Tag: <span>Avon</span>


2019: Massillon 35, Avon 10

Backs, line answer the bell for Massillon
Nov 29, 2019 10:18 PM


PARMA Massillon coach Nate Moore believes in a workmanlike approach to a game.

To the fifth-year Tiger mentor, it’s all about punching the clock on game night and putting in a full 48-minute effort. That’s regardless of who the player is or what may be their perceived role.

On Friday night in a Division II state semifinal against Avon at Parma’s Byers Field, those business-like approaches helped the Tigers run their way to a 35-10 win and a second consecutive berth in the state championship game.

Massillon, 14-0, will face Cincinnati La Salle on Thursday night in Canton for the state title.

The approach started with senior running back Zion Phifer, who stepped into the starting role due to an injury to Terrance Keyes Jr. Phifer clocked and helped to knock out the Eagles thanks to a 146-yard, four-touchdown performance on 20 carries.

“He went out there and did his job,” Moore said. “I’m proud of him for it.”

Phifer’s four touchdown runs came in a variety of styles. There were runs where he was virtually untouched and others where he ran over defenders.

Then, there was his final run, a 25-yarder in the third quarter, in which he spun out of the pile and ran into the end zone. That provided Massillon with a 28-10 lead.

The final score came thanks to Raekwon Venson, a one-yard run with just over seven minutes remaining. Venson ran for 54 yards on nine carries.

“They’re physical, obviously,” Avon coach Mike Elder said of Massillon’s running game. “If you’re going to win these games, you do it in the offseason, you do it in the weight room. You do it with genetics, that’s part of the deal. They’re a physical football team.”

That physicality started up front with a Massillon offensive line which was forced to shuffle a bit when guard John Kouth went down with an early injury. Dylan Garretson, however, came in to fill the void.

It wasn’t the first time Garretson has been called upon to help fill in a vacancy. Like Phifer and Venson, though, the performance was exactly what Moore expected to see when he went in the game.

“He did his job when called upon,” Moore said. “That’s not something, that’s the expectation. That’s the expectation. I’m not going to make it into something it’s not.”

That line helped Massillon rush for 185 net yards on 32 carries. Both Phifer and Venson averaged at least 6.1 yards a rush.

“I’m proud of them,” Moore said. “I’m super proud of them. But I’m proud of everybody.”

Reach Chris at 330-775-1128 or chris.easterling@indeonline.com.

On Twitter: @ceasterlingINDE


Massillon and Avon Spar in Opening Scrimmage

Two Division 2 Regional Champions from 2017 squared off on Tuesday at Paul Brown Tiger Stadium in a much-anticipated matchup.  If you were keeping score, it was Massillon getting the better of Avon 16 touchdowns to 2.  But in reality a score doesn’t mean much in a first scrimmage.  It’s more important for the coaches to evaluate all of the players and also to find out what the key takeaways are as they prepare for their respective openers.  Nevertheless, several hundred Massillon and Avon fans were able to get an early football fix during the nearly 3-hour scrimmage.

The format for both the varsity and JV teams was a minimum 10-play series starting at their own 35 yardline, with the ability to keep the ball as long as first downs were attained.  After several reps, the teams practiced overtime simulations.  Here is how it all played out:

Varsity – Down and Distance

  • Avon – Stopped on a fumble at the Massillon 20.
  • Massillon – Stopped on downs at their own 43.
  • Avon – 18-yard touchdown pass.
  • Massillon – 24-yard touchdown pass from Anthony Pedro to Luke Murphy.
  • Massillon – 21-yard touchdown run by Zion Phifer.
  • Avon – Stopped at the Massillon 39.
  • Avon – Stopped at the Massillon 39 again.
  • Massillon – 70-yard touchdown pass from Aidan Longwell to Aydrik Ford.
  • Massillon – Stopped at the Avon 35.
  • Avon – Stopped at the Massillon 45.
  • Avon – Stopped at the Avon 35.
  • Massillon – 23-yard touchdown pass from Anthony Pedro to Heath Manson.

Varsity Overtime Simulation

  • Avon – 12-yard touchdown pass.
  • Massillon – 25-yard touchdown run by Zion Phifer.
  • Massillon – 25-yard touchdown pass from Aidan Longwell to Jayden Ballard.
  • Massillon – 3 yard touchdown run by Jamir Thomas.
  • Avon – Missed 32-yard field goal.
  • Avon – Stopped at Massillon 30.
  • Massillon – Lost ball on fumble.
  • Massillon – 25-yard touchdown pass from Anthony Pedro to Luke Murphy.
  • Massillon – Stopped on pass interception.


  • Down and Distance: Massillon outscored Avon 4-0.
  • Overtime Simulation: Massillon outscored Avon 4-0.

The biggest takeaway for Massillon was the level of depth exhibited at each of the different offensive and defensive positions on the field.  This asset was prevalent throughout both the varsity and JV squads.  The coaches constantly shuffled players in and out and the Tigers did not miss a beat with their progress down the field.  Couple that with great athleticism and speed at the skill positions and you have the potential for something special this year.

Scheme-wise, the offense has been expanded a bit in two particular areas, both on account of the talent at the running back position.  The first is an occasional split back formation in the backfield, giving the QB two options in the running attack, as opposed to a single back with the fullback pushed up towards the line.  The second is the ability to float the ball to a back out of the backfield, now that there is better speed at that position.  Both of these techniques resulted in good success throughout the scrimmage.

Defensively, the Tigers utilized their traditional 3-4 alignment.  However, the speed and aggressiveness has definitely improved over last year.  Avon had only modest success on the ground and needed to rely on a very good quarterback to move the ball in short bursts.  But still Avon had great difficulty scoring in the red zone.

Massillon will be back in action on Saturday at 10:00 a.m. when they visit Berea Midpark and then at Lake St. Edward the following Friday at 7:00 pm.

Jamir Thomas (16) heads through the line on one of his few carries. Also shown are Deon Williams (50), Justin Gaddis (52) and Alejandro Salazar (72).
Jayden Ballard makes a leaping catch for a first down.
A Massillon receiver looks for running room after catching a pass over the middle.
The pass is just over the outreached hands of the Tiger receiver.

First Scrimmage is In the Books

The Tigers opened their 3-game scrimmage schedule with a trip to perennial Division 2 power Avon.  Typical of a first scrimmage, it was an opportunity for the coaches to evaluate individual players as they search for the eventual starting eleven.  A final score is certainly not an indicator of a team’s potential, but the degree of effort certainly carries some weight.  That is what the coaches were looking for and on this night it wasn’t lacking for either team.

Anthony Ballard (21) looks for running room in the bubble screen. Blocking are Deon Williams (50) and Alec Soto (70).
Jamir Thomas avoids a tackler and scores for the Tigers









The scrimmage opened with Massillon’s first team offense running ten plays followed by Massillon’s second team offense running ten plays.  Each possession started at the Tiger 30 yardline. Then it was Avon’s turn.  The series was then repeated once more.

The Tiger first unit advanced to the Avon 32 on its first possession, but failed to pick up a first down on the second possession.  The second unit moved to the Avon 15 on its second possession, but ran out of plays.

Avon’s first possession was stopped at the ten on an interception by Dean Clark.  The second possession stalled at the Massillon 45.  Avon’s second team was stopped at the Massillon 20 on its first possession.

The next phase of the scrimmage involved running a series of plays starting at the opponent’s 25, similar to an overtime or red zone scenario.  Massillon’s first team scored when Jamir Thomas ran in from the 15.  The second team scored twice, on a 3-yard run by Louis Partridge and an Anthony Pedro to Jaden Ballard pass covering 25 yards.

Avon’s first unit scored on a 5-yard run and the second unit scored on a 23-yard pass/run and a 13-yard run.

Between possessions, each team had an opportunity to practice field goals.  Massillon’s Clay Moll was perfect from 20, 32 and 37 yards, and two of four from 42 yards out.


  • Offensively, Massillon mixed the run and pass equally. Aiden Longwell started at quarterback and, when given the time to throw, was accurate on most of his passes.  In the running department, Jamir Thomas showed the power he exhibited last year, with surprising speed in the open field.  Louis Partridge appears quicker and shiftier than last year and also ran with some physicality.
  • Avon’s defense utilized a 3-4 blitz package, which caused a lot of problems for the Tiger offensive line. And since the quarterback was called down when pressured or when exiting the pocket, many plays were just never completed.  However, Longwell showed the ability to tuck the ball and run when needed.
  • Defensively, Massillon was aligned in a base 3-4 defense with cover 2 and only blitzed on occasion. With Avon opting to throw the ball 90% of the time, it did find success through the air given the minimal pass rush, albeit all of the completions were of the short variety.  But the scheme did set up their few runs nicely.
  • Both offenses appeared ahead of the defenses in this early going, except for Massillon’s inability to handle the blitz. This was probably due to neither team scouting and game-planning the other.  But then again, neither could finish off a drive.
  • There will be a bit of a learning curve for these young Tigers as they become accustomed to both a new offense and a new defense. But they appear to be talent-rich, very quick and better open-field tacklers than last year.
Dean Clark (10) plants the Avon tailback.  Also shown are Preston Hodges (31) and Kameron Simpson (18).
Louis Partridge fends off an Avon tackler