Record-setting night by Wilson-Lamp keys Massillon win
By Chris Easterling Independent sports editor
Aug 30, 2019 10:30 PM
MASSILLON It must be something about season openers that brings out the best in Massillon receivers.
Junior Andrew Wilson-Lamp set a single-game school record with 232 receiving yards on 11 catches, helping the Tigers to a season-opening 44-14 win over St. Vincent-St. Mary on Friday night at Paul Brown Tiger Stadium. It breaks the old record of 222 yards, set by Austin Jasinski in the 2016 opener at Mentor.
“I just came out ready to play,” Wilson-Lamp said after his record-setting performance. “I wasn’t expecting to break anything.”
It didn’t take long for Wilson-Lamp to get into the groove, as he hauled in a 51-yard catch on Massillon’s third play to set up its first touchdown, 13-yard Terrence Keyes touchdown with 7:15 remaining in the first quarter. By halftime, he would have six catches for 163 yards and a score, a 45-yard catch to give the Tigers a 21-0 lead.
In between that catch and his record-setting 17-yard catch-and-run late in the third quarter, his final catch of the game, however, Massillon would go from on its way to a rout to a close game back to a rout. The Irish would score two touchdown in the final 56 seconds of the first half to cut it to a 21-14 halftime deficit.
“The first post I caught, I was like, ‘This is going to be a good game,'” Wilson-Lamp said.
The Tigers, though, would come out of the locker room by scoring 16 points in the first 4:45 of the third quarter to open up a 37-14 lead. They would get a opening-drive Preston Hodges touchdown run, as well as a safety on a bad punt snap by St. Vincent-St. Mary.
On the subsequent free kick, Jayden Ballard return it 66 yards for a touchdown with 7:15 remaining in the third. Ballard, who had 63 yards on five catches on the night, added a 33-yard touchdown catch on the first play of the fourth quarter.
“We just coached them up,” Massillon coach Nate Moore said of the halftime talk. “The coaches just got together, made the adjustments we needed to make, tried to take care of it. We just came out and played better.”
Or, essentially, play much like the Tigers did to start the game.
Massillon couldn’t have scripted a better opening 20 minutes. It had the football for four possessions and had found the end zone three times for a 21-0 lead with 4:18 remaining in the half.
Not only that, but the Tigers were doing just about what they wanted on offense, especially in the passing game. Aidan Longwell connected on 12 of his first 13 passes for 215 yards, including the 45-yard touchdown pass to Wilson-Lamp to give Massillon a three-score lead.
Included in Longwell’s start was a run of eight consecutive passes to open the second quarter, all but one of them to either Wilson-Lamp or Jayden Ballard. Longwel was 20-of-23 for 322 yards with two touchdowns and one interception.
Beyond the passing, Keyes was making the most of his Massillon debut. Playing against the team for which he played his first three seasons, Keyes had a the Tigers’ initial two touchdowns on runs of 13 and one yard.
Keyes would finish with 58 yards on 14 carries.
“I really like how we spread the ball around,” Moore said. “We take pride in getting the ball to all of our athletes.”
St. Vincent-St. Mary, however, would find life in the final 56 seconds of the first half. Enough life to turn what appeared to be heading to a halftime blowout into a one-score game.
The Irish cracked the scoreboard with a 10-yard Luke Lindsay-to-Josh Nickerson touchdown with 56 seconds left in the half to make it 21-7. Then, after Quinn Knox came up with an interception for St. V-St. M at the Irish 49, Lindsay hit Darrian Lewis for a 27-yard touchdown pass to make it 21-14 with 21 seconds left.
“We showed a lot of resiliency,” said Irish coach Bobby Nickol, whose team finished with 179 total yards. “We could have fell behind 28-0 at halftime and hung our heads. We made a few plays there at the end of the half.”
MASSILLON The storyline going into Friday night’s season opener between Massillon and St. Vincent-St. Mary was simple. It would be the Tigers’ talent-laden offense against the Irish experienced and strong defense.
Turns out, someone forgot to tell the Massillon defense it was going to have to take second billing.
The Tigers forced four St.Vincent-St. Mary turnovers, while stifling the Irish offense most of the night, to help key a 35-7 victory at Paul Brown Tiger Stadium.
“I thought we really controlled the line of scrimmage,” Massillon coach Nate Moore said. “I thought our front seven played really well. I thought they did a good job of reading their keys. A lot of mid-direction stuff and jet-sweep stuff and they did a really good job with that.”
The key to the Tiger defensive effort, as much as the takeaways, was the way they did not allow the Irish to get their running game established. At least, not with highly-regarded tailback Terrance Keyes Jr.
A year after rushing for 198 yards against Massillon in a 13-10 Irish win in Week 9, Keyes was held to just 10 yards on 11 carries. As a team, St. Vincent-St. Mary had just 85 rushing yards on 32 carries, including just 20 yards on 14 second-half carries.
“I think we definitely had trouble establishing the run,” said Irish coach Bobby Nickol, who was making his head-coaching debut. “There was a couple of small things we wanted to do, get the passing game going (because) we thought there was a couple of holes we were going to be able to take advantage of. We knew they were athletic; we knew that blocking-scheme-wise, we had to do a couple of different things up front to keep their blitzing off-base.”
The Tigers, though, made sure that even when St. Vincent-St. Mary was able to get things going, it didn’t go far. Of the four takeaways Massillon had, three of those came in its territory.
The first, a fumble recovery by Deon Williams a the Tiger 45 on the Irish’s first possession, set up Massillon’s first score. Aidan Longwell hit Aydrik Ford on a 24-yard touchdown pass on a fourth-and-seven play to give the Tigers a 7-0 lead with 4:51 remaining in the first quarter.
It was one of three touchdown passes by Longwell, who was 14-of-21 for 150 yards. He added second-half scoring tosses to Tre’Von Morgan and Dean Clark, which helped to blow open what had been a 21-7 game at the half.
“We were efficient in the passing game at times,” said Moore, whose team ran for 177 yards, including 109 yards and a score by senior Jamir Thomas. “There’s some things we have to sharpen up.”
The Irish helped to turn the relatively close game at the break into a lopsided one with giveaways on three of its first four second-half possessions. Ben Krichbaum recovered a pair of fumbles on strip sacks for Massillon, while also intercepting a pass at the Tiger 15.
It was more than just turnovers which helped the Tigers turn away the Irish. They also managed to swing momentum to their side almost instantaneously after St. Vincent-St. Mary appeared to get it going its way.
The Irish capped a 13-play, 80-yard drive when Luke Lindsay hit Joshua Jones on a 19-yard fade route to tie the game at 7-7 with 8:53 remaining in the first half. Massillon, though, turned the subsequent kickoff into an 88-yard Tyree Broyles touchdown for a 14-7 lead which it would never relinquish.
“It was freaking huge,” Nickol said of Broyles’ return. “It was absolutely huge. It’s 7-7, we have a lot of momentum going and things are kind of pushing our way. … As soon as he brings that back, it just kind of took the wind out of our sails.”
Irish bottles up Tiger offense in come-from-behind victory
Chris Easterling – The Independent
MASSILLON There equation was simple for Massillon’s offense through eight games. Run the football to win football games.
Then, in the ninth game against St. Vincent-St. Mary, the Tigers were held to their lowest rushing total of the season. Not surprising, the Massillon offense was also held to its lowest point total of the season as the Irish came out of Paul Brown Tiger Stadium with a 13-10 victory.
“We couldn’t get anything going running the football,” said Tigers coach Nate Moore, whose team will take a 6-3 record into next Saturday’s showdown at archrival McKinley. “That’s where football’s started for 150 years. You have to be able to run the football.”
Instead, Massillon was held to just 111 yards on the ground on 32 attempts by a St. Vincent-St. Mary defense which posted its signature performance of the season. The previous season low for the Tigers on the ground was 123 yards in the opener against Mentor, which was, not surprisingly, also a loss.
Of Massillon’s rushing yardage, 40 came on its opening drive of the game. That ended in a 30-yard Klay Moll field goal for a 3-0 lead with 6:45 remaining in the first quarter.
“They just fought,” said an emotional Irish coach Marcus Wattley, whose 6-3 team took the lead for good at 13-10 on a 10-yard Ryan Fischer-to-Scott Walter touchdown pass with 3:15 remaining. “I told them before the game, ‘It’s going to take 48 minutes. Nothing short of that; not 42, not 24. It’s going to take 48 minutes.'”
Massillon, which went three-and-out on its subsequent possession after the Irish go-ahead score and never saw the football again, took a 10-0 lead on Jamir Thomas’ 7-yard run with 4:20 remaining in the second quarter. That score was set up by an interception one play earlier by Max Turner which he returned 42 yards.
The Tigers wouldn’t get closer than the Irish 41 after that play. That possession was ended when St. V’s Joshua Jones came up with an interception on a deep pass by Aidan Longwell, only his second pick thrown this season.
Longwell was 5-of-16 passing for just 32 yards. His longest pass was a 10-yarder to Tre’Von Morgan in the first quarter.
The Irish safeties remained deep for the entirety of the game, taking away the deep routes from Massillon. Moore said the defensive scheme made perfect sense because of what the Tigers were unable to do all night.
“We have to run the football,” Moore said. “If they can play off, and we can’t run the football, then why would see a coverage that would allow us to just throw the ball down the field.”
While St. Vincent-St. Mary was bottling up Massillon’s offense, the Tiger defense was doing a solid enough job of keeping the Irish in check as well. St. V had just 108 total yards in the first half, which ended with the Tigers in front 10-0.
The struggles Massillon created for the Irish was enough to force Wattley to make a quarterback change. Fischer came on for the final two first-half possessions, after Turner’s pick helped set up the Tigers with a two-score lead.
Fischer would make a huge 21-yard pass to Walter to set up the Irish’s first score, a 1-yard run by Terrence Keyes with 9:26 left in the third quarter. The point-after kick was blocked, making it 10-6 Tigers.
Fischer finished 7-of-15 for 73 yards. Keyes rushed for 198 yards on 31 carries.
“Ryan came off and he led,” Wattley said. “I can’t say enough about it. He prepares himself like he’s a starter. He got his opportunity to make plays today, and he made them.”
TIGERS GROUND AND POUND Tigers overcome weather, first half turnovers to rally past SVSM
Chris Easterling Independent sports editor
MASSILLON The weather outside was frightful. Almost as frightful as Massillon’s first-half turnovers. It would, however, all turn out delightful for the Tigers. Shaking off the rain and four first-half turnovers, Massillon would ground and pound its way to a second-half rally to beat St. Vincent-St. Mary 21-12 on Friday night at Paul Brown Tiger Stadium.
“The weather was definitely a factor,” said Massillon coach Nate Moore after his team won its sixth in a row to improve to 7-2 heading into the regular-season finale against archrival McKinley. “We had some uncharacteristic turnovers. We just fought through it and came together as a team and got it done.” After running for just 57 yards on 18 first-half carries, Massillon would run the football for 16 consecutive plays – gaining 65 yards in the process – to open the third quarter.
The final three yards came on a Jamir Thomas keeper out of the wildcat formation, giving the Tigers a 7-6 lead with 4:18 left in the third. That would just be the start of it in the second half. Massillon ran for 170 yards on 41 second half carries, with Thomas adding a 2-yard run with 3:28 remaining to add a cushion by making it 21-12.
“They have a great (offensive) line; we knew that going in,” said Irish coach Marcus Wattley, whose team fell to 5-4 and saw its three-game win streak snapped. “We did a good job using our speed to neutralize that in the first half. The second half, not so much. Once their big boys get on you, they’re hard to get off.” Jefferson carries the load While Thomas was the one to cash two of the three second-half scoring drives in for Massillon, it was Ethen Jefferson who helped get it down in position to score. After carrying the ball just once for eight yards in the first half, Jefferson ran for 119 yards on 25 second-half carries.
That helped Jefferson finish with 127 yards on 26 carries. Over the last two weeks, the senior has run for 263 yards on 44 carries.
“He was a workhorse for us tonight,” Moore said of Jefferson. “He ran really hard. He got some tough yards. You have to give credit to St. Vincent-St. Mary; really good football team with a great defense. It was some tough sledding in there.”
Massillon would go in front 14-6 on the only real big play it picked up all night. Seth Blankenship shook off a two-interception first half to hit Austin Jasinski for a 58-yard touchdown with 2:05 remaining in the third. Blankenship would finish 2-of-7 for 61 yards on the night. “It was big for our team,” Moore said. “Those guys executed out here in the rain. It was a great throw and a great catch.”
St. Vincent-St. Mary would match that big throw-and-catch with one of their own to make things interesting early in the fourth quarter. Freshman Luke Lindsay hit Malik Wooldridge for a 47-yard touchdown pass with 9:28 remaining. Failed-two-point conversion After Massillon was called for pass interference on the initial two-point conversion try, the Irish were stuffed on a rushing attempt on the subsequent try. That kept the Tigers in front 14-12.
“He’s not your average freshman,” Wattley said of Lindsay, who accounted for 151 of the Irish’s 159 total yards with his arm. “We knew that. That’s why we trusted him in a game like this.”
Halfway through the game, the Tigers seemed to be fighting the same luck they had battled through the last three years against the Irish. They gave the ball up three times on their first four possessions, then fumbled away a lateral attempt after getting an interception on the final play of the first half.
Despite all of that, however, Massillon was still only a play away from getting the lead. All St. Vincent-St. Mary could muster from all of those Tiger turnovers was a pair of Jamie Martucci field goals, which gave the Irish a 6-0 halftime lead. That’s why, despite only 60 total first-half yards and the minus-3 turnover margin, there wasn’t a lot of hand-wringing in the locker room at halftime for Massillon.
“The coaches went in and got to work making adjustments,” Moore said. “We decided what we wanted to go to in the second half. The kids digested the information and applied it on the field.”
Which is why a frightful start ended with a delightful finish for the Tigers.
SLOWDOWN Irish stall Tigers’ momentum, rattle playoff hopes for third year in a row
BY CHRIS EASTERLING Independent sports editor
MASSILLON Big plays were a big problem for Massillon on Friday night against St. Vincent St.Mary. Because of that, the Tigers’ precarious playoff hopes took a big hit.
The Irish once again jumped on Massillon early for a double-digit lead for the fourth consecutive year.
For the third year in a row, they had all the answers when the Tigers would challenge that lead as they won 56-31 at Paul Brown Tiger Stadium.
“It just seemed like, we’d get going and then we’d sputter,” Massillon coach Nate Moore said. “Everybody was taking turns making mistakes. You can’t do that against good teams. You have to put multiple good series in a row together on both sides of the ball.”
St Vincent-St. Mary, which jumped to a 14-0 lead midway through the first quarter, led by as much as 18 in the first half. Massillon got within seven in the second quarter, and 11 early in the fourth, but couldn’t get closer.
The loss drops Massillon to 4-5 entering the Week 10 showdown at McKinley next Saturday. The Tigers – No. 9 in Division II Region 5 this week – could very well go into the game with no shot at the postseason, depending on other results. “We have good, tough kids who I think are resilient,” St. Vincent-St. Mary coach Dan Boarman said. “We made some mistakes, obviously.
We’re going to have to shore some of those things up. Our kids keep playing.”
St. Vincent-St. Mary’s penchant for getting the big play started on the game’s first play, when Dom Davis hit DeAmonte’ King for a 48-yard pass to the Tiger 17- On the next play, Davis hit Myles Williams for a 17-yard touchdown and a 7-0 Irish lead 20 seconds into the game.
After Massillon was stopped on fourth-and-inches at the St. V 36, the Irish were pushed into a third-and-20 situation. But Davis and King connected again, this time a 45-yard pass to the Tiger 28.
Next play, Markus Hurd took off for a 28-yard touchdown run and a 14-0 Irish lead. Massillon had its share of big plays also. The problem for the Tigers, though, was that they spent the remainder of the game trying to chase down the Irish after their big opening salvo.
The first five Tiger drives reached St. V territory, the last three of which resulted in points. Lee Hurst II caught a pair of touchdown passes – 50- and 21-yarders – while Klay Moll kicked a 28-yard field goal in the first half.
All of that, however, left Massillon staring at a 35-17 halftime deficit.
After the Tigers pulled within 14-10 on Moll’s field goal, the Irish answered with a six-play drive to take a 21-10 lead on Kurd’s 9-yard run. After Massillon got within 21-17 on Hurst’s second touchdown catch with 2:40 left in the half, St V answered with a six-play drive – aided by a Tiger personal foul – to make it 27-17 with 1:03 left in the half. On the very next play by Massillon, the Irish got the ball back at midfield on an interception. A 33-yard pass from Donte Taylor to Davis would set up a 21-yard Davis touchdown run with 20 seconds left in the half, followed by a two-point conversion for an 18-point cushion at the intermission.
Massillon would pull within 42-31 on a pair of Keyshawn Watson scoring runs, the last of which was a 47-yarder with 11 minutes left. However, Kurd’s 73-yard kickoff return set up Davis for a 1-yard scoring plunge to push the Irish back up to 49-31 just 19 seconds later.
Kurd added a 13-yard run with 3:58 left to provide the final margin.
IRISH TRIP UP TIGERS Massillon’s playoff hopes Shaken following defeat
Chris Easterling Independent sports editor
MASSILLON – Massillon’s playoff hopes might not hinge completely on next Saturday’s regular-season finale against McKinley. At this point, though, the Tigers don’t have any other option than to treat it that way.
For the second year in a row, St. Vincent-St. Mary put Massillon in a bind entering its annual grudge match with the Bulldogs. This time, it was a 28-20 win by the Irish on Friday night at Paul Brown Tiger Stadium.
The loss drops Massillon to 6-3 on the season. The Tigers came into the game ranked No. 5 in Division II Region 4, and had a number of games involving level-two points for them or teams behind them in the rankings break their way.
That said, Massillon Coach Jason Hall doesn’t want to hear about anything other than what his team can control. That would be next Saturday afternoon’s home game against McKinley, which is 3-6 after losing to Boardman Friday night.
“Right now, our attention has got to go to McKinley,” Hall said. “That’s the only option we have. … For our kids, it’s McKinley Week.”
Massillon found itself in that predicament because St. Vincent-St. Mary made the playsit couldn’t on Friday night. The Irish outgained the Tigers 473-318 overall, rushed for 208 yards to the Tigers’ 162 and didn’t turn the ball over while Massillon gave it up once.
All of that added up to a second consecutive victory in Paul Brown Tiger Stadium over Massillon for the Irish, who are now 7-2 and firmly in control of a path back to the playoffs after consecutive Division III state titles.
“I thought we did a nice job shutting down their big receiver (Reggie Rogers), too,” Irish coach Dan Boarman said. “We slowed down (Massillon’s 1,000-yard rusher J.D.) Crabtree. I don’t think we stopped him.”
Crabtree rushed for 97 yards on 18 carries, the first time he was held under 100 yards in a game he played four quarters in. He scored a touchdown to pull Massillon within 14-7 in the second quarter.
Rogers, meanwhile, caught an 18-yard touchdown to pull Massillon to 28-20 with 1:09 remaining. The Irish, though, blocked the extra point and then recovered the onside kick to essentially remove all doubt.
Rogers finished with seven catches for 94 yards for the Tigers. They completed 15 of 22 passes for 156 yards in the air.
“We just have to play consistent,” Hall said. “In the second half, we didn’t do a good job with our inside zone. We didn’t do a good job in our short passing game. We’ve got to be more consistent with things. If you don’t have a balanced attack and you’re not consistent and you give up big plays, us coaches have to do a better job. It’s not just the kids.”
The Irish were the big-play offense Friday night. Twice, that is, and those big plays were killers for Massillon.
St. Vincent-St. Mary scored on an 83-yard Dom Davis-to-Tyrece Speaight pass with 3:53 left in the first quarter. On the play, a Massillon defender tried to get the interception, missed, and gave Speaight a clear path to the end zone.
A similar thing happened in the fourth quarter, as Markus Hurd capitalized on an overaggressive Tiger defense trying to get an interception. This time, it was a 55-yard scoring catch and run to make it 28-14 Irish with 7:14 remaining.
That was one of three two-touchdown deficits Massillon faced during the game. It trailed 14-0 after one quarter, 21-7 in the second quarter and then 28-14 in the fourth quarter.
“We gave up big plays,” said Hall, whose team trailed 21-14 at halftime. “You can’t give up big plays. We didn’t start off good in the first quarter, and we have to make plays on offense. We just have to put a complete game together.”
That complete game, the Tigers hope, comes next week against McKinley. In fact, their season may depend on it happening.
AGAINST A WALL Turnovers costly as Tigers forced to regroup with playoff lives on the line against McKinley
By CHRIS EASTERLING Independent sports editor
MASSILLON Massillon once again found itself in a deficit against an elite football team. And once again, the Tigers found themselves fighting in the fourth quarter with an opportunity to come all the way back.
And once again, that early hole proved to be too much as the Tigers suffered a 28-23 setback to the top-ranked Division III team in the state, St. Vincent-St. Mary, on Friday night at Paul Brown Tiger Stadium.
The Tigers found themselves in a 21-3 first-half hole thanks to four turnovers, three of which led to touchdowns for the reigning Division III state champion Irish.
Still, Massillon pulled to within 28-23 with 6:03 remaining on a Marcus Whitfield touchdown catch. But they never got a final opportunity to go for a winning drive as the the Irish chewed up the remainder of the clock.
“As a team, we just can’t do that,” a dejected Massillon coach Jason Hall said. “We gave up a fumble for a touchdown. We had two muffed punts. It’s just mental mistakes in the first half. … We couldn’t score from the 1. We’ve got to play better next week.”
The Tigers have no choice in that matter, whether it was archrival McKinley or somebody else next week. At 7-2, they likely need to beat the Bulldogs – who are 9-0 – on Saturday at Fawcett Stadium in order to qualify for the playoffs in Division II Region 2.
“They might need to dwell on it for about 24 hours,” Hall said. “We get an extra day. It’s definitely do-or-die. As a team, coaches and players, we have to do a better job. We can’t wait until the middle of the third quarter. We can’t kill ourselves with turnovers.”
In both losses, Massillon put itself behind the eight-ball. In Week 7, the Tigers battled back from a double-digit deficit at Austintown Fitch to close to within three points late in the fourth.
Both times, the Tigers couldnt’ finish the deal. The clock ran out at Fitch, while the Irish marched down the field during the last six-plus minutes.
Newman Williams picked up a big eight yards on third-and-3 from the Tigers 34. Then, with just less than two minutes left, he gained seven yards on fourth-and-2 to close things out.
“I knew in my mind we had to get that,” said Williams, who scored a pair of touchdowns and gained 56 yards on 10 carries. “I was going to try my hardest to do whatever I could to get that.”
The very first play set the tone for the Tigers, as Nathan Bischoff intercepted a deep pass for the Irish. That one wouldn’t hurt Massillon, as St. Vincent-St. Mary missed a 32-yard field goal.
But when the Tigers fumbled on their next possession, the Irish cashed in. Three plays and 25 yards later, Williams scored from 6 yards out for a 7-0 St. Vincent-St. Mary lead.
A muffed punt by Massillon set up Williams’ second scoring run, a 2-yarder with 7:49 left in the half to give the Irish a 14-3 lead. That lead grew to 21-3 when Dante Booker picked up a fumble and returned it 71 yards for a touchdown with 4:20 remaining.
“Defensively, we’ve created a ton of turnovers,” St. Vincent-St. Mary coach Dan Boarman said. “That’s really helped us out.”
Booker’s fumble return took the momentum away from Massillon after the Tigers got an interception by Reggie Rogers three plays before. Rogers, though, helped the Tigers take a 21-10 deficit at halftime when he pulled in a 19-yard pass with 15 seconds left in the back of the end zone.
After the Irish took a 28-10 lead out of the intermission with an eight-play, 71-yard scoring drive, Massillon began to wrest control of the momentum. Lyron Wilson’s 16-yard run with 2:02 left in the third pulled the Tigers to within 28-17.
Wilson finished with 105 yards on 21 carries.
The Tigers, who were stopped on fourth-and-goal from the Irish 3 with 5:29 remaining in the third quarter, outgained the Irish 304-239.
“The big negatives out-weighed a lot of positives,” Hall said. “We just have to look at that. It’s going to click for us, and hopefully it translates into a win next week.”
MASSILLON The Massillon Tigers were looking to find something to get momentum going their way Friday night against St. Vincent-St. Mary. They were locked in a tie game late in the third quarter, and the Irish were knocking on the door to retake the lead.
That’s when Kentrell Taylor came up with the interception of his career. And the subsequent 93-yard return for a touchdown gave Massillon the lead for good, and the Tigers pulled away from there for a 44-23 win on a rainy night at Paul Brown Tiger Stadium.
“It was big, because our backs was against the wall,” Taylor said. “It was the red zone. God was just on my side. He put me in the right place at the right time.”
The win improved Massillon to 8-1, the most regular-season wins for the Tigers since 2005.
They will be gunning for their first nine-win season since that year Saturday when they close out the regular-season against archrival McKinley at Paul Brown Tiger Stadium.
The Irish fell to 7-2.
Taylor’s huge return, and the momentum it generated for the Tigers, helped to negate any of the bad feelings that may have been churning after a mistake-filled first half ended with St. Vincent-St. Mary leading 17-13. Massillon had three of its four turnovers in the first half, while committing five penalties for 30 yards.
“I didn’t think we played great,” Tiger coach Jason Hall said. “We turned the ball over. It was a little sloppy for us.”
That all changed in the second half. After gaining 157 yards in the first two quarters, the Tigers finished the game with 388.
“We had each other’s backs,” Tiger quarterback Kyle Kempt said. “Offensive line, running backs, defense, they all had my back tonight. When it counted, I had their backs, too.”
Massillon struck first, as Zach Volzer gave the Tigers a 6-0 lead with 5:35 left in the first quarter on a 36-yard touchdown catch from Kempt. It was one of two first-half scoring strikes for Kempt, the other a 58-yarder to Marcus Whitfield that cut the Tigers’ deficit to 17-13 with 4:20 remaining.
In between those two Tiger scores were 17 St. Vincent-St. Mary points on three consecutive possessions. Dylan Labbe kicked a 27-yard field goal 1:45 into the second quarter to put the Irish on the board at 6-3. After St. Vincent-St. Mary’s Dante Booker picked off a pass and returned it to the Tiger 19, Williams powered in from nine yards out to give the Irish a 10-6 lead with 8:45 remaining in the half.
Mike Pruiett gave the Irish a 17-6 lead with 5:20 left with a two-yard run. That scoring drive, was all of five plays, was set up by a 34-yard Fransohn Bickley punt return to the Tiger 23.
Bickley also helped St. Vincent-St. Mary turn away a Massillon scoring chance late in the half, picking off a pass in the end zone after the Tigers had gotten the ball on the Irish 29. That was one of three first-half interceptions for the St. Vincent-St. Mary defense.
Massillon surged to a 23-17 lead by scoring on its first two third-quarter possessions. The first was a 14-yard Ryne Moore touchdown run, followed by a 27-yard Andrew David field goal.
St. Vincent-St. Mary, though, tied the game up immediately after the field goal when Parris Campbell Jr. took the subsequent kickoff 92 yards for a touchdown.
The snap on the PAT was bobbled, and Massillon snuffed out the two-point pass attempt to keep it at 23-23 with 5:18 left in third quarter.
The Irish appeared ready to retake the lead after it recovered a Massillon fumble at the Tiger 31.
But on a third-down play from the Tiger 9, Taylor came up with his huge interception.
Moore’s second touchdown run of the game, a two-yard run with 10:07 remaining, made it 37-23 Tigers. Moore finished the game with 176 yards on 33 carries.
“Moore’s a special player,” Hall said. “That’s what we expect out of him. He’s a physical kid, a grinder.”
Gareon Conley’s 31-yard touchdown catch in the fourth quarter gave Massillon the final margin.
Maybe, just maybe the Tigers have finally figured it out.
Massillon scored touchdowns on three of its first four possessions and went on to post a dominating 36‑7 victory over the Akron St. Vincent‑St. Mary’s Fighting Irish at Paul Brown Tiger Stadium, Friday night.
It was the Tigers first victory, in the last four weeks and marked the first time they, scored as many as three touchdowns in a game since Week 3 against Garfield.
Fighting Irish coach Jim Meyer was not‑surprised to see Massillon play such a dominant game against his team, which was 6‑2 coming in to the contest.
“I’ve got to hand it to them,” Meyer said, “They wanted this game and they came out and were very, very physical.
“I watched tape on them and I knew it was going to be a physical game. I’m not surprised at all. I think they always had the material. I think they’ve been a sleeping giant for a while. Unfortunately for us they picked this week to wake up.”
Tigers tailback Marc Cleveland broke the century mark‑in. rushing for the first time since mid‑season with 126 yards and two touchdowns in 16 carries. The senior says the team is hitting its stride.
“We’re coming together as a team,” Cleveland said. “We all just came together. We got tired of getting beat. We figured out we have to do what we have to do. We just have to fire off the line and punish the defense.”
Senior tight end Marcus Simpson, who opened the scoring with a six‑yard touchdown reception, was overjoyed at the victory.
“It was just beautiful,” Simpson said. “The offense came together and we all played good. I was just happy.
“That was my first touchdown and being a senior I was just thrilled to get a chance to help the team out. We’ve got a lot of momentum and we’re starting to move.”
Momentum was provided from the get go when Tigers junior Sam Young returned the Irish’s opening kickoff 53 yards to the St. V 43-yard line.
Cleveland gained 10 yards on two running plays and Massillon quarterback Dave Irwin connected with tight end. Ellery Moore for 10 more to the Irish 24.
Then Cleveland bucked over left guard for 10 yards and Irwin scrambled for four more to set up second‑and‑6 from the 9‑yard line.
From there, Irwin tossed a short pass to Simpson, who was all alone in the right flat. He strolled into the end zone for six. Brett Marshall’s PAT was true and Massillon led 7‑0 less than three minutes into the game.
Massillon linebacker Mike Mattox battled down an Irish third down pass and the visitors were forced to punt after just three snaps on their initial possession of the night.
The Tigers began their second drive from their 40 and methodically moved to the Irish 28. From there, Irwin hit Ron Lynn in the right flat for a 10‑yard gain, then Cleveland ran for 17 more on the flanker reverse to the 1-yard line.
Cleveland did the honors from a yard out and Marshall added the PAT to make it 14‑0 Tigers at 5:05 of the first quarter.
St. Vincent‑St. Mary again went three‑and‑out and the Irish punted the ball back to Massillon at its 26. The Tigers got a couple first downs but punted the ball back to St. V’s. But on first down, Massillon’s Brandon Clark made a gorgeous over‑the‑shoulder interception of a Ross Marconi pass to give the locals the ball at the visitors 34‑yard line.
Six plays later Irwin rolled left then threw back right and found Joe Price alone in the end zone for the six‑yard touchdown pass and a 20‑0 lead at 11:25 of the second period.
After another Irish punt, Massillon moved to the St. V’s 1‑yardline, but had to settle for, a 19‑yard field go by Marshall to go up 23-0 with 4:17 left until halftime.
Although the Irish finally got on the scoreboard with a 67-yard march culminated by a 9-yard Marconi to Miquel Irvin touchdown pass, it was a practically perfect first half for the beleaguered Tigers, who led 23-7 at the intermission.
Irwin was especially sharp. The junior completed 9 of 13 aerials for 73 yards and two TDs in the first 24 minutes of play.
“Dave’s pretty calm back there,” Shepas said. “He doesn’t seem to get rattled that much. He made some plays. He was 4-for-4 at one point and they were all at the right time and he put the ball where it needed to be. He did a nice job of directing that offense. We found some things we are good at … finally.”
For the second week in a row, Shepas scripted his team’s plays. And for the second week in a. row, the attack clicked.
“We did 24 plays this time instead of 17,” Shepas revealed, “The first series we had set for six plays. We got the ball and in six plays we were in the end zone. That’s a Bill Walsh thing and Mike Holmgren does it with the Packers.
It works best when you’re struggling to find some continuity. The main thing is when you come out you have to get some gains. When you get the gains the script works well. You lose yardage on first down and the script isn’t going to work well.”
On reason the Tigers didn’t have many negative yardage plays was their ability to control the line of scrimmage. Once again the offensive front of Mike Dean and Greg Dickerhoof at tackles, Joe Meanor and Chris Rich at guards and Dustin Clawson at center moved the defense around at the point of attack.
“In the games we haven’t been successful, people have established the line of scrimmage on us.” Shepas said, “Tonight were able to control the line on both sides of the ball.”
The team exchanged punts on the first four possessions of the second half. Then the tigers defense came up with a big play. After Luke Shilling’s punt rolled out of bounds at the St. V’s 13-yard line, the Akron entry tried to execute a screen pass Massillon middle linebacker Sam Studer made a one-handed interception and fought his way to the six yard line before being gang tackled.
Three plays later, Irwin found Price on a 10-yard curl pattern in the end zone. Marshall’s kick made it 30-7 Tigers at 11:48 of the fourth quarter.
The Irish turned the football over on second down of their ensuing possession and Cleveland applied some icing on the cake, going off his right tackle untouched for a 41-yard touchdown run.
In addition to putting it all together on offense, Massillon got over the hump by putting together two good haves of football.
“We tried not to make too many (halftime) adjustments because when we made adjustments we seem to make mistakes,” Shepas noted.
The Massillon defense did its part registering four interceptions and limiting the Irish to a paltry 54 yards rushing.
One sobering note for the Tigers was an ankle injury suffered by two-way starter Ellery Moore. The junior tight end/defensive end says he’ll be fine.
“It’s McKinley week so I’m coming back,” Moore said, “I’m not done.”
“We played with heart and dedicated tonight . We’re becoming a team. We’re working together and becoming a team. Just like coach Shepas wanted us to do. Play together. Put our heads together and be one.”
And for a night at least it worked to perfection.
MASSILLON 36 ST. V-ST. M 7
M S First downs rushing 11 4 First downs passing 7 3 First downs by penalty 1 1 TOTAL first downs 19 8 Net yards rushing 209 54 Net yards passing 93 118 TOTAL yards 302 170 Passes attempted 18 25 Passes completed 12 7 Passes intercepted 1 4 Punts 6 7 punting average 39 35.3 Fumbles/Lost 1/0 0/0 Penalties 3 8 Yards penalized 40 61
MASSILLON 14 09 00 13 36 ST.V-ST.M 00 07 00 00 07
SCORING M ‑ Simpson 8 pass from Irwin (Marshall kick) M ‑ Cleveland 1 run (Marshall kick) M ‑ Price 6 pass from Irwin (PAT failed) M ‑ Marshall 19 field goal St. V ‑ Irvin 9 pass from Marconi (Williamson kick) M – Price 10 pass from Irwin (Marshall kick) M – Cleveland 40 run (Kick(failed)
Massillon rushing: Cleveland 16‑126, Lynn 7‑33, Miller 10‑24, Wagner 4‑20. St V rushing: James 15‑59.
If the Massillon Tigers were trying to keep the McKinley Bulldogs in the dark for next week’s annual season‑ending showdown, they did a good job of it with a lackluster 10‑3 victory over Akron St. Vincent‑St. Mary, in a light drizzle Friday night at Paul Brown Tiger Stadium.
The Tigers, coming off last week’s disappointment at Cincinnati Moeller, struggled all night long and trailed 3-0 at halftime. They lost three of four fumbles and had seven penalties for 55 yards, negating 336 yards of total offense.
“As good as we played last week offensively, we played just that poorly tonight,” said Tigers coach Jack Rose. “I was concerned about a letdown from last week. It’s a tough week to coach here, with McKinley up next. And St. Vincent‑St. Mary seems to always give us fits.”
Part of the reason for the Tigers troubles was a fired up Fighting Irish team that was playing for its playoff life. The St. V defense was stout all night long and the offense kept Massillon off balance enough to hold a nearly four minute time of possession advantage the first half.
“Our kids are tough kids,” said Irish first year coach Jim Meyer. “They work hard and they’re in great shape.
“But the better team won. We couldn’t make big plays when we needed it. Massillon is a great team. Give them credit.”
The Tigers, 7‑2 on the season, won it with a 10-play march on the opening possession of the second half. Christian Morgan carried the ball on five of those snaps, ripping off a 17 yard gain over left tackle that moved the ball to the Irish 12 yard line. Two plays later, junior Marc Cleveland took an option pitch from quarterback Tip Danzy and outsprinted the visitors’ defense to the right corner of the end zone for the only touch of the game.
Josh Hose drilled the point after conversion kick and Massillon led for the first time 7‑3 at 7:34 of the third period.
Actually, the Tigers most impressive drive of the night was on its final possession and began at the 7:12 mark of the fourth period at the Massillon 12.
On the fourth play of the march, Massillon faced a third down and 11 situation at its own 22, too deep in Tiger territory to pass the football. So Danzy gave, the ball to, Morgan who willed his way to a 15‑yard gain, a first down and across the 1,000‑yard season rushing barrier.
The senior tailback came out of the game at that point, having aggravated a hip pointer he suffered last week.
“Christian made some runs tonight where he didn’t have any help at all,” observed Rose. “On the one he got injured, I think he ran through their whole team. it was a terrific effort. He picked it up as the game went on. I think both of our backs did.”
Morgan admitted the 1,000-yard plateau has special meaning, especially the second time around.
“I think a lot of people thought I wasn’t going to get it this year, so I had to prove them wrong,” Morgan said.
Meyer also took time to tip his hat to Morgan, who carried the ball 30 times for 167 yards.
“We thought the guy who did a good job was the tailback,” Meyer said. “He was awesome.”
After Morgan left the game, Danzy hooked up with tight end Seth Venables (4 receptions, 54 yards) for a 20 yard gain to the St. V 43.
“When the running game is going that well, you key on it and something else comes open,” observed Meyer. “In this case it was their tight end.”
Two plays later, Dave Hodgson tore off a 20 yard gain on a draw play, then added 15 more on the very next snap to set up Massillon with first and goal from the 5‑yard line.
But the Irish defense stiffened, and three plays later, Hose kicked a field goal to close the scoring with 1:23 left to play.
St. V had one more shot, but the Tigers defense pressured quarterback Ross Marconi all over the field and the possession went nowhere.
In fact, Josh Hill was in the Irish backfield throughout the contest, making Marconi’s night very unpleasant.
“I like going after the quarterback,” Hill said. “That’s the best part about playing outside linebacker, going after the quarterback. So I had a lot of fun tonight.”
“He’s a great player,” Rose said of Hill. “He’s played that way all year. He’s a great pass rusher and his speed lets him run down plays from behind.”
Hill then turned his attention toward next week’s showdown with McKinley.
“We’re ready for them,” Hill said. “They rained on our parade last year so it’s our turn this time.”
Morgan agreed. “We just got to pull it together for this final week,” he said.
MASSILLON 10 ST. V‑St. M 3 M S First downs rushing 14 1 First downs passing 5 4 First downs by penalty 0 1 TOTAL first downs 19 6 Net yards rushing 264 13 Net yards passing 68 103 TOTAL yards 332 116 Passes attempted 10 23 Passes completed 5 9 Passes intercepted 0 0 Punts 3 8 Punting average 40.3 27.6 Fumbles/Lost 4/3 1/0 Penalties 7 3 Yards penalized 55 15
MASSILLON 0 0 7 3 10 ST. V‑ST. M 3 0 0 0 3
S ‑ Williamson 23 field goal M ‑ Cleveland 8 run (Hose kick) M ‑ Hose 24 field goal
Massillon rushing: Morgan 30‑167, Hodgson 12‑70, Danzy 10‑14, Cleveland 1‑8, Miller 3‑5. St. V rushing: Skipper 12‑39
Massillon passing: Danzy 5‑10‑68 St, V passing: Marconi 9‑23‑103
Massillon receiving: Venables 4‑54 St. V receiving: Irvin 4‑43, Alvarado 1‑26, Ja. Walter 1‑14, Hlivko 1‑8, Skipper 1‑5, Jo. Walter 1-7