the whole game,” Kyle said. “We stopped their inside blitz then they started coming from the outside.

“They kept shifting their defense back and forth,” said Pickens. “We called a whole lot of audibles.”

Ignatius countered the Tiger blitzes with draw plays that were keys in building the 14‑0 lead.

The Tigers didn’t get untracked on offense until trailing by that margin.

“It took a while to figure out what they were doing,” Owens said. “They had No. 76 (Jenkewicz) going to whatever side Ray (Kovacsiss) was on. They hadn’t done that sort of thing before.”

A 30‑yard pass to Harig loosened up the defense late in the half.

But Ignatius regained control with two touchdowns within the first five minutes of the second half.

Here’s a drive‑by‑drive account of the Massillon‑Cleveland St. Ignatius state semifinal football game Saturday night.


MASSILLON ‑ Start on own 30 after opening kickoff. Ryan Sparkman runs 19 yards on second down. Three more plays gain two yards. Punt.

IGNATIUS ‑ Start on own 26 after 23‑yard punt. Drive 74 yards in 13 plays capped by Peter Fitzpatrick;s 19‑yard touchdown run. Big plays: 12‑yard draw play to Fitzpatrick on third‑and‑10; 12‑yard scramble by quarterback Joe Pickens on second‑and‑eight Graham Hearns’ kick good at 4:41 of first quarter.
Ignatius 7, Massillon 0

MAS ‑ Start on own 27 after kickoff. Three plays. Punt.
IGN ‑ Start on own 44 after 21‑yard punt. Drive 61 yards in six plays capped by Brian Spear’s 1-yard run on first play of second quarter. Big plays: 37‑yard pass completion on second‑and‑15; 15-yard pass to tight end John Jaeckin on second‑and‑10. Hearns’ kick pressured by Don Blake, no good at 11:58 of second period.
Ignatius 13, Massillon 0

MAS ‑ Start on own 31 after kickoff. Three plays gain no yards. Punt.

IGN ‑ Start on own 29 after 40‑yard punt. Three incompletions. Punt.

MAS ‑ Start on own 42. Four plays, including 10‑yard Lee Hurst‑to‑Desmond Carpenter pass, to the Ignatius 35. Tim Ruddy intercepts deep pass for Wildcats on next play

IGN ‑ Start on own 9. Five play to Tiger 22 capped by Kevin McGuesack sack of Pickens forcing punt.

MAS ‑ Start on Ignatius 47 with 4:40 left in half. Third‑and‑11 throw back pass to Harig covers 30 yards to Ignatius 18. Sparkman caps six play, 47‑yard drive with 1‑yard TD plunge. Gary Miller’s kick good at 2:37 of second quarter.
Ignatius 13, Massillon 7

IGN ‑ Start on own 48 after kickof f and late‑hit penalty. Lose ball on Scott Sirgo fumble recovery with 1:50 left in half.

MAS ‑ Start on Ignatius 45. Sparkman gains 13 yards on Hurst pass on first down. Drive inside 10 before half ends on missed 28‑yard field goal.

Halftime: Ignatius 13, Massillon 7


IGN Start on Tiger 24 after Fitzpatrick’s 71‑yard kickoff return. Score in four plays on 10‑yard Pickens run. Pickens passes to Jaeckin for two‑point conversion at 9:10 of third quarter.

Ignatius 21, Massillon 7

MAS ‑ Start on own 29 after kickoff. Lose ball on Ruddy interception on second play.

IGN ‑ Start on own 45. Score on fourth play, 42‑yard pass from split end Pat Friend to Jaeckin. Hearns’ kick good at 7:01 of third quarter.

Ignatius 28, Massillon 7

MAS ‑ Start on own 29 after kickoff. Martin catches 36‑yard pass from Hurst on third‑and‑15. Ruddy intercepts two plays later.

IGN ‑ Start on own 35. Three plays. Punt.

MAS ‑ Start on own 25. Lose ball on fumble on attempted hook‑and‑ladder
ladder play.

IGN ‑ Start on own 24. Score on seventh play, a 2‑yard run by Fitzpatrick. Hearns kick good at 11:12 of fourth quarter.

Ignatius 35, Massillon 7

MAS ‑ Start on own 30 after kickoff. Drive 70 yards in five plays capped by Harig’s 40‑yard TD recep­
tion from Hurst. Key play: 11‑yard reception by Troy Manion followed by late hit penalty. Carpenter catches two‑point conversion pass from Hurst at 9:33 of fourth quarter.

Ignatius 35, Massillon 15

IGN ‑ Start on own 49 after onside kick. Lose ball on Chad Buckland interception.

MAS ‑ Start on own 13. On third‑and‑13 Matt Cooney intercepts screen pass and runs 21 yards for touchdown. Hearns Kick good at 6: 15 of fourth quarter.

Ignatius 42, Massillon 15

MAS ‑ Start on own 7 following kickoff. Drive 93 yards in 15 plays, capped by Sparkman’s 1‑yard TD plunge. Two‑point conversion pass broken up in back of end zone at 1:24 of fourth quarter.

Final: Ignatius 42, Massillon 21

Rameir Martin

1989: Massillon 43, Akron Garfield 7

Two down two to go for Tigers

Independent ‑ Sports Editor

Did Dame Destiny and the Fickle Finger of Fate conspire to stop Lee Hurst and Craig Turkalj Saturday?

There stood Hurst on one side of a water bucket in the Akron Rubber Bowl. There stood Turkalj on the other side. There ticked the clock 0:08 … 0:07 … 0:06 ‑ on a scoreboard that read Massillon 43, Garfield 7.

“Let’s do it,” the two Tigers yelped at 0:01.

And away they ran with their sloshing cargo. But when they got there, the sideline was bare. Their head coach, Lee Owens, had been absorbed by a sea of celebrants.
“Where’d he go?” the quarterback yelled.

“I don’t see him,” the linebacker replied.

They scrapped the mission and joined the fun.

And maybe that’s the way it’s supposed to be.

Maybe the cards have it that (attention Coach Owens ‑ do not read this and spoil your surprise) the grand dousing is to take place in Columbus two games down the playoff highway.

As for Owens, he went that‑a‑way ‑ the way that leads to the Division I state semifinals and from there to the state championship.

It’s two playoff wins down and two wins to go for the rampaging Tigers, who came home Saturday night to another frenzied moonlight celebration downtown.

Massillon will oppose defending state champion Cleveland St. Ignatius at 7 p.m. Saturday in the Akron Rubber Bowl.

It won’t be all fun and games.

“This turf is terrible,” said Tiger guard Jim Goff as he walked off the field following Saturday’s Garfield game. “Our sand turf is so much easier on the body. I’m really sore.”

Many Tiger fans thought their team, first in the Region 3 computer rankings at the end of the regular season, should not have had to play against No. 4 Garfield where the Golden Rams saw action in five regular‑season games this year.

But there is a flip side.

The Tigers now have had a game in which to get the hang of the Rubber Bowl (winning by 35 points against a team whose only other loss this season was by 1 point in overtime).

Ignatius has not played at the Rubber Bowl this year.

Still, expect to hear plenty of talk this week painting Ignatius as the favorite. The Wildcats won it all last year, the talk will go, and they have one of the best quarterbacks in the nation in Joe ‑ Ohio State wants him bad – Pickens.

“I hope we do play Ignatius,” Massillon senior Todd Porter said before he knew Ignatius advanced by outlasting Euclid Saturday night. “We beat them in a scrimmage, but people will say it was just a scrimmage. We want to beat them in a game.”

The Tigers’ first opportunity to commence beating on someone other than their own teammates came Aug. 12 in Lakewood, when they beat Ignatius in a practice game.

Three months later, after 12 “count ’em” games, Ignatius owns a 12‑0 record. The Tigers are 10‑2.

In Saturday’s other semifinal battle, Cincinnati Moeller (10‑2) will take on Lima (10‑2) in a 7:30 p.m. clash at Dayton’s Welcome Stadium.

Ask around the Massillon locker room and you’ll find a whole lot of folks who want to face Moeller again ‑ the Tigers lost to the Cincinnati kids 41‑7 Sept. 16.

They may get the chance.

And maybe they’re within striking distance because they had things in the right perspective all along.

This was co‑captain Ryan Sparkman talking shortly after the Tigers beat Ignatius in August:

“It was all right to go up there and practice against the defending state champions, but we still have a long way to go.”

It’s not so long anymore.

Massillon makes Garfield pay dearly for its errors
By Ralph Paulk
Beacon Journal staff writer

The Massillon Tigers stepped boldly into the Garfield Rams’ backyard ‑ the Rubber Bowl ‑ then proceeded to manhandle the Rams.

What was supposed to be a grueling battle of defense quickly developed into a Massillon blowout Saturday night before a crowd of 13,607.

The Tigers, racing off to a 29‑7 halftime advantage, advanced to the state Division I semifinals with a convincing 43‑7 victory.

The Rams got out of the blocks in good shape, scoring on their first possession to take an early 7‑0 lead.

After that the Rams’ faithful sat in stunned silence for 3 1/2 quarters. The Tigers whipped Garfield at every phase of the game.

The Tigers’ defense harassed Rams quarterback Marcus Sims, sacking him five times and intercepting two passes. They also recovered four Garfield fumbles in the second half.

As Massillon continued its onslaught the Rams lost their confidence and poise. They were flagged for three unsportsmanlike conduct penalties and a rash of other penalties.

Garfield’s coach, Bill McGee, paced up and down the sideline in search of an answer. All McGee and his Rams could find was misery, misery and more misery.

Massillon’s coach, Lee Owens, adjusted his orange cap occasionally and put his hands in his pockets.

What else could he do? His team’s victory already had been put on ice.

“We just got on a roll and were executing very well,” said Owens. “We felt we had to execute well if were going to win.

“This team was playing with extreme confidence. The kids know they can go all the way (state title game).

“I thought we had to get off to a better start than we did last week. We couldn’t wait until the second half.”

Massillon (10‑2), which overcame a 24‑6 deficit to defeat Walsh 42‑24 in the regional semifinal last week, again rolled out of the gate slowly. This time, however, the Tigers started their scoring flurry late in the first quarter.

Massillon halfback Ryan Sparkman ignited an awesome first‑half scoring explosion with a 44‑yard run to the Rams’ 2. Two plays later, Sparkman bounced off left tackle for a 1‑yard touchdown, making it 7‑6.

Gary Miller’s conversion kick was blocked by Thomas Lewis. It was the only thing the Tigers didn’t execute perfectly.

Quarterback Lee Hurst who threw for three touchdowns and ran for another, ripped apart the Rams’ secondary like a master surgeon.

“We knew there were some things in there defense that we could exploit,” said Hurst, an All‑NEO Inland Region first‑teamer.

Massillon, which made its last appearance in the state ‑ title game in 1982, took a 14‑7 lead with 8:35 left in the second quarter.

Doug Harig, who caught a 45‑yard pass, capped off a 7‑play, 61‑yard scoring drive by catching a 4‑yard touchdown pass from Hurst.

There was still hope for Garfield. That was until Tigers safety Keith Rabbit intercepted a Sims pass at the Garfield 37.

It took the Tigers six plays to get the hall into the end zone. Hurst bootlegged around left end for an 11‑yard touchdown scamper and tossed a 2‑point conversion pass to Rameir Martin to put Massillon ahead 21‑7 with 5:17 left in the second quarter.

The Rams, marched to the Tigers’ 46. But Kevin McCue intercepted another Sims pass at midfield.

Hurst wasted little time in making the Rams pay for their mistake. On first down. he rifled a 50‑yard touchdown strike to Martin with 2:31 left in the first half.

Martin’s touchdown, Owens said, is what really burst the Rams’ bubble.

“The touchdown to Martin probably sealed the game,” Owens said. “We were doing every thing right, and we knew we were in good shape.”

Hurst, catching Garfield’s defense off‑balance, bootlegged left for a 2‑point conversion to give Massillon its 29-7 lead at the half.

“I thought at the half we would play a strong second half”‘ said McGee, whose team lost to Cincinnati Princeton in the 1983 championship game.

“I think once they scored to begin the third quarter, I realized it wouldn’t be our night. It was frustrating for us because it was always something.

The Rams began the second half by fumbling the ball away to Massillon. Again, Hurst rewarded the Tigers’ defense by directing the offense into the end zone.

Hurst threw a 20‑yard touchdown pass to Harig with 6:42 left in the third quarter, giving Massillon a commanding 36-7 lead.

The Tigers got their final points a 3‑yard touchdown run by Lamonte Dixon ‑ which also was set up by a Garfield fumble.

“This doesn’t happen to its very often.” McGee said, “Massillon was very excited about playing.

“We weren’t overwhelmed physically, but I think emotionally we were never in it. It was hard getting our kids’ confidence back.”

Massillon will play Cleveland St. Ignatius in next weekend’s state semifinals.

Individual Statistics
(Mas) Sparkman 10‑70, Ashcraft 10‑34, Dixon 12‑21, Hurst 4‑17, Slicker 2‑5.
(Gar) McGhee 9‑62, Martin 10‑28, Sanky 3‑21, Lewis 1‑9, Sims 7‑(minus 41).

(Mas) Hurst 10‑14‑0 175, Shertzer 1‑1‑0 10.
(Gar) Sims 4‑16‑2 66, Conley 3‑6‑0 36.

(Mas) Martin 4‑77, Harig 3‑68, Manion 2‑21, Carpenter 1‑11, Sparkman 1‑8.
(Gar) Lewis 3‑41, Harrison 2‑42, Martin 1‑14, Keller 1-5.

Kickoff returns
(Mas) Dixon 1-20.
(Gar) Martin 4‑83, Lewis 2‑37, Sankey 1‑19.

Punt returns
(Mas) Blake 1‑17, Manion 1‑0.
(Gar) None.

Massillon 6 23 14 0 43
Garfield 7 0 0 0 7

G – Sims 3 run. Williamson kick
M – Sparkman I run. Kick failed
M ‑ Harig 4 pass from Hurst. Martin Pass from Hurst
M ‑ Hurst 11 run. Miller kick
M ‑ Martin 50 pass from Hurst. Hurst run
M ‑ Harig 20 Pass from Hunt. Miller kick
M ‑ Dixon 3 run. Miller kick


First downs rushing 9 3
First downs Passing 7 5
First downs Penalty 0 4
Total first down 16 12
Net Yards rushing 142 79
Net Yards Passing 185 102
Total net yards 327 181
Passes attempted 15 22
Passes completed 11 7
Passes intercepted 0 2
Fumbles/lost 1‑1 5‑4
Punts 2 3
Punting average 14.5 34.7
Penalties 6 6
Yards penalized 59 47

All‑around dominance
Massillon’s offense, defense click in 43‑7 rout

Repository sports writer

AKRON ‑ If’ you’re a fan of high‑powered offenses, the Massillon Washington High School football team has the fix you’ve been looking for.

That’s not an earth‑shattering statement. Most people know that.

But what’s becoming more evident each week is the Tigers have plenty to offer you fans of defense ‑ quick, hard‑hitting, in‑your‑face defense.

Massillon had both its units working to near perfection Saturday night against Akron Garfield at the Akron Rubber Bowl.

Of course, the results of the Tiger explosion of power wasn’t pretty for Garfield fans, as their Rams lost this Division 1, Region 3 championship game 43‑7 in front of 13,637 fans.

The win raised Massillon’s record to 10‑2 and placed the Tigers in a state semifinal game next weekend. The site, date and opponent will be determined later today. Garfield, meanwhile, ended its season at 9‑2.

“I get the strong feeling these kids want to go all the way,” said Massillon head coach Lee Owens.

“They’re playing with extreme confidence right now. They’re getting better and better each week, which is what you need to do.”

Massillon’s confidence began to soar last week against Walsh Jesuit when the Tigers scored 36 unanswered points to erase a 24‑6 halftime deficit. Massillon’s confidence never wavered Saturday, not even when Rams’ quarterback Marcus Sims capped a 46‑yard seven‑play drive with a four‑yard TD run to put Garfield ahead by a touchdown with 6:58 left in the first quarter.

The Tigers calmly reeled off 29 points before the half was over. Ryan Sparkman scored on a one-yard run, and quarterback Lee Hurst threw TD passes of four yards to tight end Doug Harig and 50 yards to Rameir Martin, and even ran for an 11‑yard score.

Martin’s TD reception came one play after an interception when Hurst layed a beautifully thrown pass on Martin’s fingertips. Gary Miller added the PAT to make it 29‑7 with 2:31 to go in the half.

“The pass to Martin is probably what sealed it,” Owens said “That play just shows how” balanced our offense is.”

“Before that, we were able to score with our running back, our quarterback and our tight end.” Owens added. “You can’t concentrate on any one weapon when you play us.”

Harig will attest to that. After catching just 13 passes all season, he caught three for 68 yards Saturday, including a 20‑yard TD pass in the third that extended Massillon’s lead to 36‑7 and convinced Garfield head coach Bill McGee that, “This maybe wasn’t going to be our night,”

“We can do anything we want to do,” Harig said “You can’t shut down just one guy and expect to beat us.”

Massillon tacked on another TD when Lamonte Dixon scored from three yards out with 29 seconds left in the third.

The Tiger defense didn’t let up in the second half. It added another four takeaways, giving itself six for the game.

“This is the best we’ve played defensively as a team all year,” said Massillon defensive coordinator Dan Boarman. “You have to say everyone played well. The main thing is we needed to control the line of scrimmage, and that’s exactly what we did.”

Massillon’s defense also threw gasoline on Massillon’s red‑hot offense in the first half. Safety Keith Rabbitt set up Massillon’s third score with an interception at the Garfield 37, and linebacker Kevin McCue set up the fourth score by returning an interception 12 yards to the 50.

Rabbitt also set up the first score of the second half when he recovered a fumble at the Garfield 48. Other players to recover fumbles in the second half were Eric Wright, Chad Tharp and David Whitfield.

Massillon out gained Garfield in total offense, 327 yards to 181. Massillon led in rushing, 142‑79, with Sparkman picking up 70 yards on 10 carries.

Hurst again was efficient at throwing the football. He completed 10‑of‑ 14 passes to five different receivers for 175 yards and no interceptions.

Martin led all receivers with four catches for 77 yards. He also caught a two‑point conversion on pass.

Owens tried to sum up just how bad his team beat Garfield, but somehow he didn’t come as close as a sign that was held Up by one of the younger Massillon fans.

The sign read, “Massillon kicks …” Well, uh, you know the rest.

Akron Garfield 7 0 0 0 7
Massillon 6 23 14 0 43

Garf ‑ Sims 3 run (Williamson kick)
Mass ‑ Sparkman 1 run (kick failed) I ‑
Mass ‑ Harig 5 pass from Hurst (Martin pass from Hurst)
Mass ‑ Hurst 11 run (Miller kick)
Mass ‑ Martin 50 pass from Hurst ( Hurst run)
Mass ‑ Harig 20 pass from Hurst (Miller kick)
Mass ‑ Dixon 3 run (Miller kick)

Rameir Martin

1989: Massillon 42, Walsh Jesuit 24

Tigers on prowl for Garfield
Fire‑and‑brimstone talk spurs team’s comeback

Independent Sports Editor

Walsh Jesuit’s Warriors thought they had pulled the plug on the Mas­sillon Tigers’ 1989 season Saturday night.

They didn’t realize Paul Brown Tiger Stadium runs on reserve pow­er when it has to.

“Somehow, we were going to win this game,” Massillon linebacker Craig Turkalj said on the sidelines during the closing seconds of his team’s improbable 42‑24 Division I playoff victory.

Turkalj glanced to the west grandstand, where Massillon’s share of the crowd of 12,500 was in a frenzied commotion.

“The city,” Turkalj said, “de­serves this.”

City boss Frank Cicchinelli was as happy as the next guy who watched the Tigers fall behind 24‑6 at halftime before scoring the game’s next 36 points. The mayor said he pored over historical data supplied by Tiger stats man Rich Cunningham to see if there was ever a Tiger comeback from as many as 18 points down.

“I couldn’t find any,” he said.

Everybody had his own explana­tion for the rally that propelled the Tigers (9‑2) into a Division I quar­ter‑final matchup with Akron Gar­field (9‑1) at 7 p.m. Saturday which strangely enough will be played on Garfield’s home field the Rubber Bowl (the Tigers qualified for the playoffs by finishing first in Region 3; Garfield nabbed the fourth and final qualifying spot).

Equipment manager Keith Her­ring listened in on a halftime speech delivered by assistant coach Gary Wells. Wells unloaded his first fire-­and‑brimstone job since halftime of a regular‑season game against In­dianapolis North Central. In that one, the Tigers trailed 14‑7 at half­time before outscoring the Hoosier­land invaders 30‑0 in the second half.

“Basically, Gary told the guys, ‘You’ve got to live with this the rest of your lives. It’s up to you what you want to do with the rest of the game,” Herring said, “I know it got me off my stool.”

Jim Goff, who played guard on an offensive line helping pave the way for an astonishing 304 rushing yards in the second half, said the Tigers made no ‘X and O’ adjustments at halftime.

“It was just a matter of heart,” he said. “We didn’t want it to be our last game. We were scatterbrained the first half. We pulled it together. And the fans … they were great.”

Senior receiver Rameir Martin put the Tigers ahead to stay with a shake‑and‑bake 20‑yard touchdown pass from Lee Hurst that provided a 28‑24 lead with 11:16 left in the game.

Martin caught five passes for 62 yards and passed Marty Guzzetta as the Tigers’ all‑time single ­season receiving yards leader. Martin now has 718. Guzzetta amas­sed 706 in 1979.

“Execution was the main word,” he said. “We executed in the second half. We had to get our heads on straight.”

Another key was a career game by senior running back Lamonte Dixon, who rushed 10 times for 182 yards ‑ 18.2 yards per carry, which isn’t bad. Massillon put the game out of reach midway through the fourth quarter after Kevin McCue made a crucial interception at the 11 when Walsh was threatening to reverse a 28‑24 deficit. On the first play after the interception, Dixon was apparently caught for a short gain, but wriggled out of the pack and set sail down the right sideline for an 80‑yard gain to the 9. Hurst scored on a bootleg run on the next play.

“Some guys like it hot,” said Massillon assistant coach Nick Vrotsos. “Lamonte is a cold ­weather back.”

Offensive coordinator Tom Stacy and head coach Lee Owens both said they were reminded of their trip to the Division II state cham­pionship when they worked together at Galion in 1985.

“A big key was the fact we play two‑platoon football and they play a lot of guys both ways,” Stacy said.

“I’ve seen it happen time and again,” added Owens. “Teams get worn down in the playoffs. When you have guys playing both ways, the wear down factor is magnified.”

Walsh quarterback Vic Ferguson was both fresh and sharp in the first half. He completed 12 of 21 passes for 200 yards and two touchdowns. He was seven of 16 in the second half for 75 yards.

“We played a little less man to man, but there were no major adjustments,” said defensive coor­dinator Dan Boatman, whose pla­toon held Walsh to 105 yards in the second half after the Warriors’ 280 yard first half. “We just played better.”

Head coach Jerry Rardin, who has had Walsh in the playoffs three times in the last five years, thought two turnovers were the keys.

“We would have been in good shape if we hadn’t fumbled on our first drive of the third quarter,” he said.

Top comeback in
Massillon history?

Steve Doerschuk
Independent Sports Editor

This game was special, but then, miracles usually are.

The halftime score Saturday night was Walsh Jesuit 24, Massillon 6.

There were a lot of sad puppies on the Massillon side of Paul Brown Tiger Stadium. Several fans even headed for the parking lot.

For them, there was forgiveness ‑ they could watch the amazing story about to unfold later on a TV replay.

For those who stayed, there was a treat they will never forget.

First it was 24‑13. Hope.

Then 24‑21. Expectation.

Then 28‑24. Could it be?

Then 35‑24 … then 42‑24. Celebration.

And throw in astonishment and wild exhilaration for good measure.

And maybe one question: Where do we get tickets for the next playoff game?

In the course of football history, there have been greater comebacks. Even recently.

Two Saturdays ago Ohio State trailed Minnesota (whose uniforms look like Walsh Jesuit’s incidentally) 31‑0 before rallying to win.

Somehow, though, this Massillon comeback seemed even more spectacular. Maybe it was because Walsh looked so unbeatable in the first half when its quarterback, Vic Ferguson, was gunning laser beams for 200 yards.

Maybe it was because the Tigers hadn’t done very well all year against Catholic schools, losing twice and hanging on in overtime in another game.

Maybe it was because Tiger fans have had to swallow so much disappointment in recent years, and this just looked like more of the same.

Part of it, of course, was the fact it’s a slam‑bang affair under any circumstances when a team comes from three touchdowns behind to win.

Afterward, the question came tip: Where did this rank among the great Massillon comebacks.

The answer kept popping up the same ‑ No. 1.

Nick Vrotsos has coached in Massillon since 1958.

“I’ve never seen anything any better than this,” he said. “Of all the high school games I’ve ever seen, this is the greatest.”

Jim Letcavits was an All‑Ohio end at Massillon in 1953 who is in his 22nd year as a Tiger coach.

“This has to rank as the No. 1 comeback,” he said before heading off to the 25th year reunion of the Washington High graduating class of 1954.

Curtis Strawder, another assistant coach, caught some key passes from Brent Offenbecher in 1978, when the Tigers came from a 10‑0 deficit to beat McKinley 13‑10.

“That was a good one, but this one was better,” he said.

Gary Wells was a Massillon senior player in 1960. In his 17th year as a Tiger coach, he delivered a fiery speech others said helped fuel the turnaround.

“This is the greatest comeback there has ever been,” he said.

George Whitfield was in junior high when he watched two of the great Massillon comebacks.

“We trailed McKinley 16‑0 in 1964 and 14‑0 in 1965.” said Whitfield, who was a senior player at Massillon in 1968 and now is an assistant coach. “Both of those comebacks were special because both the Tigers and McKinley came into the game with 9‑0 records both years.

“This comeback was much bigger, though, because of how far we were down.”

One of the 1989 players, senior defensive tackle Scott Sirgo, was asked what was more special. Last week’s win over McKinley or Saturday’s comeback against Walsh.

“The McKinley game, definitely,” he said. “That game is more than 100 years old.”

Another teammate felt otherwise.

“The hoopla and hype with the McKinley game is great,” said defensive back Chad Buckland. “But in the game itself McKinley was behind the whole way. This was a greater win because we came from so far behind.”

Nobody in the orange and black camp disagreed on the bottom line.

It had appeared the season was dead, and it was quite a thing to come out alive and kicking in the race for a state championship.

Here is a drive‑by‑drive account of Saturday’s games:
Walsh ‑ Start on own 20 after opening kickoff. Drive 80 yards in 12 plays. Key play: Personal foul against Tigers turns third‑and‑nine into first down at midfield. Vic Ferguson scores from one yard out. Chuck Wanat kick good at 7:02 of first quarter.
Walsh 7, Tigers 0

Tigers ‑ Start on own 11 after kickoff. Drive to 32. Lose ball on Brian Bruggeman Interception.

Walsh ‑ Start on own 49. Drive to Tiger 3‑yard line in nine plays. Key play: 28‑yard Ferguson‑to‑Bruggeman pass on third‑and‑six. Wanat 20‑yard field goal good at 1:35 of first quarter.
Walsh 10, Tigers 0

Tigers ‑ Start on own 29. Three plays and punt.

Walsh ‑ Start on own 35. Three plays and punt. Don Blake returns punt 64 yards but fumbles on 8‑yard line. Walsh recovers and drives 92 yards in 12 plays. Key play: 35‑yard screen pass to Dave Rottinghaus. Ferguson throws 4‑yard TD pass to Tom Puletti. Wanat kick good at 6:34 of second quarter.
Walsh 17, Tigers 0
Tigers ‑ Blake returns kickoff 48 yards to Walsh 37. Hurst passes 14 yards to Lamonte Dixon, 9 yards to Desmond Carpenter. Hurst scores on 2‑yard bootleg run. P.A.T. kick wide at 4:30 of second quarter.
Walsh 17, Tigers 6
Walsh ‑ Start on own 27. Drive 73 yards In nine plays. Bruggeman wrestles for reception at Tiger 15 and turns Ferguson pass Into 49‑yard touchdown play. Wanat kick good at 1:21 of second quarter.
Walsh 24, Tigers 7
Tigers ‑ Start on own 29 after kickoff. Drive to 44 in six plays. Lose ball on interception as half ends.
Tigers ‑ Start on own 39 after second‑half kickoff. Lose ball on interception on second play.

Walsh ‑ Start on own 46. Lose ball on Joe Pierce interception on second play.

Tigers ‑ Start on own 29. Gain 35 yards on first‑down carry by Sparkman, followed by runs of 15 by Falando Ashcraft and 11 by Dixon. Dixon scores on 1‑yard run. Gary Miller kick good at 9:18 of third quarter.

Rameir Martin