Tigers’ incredible season falls just one short of title
By JOE SHAHEEN
Right now, it hurts.
The pain of the Massillon Tigers 24‑17 state championship game defeat at the hands of No. 1‑ranked Cincinnati St. Xavier in front of 20,227 at Fawcett Stadium on Saturday will linger for days … maybe weeks.
But when the emotions of being so close to the big prize die down and thoughtful reason takes over, everyone will reflect on how these Tigers restored the pride, tradition and excellence to this storied football program.
“It’s tough to think about it now after a tough loss,” first‑year Tiger coach Tom Stacy said. “We’ve got a great group of kids. We have a bunch of seniors we are really going to miss. It’s a special group. We’re going to have a hard time replacing those guys.”
Massillon pushed Ohio’s top rated football team to the brink, rallying from a 24‑3 chasm to pull to within seven points. After battling back to 24‑17 on a Bobby Huth to Trey Miller touchdown pass and Andrew Dailey’s 75‑yard strip and return, the Tigers had three possessions in the final six minutes of play. One ended on an interception, the second was a three‑and‑out series and the third, which began with 1:22 remaining, was doomed by a couple of quarterback sacks by the unrelenting St. Xavier defense.
“The fact we were playing some younger guys on our offensive line in the playoffs caught up with us,” Stacy said. “We tried to buy some time with some of those younger guys and bring them around. We took Antonio James and played him just on defense. I think taking him away from our offense caught up with us a little bit tonight.”
So did the Tigers’ kickoff and punt coverage. St. Xavier returned the game’s opening kickoff to midfield, leading to a 37‑yard field goal and a quick 3‑0 lead, But the killer was a 71‑yard punt return for a touchdown by Bomber senior Brad Brookbank as time expired in the first half.
Tigers fight back, down 21
“That was big,” Stacy said. “That’s something we haven’t done all year in the kicking game. We’ve done a great job of covering kicks so it was a little bit disappointing, but give their kid credit. Brookbank made a great play.”
“(St. Xavier is) the best football team we’ve played. I don’t think they’re the most talented team we’ve played but I think they’re the overall best team as far as coaching and play.”
St. Xavier won because its defense shut down the Massillon ground game, limiting the Tigers to 46 net yards rushing, and forced two key turnovers, a third‑quarter fumble inside the Bomber 30‑yard line and a fourth‑quarter interception after the Massillon defense had forced the St. X to punt with 6:17 to play.
St. Xavier, the fourth straight Cincinnati team to garner the big‑school state title, generated 303 yards of offense. Sophomore tailback Darius Ashley had 153 yards rushing, including a 50‑yard touchdown run at 5:48 of the third quarter that made it a 24‑3 game, and senior quarterback Brad Scherer rushed for 97 yards in just 15 totes to keep the Massillon defense off balance.
“We didn’t tackle as well as we have,” Stacy said. “We’ve tackled better in previous games.
“(Ashley) runs very hard. He’s very quick. They do a good job of blocking up front. For whatever reason we didn’t tackle as well as we have in recent weeks.”
Massillon and St. Xavier exchanged punts after the Bombers took their early 3‑0 lead, with the Tigers taking over at their 24.
Massillon’s first big play of the evening was a 28‑yard Huth to Ricardo Wells aerial to the St. X 43‑yard line. The Tigers worked the ball to the 25 but the first of four Bomber sacks in the game stalled the drive.
Sophomore place kicker Steve Schott came to the rescue, drilling a season best 44‑yard field goal, to knot the game at 3‑3 on the opening snap of the second quarter.
The teams again exchanged punts with St. X getting the better of the field position at its 42‑yard line. Scherer picked up 13 yards on a quarterback draw and a reverse netted 18 more to the Tiger 27.
The Bombers dropped a pass in the end zone but were undeterred, reaching the 16‑yard line on three running plays. On first down, Scherer completed his first pass of the evening, threading the needle on a 16‑yard scoring toss to wideout Matthew McFarland in the back of the end zone. Danny Milligan added the point after for a 10‑3 St. Xavier lead at 6:56 of the second quarter.
Massillon drove from its 20 to the St. X 36 on the ensuing possession but three plays from that spot yielded zero yards and the drive died.
The Bombers would then miss a 43‑yard field goal and the Tigers, after gaining one first down, were forced to punt when St. Xavier called time out with :08 remaining in the first half.
A punt block was set up but the Tigers gave Shawn Weisend time to get the kick away. Brookbank fielded it at the St. X 29, worked his way to the left sideline and then all the way to the Massillon end zone for a 17‑3 halftime lead.
“It was not like us to give up a punt return especially in that type of a situation,” Stacy said. “But give Brad Brookbank a lot of credit. He had a great return.
“That was a big momentum swing on their part to get that. It was a big play in the game.”
Massillon took the second half kickoff and advanced from its 20 to the St. Xavier 28 on nine plays, the biggest of which was a 28‑yard Huth to Gamble pass. On that play, Huth scrambled away from intense pressure from the St. X defensive front and lofted the ball down the right sideline toward the junior tailback. Gamble soared above the Bomber coverage and snatched the ball in spectacular fashion.
Two plays later, a Tiger fumble was recovered by St. Xavier’s Joe Ries, and the Massillon scoring threat went for naught.
After an exchange of punts, Ashley broke a tackle at the line of scrimmage on a first‑down running play, and dashed 50 yards to pay dirt to give St. Xavier a 24‑3 lead at 5:48 of the third quarter.
Lanale Robinson’s 36‑yard kickoff return gave Massillon solid field position at the 41 on the Tigers next possession. Huth then connected with Trey Miler for eight yards and a first down to the St. X 46.
Two snaps later, Huth once again deftly avoiding the pass rush ‑ gunned the ball to the end zone, where Miller out‑jumped two Bombers for the ball and a 32‑yard touchdown.
Schott’s point after was good and the St. Xavier lead was down to 24‑10 at 3:49 of the third quarter.
The Bombers mounted a drive after the Tiger kickoff, converting two third-and‑longs and marching to the Massillon 19.
Just as it appeared St. Xavier was going to put the game away for good, Andrew Dailey donned his Superman outfit and made a play. Ashley tried to skirt his left end on a running play but Dailey pulled the ball away near the sideline and headed in the opposite direction. He didn’t stop until he reached the end zone and suddenly Massillon was back in business, trailing by seven points with most of the fourth quarter to be played.
“We were stuck in a hole there for a little bit, ” Dailey said. “We had to start going after the ball defensively. So I did.”
The Tiger defense forced St. Xavier to punt three more times after Dailey’s heroics, but the Bomber defense was equal to the task each time, finally knocking Huth out of the game before coming up with an interception with less than a minute to play.
“It would have been easy for them when they went down 24‑3 to buckle,” said St. Xavier coach Steve Specht. “They didn’t. They fought back hard and they made it a game. My hat’s off to them.”
“We wanted to win our 23rd state championship’ Stacy said. “We weren’t quite able to do that. We came up a little bit short.”
Thrilling rally propels Tigers past St. Ed, into title game
By JOE SHAHEEN
The Massillon Tigers will wear the underdog tag for the third consecutive Saturday when they take on Cincinnati St. Xavier for Ohio’s big school state football championship at Fawcett Stadium in Canton this coming weekend.
In a game that bore an eerie resemblance to their Week Six comeback victory over St. Ignatius. the Tigers rallied for two touchdowns in the final six minutes of play to stun previously unbeaten Lakewood St. Edward 21‑17 in the state semifinals as 14,100 watched at the Rubber Bowl in Akron, Saturday afternoon.
The victory means Massillon will play for the state championship for the first time since 1982. Kickoff this Saturday is 7 p.m.
“Our guys just don’t quit,” said Tiger head coach Tom Stacy. “It reminded me a lot of the St. Ignatius game. We just battled and battled and battled.
“Our community takes a lot of hits in the way they promote football. I’ll tell you what, we have the best high school football fans in the country. They support this football program like you can’t believe and that’s a big part of it. They deserve this playoff run. They deserve this state championship game we’re going to play in.”
Trailing 17‑7 after St. Edward marched 54 yards to the end zone in 10 plays with just over seven minutes to play, the Tigers began their improbable comeback.
“We went into our two‑minute offense,” Stacy said. “We felt like we had to get a couple of scores, we don’t have a lot of time left, let’s go two minute. We’ve been pretty good in our two‑minute offense all year. We haven’t used it a lot but when we have we’ve done a nice job of it. We just had a bunch of guys make plays.”
Quarterback Bobby Huth connected with Brett Huffman on two throws for 18 yards then hit Brian Gamble on a flat pass that netted 26 more. Two plays later Massillon was right back in the game ,as Huth found Gamble running free on a post pattern in the end zone for a 18‑yard touchdown.
Steve Schott’s point after was true and the Tigers cut their deficit to three points at 17‑14 with 5:21 remaining.
Then the defense did its part, forcing St. Edward into a rapid‑fire three‑and‑out series. Massillon took over at its 45‑yard line after the Eagle punt rolled out of bounds.
Huth’s pinpoint passing resulted in a 10‑yard hookup with Zack Vanryzin to the St. Edward 45 and an 11‑yard strike to Gamble at the 29‑yard line as the Tiger Nation roared its approval.
That’s when disaster struck. Huth, seeing the Tigers were in a bad play call for the St. Edward defense, turned to ask for a timeout. But the ball was snapped before he could signal the referee and it sailed over his head. By the time the junior fell on the pigskin, the Tigers had lost 20 yards back to the St. Edward 49 and needed 30 yards for a first down.
Undaunted, Huth spotted Gamble on a crossing pattern in the middle a he field and hit the junior tailback in stride. By the time the Eagles pulled him down, the Tigers had a first down at the 14‑yard line.
“I know we have great playmakers,” Huth said. “If I can get the ball in their hands, anything can happen.”
Another Huth to Gamble hook‑up moved the ball to the 5‑yard line. On second-and‑one from there, Gamble found a nice seam over left tackle and went into the end for the game‑winner with 1:56 to spare.
“Bobby (Huth) and Brian (Gamble), the guys up front pass protected, Brett Huffman had some great passes and runs … we just had a bunch of guys make plays,” Stacy said. “It wasn’t anything magical in play calling. Just guys making plays.”
St. Edward head coach John Gibbons, who saw his junior‑laden team bow out at 12‑1, had nothing but praise for the Tigers.
“Anytime you can come back in the fourth quarter and put two touchdowns on the board after we had taken that lead…,” Gibbons said, his voice trailing off.
“Once they started going pass first and spreading, we didn’t come up with the answer. We tried to get the ball quick out of the quarterback’s hand, and he was very elusive and he found guys. It was hard for us to run with those guys in man, especially when the quarterback was getting in open spaces. Then we tried to mix it up and use some zone coverages and take the pressure off that way and they seemed to adjust their routes. They just made great plays.”
St. Edward took the opening kickoff and kept the football for eight plays, hitting the Tiger defense with a heavy dose of Nate Oliver, who started in place of the injured Frank Edmonds at tailback. The Tigers forced a punt when Paris McCall and Lorenzo Grizzard stopped Oliver on a third‑and‑eight trap play.
Massillon took over at its own 15 after the Eagle punt and Huth immediately went to the air, connecting with Trey Miller on a short pass. Miller turned it into a 17‑yard gain with some nifty running to set up a first‑and‑10 at the Tiger 33.
That’s when lightening struck. Huth ‑ who completed 14 of 20 passes for 230 yards and two touchdowns on the afternoon ‑ picked out Vanryzin who was wide open down the right sideline. The senior wideout hauled it in at the St. Edward 43 and scampered untouched into the end zone for a 67‑yard touchdown at 7:26 of the first quarter. Schott nailed the conversion kick and Massillon led 7‑0.
St. Edward came right back, marching from its 36 to the Massillon 15. But on third‑and‑five, a Brandon Frohnapple to John Dvoroznak completion turned into a nightmare for the Eagles. Dvoroznak was belted down along the right sideline and fumbled the ball. Robert Morris recovered for Massillon and Dvoroznak ‑ St. Ed’s best pass rusher ‑ would leave the game with a knee injury. He didn’t return.
St. Edward finally got on the scoreboard with 3:39 to play in the first half, moving 80 yards in nine plays for the game‑tying touchdown. Oliver’s 7‑yard run over left guard capped the nearly five‑minute march and Ben Rios’ extra point made it Massillon 7, St. Edward 7. All four Eagle first downs on the drive came via the air as Frohnapple went 16 of 22 for 173 yards on the day.
The Eagles owned a five minute advantage in time of possession in the first half, so it was key when Massillon opened the second half with a seven‑play, four‑minute drive, even though it did not yield any points.
However, St. Edward took over at its own 20 and moved 60 yards in nine plays to set up a 38‑yard field goal by Rios that gave the Eagles a 10‑7 lead at 2:31 of the third quarter.
The fourth quarter opened with St. Edward moving 54 yards in 10 plays to open up a 10‑point lead. On third‑and‑goal from the 5, Frohnapple hit Kyle Hubbard in the left corner of the end zone for the touchdown. Rios’ boot made it 17‑7 St. Edward at 7:02 of the fourth.
But the Tigers found paydirt on their next two drives for their 13th victory of this memorable 2005 campaign.
Both teams had just over 250 yards of total offense but Massillon limited the vaunted St. Edward ground game to just 84 yards in 37 attempts.
“We talked about three things we had to do to win the game,” Stacy said. “First and foremost was to stop their run. We knew they had a great offensive line. Big, strong and physical.
“We knew we had to play well in the kicking game and for the most part we did that. We thought we had to run the ball vertically better. We didn’t do a great job with that but we made up for it with our passing game.”
Stacy and Gibbons met at midfield after the final whistle.
The lasting memory of Massillon’s 21‑17 state semifinal victory over the St. Edward Eagles will be the Tigers’ two clutch fourth‑quarter touchdown drives that punched their ticket to this Saturday’s state championship game against Cincinnati St. Xavier.
But Massillon gave itself an opportunity to record one of the biggest victories in this storied program’s history when the Tiger defense forced St. Edward into a three‑and‑out series in the game’s final five minutes of play.
The Eagles were still on top at 17‑14 after Bobby Huth’s 18‑yard touchdown pass to Brian Gamble with 5:21 to play and with the way St. Edward had run the football and eaten up game clock all season long, its partisans didn’t seem all that concerned.
The Tiger defense, however, knew their assignment was to get the ball back and to do it as quickly as possible. ‑ St. Edward began at its own 26 after Nate Oliver’s 18‑yard kickoff return.
On first down Oliver hit into the middle to the Tiger defensive line but tackles Lorenzo Grizzard and Emery Saunders and ends Dirk Dickerhoof and Antonio James yielded only one yard.
Facing second‑and‑long, Eagle quarterback Brandon Frohnapple, who was having a fine day passing the football, hit wideout Kyle Hubbard along the left sideline. But Hubbard was out of bounds when he caught the ball, setting up a key third down play.
St. Edward had converted five of 11 third downs up to that point and most had come on the strength of Frohnapple’s accurate right arm.
The junior signal caller took the snap in shotgun formation and again looked toward Hubbard along the left sideline.
Tiger junior safety Andrew Dailey came swooping in from Frohnapple’s blind side and earholed the St. Edward quarterback for a 7‑yard sack that forced the Eagles to punt.
“That was huge,” St. Edward head coach John Gibbons said. “They’re rushing five. They have three guys playing zone underneath and three deep. There are places to throw the ball. However, you have to get it off.
“We’ve seen it before. They’ve been running that blitz all year. They didn’t blitz much in the game, until the end.”
Dailey was matter of fact about what amounted to the defensive play of the game.
“I just wanted to make sure I tackled him before he threw the ball,” he said.
“(The blitz) was called early in the game and there was confusion and we didn’t run it. We just stayed in normal coverage. We ran it a few more times in the game. That time I was wide open. I was unblocked.”
And Dailey made Frohnapple pay the price.
“We didn’t slide our protection the right way and (Dailey) came clean,” Gibbons said. “We do have a protection that can handle it but with all the screaming that’s going on out there…. When it gets that loud, guys don’t get the call.
“It’s one thing if the guy beats your blocker. When he can run clean in there on the dead run from the wide side, that’s not good for the offense.”
Dailey’s sack added to the momentum the Tiger offense had already generated on its previous scoring drive.
Massillon took the ensuing punt and quickly moved 55 yards in eight plays for the game‑winning touchdown and a trip to the Division I state title contest at Fawcett Stadium in Canton.
Huth saves best for last
By CHRIS EASTERLING Chris.EasterlirigL@lndeOnline.com
Third‑and‑30 isn’t exactly the situation a quarterback wants to find himself in. But that’s what stared Massillon quarterback Bobby Huth and the rest of his Tiger teammates in the face with just over 2:00 left in Saturday’s Division I state semifinal against Lakewood St. Edward at Akron’s Rubber Bowl.
On first down from the Eagle 29, the shotgun snap sailed high over the head of Huth as he was attempting to call a timeout. The junior wisely fell on the loose pigskin at the St. Edward 49 instead of trying to pick the ball up and force a bad pass.
“I guess he (the center) couldn’t hear me,” Huth said. “We were trying to get a timeout called. They had four guys guarding our two over there. I wanted to get a timeout called to get a better play called.”
That better play came two plays later, when Huth hit Brian Gamble running a dig route across the field for a 35‑yard gain and a first down at the St. Edward 14. Two plays later, the Tigers were in the end zone for the go‑ahead touchdown in a 21‑17 come‑from‑behind victory over the Eagles to advance to this Saturday’s Division I state championship game against nationally ranked Cincinnati St. Xavier at Fawcett Stadium.
“I was looking for B.G.,” Huth said. “He was supposed to run a deep post over the middle, and he saw the safety over the top. We were just on the same page. I just threw it to him, and he was there. He had a good run after the play.”
Huth had a good run himself the whole game, finishing 14‑of‑20 passing for 230 yards and a pair of touchdowns. He completed his first five passes in the game ‑ including a 67‑yard touchdown pass to Zack Vanryzin in the first quarter ‑ for 97 yards.
“I’m pretty happy, but there were still some passes I should have completed,” Huth said. “I should have been 16 or 17 for 20.”
But Huth saved his best for last. And he did so with the Tigers’ season hanging precariously in the balance.
“We were down 17‑7, and we just went to our two-minute offense,” Massillon coach Tom Stacy said. “We felt like ‘Hey, we have to get a couple of scores, and we don’t have a lot of time left.’ We’ve been pretty good in our two‑minute offense all year. We haven’t used it a lot, but when we have, we’ve done a pretty nice job with it. We just had a bunch of guys make plays, whether it was Bobby or Brian, or the guys up front in pass protection.”
Utilizing that pass blocking, as well as the skills of Gamble, Huth was 9‑of‑12 for 133 yards in the final quarter. Five of those completions went to Gamble for 98 yards and a touchdown.
“I was in a pretty good rhythm,” Huth said of the fourth‑quarter performance. “I like going to the two-minute offense. I wish we’d start the game off like that.”
For Huth, it was a chance to finish a job he started but was unable to complete against St. Ignatius back in Week Six. He was knocked out of that game with a concussion on Massillon’s final drive, and Shawn Weisend came in to direct the Tigers to the go‑ahead touchdown and their first‑ever win over the Cleveland parochial power.
On Saturday, it was Huth showing the poise and moxie of a grizzled veteran as he helped Massillon get another monkey of its back ‑ a 23‑year championship game drought ‑ with a come‑from‑behind performance against the Ignatius’ bitter rival.
“Shawn did a great job against St. Ignatius,” Huth said. “I don’t remember a lot of that game. I was pretty messed up. But I’m glad I got the opportunity to do it today.”
Drop gets Gamble fore
By CHRIS EASTERLING Chris.Easterling@IndeOnline.com
When Brian Gamble fumbled on Massillon’s first play of the fourth quarter in Saturday’s Division I state semifinal against Lakewood St. Edward at Akron’s Rubber Bowl, it looked like a back‑breaking play for the Tigers. That was especially true after the Eagles converted it into a touchdown for a 10‑point margin.
It turns out it might just have been a back‑breaker, only for St. Edward.
The fumble lit a tire under the 6‑foot, 190‑pound Tiger junior, who accounted for 103 total yards on six touches following the turnover. He also scored a pair of touchdowns as Massillon rallied for a 21‑17 victory and the program’s first state championship game berth since 1982.
“After I fumbled, I felt like I let the team down,” Gamble said. “I just wanted the ball in my hands so I could try to make up for it and make a play. Coach (Tom) Stacy gave me an opportunity to do that.”
Gamble finished the game with 62 rushing yards on 14 carries, but had just one carry after the fumble. Still, that one carry was huge ‑ a five‑yard touchdown jaunt with 1:56 remaining which set off a delirious celebration among the Tiger players and the orange‑and‑black clad portion of the 14,100 in attendance.
“Cory Shane did a good job of pulling up in there,” Gamble said of the touchdown run. “(Cory) and Quentin Nicholson did a great job opening it up for me, and I just found a crease and got into the end zone‑”
Where Gamble was most productive ‑ and most damaging to St. Edward ‑ was in the passing game. The receiver‑turned‑tailback did not have an official catch he did have a nine‑yard touchdown grab at the end of the first half called back due to holding ‑ through the first three quarters of play.
But when it mattered most, with the pulse of Massillon season weakening as each second ticked off the clock, Tiger quarterback Bobby Huth was able to find Gamble. Not just once, but five times for 98 yards.
“Sometimes they’ll have maybe a linebacker on me or a nickelback,” Gamble said. “I think I have an advantage because a lot of our plays go to the inside, so I’ll have leverage on them. Bobby just threw the rock to me, and I tried to make a play.”
No play outside of Gamble’s two touchdowns was as big as the 35‑yard catch and run, which converted a third‑and‑30 situation into a Massillon first down at the Eagle 14. Gamble made the catch across the middle, picked up a huge block from junior wideout Trey Miller and got the first down with 2:14 left to play.
Two plays later, Massillon was in the end zone for the go‑ahead score.
“We were on the same page,” Gamble said. “I was supposed to run a post, and I saw that they had it double covered so I just broke it off to the inside, and I was hoping Bobby saw me. He did and I caught it, and I knew I had to get a first down and get out of bounds and stop the clock.
“I think they started playing some ‘Cover 2,’ where they’d press up on me and try to double cover me. That’s what happened on the third‑and‑30 play, so I broke it off into a dig, and me and Bobby were on the same page.”
Gamble also hurt St. Edward in the kicking game. He averaged 26 yards on two kickoff returns, including a 31‑yarder which help set up the Tigers’ next‑to‑last scoring drive.
“He can do it all,” St. Edward coach John Gibbons said of Gamble. “He’s a defender, a kick returner, long snapper … what else can he do? I guess they could find another job for him to do. He’s tough kid.”
Call it … Massillon 21, McKinley 3 in front of 16,111 at the Rubber Bowl in Akron Saturday night.
Call it ripping your archrival and kicking down the door to the Division I final four as the Tigers advance to a state semifinal game on Saturday at 1 p.m. against the 13-0 Eagles of Lakewood St. Edward. That game will also be played at the Rubber Bowl.
All of this just three weeks after Massillon absorbed a 38-8 haymaker from McKinley in Week 10 that left the Tigers wobbly but still standing.
Head coach Tom Stacy and the Tigers ended McKinley’s 12-game winning streak with an offensive gameplan that had the Bulldogs on their heels most of the night and an aggressive, fundamentally sound defense that just wouldn’t let Pup playmaker Morgan Williams break off the big one for much of the game.
“Awesome,” beamed Tiger junior safety Andrew Dailey. “It’s the most exciting time to be a part of in Massillon.
“We came out with a better plan, which we executed well. And then it was “Hit ‘em, hit ‘em, hit ‘em!”
Keeping Williams in check, after the junior rushed for 234 yards and four touchdowns against the Tigers in their first meeting, was job one according to senior inside linebacker Paris McCall.
“That was our goal … to stop him and we did that,” McCall said.
Williams finished with 108 yards in 25 totes.
“McKinley embarrassed us the first time,” McCall said. “We had to come out and show them who the real Tigers are.”
McKinley came into the regional championship game having scored five touchdowns in each of its past five contests and averaging nearly 40 points a game in 2005.
That the Tiger defense held the Bulldogs to a single field goal was clearly the story of the game.
“Revenge, baby,” grinned Tiger senior cornerback Neal James, who helped limit McKinley speedster Joe Morgan to two harmless receptions. “Revenge is sweet.
“We came at them. We came at them. We just wanted to play. We played. Non-stop. The defensive line pressured the quarterback and Troy (Ellis) and I just stuck to them.”
Both teams’ initial possession of the game set the tone for the entire contest.
McKinley got a first down on its first snap when Williams gained 11 yards up the middle. Then Massillon battened down the hatches as the junior tailback was held to six yards on the next two plays and quarterback Dan Grimsley threw an incompletion on third-and-four, forcing a Bulldog punt from its 39-yard line.
Massillon took over at its 31 and senior tailback Lanale Robinson, behind a strong push from the Tiger offensive line, picked up seven yards off left tackle. One play later, Quentin Nicholsen picked up a first down up the middle on third-and short.
Then the passing game got going as Bobby Huth found Trey Miller along the right sideline for a 26-yard gainer to the McKinley 32. A screen pass left to Brian Gamble netted 19 more to the Bulldog 13.
On second-and-five from the 8, Gamble hit off right guard, spun off a tackle at the line and ran through another at the 5 on his way to the end zone as the Tigers drew first blood.
Steve Schott’s conversion was good at 7:08 of the first quarter and Massillon led 7-0.
It was just how Stacy wanted the game to begin.
“That was really important because when we’ve played well this year, it’s when we’ve come out and played well early,” he said. “When we’ve won in big games, we’ve played well early in the game.”
McKinley looked like it might take back the momentum as Brian Williams returned the ensuing kickoff from his 2 to the Tiger 46. But three snaps later – a Williams run and two incomplete passes – the Bulldogs were again forced to punt.
Massillon set up shop at its own 11. On second down, Huth sprinted left and zipped a short pass to Zack Vanryzin at the 20. The senior wideout carried to the 25 for a first down.
Huth rolled right on first down and threw back left to Gamble who picked up 12 yards to the 37.
Another Huth aerial, this time to Dailey, was good for still another first down but the Tiger drive looked to be stalled on third-and-seven at McKinley’s 49.
The Tigers, however, had other ideas as Huth took the snap, flipped a lateral pass right to Gamble, who suddenly pulled up and let fly with a bomb of his own. Vanryzin ran under the ball and carried it home as the Bulldog Nation wondered what hit them.
“Brian told me a couple of weeks ago, “I can throw the football,” Stacy said. “I told him we were going to put in the pass. We had just the play to do it on. It’s a play we’ve run a lot to him, a swing pass. It worked out great. Zack Vanryzin ran a great route.”
Schott’s point after kick was true and Massillon had taken just three minutes to cover 89 yards in eight plays, good for a 14-0 lead at 3:01 of the first quarter.
In its first two possessions of the game, Massillon had generated more offense than it had in four quarters against the Bulldogs back in October.
McKinley’s next possession was another three-and-out series as Neal James defended a long pass to Morgan along the right sideline on third-and-six.
The Tigers couldn’t gain on first down on their next possession but Shawn Weisend got off a 48-yard punt to put McKinley at its 30.
Williams then embarked on his longest run of the evening, a 31-yard gainer up the middle to the Massillon 39.
The Bulldogs worked their way to the Tiger 9 but a third down slant pass was high and the Pups were forced to settle for Zack Campbell’s 26-yard field goal at 7:42 of the second quarter, closing the first half scoring.
The Tigers took the second half kickoff but fumbled it away on their second snap of the third quarter.
The Massillon defense rose to the occasion as three straight Williams runs failed to net a first down, forcing McKinley to punt.
The Tigers marched from their 40 to the McKinley 26, thanks in part to a 19-yard Huth to Vanryzin slant pass. A sack and a penalty left the Tigers with a third-and-25, but the Bulldogs bailed Massillon out with a pass interference penalty that extended the drive.
On third-and-one from the Pups’ 18, Huth faked a handoff and found senior tight end Brett Huffman open over the middle at the 2. The pass was there, Huffman pulled it in and Massillon had expanded its lead to 21-3.
McKinley would threaten once more, driving from its own 2 to the Massillon 28 with over seven minutes still to play. But Troy Ellis intercepted a Bulldog pass in the end zone to turn the Pups away one final time.
“The whole team was angry since the last game,” Ellis said. “We just wanted to prove to everybody that we could hang with these guys and beat them.”
You’d be hard pressed to find one Massillon Tiger who thought he’d performed well against the McKinley Bulldogs back on Oct. 29 in Fawcett Stadium.
It was reflected in the final score: McKinley 38, Massillon 8.
Everyone – offensive players, defensive players, special teams players, assistant coaches, head coach Tom Stacy – felt as if they’d let the team, the program and even the community down.
And while it was Stacy who stepped up and assumed the blame publicly, saying he hadn’t done a good job preparing the team that week, every member of the team readily assumed at least some of the blame.
That no one was pointing a finger at a teammate, that the defense wasn’t laying the blame at the doorstep of the offense – or vice versa – speaks to the character Stacy has instilled in the young men who proudly wear the orange-and-black into battle every weekend.
They had won nine in a row as a team.
They had lost to their longtime nemesis as a team.
And no one in Tiger football program was going to throw anyone else under the bus in the aftermath of that devastating defeat.
But when you’re the quarterback, the one individual other than the head coach who is most readily seen as the leader of the team, you do feel responsible.
You do feel like that cross is on your shoulders, that the burden is for you to bear.
Junior Bobby Huth wears that mantle of leadership for the Tigers, though he was in a three-way fight for the job when Stacy took over way back in June.
Despite not possessing prototypical size or speed for a Division I high school quarterback, Huth won the job and guided the offense to nine straight wins by playing mistake free football and by making good decisions a the line of scrimmage.
Knocked out of the St. Ignatius game late, Huth bounced back in the 13-0 win over Warren Harding.
Harassed into a poor passing performance against McKinley in Week 10, the mop-haired youngster rebounded with two highly efficient performances in playoff victories over Hoover and Findlay.
Most figured the end of the line would be Saturday against unbeaten McKinley at the Rubber Bowl.
He completely turned around his 8 of 18, three interception performance in the first game by completing 9 of 11 passes for 121 yards and a touchdown in the Tigers- 21-3 regional championship victory over the Pups.
“I played the worst game of my life, by far, the first time we played them,” Huth said amidst a sea of orange that flooded the Rubber Bowl field immediately after Saturday’s game. “I felt like I had to come out here today and play my best game. I didn’t play my best game but I played pretty good.”
Pretty good, huh?
After an incompletion on his first threw, Huth connected on six straight passes, using a variety of roll outs, sprint outs and screens to baffle the McKinley defense and put his teammates in positions to make plays.
He initiated the play that resulted in Massillon’s second score of the evening, zipping a swing pass laterally to Brian Gamble to set up Gamble’s long bomb to Zack Vanryzin that put the Tigers up 14-0 late in the first quarter.
And it was Huth’s deceptive play-action that froze McKinley’s defense for an instant just before he laid a touchdown pass in the arms of tight end Brett Huffman to all but put the Bulldogs away late in the third quarter at 21-3.
“We had a great game plan,” Huth said. “It turned us around. We came out here focused and we played great.
“We knew the first game was kind of a fluke. We came out here focused. We had a great week of practice. And our O-line really stepped up and play great for us today.”
Asked what was the difference between the team that lost to McKinley 38-8 and the one that had just shocked just about everyone outside of Massillon, Huth smiled, looked down for an instant and then spread the credit.
“Great focus. Great game plan,” he said. “We had a great week of practice and we practiced hard.”
And that little quarterback who is too small and too slow showed everybody how it’s done.
As Lanale Robinson led the Tiger Swing Band in the alma mater, Massillon head coach Tom Stacy had his head down. He was deep in thought, no doubt pondering the Tigers upcoming regional championship game on Saturday against unbeaten Canton McKinley.
Clearly Stacy wasn’t happy with what he had just witnessed as the Tigers knocked off a game and feisty Findlay team 27-20 at Arlin Field in Mansfield last Saturday night in front of 12,264 paying customers.
“We have to play much better to even have a chance next week,” Stacy said. “There’s no question about that.
“We came back tonight but we didn’t play very well. We made a lot of mistakes, a lot of goofy penalties. We did some stuff tonight that we hadn’t done all year. That was kind of disappointing. But it’s a win. That’s all you can say.”
It was a heart-stopping win, one marred by penalties and mental mistakes uncharacteristic of two teams playing in the 12th week of the season.
Findlay looked to be beaten when it got the ball back on its own 22 with 1:22 to play. But the Trojans pulled the old hook and ladder play out of mothballs and if not for a heroic effort by Brian Gamble to run down Findlay’s Caleb Enright at the 3-yard line, the game would have gone into overtime.
“(Gamble) has made big plays for us all year and that was big,” Stacy said.
Findlay still had time to get it in the end zone. A short completion to Enright in the left flat came up a yard short and with the final seconds ticking off the clock, Trojan quarterback Chris Schneider tried to sneak it in instead of spiking the ball to stop the clock.
The middle of the Tiger defensive line did not yield and Massillon had survived to play another week.
“There’ll be so many ‘what ifs?’, I don’t know if I’ll ever watch this film, I swear,” said Findlay head coach Cliff Hite. “We had them. They had us. We had a shot. That’s all you can ask for.
“We wanted to spike the ball but he didn’t get the right signal. It happens. That’s high school football. When you go no huddle with no time outs, that’s what you’ve got to do.”
It should never have come to that but the Tigers were their own worst enemy all night long. They were penalized 10 times for 97 yards, including no fewer than three \”roughing the kicker\” flags and three other personal fouls.
Massillon also lost three fumbles, one at the Findlay 13-yard line.
“We’re down here with a chance to put it away and we fumble the snap,” Stacy said. “We haven’t fumbled a snap all year and we fumbled two tonight. I don’t know. It’s hard to explain.”
Findlay led 10-7 at halftime, controlling the football for 17 of the first 24 minutes of play.
The Trojans went up 17-7 after a 52-yard punt return by Zack Kraus set up an 8-yard Schneider to Andrew Leddy touchdown pass at 9:38 of the third quarter.
Then Massillon woke up, marching 65 yards in nine plays with Gamble covering the final half yard for the touchdown. Steve Schott tacked on the point after to make it Findlay 17, Massillon 14 at 6:07 of the third quarter.
Tiger junior defensive back Michael Porrini recovered a Findlay fumble on the second play of the Trojans ensuing possession, setting Massillon up at the Findlay 29.
Bobby Huth, who completed 10 of 13 passes for 102 yards on the night, rolled right on first down and connected with Zack Vanryzin at the 8-yard line and the senior wideout did the rest to give the Tigers their first lead of the night at 21-17 with more than five minutes still to play in the third.
Massillon then forced Findlay into a three-and-out series, and the Tigers took over at their own 20 after the Trojan punt.
On first down, Huth took the snap and looked to be optioning right, but instead pitched the ball to Robinson on a reverse. The senior tailback turned the corner and sprinted down the left sideline for an 80-yard touchdown. A failed two-point conversion made it Massillon 27, Findlay 17 at 3:20 of the third.
“I’m upset the way we let the third quarter go,” Hite said. “When we got up 17-7, it was almost like we let up a little bit and Massillon turned it up about 15 notches.”
“We tried to,” Stacy responded. “We needed to. We told the kids at halftime we needed to. It was kind of like we were playing in a fog the first half.”
The lone fourth quarter tally came when Findlay marched from its 10 to the Massillon 7, then settled for Brandon Walker’s 24-yard field goal with just under five minutes to play.
The Tigers tried to run out the clock but the plucky Findlay defense forced a Massillon punt with 1:22 to play.
“We’re 11-1 and we have a chance for a rematch now and we’ll see what happens,” Stacy said. “To play like that and get a win, we were fortunate.
“We got the rematch but we have to do something about it. We have to play better. We have to up our play to have a chance (against McKinley), that’s for sure.”
Tom Stacy did not want the Massillon Tigers to go deep into the playoffs with the taste of their Week 10 defeat at the hands of rival McKinley lingering in their mouths.
There will be no such problem when the Tigers travel to Mansfield’s Arlin Field to take on the 10-1 Findlay Trojans in a Division I Region 2 regional semifinal Saturday evening at 7.
That’s because Massillon got right back up on the horse after being bucked off the week before, and dealt game but overmatched North Canton Hoover a 45-14 defeat in front of an announced crowd of 8,954 at Paul Brown Tiger Stadium, Saturday.
The Tigers found the end zone on their second possession of the night and their defense was back to its usual aggressive, physical form in keeping Hoover off the scoreboard until Massillon had built an insurmountable 31-0 lead.
“This game was huge for us,” said senior co-captain Antonio James. “We needed to bounce back after we got dismantled last week, and this was a good bounce back for us. Hopefully we can keep it going until we meet the Pups again.”
Junior co-captain Brian Gamble was his usual dominating self, laying hard lick after hard lick on Hoover ball carriers while rushing for 146 yards and two touchdowns. He also caught a touchdown pass for good measure.
“We told everybody we were going to bounce back and we did,” Gamble said. “Right now we have to focus on next week.
“It’s like coach Stacy says, we have to play smart, physical and fast, and we’re going to do that again against Findlay.”
The Massillon defense applied relentless pressure on Hoover quarterback Josh Nettleton, and forced three turnovers. The Vikings did accumulate over 300 yards of total offense but were just 3 of 15 on third down when it really mattered.
“We just came out and we were focused and got the job done,” said senior Dirk Dickerhoof. “Now we’re looking toward next week.
“It was really important to get our confidence up after getting beat last week. There was no doubts in our minds once we got the first touchdown. We just came on from there.”
Gamble had plenty of help on offense. Senior tailback Lanale Robinson rushed for 117 yards and a touchdown in just 12 carries. Junior quarterback Bobby Huth rebounded with a 10 of 15 passing night for 172 yards and a touchdown. He also capped off the Tigers’ first scoring drive of the evening by skirting right end and diving into the end zone from three yards out with less than a minute to play in the first quarter.
“I got after Bobby after watching the (McKinley) tape and he said he was going to run the ball with a lot more aggression this week,” Stacy said. “I thought he did that.”
Hoover got a first down on its ensuing possession after Huth’s touchdown dive but was quickly forced to punt, setting Massillon up with first down at its own 30.
After two Robinson runs netted a Tiger first down at the 41, Huth rolled to his right and connected with Zack Vanryzin for what ended up as a 38-yard gain to the Hoover 21.
Huth found Gamble for 11 more yards on the next play, then Gamble took a handoff and went around right end for an 11-yard touchdown at 9:49 of the second quarter. Steve Schott tacked on the point after and the Tigers were up 14-0.
Schott nailed a 28-yard field goal in the last minute of the half to put Massillon up 17-0 at the break.
The Tigers removed all question about the outcome by taking the second half kickoff and covering 79 yards to paydirt in just two plays. The first was a 21-yard Huth laser to junior wideout Trey Miller. The score then came on a short completion to Gamble in the right flat that the 6-foot, 190-pound tailback turned into a 54-yard touchdown jaunt.
Schott’s conversion kick made it Massillon 24, Hoover 0 at 11:21 of the third quarter.
The Massillon defense put up a score on Hoover’s next possession when senior linebacker Robert Morris shot a gap and tipped a Josh Nettleton pass into the hands of senior lineman Lorenzo Grizzard, who carried the ball 58 yards to the end zone. Schott’s kick made it 31-0 at 8:14 of the third period, and all doubt had been removed.
“Our kids came out and played mad and we wanted them to,” Stacy said. “If you’re really a competitor you’ll do that and our kids did a nice job of that tonight.
“A lot of it is we just have a bunch of kids who really love to play the game. It makes it a lot easier to get them ready when they have the innate desire to play the game.”
Hoover head coach Don Hertler Jr., who endured a 1-9 campaign in 2004 but has had his Vikings in the playoffs eight out of the last nine years, was philosophical afterward.
“Massillon is a better team than us,” he said. “Our kids had a great comeback season. I’m real proud that they handled themselves with class. We just got beat by a better team.
“The Tigers are a good team and that’s why they won nine games. They played good competition all year. They’re strong. They’re athletic. They’re well coached. They’re about what we thought they were. They beat us in every phase and they did a good job.”
The Massillon Tigers undoubtedly hope their next encounter with a Federal League team ends up much better than the last.
Massillon qualified for the Division I, Region 2 playoffs with a 9-1 record, but it was that lone blemish – a 38-8 mauling at the hands of archrival and Federal League champ McKinley Saturday in front of 24,242 fans at Fawcett Stadium – that left the Tigers smarting.
They don’t have long to recover, though, as the Tigers will host North Canton Hoover this Saturday at 7 p.m. in a regional quarterfinal matchup. The Vikings finished in a tie for second in the Fed and qualified for the playoffs by virtue of last week’s 10-7 win over Jackson.
Massillon will have to regroup this week after the Bulldogs manhandled them in virtually every conceivable area.
“McKinley outcoached us, they outplayed us and give them all the credit,’ Massillon coach Tom Stacy said. “We knew they were good and they certainly showed it today.”
McKinley got a standout effort from junior tailback Morgan Williams, who rushed for 234 yards and four touchdowns. The 5-foot-11, 187-pounder broke off a 47-yard run – his longest of the afternoon – on McKinley’s second possession to help set the tone for the day. The play, on which McKinley caught Massillon in a blitz, took the ball to the Tigers’ 7. Williams scored on a 2-yard dive three plays later to give the Pups a lead they would never relinquish.
“We just happened to catch them in a blitz with that draw call,” McKinley coach Brian Cross said after his team wrapped up a 10-0 season. “That wasn’t really planning, it was more luck. It wasn’t like we saw something there and called it. We were just lucky. We called it at the right time and we’ve got a great tailback to give it to.”
Massillon’s offense, which entered the game averaging more than 38 points a game, was stuck in neutral most of the first half against a swarming McKinley defense. The Tigers went three-and-out on their first three series and didn’t record their initial first down until 5:33 remained in the opening half. By that time McKinley led 14-0 after quarterback Dan Grimsley hit Mark Jackson on a 21-yard scoring toss over the middle. Jackson made a splendid one-handed diving catch and landed in the end zone.
“That was a beautiful grab and we’d been trying to set that up before by cracking on the safety,” Grimsley said. “We ran a new play that we put in this week and Mark got open in the middle. He just went up and made a great play.”
The Bulldogs took the 14-0 lead into the locker room, as Williams piled up 192 of his yards in the first two quarters.
“Our line did a nice job, especially in the first half,” Cross said. ‘We kind of had Massillon guessing up front and our line really came off the ball well. Our running back was running the ball hard.”
A 32-yard punt return by Joe Morgan set up McKinley’s third score of the day, which came when Williams took a toss and found the end zone from 6 yards out to make it 21-0 McKinley with 8:40 left in the third quarter. Zach Campbell, who made all five of his extra points, nailed a 38-yard field goal three minutes later extend McKinley’s lead to 24-0.
The only offense Massillon got all afternoon came courtesy of its defense. Cornerback Troy Ellis picked off a McKinley pass and returned it 50 yards for a touchdown with just 24 seconds left in the third. A two-point run by Brian Gamble brought Massillon to within 24-8, but the Tigers would get no closer.
“I don’t think there was a key point necessarily,’ Stacy said. “McKinley just controlled things early on and we could never get into a rhythm offensively. We didn’t throw the ball well, we weren’t consistent in our running game. We just didn’t play well.”
Williams added a pair of fourth-quarter touchdown runs, from 14 and 4 yards out, to wrap up the scoring.
Massillon was outgained 339-124, as the Bulldogs ran 70 plays to the Tigers’ 47. The Tigers were intercepted four times and turned the ball over five times in all. Gamble found yards tough to come by and finished with just 47 yards on 15 carries. Quarterback Bobby Huth was 8-of-18 passing for 61 yards.
“We didn’t just try to take Gamble out, we had to defend their entire offense because Massillon has a lot of weapons,” Cross said. “We just played a good, sound game, got a little bit of a lead on them. Maybe that took them out of what they wanted to do and we were able to convert.”
In his first season at the Tigers’ helm, Stacy put the responsibility for his team’s first loss squarely on his shoulders.
“We just were outplayed and out coached today,” he said. “I don’t think it had anything to do with physical toughness. I just didn’t have our guys prepared. That’s pretty obvious … I’m the head coach and that’s my responsibility and we were not ready to play for whatever reason.”
With the annual season-ending rivalry game with McKinley looming one week from today, Massillon Tiger coach Tom Stacy didn’t want any slip-ups against underdog Eastlake North Friday night at Paul Brown Tiger Stadium.
Stacy was adamant that his players focus on Eastlake, so much so that early in the week he banned them from addressing McKinley.
“We had a gag order on talking about McKinley,” Stacy said. “We did. We said don’t mention the name. Don’t talk about it.
“This program has had some slip-ups in Week Nine. I was part of a couple of those.”
Despite a steady drizzle for the first half of the game, the Tigers didn’t slip or slide or otherwise screw up their perfect record. Instead they blew Eastlake away 49-14 in front of 6,936 fans to improve to 9-0.
“I’ve coached in a lot of places and I’ve seen some very good football teams,” said Eastlake North head coach Nick Toth. “One of the things that makes Massillon a good team is they’re really well coached from top to bottom.
“I watched nine films on them and I only saw one thing I thought we could take advantage of that they were a little bit structurally weak. This is a well-coached football team. That guy is doing a very, very nice job over there.”
Eastlake North finished with 211 total yards but most came after the Tiger starters were out of the game.
“Our starters really got after them,” Stacy said. “That’s good to see. We told them they better go out and play hard. I thought our starters did a good job with that.”
Bobby Huth had a superb game at quarterback, connecting on 9 of 13 for 213 yards and two touchdowns. Stacy wanted to get his junior signal caller in a groove for the showdown next weekend.
“We wanted to get him in a rhythm and get a little bit more balance in our offense tonight,” said Stacy, noting the Tigers had 300 yards rushing and 274 yards passing. “If the weather had been better we’d have thrown a little bit more.”
The Tigers broke on top without the benefit of an offensive snap as senior cornerback Troy Ellis picked off a Mitch Weisbarth aerial at the Eastlake North 42 and ran it all the way back for a touchdown at 10:31 of the first quarter. Steve Schott’s point after was good and Massillon was up 7-0.
“If he hadn’t picked off that pass and ran it back, we’d have lost 42-14 instead of 49-14,” Toth quipped.
Massillon’s first offensive possession ended in a fumble but the next time the Tigers touched the ball there would be no such relief for Eastlake.
Huth hit Zack Vanryzin for seven yards along the right sideline on first down. Then senior running back Lanale Robinson ripped off 16 yards around right end and tacked on 22 more on a similar play to reach the end zone. Schott’s kick was true and the Tigers were up 14-0 with almost four minutes remaining in the first quarter.
Another three-play drive the next time Massillon had the ball yielded yet another touchdown. The possession began with a flea flicker play as Huth stood in the face of the North pass rush and found Vanryzin wide open at midfield. The senior wideout caught the ball and then weaved his way through the Ranger secondary down to the North 15.
Two plays later Robinson went over his right guard, ran through at tackle at the 5-yard line and scored the Tigers third touchdown of the evening. Schott’s conversion boot made it 21-0 with just under a minute to play in the opening stanza.
Massillon’s only sustained drive of the first half began at its 31. Eight plays later – six of which were runs by Gamble – Huth found senior tight end Brett Huffman all by himself at the North 14. Huffman snatched the ball out of the air and ambled in for the touchdown.
“I went up the line and I saw there was nobody around me and I was hoping Bob saw it too,” Huffman said. “He did and he got it to me. It was perfect pass. Good throw, good catch, good touchdown.”
Schott’s conversion was on target and Massillon’s lead grew to 28-0 at 4:06 of the first half.
Gamble made an incredible diving catch to key the Tigers final first-half possession. The drive began at the Massillon 20 with a 23-yard Huth to Gamble hook-up.
Two plays later Huth wound up and let fly in Gamble’s direction down the right hash. The ball looked to be overthrown but Gamble dove and – with his body parallel to the ground – latched onto the ball for a 30-yard gain to the North 26.
“That was a heck of a catch,” Stacy said. “I didn’t think he was going to get to it. I didn’t think there was any way.
“It gets to the point where you kind of take him for granted some times. He is a great player.”
Five plays later Huth lofted the ball into the end zone and Trey Miller pulled it in for Massillon’s fifth touchdown of the first half. Schott was accurate with his conversion kick and the Tigers carried a 35-0 lead into the halftime locker room.
The Tiger defense was relentless, limiting North to 82 total yards in the first two quarters and only 16 yards rushing.
Massillon sacked Weisbarth three times, with Lorenzo Grizzard, Dirk Dickerhoof and Paris McCall doing the honors for the Tigers.
Robert Morris opened the second half scoring with a 16-yard burst into the end zone, capping a drive that got started with a 59-yard Shawn Weisend to Vanryzin aerial. Schott’s kick pushed the tiger lead to 42-0 midway through the third quarter.
Massillon’s final touchdown came on an electrifying 80-yard run by Robinson on the second play of the fourth quarter.
Robinson finished with a career high 169 yards rushing on just 11 carries.
The Massillon Tigers were not about to take the 2-5 Warren Harding Raiders lightly in front of an estimated 10,000 fans at Paul Brown Tiger Stadium Friday night.
After all, Warren had won all four meetings with Massillon since this heated gridiron rivalry was renewed back in 2002.
The undefeated and No. 3 ranked Tigers got on the scoreboard first by turning a blocked punt into a touchdown and played with verve and direction until the final whistle in gaining a 13-0 victory over the Trumbull County entry.
‘This Massillon team plays with so much heart and so much passion and so much effort,” said Warren coach Thom McDaniels. “We played talented teams before and this Massillon team has its share of talent.”
“I love the way this Tiger football team plays. I LOVE the way they play. You’re supposed the play the game like that and they do that.”
The first half was close-to-the-vest football as both teams seemed to be waiting for the other to make a game-changing mistake.
Warren was the first to blink.
When a 48-yard field goal attempt by Massillon was short, the Raiders began on their own 20 after the touchback.
Twice during the series, Tiger outside linebacker Quentin Paulik made huge plays. On first down, Paulik swooped in and took Warren running back Danny Herron down for a five-yard loss on a toss sweep.
One play later, Warren tried a similar play and again Paulik was there to corral Herron for a yard loss, forcing the Raiders to punt.
Herron, who handles the punting chores for Warren, took the snap in the end zone but Tiger junior Andrew Dailey came from the left side of the Massillon line to block the kick. Brian Gamble recovered at the 3-yard line and stepped into the end zone for a Massillon touchdown.
Steve Schott drilled the point after and the Tigers led 7-0 at 5:31 of the second quarter.
Massillon returned the favor, or at least nearly so, just over four minutes later when the Tigers threw an interception near midfield. Warren’s Chris Rucker made the pick then picked his way down to the Massillon 9-yard line.
But the Massillon defense sensed the urgency of the situation and stopped two Herron running plays and a short pass to Herron for a total of six yards. An 18-yard field goal attempt on fourth-and-goal from the 3 was no good when it hit the left upright and Massillon carried a 7-0 lead into the locker room at halftime.
Massillon, so productive on offensive early in the game in its first seven contests this season, was held to just 46 total yards in the first half.
Warren didn’t do much better, piling up 71 total yards in the first half, 66 of which were by Herron. The Raiders dominated time of possession the first two quarters, 16:31-7:29.
Paulik came up huge in the second half as well. With Massillon leading 13-0 in the fourth quarter, Warren had to score to get back in the game. The Raiders drove from their 32 to the Tiger 9. On second-and-6, Warren quarterback Sidney Glover handed the ball to speedy wideout Jay Provitt on a reverse.
There was one Tiger between Provitt and a potential touchdown. It was Paulik and the senior outside linebacker made the tackle for an 11-yard loss that essentially derailed the Warren scoring drive.
“I saw the whole play happen,” Paulik said. “I saw the fake to the tailback and I just saw (Provitt) coming around and I just stayed home.”
“The defense played good and the offense knows we’ve got their back when they don’t perform as well as they can.”
McDaniels says he got what he wanted on the play.
“We got the ball in the hands of the kid who finished sixth in the state of Ohio in the 100-yard dash,” he said. “We got the wide side of the field and we’re going to ask our guy to make a play. (Paulik) made a better one than our kid did.”
That, says Tiger coach Tom Stacy, is because Paulik is finally getting over a badly injured shoulder suffered in Week Two.
“He’s a good athlete and he is finally used to a new position,” Stacy said. “Quentin played a great football game. That was his best game of the year and we needed it. With their perimeter run game we needed our outside backers to play well.”
Massillon’s second touchdown of the game was keyed by a perfectly executed slip screen from Bobby Huth to Gamble. The play covered 31 yards, moving the ball to the Warren 17.
“You got to think about players, not plays, in critical situations,” McDaniels said. “They got the ball to a big-play guy in a good situation. They executed it well and got them a big chunk of yardage on that drive.”
The Tiger junior tailback carried it in from eight yards out two plays later with 9:51 to go in the game.
Warren would threaten again but the Massillon defense, keyed by Paulik’s fine play, kept the Raiders out of the end zone and secured win No. 8 for the Tigers.
“Make no mistake, we knew it was going to be a grudge match,” Stacy said. “We prepared our kids for it. We got what we expected.”
Massillon quarterback Shawn Weisend and his Tiger teammates picked up where they left off after last week’s monumental victory against St. Ignatius. Weisend, making his first career start, threw a 40-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Trey Miller on the first play from scrimmage as the Tigers rolled to a 54-0 victory against Youngstown Woodrow Wilson Friday in front of 6,631 people at Paul Brown Tiger Stadium.
“I knew coming in that was the play call,” Weisend said. “I had to think about it all last night and all day today. It was our plan to hit the long ball early.”
Weisend, who scored the winning touchdown with less than 10 seconds remaining against St. Ignatius, had a productive first start, completing 10-for-17 passes for 148 yards and three touchdowns. He added 38 yards on two carries.
“I think (connecting on the long touchdown) built Shawn’s confidence,” said Miller. “It got the team’s confidence up and we rolled from there.”
The No. 4 state-ranked Tigers (7-0) rolled off 15 fourth quarter points to come back to defeat the Wildcats 29-26. This week, a comeback wasn’t necessary. Massillon struck for 35 first-half points, gained a total of 478 yards on offense and held to Redmen to 65 total yards.
But it wasn’t a flawless victory. The Tigers had several dropped passes and also committed eight penalties for 70 yards.
“Without a doubt we made some mistakes”, said senior tight end Brett Huffman. “We had a lack of focus after that big first play. We knew we were going to win, but there was a lack of focus. We have to iron that out before next week.”
Three of the penalties came on third down after it appeared the Tigers had stopped the Redmen, only to give them new life.
Massillon head coach Tom Stacy said the Tigers can’t afford mistakes like that against a struggling, but still dangerous Warren Harding team next Friday.
“That’s a part of focusing,” Stacy said. “A lot of those penalties were silly mistakes. We have to play much better next week or we are going to get killed.”
But the good outshined the bad Friday.
The Tigers forced a three-and-out on the Redmen’s first possession and proceeded to drive 60 yards on eight plays. Weisend showed he can also run with the ball. He faked an inside hand-off and scrambled around the end for 21 yards down to the Redmen 19-yard line. Three plays later, junior running back Brian Gamble took a handoff around the right end – gained a full head of steam – and ran over the Redmen defensive back Rashad Robinson at the 6-yard line before finally being tripped up at the one. Fullback Quentin Nicholson plunged into the end zone on the next play, making it 14-0.
It didn’t take long for the Tigers to punch in another touchdown. This time after forcing a three-and-out, junior Andrew Dailey came off the left end and blocked Allen Vazquez’s punt at the Redmen 10-yard line. The balled rolled back to the 7-yard line where defensive back Neil James pounced on it. Gamble scored two plays later on a 4-yard run.
Gamble, who finished with 123 yards rushing, capped a 13-play, 90-yard drive in the second quarter with a 13-yard touchdown run. Gamble rushed for 35 yards on three carries on the drive.
Weisend capped the first half with a 14-yard touchdown strike to fullback Robert Morris with 46 seconds remaining.
It only took one possession – and one more Weisend touchdown pass – in the third quarter before Stacy decided it was time to pull the starters.
Weisend capped a 4-play, 51-yard drive by connecting with senior tight end Brett Huffman on a 16-yard touchdown throw with 6:58 remaining in the third quarter. Steve Schott’s extra point was blocked and the Tigers led 41-0.
“It think I could’ve done better tonight,” said Weisend. “But I gave my best effort. I had a couple high throws, but I tried to make up for it on other plays.”
“He was hot and cold,” the first-year head coach said. “He missed some routine passes. But I’m just glad this one is over with. I don’t like to coach these types of games.”
Senior running back Lanale Robinson scored on a 21-yard touchdown run later in the third and sophomore K.J. Herring scored from 1-yard out to cap the scoring for Massillon.
The Massillon Tigers felt as if they didn’t play a full game in their biggest win of the season, a harrowing 35-31 victory over Cincinnati Elder in Week Two. They gave up three fourth-quarter touchdowns in that one to turn a laugher into a nail biter.
The Tigers were determined that wouldn’t be the case on Saturday night at Byers Field in Parma with nemesis St. Ignatius providing the opposition.Trailing 9-0 after one quarter, 19-7 at halftime and 26-14 after three stops, the Tigers mounted a fourth-quarter rally that won’t soon be forgotten in Massillon to bring home a 29-26 win that at once exorcised a host of demons and touched off a celebration usually reserved for the end of a world war.
“We never gave up,” said Tiger coach Tom Stacy. “We established before the game started we were playing four quarters. We weren’t going to do what we did down at Elder when we went up big and they came back in the fourth quarter. It was our time to play four quarters and we did it.”
Massillon made a habit of jumping to big early leads in its first five games this season. On Saturday, it went the other way as St. Ignatius established field position early to set up a three-play 31-yard touchdown drive in the first quarter. The Wildcats then capitalized on a fumbled kickoff to get a safety and a 9-0 edge after one quarter.
But the Tigers were undeterred.
“We got off to a terrible start,” said Stacy. “Give them credit, they did a good job in the kicking game. That really cost us and I really felt if we could get back into it before the end of the first half that we’d have a chance.”
The Tiger comeback officially began with 8:03 showing on the second quarter game clock and the ball at the Massillon 11 following a St. Ignatius punt. Three plays later they were set to punt but an errant snap forced Shawn Weisend to improvise and when he finally stopped running the Tigers had a first down at the 27.
Junior quarterback Bobby Huth then found Zack Vanryzin for 14 yards and a first down, and the Tigers kept working their way downfield. A holding penalty set Massillon back to the St. Ignatius 28 but Huth hit Brian Gamble in stride along the right sideline and the junior running back had no trouble locating the end zone for six. Steve Schott’s point after made it St. Ignatius 9, Massillon 7 with 2:48 until halftime.
But St. Ignatius countered with a three-play 76-yard touchdown sprint that took all of 1:20 and followed with a 50-yard field goal at the break that seemed to swing the momentum away from Massillon.
“Our kids at halftime, they were just ticked off,” Stacy said. “They said ‘We’re going to get back into it.’”
And they did, taking the second half kickoff and moving from the Massillon 22 to the St. Ignatius end zone in 14 plays. A 20-yard Huth to Gamble pass play over the middle helped get the ball rolling on the second snap of the march. Then a bubble screen to Gamble four plays later moved it to the Iggy 42.
From there, Gamble carried the ball three times as did junior fullback Quentin Nicholson, who covered the final yard for the touchdown. Schott’s point after made it 19-14 Ignatius midway through the third period.
St. Ignatius did what all great teams do, returning the favor with a seven-play scoring drive, highlighted by a 61-yard Rudy Kirbus to Nick Secue screen pass. Secue scored from a yard out with 3:54 left in the third and the conversion made it St. Ignatius 26, Massillon 14.
Back came the Tigers, this time with a 90-yard drive. Huth and Vanryzin meshed for a 23-yard gainer along the right sideline on the second play of the march. An unsportsmanlike conduct call on the Wildcats on a third down play gave the Massillon drive new life and a fake punt yielded a 10-yard pass completion to Andrew Dailey for another first down.
Huth threaded the needle to Brett Huffman for 25 yards to the St. Ignatius 2. Two plays later the Massillon offensive line blew the Ignatius front into the end zone and Gamble walked in for the touchdown.
It was St. Ignatius 26, Massillon 21 with most of the fourth quarter still to be played..
St. Ignatius moved from its 20 to its 37 on the ensuing possession but on third-and-four from that point tragedy struck the Wildcats. Kirbus dropped back and hit Parris with a pass, only to see the ball dislodged on a thunderous hit by Gamble that left the Ignatius All-Ohio wideout sprawled prone on the Byers Field playing surface.
Coach Chuck Kyle and a trainer rushed to Parris’ side but he had to be removed from the game via ambulance with an ugly looking lower leg injury.
“We were moving the ball but Robby’s hurt,” Kyle said. “He’s hurt. It’s not good. It’s bad.”
Massillon got the ball back on the punt and moved from its 28 to the St. Ignatius 38 when a fourth-and-one bootleg run resulted in a 4-yard loss, giving the ball back to the Wildcats with just 4:00 to play.
The Tiger defense had no margin for error and it came through, forcing a St. Ignatius punt after just three plays.
“Third-and-three, third-and-four,” Kyle said. “We didn’t convert a couple of those and that hurts. That hurts. You have to make a play at that point. They did. We didn’t.”
Beginning at their own 29, the Tigers got a big play as Gamble broke free for 19 yards on an option pitch around left end. Then senior running back Lanale Robinson picked up 10 more on a counter play to the Iggy 37.
On an incomplete pass, however, Huth was dinged and wobbled off the field with the aid of trainers. That brought in Weisend, who – two snaps later – was faced with a fourth-and-15 situation.
“Shawn Weisend never batted an eye, never batted an eye,” Stacy said. “He looked at me and said ‘Coach, I’m going to get it done,’ and he did.”The unflappable senior hit Vanryzin across the middle on a broken play for a 26-yard gain to the host’s 17-yard line.
“It was a busted play, I had to scramble,” Weisend recalled. “He wasn’t open at first. I was scrambling and I saw him going across the middle and I threw him the best ball I could.”
On second down Weisend threw a quick slant to Vanryzin who didn’t stop churning his legs until the ball was at the 4.
A pass interference call on St. Ignatius set up first and goal from the 2. After a loss of three yards on first down, Weisend took the shotgun snap, sprinted left, saw an opening and dashed for the pylon and the game-winning touchdown with just :10 on the clock.
“Their offense started doing some nice things, counters, hitting those little passes, just to keep us off balance,” Kyle said. “Hey, they’re on a roll. Tom’s doing a great job. They got the momentum going. You’ve got to give them credit.
“They were still running the counter and started finding a seam through there. And then rolling out, they were getting outside the contain. And even on the touchdown, we thought we were in a good call. We were coming from way outside and coming in. I have to see why the guy didn’t pin him in because we were coming from way outside and coming in.”
“What a great high school football game,” Stacy said. “That’s a big win for us.
“We’re a good football team. I think we’ll learn a lot about our team on tape. But we beat a really good football team. I don’t think there’s any question about that.”
Stacy admitted the Tigers got a monkey off their back by finally getting past St. Ignatius for the first time in nine games.
“Our kids believed they could do it,” he said. “If that hadn’t been the case, there was no way they could come back from 11 down at halftime. We couldn’t have done it. But our kids believed all week they could do and you can see the end result.
“The thing that impressed me was how hard both teams played and our resolve. Our resolve to get it done was unbelievable. I haven’t been around that kind of resolve probably since the Galion state championship game in 1985. Our guys wouldn’t back down.”
Massillon limited St. Ignatius to just 83 total yards in the second half to make the comeback possible.
“(Defensive coordinator) Steve Kovacs made some great adjustments at halftime,” Stacy said. “He kept his cool and made some great adjustments and I’ve got to give him a lot of credit.”
Backup QB proves big
By JOE SHAHEEN Joe.Shaheen@IndeOnline.Com
In the long and storied history of Massillon Tiger football, Shawn Weisend has written his number into a chapter all to himself.
The senior back-up quarterback came off the bench with less than two minutes to play after an injury to starter Bobby Huth and completed the game-winning drive that carried Massillon to an improbable 29-26 victory over St. Ignatius on Saturday at Byers Field in Parma.
The Tiger win snapped an eight-game losing streak to St. Ignatius and lifted a weight off the program’s back that had reached crushing proportions in the last several years.
With tears of elation streaming down his face after scoring the game-winning touchdown, Weisend tried to express his emotions.
“I can’t explain how it feels,” he said amidst a joyous on-field celebration. “They called my number and I did the best I could. They all had faith in me and faith in the offense.
“Before I was in, Bobby was in, there was 7:10 left and I said ‘It’s going to come down to seconds. Let’s take this game home.’ We did it.”
Trailing 26-21 and facing a fourth down-and-15 from near midfield, Weisend received a critical block from tackle Brendon Smith to elude a fierce pass rush and threw a strike to senior wideout Zack Vanryzin for 25 yards – and a first down – to the St. Ignatius 17.
On the next play, Weisend hit Vanryzin on a quick slant at the 10 and Vanryzin scratched and clawed his way to the 4-yard line.
Four plays later, from the St. Ignatius 5, Weisend rolled left, dove into the left corner of the end zone and victory was Massillon’s.
What was going through Weisend’s head minutes earlier when he was summoned into such a huge game with the outcome hanging in the balance?
“I’m not going to lie to you,” he said. “I was more focused than I ever was in my life. I knew I had to do it and I did it.”