Tigers’ incredible season falls just one short of title
By JOE SHAHEEN
Right now, it hurts.
The pain of the Massillon Tigers 24‑17 state championship game defeat at the hands of No. 1‑ranked Cincinnati St. Xavier in front of 20,227 at Fawcett Stadium on Saturday will linger for days … maybe weeks.
But when the emotions of being so close to the big prize die down and thoughtful reason takes over, everyone will reflect on how these Tigers restored the pride, tradition and excellence to this storied football program.
“It’s tough to think about it now after a tough loss,” first‑year Tiger coach Tom Stacy said. “We’ve got a great group of kids. We have a bunch of seniors we are really going to miss. It’s a special group. We’re going to have a hard time replacing those guys.”
Massillon pushed Ohio’s top rated football team to the brink, rallying from a 24‑3 chasm to pull to within seven points. After battling back to 24‑17 on a Bobby Huth to Trey Miller touchdown pass and Andrew Dailey’s 75‑yard strip and return, the Tigers had three possessions in the final six minutes of play. One ended on an interception, the second was a three‑and‑out series and the third, which began with 1:22 remaining, was doomed by a couple of quarterback sacks by the unrelenting St. Xavier defense.
“The fact we were playing some younger guys on our offensive line in the playoffs caught up with us,” Stacy said. “We tried to buy some time with some of those younger guys and bring them around. We took Antonio James and played him just on defense. I think taking him away from our offense caught up with us a little bit tonight.”
So did the Tigers’ kickoff and punt coverage. St. Xavier returned the game’s opening kickoff to midfield, leading to a 37‑yard field goal and a quick 3‑0 lead, But the killer was a 71‑yard punt return for a touchdown by Bomber senior Brad Brookbank as time expired in the first half.
Tigers fight back, down 21
“That was big,” Stacy said. “That’s something we haven’t done all year in the kicking game. We’ve done a great job of covering kicks so it was a little bit disappointing, but give their kid credit. Brookbank made a great play.”
“(St. Xavier is) the best football team we’ve played. I don’t think they’re the most talented team we’ve played but I think they’re the overall best team as far as coaching and play.”
St. Xavier won because its defense shut down the Massillon ground game, limiting the Tigers to 46 net yards rushing, and forced two key turnovers, a third‑quarter fumble inside the Bomber 30‑yard line and a fourth‑quarter interception after the Massillon defense had forced the St. X to punt with 6:17 to play.
St. Xavier, the fourth straight Cincinnati team to garner the big‑school state title, generated 303 yards of offense. Sophomore tailback Darius Ashley had 153 yards rushing, including a 50‑yard touchdown run at 5:48 of the third quarter that made it a 24‑3 game, and senior quarterback Brad Scherer rushed for 97 yards in just 15 totes to keep the Massillon defense off balance.
“We didn’t tackle as well as we have,” Stacy said. “We’ve tackled better in previous games.
“(Ashley) runs very hard. He’s very quick. They do a good job of blocking up front. For whatever reason we didn’t tackle as well as we have in recent weeks.”
Massillon and St. Xavier exchanged punts after the Bombers took their early 3‑0 lead, with the Tigers taking over at their 24.
Massillon’s first big play of the evening was a 28‑yard Huth to Ricardo Wells aerial to the St. X 43‑yard line. The Tigers worked the ball to the 25 but the first of four Bomber sacks in the game stalled the drive.
Sophomore place kicker Steve Schott came to the rescue, drilling a season best 44‑yard field goal, to knot the game at 3‑3 on the opening snap of the second quarter.
The teams again exchanged punts with St. X getting the better of the field position at its 42‑yard line. Scherer picked up 13 yards on a quarterback draw and a reverse netted 18 more to the Tiger 27.
The Bombers dropped a pass in the end zone but were undeterred, reaching the 16‑yard line on three running plays. On first down, Scherer completed his first pass of the evening, threading the needle on a 16‑yard scoring toss to wideout Matthew McFarland in the back of the end zone. Danny Milligan added the point after for a 10‑3 St. Xavier lead at 6:56 of the second quarter.
Massillon drove from its 20 to the St. X 36 on the ensuing possession but three plays from that spot yielded zero yards and the drive died.
The Bombers would then miss a 43‑yard field goal and the Tigers, after gaining one first down, were forced to punt when St. Xavier called time out with :08 remaining in the first half.
A punt block was set up but the Tigers gave Shawn Weisend time to get the kick away. Brookbank fielded it at the St. X 29, worked his way to the left sideline and then all the way to the Massillon end zone for a 17‑3 halftime lead.
“It was not like us to give up a punt return especially in that type of a situation,” Stacy said. “But give Brad Brookbank a lot of credit. He had a great return.
“That was a big momentum swing on their part to get that. It was a big play in the game.”
Massillon took the second half kickoff and advanced from its 20 to the St. Xavier 28 on nine plays, the biggest of which was a 28‑yard Huth to Gamble pass. On that play, Huth scrambled away from intense pressure from the St. X defensive front and lofted the ball down the right sideline toward the junior tailback. Gamble soared above the Bomber coverage and snatched the ball in spectacular fashion.
Two plays later, a Tiger fumble was recovered by St. Xavier’s Joe Ries, and the Massillon scoring threat went for naught.
After an exchange of punts, Ashley broke a tackle at the line of scrimmage on a first‑down running play, and dashed 50 yards to pay dirt to give St. Xavier a 24‑3 lead at 5:48 of the third quarter.
Lanale Robinson’s 36‑yard kickoff return gave Massillon solid field position at the 41 on the Tigers next possession. Huth then connected with Trey Miler for eight yards and a first down to the St. X 46.
Two snaps later, Huth once again deftly avoiding the pass rush ‑ gunned the ball to the end zone, where Miller out‑jumped two Bombers for the ball and a 32‑yard touchdown.
Schott’s point after was good and the St. Xavier lead was down to 24‑10 at 3:49 of the third quarter.
The Bombers mounted a drive after the Tiger kickoff, converting two third-and‑longs and marching to the Massillon 19.
Just as it appeared St. Xavier was going to put the game away for good, Andrew Dailey donned his Superman outfit and made a play. Ashley tried to skirt his left end on a running play but Dailey pulled the ball away near the sideline and headed in the opposite direction. He didn’t stop until he reached the end zone and suddenly Massillon was back in business, trailing by seven points with most of the fourth quarter to be played.
“We were stuck in a hole there for a little bit, ” Dailey said. “We had to start going after the ball defensively. So I did.”
The Tiger defense forced St. Xavier to punt three more times after Dailey’s heroics, but the Bomber defense was equal to the task each time, finally knocking Huth out of the game before coming up with an interception with less than a minute to play.
“It would have been easy for them when they went down 24‑3 to buckle,” said St. Xavier coach Steve Specht. “They didn’t. They fought back hard and they made it a game. My hat’s off to them.”
“We wanted to win our 23rd state championship’ Stacy said. “We weren’t quite able to do that. We came up a little bit short.”
Thrilling rally propels Tigers past St. Ed, into title game
By JOE SHAHEEN
The Massillon Tigers will wear the underdog tag for the third consecutive Saturday when they take on Cincinnati St. Xavier for Ohio’s big school state football championship at Fawcett Stadium in Canton this coming weekend.
In a game that bore an eerie resemblance to their Week Six comeback victory over St. Ignatius. the Tigers rallied for two touchdowns in the final six minutes of play to stun previously unbeaten Lakewood St. Edward 21‑17 in the state semifinals as 14,100 watched at the Rubber Bowl in Akron, Saturday afternoon.
The victory means Massillon will play for the state championship for the first time since 1982. Kickoff this Saturday is 7 p.m.
“Our guys just don’t quit,” said Tiger head coach Tom Stacy. “It reminded me a lot of the St. Ignatius game. We just battled and battled and battled.
“Our community takes a lot of hits in the way they promote football. I’ll tell you what, we have the best high school football fans in the country. They support this football program like you can’t believe and that’s a big part of it. They deserve this playoff run. They deserve this state championship game we’re going to play in.”
Trailing 17‑7 after St. Edward marched 54 yards to the end zone in 10 plays with just over seven minutes to play, the Tigers began their improbable comeback.
“We went into our two‑minute offense,” Stacy said. “We felt like we had to get a couple of scores, we don’t have a lot of time left, let’s go two minute. We’ve been pretty good in our two‑minute offense all year. We haven’t used it a lot but when we have we’ve done a nice job of it. We just had a bunch of guys make plays.”
Quarterback Bobby Huth connected with Brett Huffman on two throws for 18 yards then hit Brian Gamble on a flat pass that netted 26 more. Two plays later Massillon was right back in the game ,as Huth found Gamble running free on a post pattern in the end zone for a 18‑yard touchdown.
Steve Schott’s point after was true and the Tigers cut their deficit to three points at 17‑14 with 5:21 remaining.
Then the defense did its part, forcing St. Edward into a rapid‑fire three‑and‑out series. Massillon took over at its 45‑yard line after the Eagle punt rolled out of bounds.
Huth’s pinpoint passing resulted in a 10‑yard hookup with Zack Vanryzin to the St. Edward 45 and an 11‑yard strike to Gamble at the 29‑yard line as the Tiger Nation roared its approval.
That’s when disaster struck. Huth, seeing the Tigers were in a bad play call for the St. Edward defense, turned to ask for a timeout. But the ball was snapped before he could signal the referee and it sailed over his head. By the time the junior fell on the pigskin, the Tigers had lost 20 yards back to the St. Edward 49 and needed 30 yards for a first down.
Undaunted, Huth spotted Gamble on a crossing pattern in the middle a he field and hit the junior tailback in stride. By the time the Eagles pulled him down, the Tigers had a first down at the 14‑yard line.
“I know we have great playmakers,” Huth said. “If I can get the ball in their hands, anything can happen.”
Another Huth to Gamble hook‑up moved the ball to the 5‑yard line. On second-and‑one from there, Gamble found a nice seam over left tackle and went into the end for the game‑winner with 1:56 to spare.
“Bobby (Huth) and Brian (Gamble), the guys up front pass protected, Brett Huffman had some great passes and runs … we just had a bunch of guys make plays,” Stacy said. “It wasn’t anything magical in play calling. Just guys making plays.”
St. Edward head coach John Gibbons, who saw his junior‑laden team bow out at 12‑1, had nothing but praise for the Tigers.
“Anytime you can come back in the fourth quarter and put two touchdowns on the board after we had taken that lead…,” Gibbons said, his voice trailing off.
“Once they started going pass first and spreading, we didn’t come up with the answer. We tried to get the ball quick out of the quarterback’s hand, and he was very elusive and he found guys. It was hard for us to run with those guys in man, especially when the quarterback was getting in open spaces. Then we tried to mix it up and use some zone coverages and take the pressure off that way and they seemed to adjust their routes. They just made great plays.”
St. Edward took the opening kickoff and kept the football for eight plays, hitting the Tiger defense with a heavy dose of Nate Oliver, who started in place of the injured Frank Edmonds at tailback. The Tigers forced a punt when Paris McCall and Lorenzo Grizzard stopped Oliver on a third‑and‑eight trap play.
Massillon took over at its own 15 after the Eagle punt and Huth immediately went to the air, connecting with Trey Miller on a short pass. Miller turned it into a 17‑yard gain with some nifty running to set up a first‑and‑10 at the Tiger 33.
That’s when lightening struck. Huth ‑ who completed 14 of 20 passes for 230 yards and two touchdowns on the afternoon ‑ picked out Vanryzin who was wide open down the right sideline. The senior wideout hauled it in at the St. Edward 43 and scampered untouched into the end zone for a 67‑yard touchdown at 7:26 of the first quarter. Schott nailed the conversion kick and Massillon led 7‑0.
St. Edward came right back, marching from its 36 to the Massillon 15. But on third‑and‑five, a Brandon Frohnapple to John Dvoroznak completion turned into a nightmare for the Eagles. Dvoroznak was belted down along the right sideline and fumbled the ball. Robert Morris recovered for Massillon and Dvoroznak ‑ St. Ed’s best pass rusher ‑ would leave the game with a knee injury. He didn’t return.
St. Edward finally got on the scoreboard with 3:39 to play in the first half, moving 80 yards in nine plays for the game‑tying touchdown. Oliver’s 7‑yard run over left guard capped the nearly five‑minute march and Ben Rios’ extra point made it Massillon 7, St. Edward 7. All four Eagle first downs on the drive came via the air as Frohnapple went 16 of 22 for 173 yards on the day.
The Eagles owned a five minute advantage in time of possession in the first half, so it was key when Massillon opened the second half with a seven‑play, four‑minute drive, even though it did not yield any points.
However, St. Edward took over at its own 20 and moved 60 yards in nine plays to set up a 38‑yard field goal by Rios that gave the Eagles a 10‑7 lead at 2:31 of the third quarter.
The fourth quarter opened with St. Edward moving 54 yards in 10 plays to open up a 10‑point lead. On third‑and‑goal from the 5, Frohnapple hit Kyle Hubbard in the left corner of the end zone for the touchdown. Rios’ boot made it 17‑7 St. Edward at 7:02 of the fourth.
But the Tigers found paydirt on their next two drives for their 13th victory of this memorable 2005 campaign.
Both teams had just over 250 yards of total offense but Massillon limited the vaunted St. Edward ground game to just 84 yards in 37 attempts.
“We talked about three things we had to do to win the game,” Stacy said. “First and foremost was to stop their run. We knew they had a great offensive line. Big, strong and physical.
“We knew we had to play well in the kicking game and for the most part we did that. We thought we had to run the ball vertically better. We didn’t do a great job with that but we made up for it with our passing game.”
Stacy and Gibbons met at midfield after the final whistle.
The lasting memory of Massillon’s 21‑17 state semifinal victory over the St. Edward Eagles will be the Tigers’ two clutch fourth‑quarter touchdown drives that punched their ticket to this Saturday’s state championship game against Cincinnati St. Xavier.
But Massillon gave itself an opportunity to record one of the biggest victories in this storied program’s history when the Tiger defense forced St. Edward into a three‑and‑out series in the game’s final five minutes of play.
The Eagles were still on top at 17‑14 after Bobby Huth’s 18‑yard touchdown pass to Brian Gamble with 5:21 to play and with the way St. Edward had run the football and eaten up game clock all season long, its partisans didn’t seem all that concerned.
The Tiger defense, however, knew their assignment was to get the ball back and to do it as quickly as possible. ‑ St. Edward began at its own 26 after Nate Oliver’s 18‑yard kickoff return.
On first down Oliver hit into the middle to the Tiger defensive line but tackles Lorenzo Grizzard and Emery Saunders and ends Dirk Dickerhoof and Antonio James yielded only one yard.
Facing second‑and‑long, Eagle quarterback Brandon Frohnapple, who was having a fine day passing the football, hit wideout Kyle Hubbard along the left sideline. But Hubbard was out of bounds when he caught the ball, setting up a key third down play.
St. Edward had converted five of 11 third downs up to that point and most had come on the strength of Frohnapple’s accurate right arm.
The junior signal caller took the snap in shotgun formation and again looked toward Hubbard along the left sideline.
Tiger junior safety Andrew Dailey came swooping in from Frohnapple’s blind side and earholed the St. Edward quarterback for a 7‑yard sack that forced the Eagles to punt.
“That was huge,” St. Edward head coach John Gibbons said. “They’re rushing five. They have three guys playing zone underneath and three deep. There are places to throw the ball. However, you have to get it off.
“We’ve seen it before. They’ve been running that blitz all year. They didn’t blitz much in the game, until the end.”
Dailey was matter of fact about what amounted to the defensive play of the game.
“I just wanted to make sure I tackled him before he threw the ball,” he said.
“(The blitz) was called early in the game and there was confusion and we didn’t run it. We just stayed in normal coverage. We ran it a few more times in the game. That time I was wide open. I was unblocked.”
And Dailey made Frohnapple pay the price.
“We didn’t slide our protection the right way and (Dailey) came clean,” Gibbons said. “We do have a protection that can handle it but with all the screaming that’s going on out there…. When it gets that loud, guys don’t get the call.
“It’s one thing if the guy beats your blocker. When he can run clean in there on the dead run from the wide side, that’s not good for the offense.”
Dailey’s sack added to the momentum the Tiger offense had already generated on its previous scoring drive.
Massillon took the ensuing punt and quickly moved 55 yards in eight plays for the game‑winning touchdown and a trip to the Division I state title contest at Fawcett Stadium in Canton.
Huth saves best for last
By CHRIS EASTERLING Chris.EasterlirigL@lndeOnline.com
Third‑and‑30 isn’t exactly the situation a quarterback wants to find himself in. But that’s what stared Massillon quarterback Bobby Huth and the rest of his Tiger teammates in the face with just over 2:00 left in Saturday’s Division I state semifinal against Lakewood St. Edward at Akron’s Rubber Bowl.
On first down from the Eagle 29, the shotgun snap sailed high over the head of Huth as he was attempting to call a timeout. The junior wisely fell on the loose pigskin at the St. Edward 49 instead of trying to pick the ball up and force a bad pass.
“I guess he (the center) couldn’t hear me,” Huth said. “We were trying to get a timeout called. They had four guys guarding our two over there. I wanted to get a timeout called to get a better play called.”
That better play came two plays later, when Huth hit Brian Gamble running a dig route across the field for a 35‑yard gain and a first down at the St. Edward 14. Two plays later, the Tigers were in the end zone for the go‑ahead touchdown in a 21‑17 come‑from‑behind victory over the Eagles to advance to this Saturday’s Division I state championship game against nationally ranked Cincinnati St. Xavier at Fawcett Stadium.
“I was looking for B.G.,” Huth said. “He was supposed to run a deep post over the middle, and he saw the safety over the top. We were just on the same page. I just threw it to him, and he was there. He had a good run after the play.”
Huth had a good run himself the whole game, finishing 14‑of‑20 passing for 230 yards and a pair of touchdowns. He completed his first five passes in the game ‑ including a 67‑yard touchdown pass to Zack Vanryzin in the first quarter ‑ for 97 yards.
“I’m pretty happy, but there were still some passes I should have completed,” Huth said. “I should have been 16 or 17 for 20.”
But Huth saved his best for last. And he did so with the Tigers’ season hanging precariously in the balance.
“We were down 17‑7, and we just went to our two-minute offense,” Massillon coach Tom Stacy said. “We felt like ‘Hey, we have to get a couple of scores, and we don’t have a lot of time left.’ We’ve been pretty good in our two‑minute offense all year. We haven’t used it a lot, but when we have, we’ve done a pretty nice job with it. We just had a bunch of guys make plays, whether it was Bobby or Brian, or the guys up front in pass protection.”
Utilizing that pass blocking, as well as the skills of Gamble, Huth was 9‑of‑12 for 133 yards in the final quarter. Five of those completions went to Gamble for 98 yards and a touchdown.
“I was in a pretty good rhythm,” Huth said of the fourth‑quarter performance. “I like going to the two-minute offense. I wish we’d start the game off like that.”
For Huth, it was a chance to finish a job he started but was unable to complete against St. Ignatius back in Week Six. He was knocked out of that game with a concussion on Massillon’s final drive, and Shawn Weisend came in to direct the Tigers to the go‑ahead touchdown and their first‑ever win over the Cleveland parochial power.
On Saturday, it was Huth showing the poise and moxie of a grizzled veteran as he helped Massillon get another monkey of its back ‑ a 23‑year championship game drought ‑ with a come‑from‑behind performance against the Ignatius’ bitter rival.
“Shawn did a great job against St. Ignatius,” Huth said. “I don’t remember a lot of that game. I was pretty messed up. But I’m glad I got the opportunity to do it today.”
Drop gets Gamble fore
By CHRIS EASTERLING Chris.Easterling@IndeOnline.com
When Brian Gamble fumbled on Massillon’s first play of the fourth quarter in Saturday’s Division I state semifinal against Lakewood St. Edward at Akron’s Rubber Bowl, it looked like a back‑breaking play for the Tigers. That was especially true after the Eagles converted it into a touchdown for a 10‑point margin.
It turns out it might just have been a back‑breaker, only for St. Edward.
The fumble lit a tire under the 6‑foot, 190‑pound Tiger junior, who accounted for 103 total yards on six touches following the turnover. He also scored a pair of touchdowns as Massillon rallied for a 21‑17 victory and the program’s first state championship game berth since 1982.
“After I fumbled, I felt like I let the team down,” Gamble said. “I just wanted the ball in my hands so I could try to make up for it and make a play. Coach (Tom) Stacy gave me an opportunity to do that.”
Gamble finished the game with 62 rushing yards on 14 carries, but had just one carry after the fumble. Still, that one carry was huge ‑ a five‑yard touchdown jaunt with 1:56 remaining which set off a delirious celebration among the Tiger players and the orange‑and‑black clad portion of the 14,100 in attendance.
“Cory Shane did a good job of pulling up in there,” Gamble said of the touchdown run. “(Cory) and Quentin Nicholson did a great job opening it up for me, and I just found a crease and got into the end zone‑”
Where Gamble was most productive ‑ and most damaging to St. Edward ‑ was in the passing game. The receiver‑turned‑tailback did not have an official catch he did have a nine‑yard touchdown grab at the end of the first half called back due to holding ‑ through the first three quarters of play.
But when it mattered most, with the pulse of Massillon season weakening as each second ticked off the clock, Tiger quarterback Bobby Huth was able to find Gamble. Not just once, but five times for 98 yards.
“Sometimes they’ll have maybe a linebacker on me or a nickelback,” Gamble said. “I think I have an advantage because a lot of our plays go to the inside, so I’ll have leverage on them. Bobby just threw the rock to me, and I tried to make a play.”
No play outside of Gamble’s two touchdowns was as big as the 35‑yard catch and run, which converted a third‑and‑30 situation into a Massillon first down at the Eagle 14. Gamble made the catch across the middle, picked up a huge block from junior wideout Trey Miller and got the first down with 2:14 left to play.
Two plays later, Massillon was in the end zone for the go‑ahead score.
“We were on the same page,” Gamble said. “I was supposed to run a post, and I saw that they had it double covered so I just broke it off to the inside, and I was hoping Bobby saw me. He did and I caught it, and I knew I had to get a first down and get out of bounds and stop the clock.
“I think they started playing some ‘Cover 2,’ where they’d press up on me and try to double cover me. That’s what happened on the third‑and‑30 play, so I broke it off into a dig, and me and Bobby were on the same page.”
Gamble also hurt St. Edward in the kicking game. He averaged 26 yards on two kickoff returns, including a 31‑yarder which help set up the Tigers’ next‑to‑last scoring drive.
“He can do it all,” St. Edward coach John Gibbons said of Gamble. “He’s a defender, a kick returner, long snapper … what else can he do? I guess they could find another job for him to do. He’s tough kid.”
Call it … Massillon 21, McKinley 3 in front of 16,111 at the Rubber Bowl in Akron Saturday night.
Call it ripping your archrival and kicking down the door to the Division I final four as the Tigers advance to a state semifinal game on Saturday at 1 p.m. against the 13-0 Eagles of Lakewood St. Edward. That game will also be played at the Rubber Bowl.
All of this just three weeks after Massillon absorbed a 38-8 haymaker from McKinley in Week 10 that left the Tigers wobbly but still standing.
Head coach Tom Stacy and the Tigers ended McKinley’s 12-game winning streak with an offensive gameplan that had the Bulldogs on their heels most of the night and an aggressive, fundamentally sound defense that just wouldn’t let Pup playmaker Morgan Williams break off the big one for much of the game.
“Awesome,” beamed Tiger junior safety Andrew Dailey. “It’s the most exciting time to be a part of in Massillon.
“We came out with a better plan, which we executed well. And then it was “Hit ‘em, hit ‘em, hit ‘em!”
Keeping Williams in check, after the junior rushed for 234 yards and four touchdowns against the Tigers in their first meeting, was job one according to senior inside linebacker Paris McCall.
“That was our goal … to stop him and we did that,” McCall said.
Williams finished with 108 yards in 25 totes.
“McKinley embarrassed us the first time,” McCall said. “We had to come out and show them who the real Tigers are.”
McKinley came into the regional championship game having scored five touchdowns in each of its past five contests and averaging nearly 40 points a game in 2005.
That the Tiger defense held the Bulldogs to a single field goal was clearly the story of the game.
“Revenge, baby,” grinned Tiger senior cornerback Neal James, who helped limit McKinley speedster Joe Morgan to two harmless receptions. “Revenge is sweet.
“We came at them. We came at them. We just wanted to play. We played. Non-stop. The defensive line pressured the quarterback and Troy (Ellis) and I just stuck to them.”
Both teams’ initial possession of the game set the tone for the entire contest.
McKinley got a first down on its first snap when Williams gained 11 yards up the middle. Then Massillon battened down the hatches as the junior tailback was held to six yards on the next two plays and quarterback Dan Grimsley threw an incompletion on third-and-four, forcing a Bulldog punt from its 39-yard line.
Massillon took over at its 31 and senior tailback Lanale Robinson, behind a strong push from the Tiger offensive line, picked up seven yards off left tackle. One play later, Quentin Nicholsen picked up a first down up the middle on third-and short.
Then the passing game got going as Bobby Huth found Trey Miller along the right sideline for a 26-yard gainer to the McKinley 32. A screen pass left to Brian Gamble netted 19 more to the Bulldog 13.
On second-and-five from the 8, Gamble hit off right guard, spun off a tackle at the line and ran through another at the 5 on his way to the end zone as the Tigers drew first blood.
Steve Schott’s conversion was good at 7:08 of the first quarter and Massillon led 7-0.
It was just how Stacy wanted the game to begin.
“That was really important because when we’ve played well this year, it’s when we’ve come out and played well early,” he said. “When we’ve won in big games, we’ve played well early in the game.”
McKinley looked like it might take back the momentum as Brian Williams returned the ensuing kickoff from his 2 to the Tiger 46. But three snaps later – a Williams run and two incomplete passes – the Bulldogs were again forced to punt.
Massillon set up shop at its own 11. On second down, Huth sprinted left and zipped a short pass to Zack Vanryzin at the 20. The senior wideout carried to the 25 for a first down.
Huth rolled right on first down and threw back left to Gamble who picked up 12 yards to the 37.
Another Huth aerial, this time to Dailey, was good for still another first down but the Tiger drive looked to be stalled on third-and-seven at McKinley’s 49.
The Tigers, however, had other ideas as Huth took the snap, flipped a lateral pass right to Gamble, who suddenly pulled up and let fly with a bomb of his own. Vanryzin ran under the ball and carried it home as the Bulldog Nation wondered what hit them.
“Brian told me a couple of weeks ago, “I can throw the football,” Stacy said. “I told him we were going to put in the pass. We had just the play to do it on. It’s a play we’ve run a lot to him, a swing pass. It worked out great. Zack Vanryzin ran a great route.”
Schott’s point after kick was true and Massillon had taken just three minutes to cover 89 yards in eight plays, good for a 14-0 lead at 3:01 of the first quarter.
In its first two possessions of the game, Massillon had generated more offense than it had in four quarters against the Bulldogs back in October.
McKinley’s next possession was another three-and-out series as Neal James defended a long pass to Morgan along the right sideline on third-and-six.
The Tigers couldn’t gain on first down on their next possession but Shawn Weisend got off a 48-yard punt to put McKinley at its 30.
Williams then embarked on his longest run of the evening, a 31-yard gainer up the middle to the Massillon 39.
The Bulldogs worked their way to the Tiger 9 but a third down slant pass was high and the Pups were forced to settle for Zack Campbell’s 26-yard field goal at 7:42 of the second quarter, closing the first half scoring.
The Tigers took the second half kickoff but fumbled it away on their second snap of the third quarter.
The Massillon defense rose to the occasion as three straight Williams runs failed to net a first down, forcing McKinley to punt.
The Tigers marched from their 40 to the McKinley 26, thanks in part to a 19-yard Huth to Vanryzin slant pass. A sack and a penalty left the Tigers with a third-and-25, but the Bulldogs bailed Massillon out with a pass interference penalty that extended the drive.
On third-and-one from the Pups’ 18, Huth faked a handoff and found senior tight end Brett Huffman open over the middle at the 2. The pass was there, Huffman pulled it in and Massillon had expanded its lead to 21-3.
McKinley would threaten once more, driving from its own 2 to the Massillon 28 with over seven minutes still to play. But Troy Ellis intercepted a Bulldog pass in the end zone to turn the Pups away one final time.
“The whole team was angry since the last game,” Ellis said. “We just wanted to prove to everybody that we could hang with these guys and beat them.”
You’d be hard pressed to find one Massillon Tiger who thought he’d performed well against the McKinley Bulldogs back on Oct. 29 in Fawcett Stadium.
It was reflected in the final score: McKinley 38, Massillon 8.
Everyone – offensive players, defensive players, special teams players, assistant coaches, head coach Tom Stacy – felt as if they’d let the team, the program and even the community down.
And while it was Stacy who stepped up and assumed the blame publicly, saying he hadn’t done a good job preparing the team that week, every member of the team readily assumed at least some of the blame.
That no one was pointing a finger at a teammate, that the defense wasn’t laying the blame at the doorstep of the offense – or vice versa – speaks to the character Stacy has instilled in the young men who proudly wear the orange-and-black into battle every weekend.
They had won nine in a row as a team.
They had lost to their longtime nemesis as a team.
And no one in Tiger football program was going to throw anyone else under the bus in the aftermath of that devastating defeat.
But when you’re the quarterback, the one individual other than the head coach who is most readily seen as the leader of the team, you do feel responsible.
You do feel like that cross is on your shoulders, that the burden is for you to bear.
Junior Bobby Huth wears that mantle of leadership for the Tigers, though he was in a three-way fight for the job when Stacy took over way back in June.
Despite not possessing prototypical size or speed for a Division I high school quarterback, Huth won the job and guided the offense to nine straight wins by playing mistake free football and by making good decisions a the line of scrimmage.
Knocked out of the St. Ignatius game late, Huth bounced back in the 13-0 win over Warren Harding.
Harassed into a poor passing performance against McKinley in Week 10, the mop-haired youngster rebounded with two highly efficient performances in playoff victories over Hoover and Findlay.
Most figured the end of the line would be Saturday against unbeaten McKinley at the Rubber Bowl.
He completely turned around his 8 of 18, three interception performance in the first game by completing 9 of 11 passes for 121 yards and a touchdown in the Tigers- 21-3 regional championship victory over the Pups.
“I played the worst game of my life, by far, the first time we played them,” Huth said amidst a sea of orange that flooded the Rubber Bowl field immediately after Saturday’s game. “I felt like I had to come out here today and play my best game. I didn’t play my best game but I played pretty good.”
Pretty good, huh?
After an incompletion on his first threw, Huth connected on six straight passes, using a variety of roll outs, sprint outs and screens to baffle the McKinley defense and put his teammates in positions to make plays.
He initiated the play that resulted in Massillon’s second score of the evening, zipping a swing pass laterally to Brian Gamble to set up Gamble’s long bomb to Zack Vanryzin that put the Tigers up 14-0 late in the first quarter.
And it was Huth’s deceptive play-action that froze McKinley’s defense for an instant just before he laid a touchdown pass in the arms of tight end Brett Huffman to all but put the Bulldogs away late in the third quarter at 21-3.
“We had a great game plan,” Huth said. “It turned us around. We came out here focused and we played great.
“We knew the first game was kind of a fluke. We came out here focused. We had a great week of practice. And our O-line really stepped up and play great for us today.”
Asked what was the difference between the team that lost to McKinley 38-8 and the one that had just shocked just about everyone outside of Massillon, Huth smiled, looked down for an instant and then spread the credit.
“Great focus. Great game plan,” he said. “We had a great week of practice and we practiced hard.”
And that little quarterback who is too small and too slow showed everybody how it’s done.
As Lanale Robinson led the Tiger Swing Band in the alma mater, Massillon head coach Tom Stacy had his head down. He was deep in thought, no doubt pondering the Tigers upcoming regional championship game on Saturday against unbeaten Canton McKinley.
Clearly Stacy wasn’t happy with what he had just witnessed as the Tigers knocked off a game and feisty Findlay team 27-20 at Arlin Field in Mansfield last Saturday night in front of 12,264 paying customers.
“We have to play much better to even have a chance next week,” Stacy said. “There’s no question about that.
“We came back tonight but we didn’t play very well. We made a lot of mistakes, a lot of goofy penalties. We did some stuff tonight that we hadn’t done all year. That was kind of disappointing. But it’s a win. That’s all you can say.”
It was a heart-stopping win, one marred by penalties and mental mistakes uncharacteristic of two teams playing in the 12th week of the season.
Findlay looked to be beaten when it got the ball back on its own 22 with 1:22 to play. But the Trojans pulled the old hook and ladder play out of mothballs and if not for a heroic effort by Brian Gamble to run down Findlay’s Caleb Enright at the 3-yard line, the game would have gone into overtime.
“(Gamble) has made big plays for us all year and that was big,” Stacy said.
Findlay still had time to get it in the end zone. A short completion to Enright in the left flat came up a yard short and with the final seconds ticking off the clock, Trojan quarterback Chris Schneider tried to sneak it in instead of spiking the ball to stop the clock.
The middle of the Tiger defensive line did not yield and Massillon had survived to play another week.
“There’ll be so many ‘what ifs?’, I don’t know if I’ll ever watch this film, I swear,” said Findlay head coach Cliff Hite. “We had them. They had us. We had a shot. That’s all you can ask for.
“We wanted to spike the ball but he didn’t get the right signal. It happens. That’s high school football. When you go no huddle with no time outs, that’s what you’ve got to do.”
It should never have come to that but the Tigers were their own worst enemy all night long. They were penalized 10 times for 97 yards, including no fewer than three \”roughing the kicker\” flags and three other personal fouls.
Massillon also lost three fumbles, one at the Findlay 13-yard line.
“We’re down here with a chance to put it away and we fumble the snap,” Stacy said. “We haven’t fumbled a snap all year and we fumbled two tonight. I don’t know. It’s hard to explain.”
Findlay led 10-7 at halftime, controlling the football for 17 of the first 24 minutes of play.
The Trojans went up 17-7 after a 52-yard punt return by Zack Kraus set up an 8-yard Schneider to Andrew Leddy touchdown pass at 9:38 of the third quarter.
Then Massillon woke up, marching 65 yards in nine plays with Gamble covering the final half yard for the touchdown. Steve Schott tacked on the point after to make it Findlay 17, Massillon 14 at 6:07 of the third quarter.
Tiger junior defensive back Michael Porrini recovered a Findlay fumble on the second play of the Trojans ensuing possession, setting Massillon up at the Findlay 29.
Bobby Huth, who completed 10 of 13 passes for 102 yards on the night, rolled right on first down and connected with Zack Vanryzin at the 8-yard line and the senior wideout did the rest to give the Tigers their first lead of the night at 21-17 with more than five minutes still to play in the third.
Massillon then forced Findlay into a three-and-out series, and the Tigers took over at their own 20 after the Trojan punt.
On first down, Huth took the snap and looked to be optioning right, but instead pitched the ball to Robinson on a reverse. The senior tailback turned the corner and sprinted down the left sideline for an 80-yard touchdown. A failed two-point conversion made it Massillon 27, Findlay 17 at 3:20 of the third.
“I’m upset the way we let the third quarter go,” Hite said. “When we got up 17-7, it was almost like we let up a little bit and Massillon turned it up about 15 notches.”
“We tried to,” Stacy responded. “We needed to. We told the kids at halftime we needed to. It was kind of like we were playing in a fog the first half.”
The lone fourth quarter tally came when Findlay marched from its 10 to the Massillon 7, then settled for Brandon Walker’s 24-yard field goal with just under five minutes to play.
The Tigers tried to run out the clock but the plucky Findlay defense forced a Massillon punt with 1:22 to play.
“We’re 11-1 and we have a chance for a rematch now and we’ll see what happens,” Stacy said. “To play like that and get a win, we were fortunate.
“We got the rematch but we have to do something about it. We have to play better. We have to up our play to have a chance (against McKinley), that’s for sure.”
Tom Stacy did not want the Massillon Tigers to go deep into the playoffs with the taste of their Week 10 defeat at the hands of rival McKinley lingering in their mouths.
There will be no such problem when the Tigers travel to Mansfield’s Arlin Field to take on the 10-1 Findlay Trojans in a Division I Region 2 regional semifinal Saturday evening at 7.
That’s because Massillon got right back up on the horse after being bucked off the week before, and dealt game but overmatched North Canton Hoover a 45-14 defeat in front of an announced crowd of 8,954 at Paul Brown Tiger Stadium, Saturday.
The Tigers found the end zone on their second possession of the night and their defense was back to its usual aggressive, physical form in keeping Hoover off the scoreboard until Massillon had built an insurmountable 31-0 lead.
“This game was huge for us,” said senior co-captain Antonio James. “We needed to bounce back after we got dismantled last week, and this was a good bounce back for us. Hopefully we can keep it going until we meet the Pups again.”
Junior co-captain Brian Gamble was his usual dominating self, laying hard lick after hard lick on Hoover ball carriers while rushing for 146 yards and two touchdowns. He also caught a touchdown pass for good measure.
“We told everybody we were going to bounce back and we did,” Gamble said. “Right now we have to focus on next week.
“It’s like coach Stacy says, we have to play smart, physical and fast, and we’re going to do that again against Findlay.”
The Massillon defense applied relentless pressure on Hoover quarterback Josh Nettleton, and forced three turnovers. The Vikings did accumulate over 300 yards of total offense but were just 3 of 15 on third down when it really mattered.
“We just came out and we were focused and got the job done,” said senior Dirk Dickerhoof. “Now we’re looking toward next week.
“It was really important to get our confidence up after getting beat last week. There was no doubts in our minds once we got the first touchdown. We just came on from there.”
Gamble had plenty of help on offense. Senior tailback Lanale Robinson rushed for 117 yards and a touchdown in just 12 carries. Junior quarterback Bobby Huth rebounded with a 10 of 15 passing night for 172 yards and a touchdown. He also capped off the Tigers’ first scoring drive of the evening by skirting right end and diving into the end zone from three yards out with less than a minute to play in the first quarter.
“I got after Bobby after watching the (McKinley) tape and he said he was going to run the ball with a lot more aggression this week,” Stacy said. “I thought he did that.”
Hoover got a first down on its ensuing possession after Huth’s touchdown dive but was quickly forced to punt, setting Massillon up with first down at its own 30.
After two Robinson runs netted a Tiger first down at the 41, Huth rolled to his right and connected with Zack Vanryzin for what ended up as a 38-yard gain to the Hoover 21.
Huth found Gamble for 11 more yards on the next play, then Gamble took a handoff and went around right end for an 11-yard touchdown at 9:49 of the second quarter. Steve Schott tacked on the point after and the Tigers were up 14-0.
Schott nailed a 28-yard field goal in the last minute of the half to put Massillon up 17-0 at the break.
The Tigers removed all question about the outcome by taking the second half kickoff and covering 79 yards to paydirt in just two plays. The first was a 21-yard Huth laser to junior wideout Trey Miller. The score then came on a short completion to Gamble in the right flat that the 6-foot, 190-pound tailback turned into a 54-yard touchdown jaunt.
Schott’s conversion kick made it Massillon 24, Hoover 0 at 11:21 of the third quarter.
The Massillon defense put up a score on Hoover’s next possession when senior linebacker Robert Morris shot a gap and tipped a Josh Nettleton pass into the hands of senior lineman Lorenzo Grizzard, who carried the ball 58 yards to the end zone. Schott’s kick made it 31-0 at 8:14 of the third period, and all doubt had been removed.
“Our kids came out and played mad and we wanted them to,” Stacy said. “If you’re really a competitor you’ll do that and our kids did a nice job of that tonight.
“A lot of it is we just have a bunch of kids who really love to play the game. It makes it a lot easier to get them ready when they have the innate desire to play the game.”
Hoover head coach Don Hertler Jr., who endured a 1-9 campaign in 2004 but has had his Vikings in the playoffs eight out of the last nine years, was philosophical afterward.
“Massillon is a better team than us,” he said. “Our kids had a great comeback season. I’m real proud that they handled themselves with class. We just got beat by a better team.
“The Tigers are a good team and that’s why they won nine games. They played good competition all year. They’re strong. They’re athletic. They’re well coached. They’re about what we thought they were. They beat us in every phase and they did a good job.”