MASSILLON Some good news on the scoreboard was what Massillon needed. That good news is what it received on Friday night.
Facing an overmatched Garfield team, the Tigers came out and took control early and rolled to a 38-0 win at Paul Brown Tiger Stadium. The win snapped Massillon’s longest losing streak – two games – since 2011, and improved its record to 6-2 on the season.
It was the elixir the Tigers needed to not just calm the waters around town, but also get them in the right direction heading into a huge final two regular-season games. That starts with next week’s home game against St. Vincent-St. Mary, followed by the finale against resurgent McKinley.
“It’s nice to see our kids smile,” Massillon coach Jason Hall said. “We have a couple big ones coming, and a huge one definitely here in seven days. … We regroup now and move on.”
Massillon took control of the game in the first half, and unlike the previous two weeks against Austintown Fitch and Ursuline, didn’t let a halftime lead disappear. The Tigers, following an opening-drive turnover, turned their last two first-quarter possessions into scores for a 14-0 lead.
They wouldn’t stop scoring, either. A 21-0 halftime lead turned into a 31-0 edge after three quarter, with the entire fourth quarter spent playing under a running clock.
The first score was set up by Jeff Koch’s second interception in as many games, and third turnover picked up by the junior cornerback. Ten plays later, J.D. Crabtree was in the end zone with a 2-yard run and a Massillon lead it wouldn’t relinquish.
Mike White, one of three running backs the Tigers used in the first quarter alone, made it 14-0 when he took a swing pass and raced 66 yards for a touchdown on their next possession. Despite a penalty flag that the officials ultimately picked up, Massillon was up 14-0.
White would add a pair of second-half scoring runs, a 12-yarder in the third quarter and a 55-yarder in the fourth. Crabtree’s second short scoring run – a 3-yarder – made it 21-0 Massillon midway through the second quarter. The Tiger senior became the fifth running back in the last seven years to top the 1,000-yard rushing mark with a 55-yard scamper on that scoring drive.
“Being a 1,000-yard rusher, it’s always what I dreamed of,” Crabtree said. “I tried at it last year, but I came up 300, 400 short. (Running backs coach Joe) Pierce, I know he’s going to be proud of me. He works me hard.”
Crabtree finished Friday night with 173 yards, 124 in the first half. He now has 1,120 on the season.
One key to the Massillon win was its ability to not be its own worst enemy, as had been the case in the previous two games. That’s not to say the Tigers didn’t have miscues – their first drives of both the first and second quarters ended in turnovers – but they were significantly lessened overall compared to previous weeks.
After 19 combined flags against Massillon in the two losses, it was flagged five times against Garfield. That’s more in line with the first five games of the season, when the Tigers had just 14 penalties combined.
“I thought our kids were focused,” said Hall, whose team also got a 51-yard field goal by Andrew David. “They didn’t get worked up. They handled the turnovers. We made them have to drive the field and the things we want to do. I thought we did a good job.”
Which is why Massillon was able to get a whole lot of good news on the scoreboard.
Tigers roll to fifth-straight victory, face Iggy next
CHRIS EASTERLING The Independent
A bit of the killer instinct the Massillon Tigers showed in their first two games returned on Friday night, and not a moment too soon.
Massillon jumped out early and kept on scoring, sending Garfield to a 44-13 defeat in front of 6,995 fans at Paul Brown Tiger Stadium. The Tigers held a 34-7 lead, their biggest halftime margin to date, and opened the season 5-0 for the first time since 2005.
“I thought it was good,” Massillon coach Jason Hall said. “We changed the tempo up in practice this week, and I let them know that this week was about attitude and getting back after it. Our kids responded well. We’re getting better. That’s the key.”
But the preliminaries have concluded now for Massillon. Next up for the Tigers is a Saturday trip to Byers Field to take on the undefeated reigning Division I state champions and current No. 1-ranked team in Ohio, St. Ignatius.
The Tigers certainly tuned up for that showdown with the Wildcats against Garfield. In doing so, they returned to the form they displayed in wins over Buchtel and GlenOak, when they jumped in front of those two opponents 42-7 and 35-3.
That kind of start hadn’t been seen over the previous two weeks, as the Tigers dealt with choppy opening halves in eventual double-digit wins over Stow and Firestone. But it was there for Massillon against the Golden Rams, who are now 2-3.
Massillon scored on all four first-quarter drives, jumping on top 24-7 by the end of the quarter. The Tigers also picked up the tempo during the quarter by going to a quick count at times, especially on the first drive of the game.
“We came out ready to play,” Hall said. “We changed the tempo up a little bit.” The star of the first three drives was Alex Winters. The sophomore tailback registered his fourth 100-yard rushing game before the contest was even 10 minutes old, gaining 120 of his 121 net rushing yards on eight first-half carries.
“He, just like everybody else, is getting better every week,” Hall said. “He’s learning a lot. He’s taking it in like a sponge. He’s a doer. He just works hard.”
Winters had a touchdown run of 13 yards to put the Tigers up 7-0 – following the Jeremy Geier point after – just 1:03 into the game. He added a 25-yard scoring jaunt with 6:14 left in the quarter for a 14-0 lead.After Garfield cut it to 14-7 on a 56-yard run by Tyson Gulley, Winters provided Massillon’s answer, ripping off a 70-yard run for a 21-7 edge with 3:55 left in the first quarter.
The next two Tiger drives reached the Golden Rams’ red zone, but could only generate a pair of Geier field goals of 39 and 35 yards. The last came with 5:52 left in the half, giving Massillon a 27-7 lead.
Massillon tacked on a 19-yard Robert Partridge-to-Devin Smith touchdown pass with 35 seconds remaining in the half for a 34-7 lead.
Garfield missed on a couple of potential scoring opportunities in the first half, reaching inside the Tiger 25 twice. One would end a yard short on fourth down, while Bo Grunder’s interception – the first of three on the night for the senior – in the end zone squelched another one. Grunder came up with a second takeaway on a fumble recovery at the Ram 19 to set up Smith’s touchdown.
“That’s why he’s got some offers himself,” Hall said of Grunder. “He’s a gritty kid. He’s tough.” The Golden Rams did capitalize on a drive into Massillon territory on the first possession of the second half, as Gulley – who rushed for 179 yards in the game – punched it in from 4-yards out to cut it to 34-14 with just under six minutes left. But Geier’s 25-yard field goal on the subsequent Tiger possession took away much of the Rams’ momentum as it gave Massillon a 37-13 lead. Mikal Mayle added an 8-yard run late for the Tigers.
Tigers prove Ram tough Massillon bounces back with win over dangerous Garfield
By CHRIS EASTERLING The Independent
MASSILLON, OH —
There was no doubting the importance of Friday night’s game against Garfield for the Massillon Tigers. Sitting at .500 with games remaining against the likes of St. Ignatius, Warren Harding, Mentor and McKinley, it was safe to say there was plenty riding on it in terms of the Tigers’ playoff hopes
The Tigers, though, were more than up for the challenge.
With J.T. Turner giving the fans plenty to cheer about in the first half, Massillon jumped in front by 24 at intermission and cruised to 34-0 victory over the Golden Rams in front of about 8,000 fans at Paul Brown Tiger Stadium.
“Our kids work hard and they bring it to the table,” said Tigers coach Jason Hall, whose 3-2 team plays host to St. Ignatius next Friday. “They know what’s at stake. We have to play better football, and we did. I think what you saw was some kids playing with some passion. As coaches, we even challenged them on the field tonight when they were messing up. When they did, we challenged them to keep fighting and getting better.”
While Turner certainly provided the fireworks offensively – rushing for 127 yards and a pair of scores in the first half on his way to a career-high 192-yard night – it was the Tiger defense which stole the show against the 3-2 Golden Rams. Coming off a two-week stretch in which they surrendered 546 rushing yards to Normandy and Ursuline, the Tigers were more than equal to the task of slowing down Garfield and its explosive tailback, Tyson Gulley.
Gulley, who had over 660 yards rushing in the Golden Rams’ four games, could never find holes to run through as Massillon swarmed him on nearly every play. Gulley was held to just 69 yards, 27 of those in the fourth quarter while running against the Tiger reserves.
“Our game plan was to shut down the run,” Tiger linebacker J.B. Price said. “That’s what they’re really good at. (Gulley) was a really good back. We watched film every day. Just making adjustments at halftime helped us a lot. We just played hard. We had to prove ourselves from last week.”
As impressive as the performance was, it was made all the more impressive by the fact three Tiger starters – defensive end Matt Rose, outside linebacker Jamison Heath-Gates and cornerback Kyle Allman – were in street clothes due to injuries. All three, along with receiver Kyle Pizzino, are expected to play against St. Ignatius.
Quarterback Michael Clark also missed a series in the second quarter when he re-aggravated a finger injury. He returned in the second half.
On this night, it didn’t matter who was on the field for the Tiger defense, as Massillon stifled the Golden Rams on every play. Garfield finished with 132 yards of offense, and didn’t take its first snap in Tiger territory until the fifth play of the second half.
The defense also did its part to help change the score. With the Tigers up 10 after one quarter, Turner stepped in front of a pass tipped it in the air to himself and returned it 46 yards for a touchdown two plays into the second quarter for a 17-0 lead.
It was the Tigers’ first defensive score of the season.
“They said they were 92 percent run,” Turner said. “So when they passed it, I just knew I had to go break on the ball and make a play.”
Meanwhile, the Tiger offense heeded the lessons from last week’s loss to Ursuline, as Massillon took it to Garfield at the point of attack. Of course, a big part of that was Turner, who was held to just 25 yards by the Irish.
It took him all of three carries to top that total on Friday night. By the end of the first quarter, he already had 96 yards and a 29-yard touchdown on just nine carries.
He would add an 11-yard scoring run with 13 seconds left in the first half to make it 24-0 Tigers.
“I couldn’t even sleep this week knowing I had a bad game last week,” Turner said. “I knew I had to just go out there today and put on a show.”
Each team’s first possession of the second half told the tale as the Massillon Tigers rallied from a seven‑point deficit to defeat the Akron Garfield Golden Rams 24‑14 in front of 9,900 fans at Paul Brown Tiger Stadium Friday.
The game was knotted at 14‑14 when Garfield took the second half kickoff, marched to midfield, then ran into a brick wall wearing a black jersey imprinted with the No. 7. Tiger inside linebacker and co‑captain Brock Hymes sniffed out a Garfield reverse for a two‑yard loss on second down, then shot a gap and took down sophomore sensation Chris Wells for another two‑yard loss on a third down shuttle pass to force the Rams to punt.
“That first drive in the second half is always important,” Brock Hymes explained. “It’s always important to stop them and take the starch out of them a little bit. We were getting pretty excited when we got that stop. We knew we had something there.”
With quarterback Steve Hymes directing the attack, Massillon then zipped 62 yards in eight well‑orchestrated plays. Tiger junior Ramon Kelly capped off the drive with a 10-yard touchdown run around right end for a 21‑14 Massillon lead with just under five minutes to play in the third quarter.
Garfield never got beyond its own 35‑yard line the rest of the night as the Tigers improved to 2‑1 with undefeated Findlay set to invade Massillon next Friday night.
Early on it appeared the Tigers might be in trouble as Garfield rushed the football for 205 yards in the first half. But the Rams found the going much more difficult after the band show as Massillon’s defense limited them to 26 yards on the ground in the third and fourth quarters.
“In the first half we were playing an odd front and they were running to our minus side,” explained Tiger coach Rick Shepas. “We had one less player and we didn’t have much safety support.
“In the second half we went to more of a cover‑two look with corner support. We kept our safeties close enough where they could be a factor in the run game. We just didn’t want them to bust any long runs.”
Garfield coach Bob Sax thought the Tigers were ripe for the picking when he called for the reverse and then the shuttle pass on the Rams’ first possession of the second half. It didn’t work out that way.
“We really thought the reverse was going to hit,” Sax said. “On the shuttle pass, the weak side linebacker (Hymes) snuck through and we didn’t pick him up. If we take care of that guy, it was going to be huge.”
Massillon’s go‑ahead touchdown drive began with two Steve Hymes‑to‑Brett Huffman aerials that picked up 22 yards. Three Caleb White runs accounted for 17 more yards, before a Hymes scramble and a sprint around left end set up Kelly’s scoring run.
On the evening, Steve Hymes meshed on 10 of 15 passes for 113 yards and a touchMES down. It was his best passing performance of the young season and Sax admitted the Tiger signal caller was better than he expected.
“We were giving them some things out there because we really felt (Steve Hymes) wasn’t going to go out there and pick us apart,” Sax said. “We were playing too far off some guys and I was impressed with him. He really made some nice throws.”
Shepas liked everything he saw of his first‑year quarterback, except the two throws Garfield picked off.
“If Steve would have protected the ball in a couple of other situations, he would really have had a solid game for himself,” Shepas said. “He did improve and that’s what we want him to do. Rememher he’s really a first‑year starter. But he protected the ball pretty well right up until the end there. But we’re getting better and we’re trying to do things he can do well.”
White and Kelly split the running back duties for Massillon, combining for 103 yards in 17 carries. The pair clearly had more running room than in the season’s first two games.
“We got better up front,” Shepas said of his offensive line. “We made some personnel adjustments up front. We tried to keep people fresher. We got a little bit of a rotation going and we got one week better.”
Leading 21‑14, Massillon had an opportunity to really put some distance between itself and Garfield when the Rams were forced to punt from deep in their own territory after a muffed kickoff. But on first down from the Garfield 45, the center snap went over Hymes head leading to a 16‑yard loss. One play later, Hymes dropped a quick kick over the Rams’ secondary. It rolled dead at the 11-yard line and Garfield never could regain field position.
“We were pinned near our end zone the entire second half,” lamented Sax. “They had field position on us and that quick kick really caught us by surprise. They pinned us back down inside the 10 and they were bringing guys. I didn’t want to fool around down there in our own end.
“Massillon made some adjustments at halftime and they did what they needed to do in the second half and we didn’t. They came out in the second half and they wanted it more than we did.”
Garfield broke on top 7-0 with an 18‑play, 80‑yard scoring march that ate up over nine minutes off the game clock. It was a drive that would have made Woody Hayes proud, as the Golden Rams lined up in the full house T‑formation and simply pounded the football at Massillon. No single play broke for more than eight yards.
Wells capped the drive for Garfield when he went over his left guard, bounced off the pile and then reversed direction around right end for a 7‑yard scoring run. Justin Gibson added the point after at 11:26 of the second quarter.
Massillon came right back and appeared to be ready to score when a pass went off the hands of the intended Tiger receiver and was intercepted by the Rams’ Erique Dozier at the Garfield 7.
The Rams got one first down but were forced to punt. A high snap from center rolled free inside the 5‑yard line. Just as the Garfield punter was about to pick up the pigskin, it was batted from his grasp by Tiger senior Jameel Lemon and Kelly picked it up in the end zone for a Massillon touchdown. Max Shafer’s point‑after kick was true and the game was tied at 7‑7 with just under six minutes until halftime.
Garfield responded quickly. Two first downs gave the Rams the ball at their own 42. From there Wells ‑ who rushed for 127 yards in the first half ‑ went off right guard and tackle, bounced to the outside and was off to the races for a 58‑yard touchdown jaunt. Gibson converted and the Rams led the Tigers 14‑7 at 3:34 of the second quarter.
Massillon rode the right arm of Hymes to tie the game. The senior hit Ryan Schindler for 11 yards, then following White’s 14‑yard run ‑ hooked up with Huffman along the right sideline for 25 yards to the Garfield 12. One play later, Hymes sprinted left and found Brad Hauser open in the end zone for six. Shafer tacked on the extra point and it was a 14‑14 game at halftime.
SCORING G ‑ Chris Wells 7 run (Gibson kick) M ‑ Kelly fumble‑recovery (Shafer kick) G ‑ Chris Wells 58 run (Gibson kick) M ‑ Hauser 11 pass from Hymes (Shafer kick) M ‑ Kelly 10 run (Shafer kick) M ‑ Shafer 32 FG
Massillon mauls Garfield 60‑0 Martin ties touchdown mark
By JOE SHAHEEN Independent Sports Editor
If the Massillon Tigers were hoping for a more competitive game to prepare them for next week’s invasion by defending state champion Cleveland St. Ignatius, they were sorely disappointed. It took less than 30 seconds for Massillon to put up the first score of the game and that set the tone for the Tigers’ 60‑0 thrashing of Akron Garfield in front of 9,015 fans at Paul Brown Tiger Stadium, Friday night.
Matt Martin tied a Massillon single‑game record with five touchdown passes on the night, three in the first half, as the Tigers romped for the third week in a row. The senior first‑year starter, wasn’t even aware he’d tied the mark shared by Justin Zwick (2001) and Mike Byelene (1934).
“That’s awesome,” Martin said. “It would have been better if I hadn’t thrown an interception. “The coaches had a great game plan. The line is blocking really well. The receivers are catching everything. And we’re hitting on all cylinders.” But Martin put everything in perspective. “The record’s a great thing to accomplish and I’m proud of that,” he said. “But as long as we win the state title, I don’t care if I set any records or anything, as long as we win the state championship.”
If the Tigers do go all the way, it will be on the strength of its stellar defense, which limited Garfield to a measly four first downs and 87 net yards in posting its first shutout of the 2002 campaign. “We continue to get stingier and stingier,” Tiger coach Rick Shepas said. “I think the kids are really understanding the philosophy of the defense. That’s our primary goal. It is going to continue to be a strength for us.”
Shepas opted to keep starting linebackers Shawn Crable and Tony Graves on the sidelines “as a precaution.” Both have ankle injuries, though Crable was in a walking boot protecting the same foot he broke during basketball season last winter. Their absence didn’t seem to matter as the Tigers overwhelmed Garfield at the line of scrimmage all night long.
“We did what we had to do and the offense put points on the board,” said senior linebacker A.J. Collins, who played in Crable’s place. “Me and Patrick (Turner) know we had some big shoes to fill so we just stepped up until Crable and Tony get healthy.”
Turner stepped in for Graves at inside linebacker for the second week in a row. Garfield coach Bob Sax didn’t think the Massillon defense missed the two veterans at all. “They were without Crable and they’re still a real good defense,” Sax said. “We wanted to try to get outside on them. We just couldn’t do it. Their outside linebackers come real hard and they’re not going to let you get outside.”
By the time the Garfield was able to register its first first down of the game at 1:44 of the first quarter, the Tigers had already raced to a 14‑0 lead and were never in any real danger of giving up that advantage.
The Tigers landed a haymaker before Garfield even broke a sweat as Tuffy Woods forced a fumble with a jarring hit on the opening kickoff and Craig McConnell fell on the loose ball at the Golden Rams 35 yard line.
Martin wasted little time going straight for the jugular, lofting a pass to Stephon Ashcraft at the one yard line on the very first play from scrimmage. From there Ricky Johnson ‑ who finished with 116 yards on 18 carries ‑ took a handoff and went off his right tackle and into the end zone for the touchdown. Max Shafer’s conversion kick was true and the Tigers led 7‑0 just 22 seconds into the ball game.
Garfield’s second possession lasted only slightly longer than its first. The Rams decided to go for it on fourth‑and‑one at their own 40‑yard line but Massillon senior strong safety Markeys Scott buried Erique Dozier on an inside running play for no gain and the Tiger offense again had the short field.
Two runs by Johnson and one by Terrance Roddy moved the ball to the Garfield 14. Then Martin dropped back and targeted Devin Jordan in the end zone for the touchdown. Shafer’s kick was good and the Massillon lead was 14‑0 at 8:52 of the first quarter.
Billy Relford set up the Tigers third touchdown of the night when he short hopped a punt, then cut to his right and raced 44 yards to the Garfield 11‑yard line. “Billy Relford is a playmaker,” marveled Shepas. “He has a set on him, I’m telling you. It’s going to be to his advantage down the road because he is going to have a lot of opportunities.”
Johnson ‑ did the honors from there, slashing over right tackle virtually untouched to the end zone. Shafer’s kick made it 21‑0 just 13 seconds into the second quarter.
Massillon’s fourth and fifth touchdowns of the first half capped sustained drives. The Tigers marched 68 yards in 10 plays following a Garfield punt, scoring on a 12‑yard Martin to A.J. Collins aerial when the southpaw rolled right and threw a strike across his body and into the end zone. The point‑after failed and Massillon was up 27‑0 at 5:15 of the first half.
“I thought Matt did a nice job going to his right, being a left‑handed quarterback a real nice job,” Shepas said. “He had a really solid performance. He continues to make great decisions for the team.”
The Tigers closed the first half scoring on an eight‑play, 38‑yard drive. Martin connected with Stephon Ashcraft on an eight‑yard curl pattern in the end zone for the six. Shafer’s kick made it 34‑0 with 22 seconds left until halftime.
Martin again hooked up with Ashcraft to open the second half scoring. The diminutive wideout snared a 25‑yard toss at the Garfield 25 and was immediately sandwiched by a pair of Garfield defenders. But he somehow spun away and sprinted into the end zone for the score at 9:32 of the third quarter. The kick failed and Massillon’s lead was 40‑0.
Martin’s fifth and final touchdown pass of the night was a 1‑yarder to James Helscel after Greg Babcock blocked a Garfield punt. Two plays before the score Johnson tore off a 29‑yard run but limped off the field. Shepas says the running back will be ready for St. Ignatius.
Steve Hymes replaced Martin at quarterback and scored the game’s final two touchdowns on runs of 1‑ and 12‑yards as the Tigers improved to 3‑0.
“The last three years it has been the same thing,” Sax said. “They’re a real good team but we’ll see how good they are next week against St. Ignatius.”
We started fast and the kids are playing real hard right now,” Shepas said. “We were able to get some turnovers early. We continue to improve.”
Massillon 60 Garfield 00 M G First downs rushing 14 3 First downs passing 7 3 First downs by penalty 1 0 TOTAL first downs 22 4 Net yards rushing 266 57 Net yards passing 161 30 TOTAL yards 427 6 Passes attempted 15 7 Passes completed 12 3 Passes intercepted 1 1 Punts 1 6 Punting average 46 28 Fumbles/Lost 2/0 2/2 Penalties 7 3 Yards penalized 53 40
Massillon 14 20 19 07 60 Garfield 00 00 00 00 00
M ‑ Johnson 1 run (Shafer kick) M ‑ Martin 14 pass to Jordan (Shafer kick) M ‑ Johnson 11 run (Shafer kick) M ‑ Martin 12 pass to Collins (Kick failed) M ‑ Martin 9 pass to Ashcraft (Shafer kick) M ‑ Martin 51 pass to Ashcraft (Kick failed) M ‑ Martin 1 pass to HeIscel (Shafer kick) M ‑ Hymes 1 run (Kick failed) M ‑ Hymes 12 run (Smith kick)
Massillon rushing: Johnson 18‑116 2 TDs, Hymes 8‑49 2 TDs, Pullin 4‑32, Woods 3‑31, Roddy 5‑30, Walterhouse 1‑8, Ashcraft 1‑5. Garfield rushing: Taylor 6‑31, Council 4‑13.
Blanked! Massillon shuts out Garfield; Iggy’s next
By JOE SHAHEEN Independent Sports Editor
St. Ignatius Week officially began at 10:43 p.m. Friday.
That’s when the Massillon Tigers saw the final second click off the scoreboard clock at the south end of Paul Brown Tiger Stadium, closing a 59‑0 victory over the Garfield Rams in front of 9,475 high school football fans.
Head coach Rick Shepas ‑ standing on the block ‘M’ at midfield ‑ gathered his players and coaching staff around him after the game and explained the facts of life with regard to the next opponent on the Tigers’ schedule, the vaunted St. Ignatius Wildcats, a team Massillon has never tamed.
“We’re going to have a chance to go up and scout them,” said Shepas. “They’re a good football team. They’ve always been. Our program is improving and we’re going to find out where our program is at next week.”
The Tigers did a commendable job of focusing on the here and now in dispatching Garfield, a foe Shepas described as “dangerous” early in the week as his squad began preparations for the Golden Rams.
The Massillon defense pitched its first shutout of the 2001 campaign, a fact that was not lost on senior outside linebacker Andy Alleman.
“We’re pretty happy but we need to improve quite a bit for next week,” Alleman said. “We had a lot of mistakes. We just made some nice plays here and there and that’s how we got the shutout.
“We’re pretty excited for the (St. Ignatius) game. It’s going to be a big game. But we can’t have nearly as many mistakes as we did tonight or we could get beat.”
The closest Garfield came to scoring on the Massillon defense was when the Golden Rams penetrated to the Massillon 22‑yard line, and missed a 39‑yard field goal in the second quarter.
Shepas admitted his charges were shooting for the shutout.
“(A shutout) is what we wanted going into the game,” Shepas said. “We were looking for that. The kids have been working hard defensively.”
The Tigers had their way with Garfield almost from the beginning, scoring on their first four possessions of the evening, none of which took more than two minutes off the game clock.
On its first possession, Massillon ‑ beginning at its own 26 after a Garfield punt ‑ moved 74 yards in six plays. Two Robert Oliver running plays netted 23 yards to get things started.
After Justin Zwick hooked up with Devin Jordan for 18 yards and Massillon’s third first down in as many snaps, Oliver swept around left end for nine yards to set up a third‑and‑one from the Rams’ 25.
Zwick, lining up in the shotgun, rolled to his left and found Jordan wide open at the 10. The 6‑foot‑3, 185‑pound junior jogged untouched into the end zone for the touchdown. David Abdul’s conversion kick was true and Massillon led 7‑0 at 8:03 of the first quarter.
Garfield could do nothing on its ensuing possession and punted after three snaps, with the ball rolling dead at the 50‑yard line.
Massillon’s second scoring drive began when David Hill took a screen pass from Zwick and picked up eight yards on first down.
Two plays later Zwick rolled left and completed a pass to Joe Jovingo for 18 yards to the Garfield 15.
From there, Oliver picked up eight yards around left end on first down to the Garfield 7. Then Zwick rolled right and fired a bullet to an uncovered Stephon Ashcraft in the end zone. Abdul’s point after was good and Massillon’s lead with 14‑0 at 3:55 of the first quarter.
On its third possession of the evening, Garfield picked up its third first down of the game but was forced to punt three plays later when Justin Princehorn sniffed out a reverse and brought down Austin Clopton for a two‑yard gain on third‑and‑10.
A high snap was bobbled by the Garfield punter, who finally fell on the football, giving Massillon possession on downs at the Golden Rams’ 33.
Four plays later, Abdul nailed a 28‑yard field goal and the Tigers were up 17‑0 early in the second quarter.
The Massillon defense surrendered a couple of first downs on Garfield’s ensuing possession, but an option play on third‑and‑six lost 10 yards and the Rams were forced to punt.
A clipping penalty on the Tigers negated a spectacular 60‑yard punt return to the end zone by Michael White, but the yellow flag only prolonged the inevitable.
Beginning at their own 24, Massillon went to the ground game. Oliver gained 16 yards up the middle. Rickey Johnson carried for 12 more, then Oliver found seven yards around left end.
On second‑and‑3 from the Garfield 41, Zwick zeroed in on Jordan running a deep out pattern for 27 yards.
Johnson scored on the very next play, skirting right end from 15 yards out. Abdul’s right foot made it 24‑0 Massillon at 7:29 of the first half.
Amazingly, Massillon’s first four possessions of the game resulted in three touchdowns and a field goal as the Tigers generated 240 yards of total offense in the first half.
“That seems to be the way its going,” Shepas said of his team’s quick‑strike ability. “We’ve got a good front.
“We’re getting a good mix of run and pass right now. Zwick is effective calling the plays. Our running backs ‑ if they don’t put the football on the ground ‑ are pretty effective.”
Zwick established a Massillon Tiger career passing record for most attempts (422) and completions (232) with his 16‑of‑23 performance.
Nine of those completions were to Jordan, who seems to have taken over as No. 12’s favorite receiver.
“There’s a lot of receivers you have to deal with when we come out and throw the football,” Shepas said. “We’ve been spreading the ball around.
“Devin seems to be a go‑to guy but remember we thought he was the guy who was going to replace Drobney in the understanding of the defensive coverage.”
Garfield coach Bill McGee certainly was impressed.
“We knew they were good,” McGee said. “They were more of everything than we thought. On offense they really have the whole shot.
“They’re just real good. This and the 1991 team (coached by Lee Owens) for them are the two best teams I’ve seen them have in the past 20 years or so.”
The Tigers second half scoring was more of the same. A one‑yard Zwick to Jordan toss culminated a seven‑play, 81‑yard drive at 9:14 of the third quarter.
Then Zwick found pay dirt himself on a keeper around right end from three yards out at 1:24 of the third.
Garfield sophomore Norman Taylor was injured on the play and was carted off the field.
McGee indicated Taylor’s injury did not appear serious, but added he will be hospitalized for tests.
Junior linebacker Tony Graves tallied for the Massillon defense, scooping up a Garfield fumble and rumbling 49 yards for a touchdown at 10:33 of the fourth quarter.
Oliver, who rushed for a game‑high 130 yards in just ten carries, got into the scoring column on a 28‑yard jaunt with 7:49 to play, and Terrance Roddy closed the scoring on a 56‑yard burst with 2:22 to play.
MASSILLON 59 AKRON GARFIELD 0 M G First downs rushing 14 9 First downs passing 10 2 First downs by penalty 0 4 TOTAL first downs 24 15 Net yards rushing 279 157 Net yards passing 233 87 TOTAL yards 512 244 Passes attempted 23 12 Passes completed 16 6 Passes intercepted 0 1 Punts 1 1 Punting average 27.0 28.0 Fumbles/Lost 2/1 5/1 Penalties 8 4 Yards penalized 70 39
MASSILLON 14 10 14 21 59 GARFIELD 0 0 0 0 0
SCORING M ‑ Jordan 25 pass from Zwick (Abdul kick) M ‑ Ashcraft 7 pass from Zwick (Abdul kick) M ‑ FG Abdul 28 M ‑ Johnson 15 run (Abdul kick) M ‑ Jordan 1 pass from Zwick (Abdul kick) M ‑ Zwick 3 run (Abdul kick) M ‑ Graves 49 fumble return (Abdul kick) M ‑ Oliver 28 run (Abdul kick) M ‑ Roddy 56 run (Abdul kick)
INDIVIDUAL STATISTICS Massillon rushing: Oliver 10‑130, Roddy 2‑60, Johnson 7‑52, Boyd 3‑25. Garfield rushing: Clopton 19‑67, Norman 12‑31.
Unbeaten Tigers give Garfield the ‘boot’ Massillon rules 51‑26 as Oliver tallies 3 touchdowns
By JOE SHAHEEN Independent Sports Editor
The Massillon Tigers dug a little deeper into their voluminous offensive playbook and it paid off with a 31‑point explosion in the final two quarters, sparking them to a 51‑26 thrashing of the Akron Garfield Golden Rams in front of 13,080 fans at Paul Brown Tiger Stadium, Friday.
The Tigers, now 3‑0 on the campaign, held a 20‑14 halftime advantage but did not fully take advantage of four Garfield turnovers before the band show.
Massillon came out in the third quarter and put together back‑to‑back touchdown drives of 75 yards and 73 yards to take control of the game.
Justin Zwick connected on 11 straight passes during that stretch, utilizing bootlegs and rollouts to get away from the pesky Garfield pass rush.
In a game Garfield coach Bill McGee said would be decided by adjustments, the Tigers made a major one at halftime and the Rams were never able to counter.
“Justin likes to throw that boot pass and for the past couple years Orrville did a nice job of running that boot pass,” said Tiger coach Rick Shepas after the game. “It’s something we have in the playbook.
“Credit Coach (Dan) Murphy with some halftime adjustments.
He kept asking me, ‘Have you thought about that boot pass? Have you thought about that boot pass?’ Quite honestly I hadn’t, so I stuck it in there and it was a good adjustment. We ended up building the offense in the second half around that.”
McGee admitted his team never did come up with a stopper.
“That’s something we haven’t seen,” McGee said of the boot pass. “It shouldn’t have been as effective after the first time they did it, but we were tired. When you’re tired, the brain doesn’t work as well.
“They did things better in the third quarter especially, which was the difference. We were only six points behind at halftime and I thought we had a chance. I knew we had to kick off but they dominated the third quarter and a big part of it was on those roll outs.”
Like Buchtel had in the opener, Garfield jumped out to a 7‑0 lead on the Tigers, taking just four plays to go 80 yards. The quick strike was a 48‑yard Brian Sutphin to John Bell touchdown pass, set up by Sutphin’s textbook pump fake that froze the Massillon defensive back for a split second.
After an exchange of punts, Massillon took over at its 22. Zwick found Montale Watkins for 14 yards to the 41. Three plays later, from midfield, Zwick spotted Jesse Robinson open at the Garfield 20 and was on target with the throw. The senior co‑captain did the rest, bolting into the end zone at the 5:17 mark of the first quarter. David Abdul added the point after and it was a 7‑7 game.
The first of three Matt Shem interceptions set up Massillon’s second score. Jeremiah Drobney latched onto a Zwick pass at the Garfield 3 on first down. Then Perry James swept around left end for the touchdown on the very next play. Abdul’s PAT made it 14-7 at the 6:53 mark of the second quarter.
Shem’s second interception was offset by a pickoff by the Garfield secondary. An interference call on Massillon gave the Rams the ball at the Tiger 29. Four plays later Sutphin threw a fade pass in the end zone and Lawrence Cherry climbed the ladder for the touchdown grab. The kick made it a 14‑14 contest at 3:33 of the second period.
Zwick completed four straight passes on Massillon’s ensuing possession but a holding penalty forced the Tigers to settle for a 27‑yard Abdul field goal with less than a minute to play in the half.
Shem picked off his third aerial of the quarter on Garfield’s first play after the Massillon kickoff, leading to a 28‑yard Abdul field goal, making it 20‑14 as the half expired.
The third quarter was all Massillon as Zwick came out of the locker room on fire. The Tigers moved from their own 25 to the Garfield 9 on eight plays, three of which were bootleg passes. On first and goal from the 9, Zwick rolled left and found sophomore Devon Jordan running free along the back line of the end zone for the touchdown. Abdul’s kick made it 27‑14 Massillon with 8:40 in the third period.
Tyrell McElroy got the ball right back for Massillon with a brilliant one‑handed, over‑the‑shoulder interception at the Tiger 27‑yard line.
Mixing the boot passes with the running of Terrance King and Robert Oliver, Massillon moved down the field and into scoring position. Zwick rolled to his right and completed a throw to Drobney that moved the ball to the 3. Two plays later, Oliver followed King’s block into the end zone. The two‑point conversion pass failed but Massillon was in command at 33‑14 with 3:31 left in the third.
But Garfield had some fight left as Sutphin went deep and found Lawrence Cherry on the post pattern with a 44‑yard scoring bomb to make it 33‑20 at the 2:11 mark.
Tiger sophomore Jamaal Ballard made sure the momentum didn’t swing away from the locals, returning Garfield’s ensuing kickoff 60 yards to the Rams 36. It only took five plays for Oliver to score again, sweeping around left end and into the end zone from four yards out. Zwick and Mike Corsale meshed on the two‑point conversion pass to make it 41‑20 with just seconds left in the third.
Abdul left the paying customers gasping when he opened the fourth quarter scoring with a 56‑yard field goal with 11:09 to play.
“With the wind at his back, I said he has 50 in him tonight and his father said he has 57 in him,” noted Shepas. “He ended up getting 56.”
Garfield’s resilience surfaced again as the Rams moved 80 yards on just three plays, with Cherry covering the final seven on a sweep around his left side to make it a 44‑26 contest.
Then Oliver capped off an eight‑play, 90‑yard march with a five‑yard touchdown run. The junior was hit twice inside the five but shook off both potential tacklers and found pay dirt with 7:30 to play, closing the scoring.
Despite surrendering 30‑plus points for the second week in a row, Shepas was not displeased with the Massillon defense.
“Five turnovers, that’s how I’ll look at the defense,” he said. “There were a lot of outstanding plays. Shem has three picks. Ty Mac has a great interception and Justin Princehorn has an interception.”
MASSILLON 51 GARFIELD 26 M G First downs rushing 6 5 First downs passing 19 4 First downs by penalty 0 1 TOTAL first downs 25 10 Net yards rushing 119 141 Net yards passing 375 185 TOTAL yards 494 326 Passes attempted 43 21 Passes completed 29 6 Passes intercepted 5 2 Punts 2 6 Punting average 33 21.7 Fumbles/Lost 2/2 1/0 Penalties 5 3 Yards penalized 57 15
MASSILLON 7 13 21 10 51 GARFIELD 7 7 6 6 26
SCORING G ‑ Sutphin 48 pass to Bell (Kulick kick) M ‑ Zwick 49 pass to Robinson (Abdul kick) M ‑ James 3 run (Abdul kick) G ‑ Sutphin 11 pass to Cherry (Kulick kick) M ‑ Abdul 27 field goal M ‑ Abdul 28 field goal M ‑ Zwick 9 pass to Jordan (Abdul kick) M ‑ Oliver 2 run (Pass failed) G ‑ Sutphine 56 pass to Cherry (Run failed) M ‑ Oliver 4 run (Zwick to Corsale) M ‑ Abdul 56 field goal G ‑ Cherry 7 run (Pass failed) M ‑ Oliver 5 run (Abdul kick) man
INDIVIDUAL STATISTICS Massillon rushing: Oliver 11‑62, James 8‑41. Garfield rushing: Klopton 4.49, Hullum 11‑38.
The Massillon Tigers put the air back into the football Friday night, scoring three first half touchdowns ‑ two through the air ‑ in handing the Akron Garfield Rams their third straight defeat 21‑10 in front of 10,180 fans on a warm, late summer evening at Paul Brown Tiger Stadium.
One week after passing the football just nine times in a. drubbing of Lima Senior, the Tigers (2‑1) put it up 14 times in the first half alone, completing eight of those aerials, including scoring tosses of 34 and 25 yards to Neil Buckosh and Marc Cleveland.
Senior quarterback Tom Fichter connected on 8‑of‑14 first half throws for 120 yards, putting the winless Rams back on their heels and in a hole from which they never recovered.
Jon Stanke set the Massillon offense up with exceptional field position by returning the opening kickoff all the way for a touchdown. Unfortunately for Stanke and the Tigers, a holding call negated the score and put the ball at the Garfield 37.
After two incompletions and facing a fourth‑and‑7, Fichter dropped back to pass, got excellent protection, and laid a perfectly thrown pass over the right shoulder of Buckosh. The senior tight end pulled the foot in at the 10‑yard line and dashed to the end zone to put Massillon up 6‑0.
Brett Marshall’s conversion kick made it 7‑0 at 10:58 of the first quarter.
“We do a lot of distraction drills in practice,” Buckosh said afterward. “On that play their guy ran right across my line of sight and those practice drills paid off. I stayed on the ball.”
“Tommy made a great throw for me. I give all the credit to Tommy Fichter.”
Fichter made a pre‑snap read on the play and recognized his tight end might be open.
“I knew the route Buckosh was going to run and I saw who was going to cover him,” Fichter said. “I know Neil has good hands and I knew I had to put the ball where it had to be. I got lucky and put it right there and Neil made a great catch and good run and we got six points out of it.
The Tigers defense nearly got an interception from cornerback Brandon Clark on Garfield’s initial drive and forced the Rams into a three-and‑out series. Rocky Dorsey’s punt return set Massillon up with a first down near midfield ‘
Fichter found Buckosh open over the middle on the very first snap for 20 yards to the Garfield 32. After Ronnie Lynn picked up 12 yards to the Rams’ 15, two Marc Cleveland sweeps did the rest. The second, a pitch sweep around left end from seven yards out, made it 13‑0 with 7:13 to play in the first quarter.
Marshall tacked on the PAT and it was a 14‑0 Tiger cushion.
“We came out and we did exactly what we wanted to do,” said head coach Rick Shepas. “We know that Garfield is a well coached football team. We know they are very talented and they play hard and if they know they’re in the football game then we’re going to have problems with them.
“Getting nicked twice in their first two games made it a different atmosphere for them. Fortunately we were able to come out and get the good kick return and get it in the end zone, get a good defensive stop, get it in the end zone again and now they might question themselves a little bit.”
Garfield got on the scoreboard on an eight‑play, 43‑yard drive capped by Greg Kulick’s 28‑yard field goal that made it a 14‑3 game with 5:04 left in the first half. The Rams had first-and‑10 from the Tigers 12, but consecutive outstanding defensive plays by Ellery Moore, Clark and Jamie Allman prevented any further incursion into Tiger territory.
Massillon took the ensuing kickoff and put together a well executed drive. The first big play on the march was an 11-yard Fichter‑to‑Jason Clemens sideline pass on third‑and‑eight that moved the ball into Garfield territory as well as netting a first down.
Then on fourth‑and‑five from the Rams’ 43, Fichter found Cleveland open for 18 yards along the right hash mark for another do‑or‑die first down.
Three snaps later, on third-and‑10, Fichter dropped back and floated the football into Cleveland’s waiting hands in the end zone from 25 yards out. Marshall again converted and the Tigers were up 21‑3 with just :35 until the band show.
“We started to get things going,” Fichter said in the locker room. “We started to feel good about ourselves again.”
Shepas built on that theme. “I think the kids feel better about themselves,” he said. “That’s what we’re trying to do.’
“I was pleased with Tom’s performance in the first half. We’re still not seeing all the field and you can see that in a number of instances. But we did a better job for the quarterbacks this week in practice, giving them a better look at what they were going to see coverage‑wise to make them more comfortable. Every week we’re going to start over again. We’re going to go out and teach for four days before we play a football game. We’re going to see if we get better and we’re going to start to understand more things as the games go by.”
The Massillon defense was as much the story as the re‑emergence of Shepas’ West Coast Offense. The Tigers held Garfield to 145 yards of total offense for the entire game. The Rams did not complete a pass in eight attempts and scrambling quarterback Eli Ward only gained 45 yards in 11 totes.
“If offense can go out and get some scores and put some points on the board, the defense doesn’t have to worry about where they are on the field,” pointed out Shepas. “They can fly around and make plays. Hey, we have our marquee players on defense. We want to play good defense. We’re taking steps to improve in that area, too. We did eliminate some mistakes and we’re one week better, but that’s all we are.”
“What’s taking more time than anything is getting to know who our people are and how to use our people. That’s the biggest thing. We’ve done a 360 degree turn since the summer and we’re starting to find out more and more who to play in these football games. It’s going to take the entire season to get a feel for who we got.”
“The offense is coming around,” said Buckosh, who finished with three catches for 59 yards. “We had a great first half on offense The second half we didn’t score any points so we’ve got to get better. We’re in great shape, better shape than our opponents. We just need to focus on not putting the defense in jeopardy.”
Garfield got its only touchdown of the game late in the third period on a 43‑yard drive set up by Massillon’s second interception of the evening. It took the Rams 11 plays, but they finally punched it in from a foot out after three tries from inside the 5‑yard line.
“For us it’s been a lack of consistency,” explained Garfield coach Bill McGee after the game. “Our defense has been tough in the first half the first two weeks. Tonight we gave them a couple of easy ones in the first half and we had breakdown in the kicking game which gave them good field position.” . “This was an improvement for us in some areas. After the first seven or eight minutes of the game we outscored them, but we put ourselves into too big a hole.’
MASSSILLON 21 GARFIELD 10 M G First downs rushing 5 8 First downs passing 6 0 First downs by penalty 0 2 TOTAL first downs 11 10 Net yards rushing 91 145 Net yards passing 136 0 TOTAL yards 227 145 Passes attempted 18 8 Passes completed 10 0 Passes intercepted 2 0 Punts 3 5 Punting average 47 29.4 Fumbles/Lost 3/0 2/0 Penalties 7 4 Yards penalized 57 20
MASSILLON 14 7 0 0 21 GARFIELD 0 3 7 0 10
SCORING M – Buckosh 34 pass from Fichter (Marshall kick) M ‑ Cleveland 7 run (Marshall kick) G ‑ Kulick 28 field goal M ‑ Cleveland 25 pass from Fichter (Marshall kick) G – Ross 1 run (Kulick kick)
Massillon rushing: Cleveland 18‑79, Lynn 1‑16, Miller 6‑5. Garfield rushing: Jones 14‑53, Ross 14‑46, Ward 11‑45.
There were shouts filled with anxiety, shouts emitting from the stands that showed something wasn’t right.
For 48 minutes, 9,000 Massillon fans, all clad in their orange and black, watched as the improbable almost took place Friday night in Paul Brown Tiger Stadium.
But the improbable didn’t happen.
The Tigers wouldn’t let it happen. Christian Morgan, playing with a broken bone in his right hand and wearing a cast, wouldn’t let it happen.
They were pushed to the limit by a Garfield team, just one week after falling to the defending Division I state champion Lima Senior Spartans.
But Morgan, shaking off two straight fumbles on the Tigers’ first two possessions, took a handoff from quarterback Tip Danzy, who was starting for the flu stricken B.J. Burick, and trotted one yard for the game winning touchdown with just 1:32 left.
After last week,” said Massillon head coach Jack Rose, “I was going to take anything ‑ 7‑6 would have been fine with me.”
After junior Jamie Allman dove to intercept the sailing sideline pass of Garfield quarterback Mitchell Moss with 25 seconds left to play, the Tigers (2‑1) could finally rest. They defeated the Golden Rams and veteran head coach Bill McGee, 20‑14.
The 73‑yard game‑winning drive, which took nearly three minutes off the clock, lasted seven plays. Morgan carried the ball all seven times, three off pitches from Danzy. Overall, the 6‑foot‑3, 221‑pound tailback carried the ball 19 times for 83 yards.
The Golden Rams (0‑3), with their full house backfield, utilized the running game against the Tigers. When you don’t have a lot of players, you have to shorten the game, McGee said. And that’s what his team did, keeping possession of the football for 31 minutes. They ran 38 times, amassing 295 yards on the ground. They passed just 10 times.
“It was a patented Garfield game plan,” Rose said. “Hold onto the ball, drive it and keep our defense on the field.
“The question was if we were going to hold onto the thing (Massillon had three fumbles, one interception).”
On fourth and inches with 8:39 left in the first quarter, the Rams struck first. Bill Ross (12 carries, 70 yards) took the handoff from Moss and took off through the Massillon defense on a 45‑yard run. With a last effort to stop Ross, Massillon’s Josh Wood dove to bring the runner clown but came up short.
“We needed something good to happen early in light of last week,” Rose said. “That didn’t happen.”
Then Morgan, who broke a bone in his right hand in the Tigers’ opening win over Cardoza High (Washington D.C.), fumbled after taking a pitch from Danzy. On the second Tigers’ possession, Morgan couldn’t hang onto another pitch.
After the game, the senior admitted the cast has been bothersome to him. He is forced to shift the ball to his left hand upon grabbing it.
“My impression was that we would come in and jump on them from the start,” Morgan said. “I had a few problems with the pitch.”
But Garfield could not take advantage of the two turnovers, missing a 37‑yard field goal and punting on fourth down from the Massillon 49.
Junior Julian Miller got the Tigers on the board on a 9‑yard run with 7:36 left in the second quarter. The score came after the Rams’ Chris Guthrie fumbled and Allman recovered. At halftime, Massillon and Garfield were tied, 7‑7.
“We came (into the locker room), and everyone was yelling at each other, trying to figure things out,” Danzy said. “We were kind of new to this.”
Rico Person gave the Tigers their first lead (14‑7) with 7:42 left in the third quarter when he recovered a loose ball in the end zone. Moss had to retreat to snag a snap over his head. But he couldn’t grab the bouncing ball as he slipped on the turf. Person came out of a pile with ‘ his hands up and boost of momentum.
But the Rams weren’t finished. On third‑and‑two, Garfield’s playmaker, running back Dale Knox (14 carries, 116 yards), took a handoff up the middle and disappeared amid a swarm of linemen. He reemerged and took off on an 80‑yard sprint, outrunning Allman for the score with 4:08 left in the game.
That left it to Morgan, who scored four touchdowns in a 36-6 win over Garfield last season, and the Tigers’ offense to provide the dramatics and a much needed win.
“Coach (Eric) Schumacher pulled me and Christian aside,” Danzy explained, “and let us know that we were the marquee guys everyone would be looking at on the last drive. Christian had a couple of nice runs, and we had the game won.
MASSILLON 20 GARFIELD 14 M G First downs rushing 12 11 First downs passing 2 1 First downs by penalty 1 2 TOTAL first downs 15 14 Net yards rushing 237 248 Net yards passing 45 34 TOTAL yards 282 282 Passes attempted 7 10 Passes completed 4 4 Passes intercepted 1 1 Punts 3 2 Punting average 37.3 47.5 Fumbles/Lost 4/3 6/2 Penalties 4 9 Yards penalized 28 83
MASSILLON 0 7 7 6 20 GARFIELD 7 0 0 7 14
SCORING ‑ G ‑ Ross 46 run (McDonald kick) M ‑ Miller 9 run (Hose kick) M ‑ Person fumble recovery in end zone (Hose kick) G ‑ Knox 81 run (McDonald kick) M ‑ Morgan 1 run (Hose kick)
Massillon rushing: Morgan 19‑83, Danzy 10‑101, Hodgson 8‑44, Miller 1‑9. Garfield rushing: Knox 14‑116, Ross 12‑70, Moss 15‑8.