TIGERS TURN ON POWER
Crabtree, Clark key Massillon Rally
By Chris Easterling
PERRY TWP. The lights went out on Perry Stadium late in the first half Thursday night.
That’s when the light appeared to go on for Massillon.
Trailing by 17 points at halftime, the Tigers came roaring back in the second half against a never-quit Perry team, ultimately posting a 37-30 season-opening win in front of a sellout crowd.
“Finally our kids decided to fight back,” Massillon coach Jason Hall said. “I questioned that in the first half. … Our kids responded.”
Massillon took its first lead of the game with 54 seconds left in regulation when Danny Robinson ran it in from 16 yards out.
The previous possession, J.D. Crabtree put the Tigers in position by scoring from 5 yards out, with Danny Clark scoring the game-tying two-point conversion.
Those two scoring drives capped a second half in which Massillon scored on five of six possessions.
In other words, five of the six times after the lights went out.
Perry had just taken a 23-6 lead, then recovered a mishandled squib kick with 18 seconds left in the half when the power went out. But during that 25-minute delay, Hall admitted seeing a difference in his team.
“I saw our kids get real emotional when the lights went out,” Hall said. “I think it finally smacked them in the face a little bit. They knew the score; they had a chance to catch the breath. From that point on, I thought we played good.”
The difference showed in a flipping of the script, as Massillon exerted control of the ground game that Perry had dominated in the first half. The Tigers did so with a steady diet of Crabtree, who rushed for 164 yards and two scored on 17 second-half carries.
Crabtree finished with 197 yards on 25 carries for the game. “We’ve ran that fast of an offense all offseason,” Crabtree said. “That was just almost like a practice to me. Perry’s a good team and they came out a lot stronger than I expected, but we came out and took it to them in the second half.”
Massillon only had 38 rushing yards in the first half, running it just eight times compared to 12 pass attempts. One of those resulted in the Tigers’ lone first-half score, a 30-yard touchdown from Clark to Tre’on Vance to make it 16-6 with 2:37 left in the half.
The problem for Massillon was that Perry was dominating the run game before the intermission. The Panthers had 305 first-half yards on the ground, with just 331 total in the initial 24 minutes.
Braxton Berry and Keishaun Sims were the biggest producers. Berry ran for 161 of his 193 yards in the first half, including a pair of touchdowns that helped Perry open up a 16-0 lead with 4:44 left.
Sims, meanwhile, answered the Tiger first-half score with 79-yard run to make it 23-6 with 24 seconds left in the half. He also answered in the third quarter with an 80-yard run to make it 30-19 after Massillon pulled within four.
Sims finished with 173 yards on nine carries.
“We didn’t finish, I know that,” Perry coach Keith Wakefield said. “We need to finish the game and we didn’t finish the game. Did we?”
Massillon, though, went to the ground 23 times in the second half, compared to 14 passes after the break. The Tigers did have a 5-yard touchdown pass to Dylan Henderson in the third quarter that made it 23-19.
Andrew David’ career-long 49-yard field goal pulled Massillon to within 30-22 four plays into the fourth quarter. Thus setting up the dramatic final charge to the finish line for the Tigers.