Second-quarter surge carries Tigers to 800th win
By CHRIS EASTERLING
MASSILLON, OH — For one quarter, the Massillon Tigers found themselves in a tussle with the visiting Firestone Falcons on Friday night. In fact, with less than five minutes remaining until halftime, it was still just a four-point game.
But over the final four minutes or so of the half, the Tigers came alive, and left the Falcons gasping for air as they cruised to the program’s 800th win all-time.
Massillon – which fumbled on the game’s first play to set up a Falcon touchdown – scored three touchdowns in the final 3:15 of the first half to blow open what had been a tight affair and help it roll to a 42-10 win over Firestone at Paul Brown Tiger Stadium.
“I thought we started playing a little better,” said Tiger coach Jason Hall after his team improved to 4-1 on the season. “I thought we started running the ball a little better. That first play of the game makes my stomach turn. … I thought our kids did a good job coming back from that.”
The Tigers were holding onto a 14-10 lead late in the second quarter when Seth Nalbach partially deflected a Firestone punt, which was recovered at the Falcon 39, Three plays later, Kyle Kempt fired a 19-yard scoring strike to Justin Olack for a 21-10 lead with 3:15 remaining in the half.
From there, the floodgates opened up for Massillon.
Tyler Miller returned an interception 60 yards for a score on Firestone’s next possession to make it 28-10. After Ryan Skelly blocked a Falcon punt on the subsequent drive, Nalbach ripped off a 22-yard touchdown run to make it 35-10 with 1:03 left on the first-half clock.
“I thought once we settled down and got control and handled that initial miscue, I thought our kids played pretty well,” Hall said.
The burst to end the half was in stark contrast to the first 18 minutes or so of the game.
Firestone turned a Tiger fumble on the first play of the game into a 3-yard Cody Grice touchdown run and a 7-0 lead just 16 seconds into game. But Massillon went to work grinding out and impressive 22-play, 80-yard scoring drive of its own to tie it up on Jake Reiman’s 7-yard run with 3:57 left in the first quarter.
The time-consuming drive showcased the Tigers’ rejuvenated running game, with Alex Winters and Reiman both getting a chance to showcase their skills. Winters carried the ball seven times on the drive, while Reiman toted the pigskin six times.
Winters would carry the ball just one more time in the game – a 53-yarder on the next Tiger possession – finishing with 77 yards on eight carries. He suffered what Hall reported may be a concussion later in the half which sidelined him for the rest of the game.
Reiman, meanwhile, would go on to rush for 34 yards on 10 carries in the game. Sophomore Kentrell Taylor would add 38 yards on 11 carries, scoring a touchdown in the fourth quarter.
“For the most part, I thought they did a nice job running the ball,” Hall said. “We did some stuff we don’t traditionally do and lined up and ran some power and some iso and some toss. Just some stuff we’ve been working on in practice and will continue to work on.”
While the Tiger rushing game would certainly get its share of work on the night, they didn’t let the gusty conditions keep their passing game from taking off as well. Kempt completed 14-of-23 passes for 209 yards and two touchdowns, including a 48-yard scoring strike to Devin Smith early in the second quarter that gave Massillon the lead for good at 14-7.
About the only thing that didn’t go entirely the way of the Tigers was their ability to completely contain Firestone’s bowling ball of a tailback, Cody Grice. The 6-foot-2, 235-pound senior finished with 122 of the Falcons’ 174 rushing yards on the night.
However, the Tigers were able to keep Grice out of the end zone, save for his score early in the game. The only other Falcon score came on a 37-yard field goal by Alana Gaither with 8:07 left in the second quarter.
“I thought our defense played really well for the most part, besides a couple plays tackling,” Hall said.
at Paul Brown Tiger Stadium
Firestone 7 3 0 0 10
Massillon 7 28 0 7 42
F – Grice 3 run (Gaither kick)
M – Reiman 7 run (McCarthy kick)
M – Smith 48 pass from Kempt (McCarthy kick)
F – FG 37 Gaither
M – Olack 19 pass from Kempt (McCarthy kick)
M – T. Miller 60 interception return (McCarthy kick)
M – Nalbach 22 run (McCarthy kick)
M – Taylor 3 run (McCarthy kick)
First downs 9 18
Rushes-yards 37-174 43-162
Passing yards minus-3 225
Comp.-Att.-Int. 1-5-1 15-26-0
Fumbles-lost 1-0 1-1
Penalties-yards 4-30 6-55
Records 2-3 4-1
Massillon – Winters 8-77; Taylor 11-38 TD; Reiman 10-34 TD; Nalbach 1-22 TDs.
Firestone – Grice 22-122 TD.
Massillon – Kempt 14-23-209 2 TDs; McCormick 1-3-16.
Firestone – Heimbaugh 0-9-0 INT; Willis 1-6-(minus-3).
Massillon – Smith 5-61 TD; Olack 4-87 TD; Roberson 2-24.
Firestone – Grice 1-(minus-3).