Tag: <span>Chuck Kyle</span>

Massillon Tigers Black Letter Logo History

2001: Massillon 26, Cleveland St. Ignatius 40

Massillon outscored in shootout
Ignatius pins 40‑26 defeat on the Tigers

Independent Sports Editor

They may have to rename Byers Field in Parma the O.K. Corral after the Massillon Tigers and St. Ignatius Wildcats engaged in a high school football shootout there on Saturday night.

Program Cover

In the end, Ignatius was able to mount a key scoring drive to counter the Tigers’ two early second half touchdowns and the Wildcats took home a 40‑26 victory over Massillon in front of 12,286 fans.

Trailing 28‑12 at intermission, Massillon got a pair of scores early in the second half and did so with its trademark quick‑strike style.

The first tally came on a short Justin Zwick to Robert Oliver pass in the left flat that Oliver turned into a 59‑yard touchdown at 11:13 of the third quarter. The senior tailback out‑sprinted the entire Ignatius secondary to bring the Massillon faithful alive.

The second score mirrored the first as Zwick hit Devin Jordan with a sideline pass along the right boundary that Jordan turned into a 71‑yard touchdown at 9:06 of the third quarter. The play was made possible when Zwick got rid of the football in the face of a corner blitz from his left. Then Jordan eluded the Ignatius cornerback and was off to the races for six.

David Abdul nailed both extra points and it was a 28‑26 game with the momentum squarely in the Tigers corner.

But Ignatius rallied back, moving 68 yards in 10 plays.

Facing third‑and‑13, and with the Tiger fans chanting “defense, defense”, Ignatius quarterback Nathan Szep hit running back Carter Welo along the left hash mark with a short pass, and Welo ran back against the grain and into the end zone for a 32 yard touchdown play that put the Wildcats up 35‑26 at 3:35 of the third quarter.

Massillon would never be able to regain its offensive flow as the Ignatius defense harrassed Zwick while the Wildcat offense controlled the line of scrimmage the rest of the way.

“We had the momentum going in our favor,” said Tiger coach Rick Shepas. “We had to stop them on the long drive and we didn’t. And that told the story of the game.

“Our kids have worked hard and have come along way in our program. But in a big game like this on the road, our kids have got to make more big plays. We felt real good about our game plan. We’re going to go back and look at the game film and I think it is going to motivate us to work a little bit harder and execute the game plan a little bit better.”

“Talk about momentum going out the window,” said Ignatius coach Chuck Kyle of Masillon’s two quick second‑half scores. “What we needed to do was get the running game going and give the defense a chance to get its breath and make’ a couple of adjustments.”

St. Ignatius did exactly that, running the football effectively on the first five plays of the scoring drive that essentially put the Tigers away.

Shepas admitted he was disappointed with his squad, despite the entertaining nature of the game.

“Were not happy with our performance at all,” he said. “We made too many mental mistakes tonight.

“Our kids have to learn to play in big games like this. Our town has been backing us. We had a great group of fans out here to watch us and I don’t think we gave them the type of performance they deserve.”

Ignatius broke on top, taking the opening kickoff and marching 80 yards in 13 plays.

Szep, who played flawlessly in completing 24 of 37 passes for 296 yards four touchdowns on no interceptions, opened the drive by hitting tight end Tom Christy for 11 yards to the 31. After an encroachment call on Massillon, the first of four in the first half, Szep picked up the first first down of the game on a quarterback sneak out of the shotgun.

Tigers defensive tackle Matt Webb sacked Szep to set up a third‑and‑11, but the Wildcats picked up the first down when Tony Gonzalez latched onto a Szep pass on a crossing pattern for 15 yards to the Massillon 42.

Carter Welo, substituting for John Van der Oord ‑ who was injured on the very first play from scrimmage – picked up another first down on a ten‑yard run up the middle to the Tiger 24. Three plays later Szep hit Gonzalez on a slant pattern and it was first‑and‑goal at the 2.
Tigers can’t close deal on Ignatius
Welo vaulted into the end zone from a yard away and Ignatius broke on top 7‑0 as Phil Gibbs hit the extra point at 7:30 of the first quarter.

Massillon gave the ball right back on its second play from scrimmage as the Wildcats’ Matt Waldeck fell on a fumbled pitchout at the Tiger 20.

Ignatius capitalized right away when Szep found Gonzalez open in the right corner of the end zone. Gibbs’ kick made it 14‑0 at 7:12 of the first.

The Tigers responded by moving 78 yards in 11 plays.

Zwick hit Jordan along the right sideline for 11 yards to the Massillon 41. Two plays later he found Jordan on a ten‑yard curl pattern to the Ignatius 41.

A pass interference penalty gave the Tigers a first down at the Ignatius 24. Three plays later Zwick bought time with play action fake and completed a pass to Jordan along the right sideline to the 1.

From there, David Hill went over left guard for the touchdown.

A pass for the two‑point conversion failed as Massillon attempted some trickery and it was 14‑6 Ignatius at 4:57 of the first quarter.

The Tiger defense forced Ignatius to punt on its next possession after just three plays and Massillon took over at its own 29.

From there they launched a seven‑play, 71‑yard drive.

Zwick opened the march with a 31‑yard completion along the right sideline to Hill to move the ball to the Ignatius 40.

Two plays later Zwick and Hill hooked up again as the junior running back made a fine catch over the shoulder of the defender for a 20‑yard gain to the Wildcats 12.

Then, on third‑and‑seven from the 9, Zwick rolled right and found Hill open at the two. He turned and strolled into the end zone for the touchdown at :30 of the first quarter.

Massillon attempted a pass for the two‑point conversion, but it failed and it was a 14‑12 game at :30 of the first quarter.

Ignatius, sensing a momentum swing, battled back.

Van der Oord gained 28 yards on the first play of the drive moving the ball to the Ignatius 48.

The Wildcats moved the ball resolutely, finally putting it into the end zone when Szep rolled right and hit tight end Tom Christy on a throwback at the 20. Christy worked his way down the left sideline and ran over a defender at the five for the touchdown. Gibbs’ PAT made it 21‑12 Ignatius at 10:17 of the second quarter.

The teams traded turnovers and later the Massillon defense came up with a huge play, stopping the Wildcats on fourth‑and‑goal one‑yard line.

But Ignatius tallied the final first‑half touchdown on a six‑play drive that covered 32 yards in the final minute of the first half. On third-and‑one from the 11, Szep found Matt Miller in the left side of the end zone for the touchdown.

Gibbs’ kick made it 28‑12 at halftime.

The Tigers would rally after the band show but ‑ as was the case a year ago ‑ St. Ignatius controlled the game from midway through the third quarter to the final gun to extend its winning streak over Massillon to four in a row.

First downs rushing 12 2
First downs passing 17 8
First downs by penalty 1 1
TOTAL first downs 30 11
Net yards rushing 148 11
Net yards passing 296 281
TOTAL yards 444 292
Passes attempted 37 27
Passes completed 24 16
Passes intercepted 0 3
Punts 2 3
Punting average 35.0 27.3
Fumbles/Lost 2/2 1/1
Penalties 6 11
Yards penalized 60 65

IGNATIUS 14 14 7 5 40
MASSILLON 12 0 14 0 26

I ‑ Welo 1 run (Gibbs kick)
I ‑ Gonzalez 19 pass from Szep (Gibbs kick)
M ‑ Hill 1 run (pass failed) M ‑ Hill 9 pass from Zwick (pass failed)
I ‑ Christy 30 pass from Szep (Gibbs kick)
I ‑ Miller 11 pass from Szep (Gibbs kick)
M ‑ Oliver 59 pass from Zwick (Abdul kick)
M ‑ Jordan 71 pass from Zwick (Abdul kick)
I ‑ Welo 32 pass from Szep (Gibbs kick) I ‑ FG Gibbs 35
I ‑ Safety, Massillon called for holding in the end zone

St. Ignatius rushing: Welo 21 ‑91, Van der Oord 8‑43.
Massillon rushing: Oliver 9‑20, Hill 2‑9.

St. Ignatius passing: Szep 24‑37‑296 4 TDs.
Massillon passing: Zwick 16‑27‑281 3 TDs, 3 INTs.

St. Ignatius receiving: Miller 6‑54, Gonzalez 5‑78, Christy 5‑77, Welo 2‑40
Massillon receiving: Jordan 4‑99, Hill 4‑69, Oliver 2‑64.

Shepas’ crew
closing gap on Wildcats

Chris Easterling

No team over the last decade has been more of a measuring stick for the elite high school football program in the state of Ohio than Cleveland St. Ignatius.

Eight Division I state championships since 1988 tends to give a program that lofty status.

With a standing‑room‑only throng of 12,286 looking on at Parma Byers Field Saturday night, the Massillon Tigers ‑ a team with more than its share of mystique and history ‑looked to finally take the measure of the Wildcats after three previously unsuccessful attempts to do so.

Much the same way that beating Cincinnati Moeller seemed to mean more than most victories, sans McKinley, for the Tigers in the 1930’s and early 1990s, beating Ignatius is a feather in the cap that is hard to overlook.

Last year, the Tigers looked to be quite the Wildcats’ equals, until the fourth quarter of a 15‑point defeat at Paul Brown Tiger Stadium.

The Tigers came closer to coming home with the hide of the Wildcats Saturday night, but not quite. A 40‑26 Ignatius victory prevented Massillon from getting over that hurdle, although there was no doubt that the Tigers were certainly more than up to the challenge of showing that the orange‑and‑black still have a mystique worthy of the attention of any program.

These two Ohio powers very easily could meet again, with much more than the top ranking in the state poll on the line, 10 weeks from now on a cold November Saturday evening in the state semifinals.

If that rematch does occur, the Tigers will have plenty of things to remember from a meeting on a chilly September Saturday evening.

Take advantage of the team speed the Tigers have over the Wildcats. On Massillon’s two second‑half touchdowns, both running back Robert Oliver and wide receiver Jordan simply shifted it into another gear to pull away from the trailing Ignatius defenders.

And do take advantage of the cushion that Ignatius was giving up. In the first half, quarterback Justin Zwick was able to dink‑and‑dunk his way down the field, hitting Jordan, David Hill or Oliver on little curl or swing passes that resulted in big plays for the Tigers’.

There were some don’ts the Tigers will store in the memory banks as well. Little things that don’t really matter against 99 percent of the programs in Ohio, but can spell the difference between victory and defeat against Ignatius.

The first is don’t give Ignatius a short field in which to start an offensive series. The Wildcats started five drives on the Massillon side of the 50, twice because of turnovers.

Of those marches, two ended up with Ignatius forcing the scoreboard operator to change the number under its name.

Also, don’t give Ignatius free yards, Massillon was penalized 11 times for 65 yards, but it was the timing of those penalties, which will linger in the Tigers’ mind.

Three times on the Wildcats first drive, Massillon was flagged for encroachment, which gave Ignatius 15 yards it didn’t need to fight for. For the game, the Tigers were flagged for being on the wrong side of the line of scrimmage six times.

There also were pivotal holding and face mask penalties called against the Massillon defense on an Ignatius scoring drive immediately after the Tigers had cut their deficit to 28‑26 in the third quarter.

Those penalties helped lead to an Ignatius touchdown, and a switch in momentum.

The final mistake was a holding penalty in the end zone with 1:37 left that pushed the Wildcat edge out to an even 14.

One thing that is certain is that Massillon for the second straight season showed that it could stand toe‑to‑toe with Ignatius and deliver some blows to the body.

Now head coach Rick Shepas’ Tigers have one more thing to show, that they can deliver the knockout.

It surely will come with time, should the two teams continue to play in the future.

It came against Moeller, and it will come against Ignatius.

Justin Zwick


1991: Massillon 13, Cleveland St. Ignatius 14

Ugh! Big Ig nips Tigers

Independent Sports Editor

A hungry Massillon defense spent most of Saturday night di­ving shark‑like into the bally­hooed Cleveland St. Ignatius offense.

Ignatius, however, turned the second half into a “touchdown sandwich” ‑ scoring at the start of the third quarter and end of the fourth quarter ‑ to bag a 14‑13 victory in front of 20,150 at the Rubber Bowl in the Division I high school football playoff semifinals.

Jason Woullard, who played a whopper of a game on defense, became a hero on offense with a fourth down, 42‑yard TD pass reception from quarterback Nick Mossides to break a 7‑7 tie with 4:36 left in the game.

Someone asked Massillon head coach Lee Owens if the play was ad libbed.

“We’ve practiced it 100 times,” Owens said. “It was just a play‑action fake and pass.”

The play was unusual, though, because it was Woul­lard’s first varsity reception. It was reminiscent of the recent regular‑season finale against McKinley, when star lineback­er Eric Wright’s first rushing attempt as a varsity player went for a touchdown.

After Woullard’s TD catch, Jason Brown’s extra‑point kick try hit the right crossbar and bounced away. The uprights at the Rubber Bowl, home field for the University of Akron, are the NCAA width, 5 feet. narrower than the high school width. The kick would have made it be­tween the wider uprights.

That kept the score at 13‑7.

The Tigers went for the kill on the subsequent kickoff. Brown was to attempt a pop‑up kickoff designed to travel 25 to 30 yards to an open side of the field.

“It was the same type of kick we used to gain possession right at the end of the first half,” Massillon head coach Lee Owens said.

Even if the Tigers didn’t re­cover, Owens said the maneuv­er seemed safer than allowing the threat of a kickoff return.

“We practice that kind of kick every day,” he said.

Brown, who became Massillon’s all‑time, single‑season point‑after‑touchdown record holder earlier in the game, ap­plied his foot too low on the ball, creating a very short kickoff. Ignatius took over on its own 47­-yard line, then drove 53 yards for a touchdown.

Senior running back Jack Mulloy went in from two yards out to make it 13‑13 with 1:23 left in the game. Fernando Paez boomed the P.A.T. kick into the 18th row of seats at the closed end of the Rubber Bowl. It be­came the game‑winning point.

Paez then kicked off into the end zone for a touchback that forced the Tigers to start from

their own 20. A 14‑yard Mossides‑to‑Geoff Merchant pass on first down offered hope, but the next four plays went no­‑where, returning the ball to Ignatius on downs with 51 seconds left.

Ignatius quarterback Kevin Mayer fell on the ball twice and the game was over.

“I give all the credit to our kids.” said Ignatius head coach Chuck Kyle. “They never lost faith in themselves.”

“They were up against a ,real team that had all the motivation in the world ‑ they’d dedicated the season to Paul Brown.”

“I feel the same way about this team I’ve felt all season,” Owens said. “I’m very proud of the way they conducted them­selves all year. This is a special group.”

“It’s just a shame all the work they put in had to end this way. It doesn’t seem fair. But give Ignatius credit. They’re an out­standing team.”

The Tigers led 7‑0 at halftime, thanks to a single play that was the same length as Ignatius’ de­cisive, final TD drive.

On third and seven from the Massillon 47, Tiger senior Marc Stafford beat defensive back Bill Craighead in man to man coverage, then took in a perfect­ly thrown bomb from Mossides and easily ran in for a touch­down. The 53‑yard play ended with just 39 seconds left in the first half. Brown’s kick made it 7‑0.

At halftime, Ignatius had mustered just 61 yards against a Massillon defense that put a hard pass rush on the All‑Ohio candidate, Mayer.

An interception by Dan Hackenbracht snuffed out Ignatius’ first possession. A crunching sack by Woullard and Wayne Gallion stopped the second one.

At the start of the second half, though, Ignatius set up at its own 48 after a squib kick and return. Having sputtered while using formations with four wide receivers, the Wildcats switch­ed to an option attack with just two wideouts.

“That’s just normal for us, to switch around,” Mayer said.

A 21‑yard scramble by Mayer became the key item in a nine ­play, 52‑yard touchdown drive capped by sophomore fullback Eric Haddad’s six‑yard run on second‑and‑goal. The kick by Paez was good and it was 7‑7 with 7:46 left in the third quarter.

The Tigers then drove 49 yards in seven plays, featuring a 32‑yard run by Travis McGuire, who wound up with 118 rushing yards. On second and six from the 20, Falando Ashcraft plowed for four yards but lost the football. Mike McHale recovered for Ignatius at the 16.

The Massillon defense adjusted to the option attack, forc­ing Ignatius to punt.

Again, the Tigers drove, this time from their own 45 to the Ignatius 23. Again, they lost the ball on second and six. This time, it was Mossides and McGuire unable to make the connection on a handoff. Igna­tius pounced on the loose pigs­kin at the 27.

On third down, Mayer’s deep pass was broken up by Hacken­bracht and Troy Burick, forcing another Ignatius punt. It had been raining for about five mi­nutes when the Tigers took over on their own 40‑yard line. On third and short, Mossides sneaked three yards to the Igna­tius 48. Moments later, it was fourth down on the 42, with less than half the fourth quarter re­maining.

Mossides made a play action fake, set up, and let loose a high­ arcing pass that floated over Ignatius linebacker Regan Fitz­patrick. Woullard caught the ball at the 32‑yard line and out­raced Fitzpatrick into the end zone to give the Tigers their momentary lead.

Ignatius came back with its decisive drive.

Massillon’s defense was out­standing through most of the night.

Take away the two touch­down drives and Ignatius gained just 79 yards on eight other possessions.

“We played good defense all night,” Owens said. “We couldn’t ask the defense to play much harder. The two times they scored, we gave them a short field on the kickoff, and they took advantage of it.”

Massillon wound up with a 293‑182 edge in total offense.

Ignatius, on the other hand, contained the Tigers’ powerful ground game. Massillon finished with 155 rushing yards, ­the second lowest total of the season (lowest was 134 yards against Moeller).

Mayer completed just 10 of 27 passes for 119 yards, with one interception.

“They played some of the best pass defense I’ve seen,” Mayer said. “They mix up their coverages and they come hard on the rush.”

The Ignatius ground game produced 104 forward yards, but when quarterback sacks were factored in, there were 41 yards in losses, giving the Wild­cats a net of 63 yards on the ground.

Junior Dean Lamirand rushed 12 times for 58 yards.

Mayer and Lamirand made the key plays on Ignatius’ game‑winning drive.

Mayer delivered one completion on third‑and‑six that took the ball to the Massillon 42‑yard line with 3:50 left in the game. On fourth‑and‑six, he hit Mulloy along the left sideline for a first down. Mulloy went out of bounds with 1:57 left in the game.

The Tigers were still in de­cent shape, though, until Lamirand took the ball on an op­tion pitch and bolted 22 yards up the middle to the 2. Mulloy scored on the next play.

“When we got to the 2,” said Ignatius’ 315‑pound offensive tackle, Juan Porter. “we pretty much knew there was no way we weren’t going in.”

Owens said this morning that the pain of the loss had not left him, and that he is not sure it “ever will completely.”

“I’m still dying inside,” the coach said. “The state title was right there. To come so close to the final game only to lose it at the end is difficult to take.”

Owens stressed that the final kickoff in the game was not an onside kick attempt.

He said that even though the Tigers had recovered a short kickoff earlier in the game, Ignatius had left an open por­tion of the field around the 25­yard line again, and the kick was designed to go there.

“The reason we didn’t call for a squib kick was that they have been effective at fielding and returning squibs,” Owens said.

Owens said Ignatius started the game in a different run de­fense set than had been antici­pated.

“They committed more peo­ple to the run than anybody we’d played,” he said,

The Tigers adjusted to how the Ignatius ends were blocking the Massillon tackles and the counter play opened up in the second half, Owens said.

Owens said the defensive staff had an excellent game plan.

“Everything Coach (Jack) Rose wanted to do, he was able to do,” Owens said.

Owens said Ignatius final drive was “a matter of only being able to hold down such an outstanding offensive team for so long.

First downs rushing 9 4
First downs passing 1 8
First downs by penalty 0 1
Totals first downs 14 13
Yards gained rushing 186 104
Yards lost rushing 31 41
Net yards rushing 155 63
Net yards passing 138 119
Total yards gained 293 182
Passes attempted 13 27
Passes completed 7 10
Interceptions 0 1
Times kicked off 3 3
Kickoff average 26.7 53.7
Kickoff return yards 37 24
Punts 4 6
Punting average 41.8 28.3
Punt return yards 8 21
Fumbles 2 0
Fumbles lost 2 0
Penalties 3 1
Yards penalized 25 5
Number of plays 62 57
Time of possession 26:19 21:41
Attendance 20,150

Ignatius 0 0 7 7 14
Massillon 0 7 0 6 13

M ‑ Stafford 53 pass from Mossides (Brown kick)
I ‑ Haddad 6 run (Paez kick)
M ‑ Woullard 42 pass from Mossides (kick failed)
I ‑ Mulloy 2 run (Paez kick)

Individual statistics

(Massillon) McGuire 24‑118, Ashcroft 17‑55, Wright 2‑5.
(Ignatius) Sako 1 ‑(minus)2, Lamirand 12‑56, Haddad 4‑14, Mul­loy 2‑3.

(Massillon) Mossides7‑13‑0 158.
(Ignatius) Mayer 10‑27‑1 119.

(Massillon) McGuire3‑19, Stafford 2‑63, Woullard 1‑42, Merchant 1‑14.

It was written in the skies:
Game would be electrifying

Steve Doerschuk
Independent Sports Editor

Sometimes you can see it in there eyes.

Sometimes you can see it in the skies.

Put your mind on rewind and stop the tape at Aug. 17, in Lakewood Ohio.


The Massillon Tigers, with a tradition older than the crusty, two‑story houses that frame Lakewood High Stadium, are playing a practice game of foot­ball against Cleveland St. Igna­tius, the Goliath come lately of Ohio high school football.

Wind kicks up. Heavens ex­plode. Thunder and lightning break dance in measure so vio­lent that play is stopped.

It is a late‑summer storm of foreshadowing.

The teams would meet again. They would bring the storm to the floor of a stadium dug out of the earth in Akron.

They would play one of the classic games in the history of the high school playoffs.

In the end, the outcome would pierce like lightning through the hearts of the Massillon players, coaches, fans.

Ignatius scores a touchdown and kicks the extra point to give itself a 14‑13 lead with 83 seconds left in the state semifinal conflict.

Joe Studer, a former Massillon player, a Massillon coach, a Massillon man, is bloodied but unbowed.

“We can win it! ” he yells on the sidelines. His eyes flash. He stands tall.

A cold rain is failing. There is no lightning in the sky. There is no miracle play.

The last of the thunder rolls through Massillon’s majority share of the phenomenal crowd, announced at 20,150, which if true would mean there were 15,000 empty seats in the Rubber Bowl ‑ and there surely didn’t seem to be.

The final score is 14‑13, Ignatius.

It had been a night of one team’s thunder against the other team’s lightning.

Massillon scores first on a bomb. Ignatius ties the game on a long drive. Massillon goes ahead with a fourth‑down pass that goes for a touchdown, followed by a narrowly missed extra ­point kick try. Ignatius gets the ball in a do‑or‑die and drives for 7.

If it wasn’t a classic game in terms of execution ‑ fumbles, dropped passes and missed assignments were sprinkled throughout ‑ it was a blockbuster in terms of drama and hard hitting.

“Ten, 20, 30 years from now,” Chuck Kyle, the Ignatius coach, said in his post‑game team speech, “people will talk about this game.”

Kyle underscored his thought by repeating the words.

“They will talk about this game.

For the moment, the talk will come easily in Cleveland. The words will come hard in Massillon.

This was, probably, the most painful among a handful of similar losses absorbed by the Tigers during the Lee Owens era.

There was a 43‑yard field goal by Jeff Wilkens that gave Austintown‑Fitch a victory over the Tigers in 1988. There was a last‑ditch drive capped by a last‑second touchdown pass to Carlos Collins that gave Cincinnati Moeller a win over the Tigers in 1990.

The loss to Ignatius was more painful than even the one to Moeller mainly because the Tigers have never been closer to winning a state championship than they were this year.

Sure, the Tigers made it to the state finals in 1980, but there they met a Moeller team that put away the game early.

They made it to the championship game again in 1982, but another loaded Moeller team won going away, 35‑14.

This time, the Tigers were one key play away from making it to the championship game with a loaded team of their own, against a Centerville team that is a clear underdog against, as it turns out, Ignatius.

Amid the pain, it must be remembered 1991 was the year Massillon, which went to the playoffs just four times in the first 16 years, made a habit of playing in the tournament.

It was the Tigers’ third straight playoff season.

It must also be remembered that they excelled in the 1991 tournament, winning two games by a combined 70‑27, then outgaining by a margin of 293 yards to 182 the team whose program is bucking for its third state title in‑the last four years.

Rewind your mind one more time, to the moments after Saturday night’s final gun.

The defeat stings infinitely more than cold rain on the face as the Massillon players trudge to the locker room.

The team passes through a human tunnel of people dressed in orange.

“We love you,” yells one of them, a man named Phil Glick. “Hold your heads up. We love you.”

Eric Wright

1989: Massillon 21, Cleveland St. Ignatius 42

No state title, but what a season!

Independent Sports Editor


“The season has been great,” Massillon co-captain Joe Pierce said a few minutes before midnight Saturday. “It’s been wonderful.”

Pierce was back in the Paul Brown Tiger Stadium locker room after his team had fallen 42‑21 to Cleveland St. Ignatius in the Division I state semifinals before a crowd of 18,206 in the Akron Rubber Bowl.

Every locker was plastered with a copy of the USA Today clipping that hyped Ignatius as the No. 1 high school football team in the land.

“If we had to lose,” Pierce said, “it might as well have been to the No. 1 team in the country.

“We hated to lose. But things just didn’t go our way.”

Robert Erickson, the Tigers’ team doctor had the same idea as Pierce as he watched the end of the game from the sidelines about 90 minutes earlier.

“They had a lot of fun this season,” Erickson said as Ryan Sparkman fought valiantly for an extra three yards, lunging backward with tacklers draped on him, as Ignatius led 42‑15.

“They accomplished a lot. They played hard. Heck, a lot of people said they’d never get past McKinley.”

Saturday’s game was played in bitter cold. The defeat kept the Tigers from reaching their goal of a first state playoff title to go along with 22 Ohio poll championships.

The mood around midnight in Tiger Stadium, however, seemed more warm than bitter.

Players talked quietly. Head coach Lee Owens seemed to take the loss hardest. He seemed lost in thought when a passerby gently clutched his arm.

Owens looked up and managed a smile.

Senior Lou LoCoco stopped to shake the coach’s hand just before leaving the locker room for the last time.

“I enjoyed it,” LoCoco said. “You meant a lot to me.”

When hindsight replaces the abruptness of Saturday’s defeat, it probably will become clearer that the 1989 season meant a lot to Tigertown.

It will be recalled that the learn made the playoffs for the first time since 1982 … that McKinley was defeated soundly … that a 42‑24 victory over Walsh Jesuit grew out of a 24‑6 halftime deficit and was one of the great comebacks in Tiger history.

It will be remembered that only two teams in Massillon history, the 1961 squad that went 11‑0 and the 1982 edition that went 12‑1, won more games than the 1989 crew that finished with a 10‑3 mark.

It will be noted the ’89 team’s two playoff wins were as many as were attained by the 1980 and ’82 teams that made it to the state finals, when only two victories were needed to do so.

It will be said that two of the teams to defeat the ’89 Tigers ‑ Moeller and Ignatius – met for the Division I state championship, and that the other, Cleveland St. Joseph, was a Division II state finalist.

Meanwhile, in the Ignatius camp, there was quiet celebration. The Wildcat starters showered in the Rubber Bowl visitors’ locker room, where there is barely room for a basketball team. The extras jammed an adjoining hallway.

Senior quarterback Joe Pickens is Ignatius’ best known star, but for whatever reason he undressed with the extras.

This kid stands 6 feet 4, weighs 210 pounds, and is going places. He says he has narrowed his college preferences to Ohio State, Illinois, Michigan State, Stanford, West Virginia, Alabama and Boston College.

On his way to the big time, the Tigers gave him a night to remember.

It’s different playing Massillon.” he said. “They have a different kind of crowd … they have a lot of fans. But we looked at it this way: We weren’t playing the Massillon town. We were playing the Massillon team.

“We had a good night. But Massillon is definitely a good team. They have a lot of quickness.”

Another Ignatius player headed for the bright lights, albeit two years from now since be is a junior, is 6‑foot‑5, 255‑pound tackle Trent Zenkewicz.

Zenkewicz said nobody was looking at Saturday’s affair as just another game.

“When we scrimmaged them in the pre‑season, they came out like it was a championship game,” Zenkewicz said.

“We’d won the state championship last year and I guess that fired them up. There was some taunting. It was an unusual scrimmage. We wanted revenge.”

Ignatius jumped to a 13‑0 lead in Saturday’s clash, held on for a 13‑7 halftime edge, their blew it open in the third quarter. Zenkewicz had his revenge.

Owens found it hard to swallow.

“I feel bad,” he said, “as though there’s something more I could have done.”

Some day the loss will melt into the big picture. The coach should feel better when he steps back and takes a look at that.

Title dream ends
Tigers can’t make comeback last after nearly taking halftime lead vs. Ignatius

Independent Sports Editor

AKRON ‑ Team Comeback struck again, but this time the rally came too fast and didn’t last.

The Massillon Tigers punched their way out of a 13‑0 corner Saturday to nearly take a halftime lead on Cleveland St. Ignatius. They got lost in a black hole of a third quarter on whose other side was a 42‑21 defeat in the Division I state football playoff semifinals.

Ignatius, which had never faced Massillon, stretched its winning streak to 28 and headed for a Sunday state championship showdown against Cincinnati Moeller.

The Tigers left the 1980s with a 10‑3 season record and an 81‑27‑1 mark for the decade.

Massillon had a controlling share of Saturday’s crowd ‑ 18,206 in the ice‑cold Rubber Bowl, where snow was caked on the sidelines after a pregame scrape job.

“We’re in it!” a Tiger fan making a coffee run yelled after his team ralled from a 13‑0 deficit to trail 13‑7 at halftime.

And why wouldn’t he think so?

Team Comeback had rebounded from a loss to Moeller with a convincing win over Austintown‑Fitch. It rallied from a stunning loss to Cleveland St. Joseph to dominate McKinley. It came back from the dead of a 24‑6 halftime deficit against Walsh Jesuit to win a playoff opener 42‑24.

As far as the fans were concerned, it was play‑it‑again‑Sam time.

Ryan Sparkman’s one‑yard touchdown run with 2:37 left in the half set up a 13‑7 game. Moments later Tiger end Jeff Perry creamed Ignatius quarterback Joe Pickens and Massillon tackle Scott Sirgo pounced on the resulting fumble near midfield.

Ignatius end Matt Cooney, pesky as a gnat all night, had a bear hug on quarterback Lee Hurst’s legs on fourth and five, but Hurst amazingly flicked a strike to Rameir Martin to keep the drive alive.

When Hurst connected with Martin for 12 yards to the nine with more than 30 seconds left, Team Comeback had its fans humming.

“A great play by their defensive back” is what head coach Lee Owens said kept the Tigers from converting a touchdown pass that could have created a halftime lead.

The Tigers had to hurry their field goal unit in place and the half ended with Gary Miller’s 28‑yard field goal attempt sailing wide right.

“We thought we should have had an extra timeout in there, but they charged us with one we don’t believe we took,” Owens said. “We came out of the huddle on one play and were ready to roll when they charged us with a timeout. They never did explain who asked for the timeout.”

On the opposite sideline, Ignatius head coach Chuck Kyle was smiling.

“They had their chance and they didn’t put it in,” he said.

Owens remembers the second half starting to his liking.

”We kicked the ball exactly where we wanted it,” he said, “Deep in the corner away from No. 48 (Tim Kennedy), who returned one for a touchdown against Euclid last week.”

Nonetheless, deep man Peter Fitzpatrick proceeded to rearrange the game, skirting right around the coverage wall and running 71 yards to the Tiger 24‑yard line.

Five players later, Fitzpatrick followed the block of 6‑foot‑3, 236‑pound tight end John Jaeckin into the end zone on a 10‑yard scoring play. A Pickens‑to‑Jaeckin conversion pass made it 21‑7.

A Tim Ruddy interception and a 48‑yard “junk play” touchdown – Pickens lateraling to split end Pat Friend, and Friend throwing a bomb to a wide‑open Jaeckin made it 28‑7.

A Massillon fumble on its own 24 set up Fitzpatrick’s third touchdown and a 35‑7 Ignatius lead with 11: 12 left in the game.
Still, Team Comeback wouldn’t roll over.

“I had a good feeling after we cut it to 35‑15,” Owens said. “We had more than nine minutes left (after Hurst’s 40‑yard scoring bomb to Doug Harig). And we got the ball right back (on Chad Buckland’s interception).”

Unfortunately, Cooney got in the way on third‑and‑11, intercepting a screen pass and scoring easily on a 21‑yard run to make it 42‑7.

The Tigers drove 93 yards and Sparkman scored his second touchdown with 1:24 left to create the final, score.

The stats were considerably more even than the score.

At halftime, Ignatius led 157‑133 in total offense. The late, long scoring drive gave the Tigers a 354‑272 lead in total offense for the game.

Pickens, a 6‑foot‑4, 210‑pound senior who is expected to make first team All‑Ohio and possibly wrestle this year’s Mr. Football award a way from incumbent Robert Smith of Euclid completed just

First downs rushing 9 7
First downs passing 4 12
First downs penalty 0 1
Total first down 13 20
Net yards rushing 149 122
Net yards passing 123 232
Total net yards 272 354
Passes attempted 15 36
Passes completed 5 17
Passes intercepted 1 5
Fumbles/lost 1‑1 1‑1
Punts 4 3
Punting average 28.8 29.7
Penalties 8 3
Yards penalized 83 31
St. Ignatius 7 6 15 14 42
Massillon 0 7 0 14 21

I ‑ Fitzpatrick 19 run (Hearns kick)
I ‑ Spear 1 run (kick failed)
M ‑ Sparkman 1 run (Miller kick)
I ‑ Pickens 10 run (Pickens pass to Jaeckin)
I ‑ Friend 42 pass to Jaeckin (Hearns kick)
I ‑ Fitzpatrick 2 run (Hearns kick)
M ‑ Hurst 40 pass to Harig (Hurst pass to Carpenter)
I ‑ Cooney 21 Pass interception return (Hearns kick)
M ‑ Sparkman 1 run (pass failed)


Individual Statistics

(I) Fitzpatrick 21‑102, Pickens 6‑33 Kennedy 6‑18, Spear 2‑3.
(M) Sparkman 18-81, Dixon 9‑28, Hurst 4‑13.

(I) Pickens 4‑14 1 81, Friend 1‑1‑0 42.
(M) Hurst 17‑35‑4 232, Manion 0‑1‑1 0.

(I) Jaeckin 4‑86, Ruddy 1‑37.
(M) Martin 6‑86, Sparkman 4‑28, Harig 3‑82, Manion 2-20, Carpenter 1‑9, Dixon 1‑7.

Kickoff returns
(I) Fitzpatrick 1‑71, Kennedy 1‑28,
(M) Blake 5‑72, Ashcraft 2‑28.


four of 14 passes for 81 yards. Hurst, the MVP on the coaches’ all‑county team, completed 17 of 35 passes for 232 yards, but with four interceptions.

“Their quarterback did an outstanding job, considering the pressure we had on him,” said Ignatius’ 6‑foot‑5, 255‑pound junior tackle Trent Zenkewicz.

Fitzpatrick wound up with 102 rushing yards in 21 carries. Sparkman produced 109 yards, 81 on the ground in 18 carries, and 28 more on four receptions.

The Tigers’ Martin and the Wildcats’ Jaeckin each gained 86 yards, Martin on six catches and Jaeckin on four.

Harig caught three passes for 82 yards.

The Tigers tried to compensate for their size disadvantage by mixing up the defense.

“They were bringing people the whole game,” Kyle said. “We stopped their inside blitz then they started coming from the outside.

“They kept shifting their defense back and forth,” said Pickens. “We called a whole lot of audibles.”

Ignatius countered the Tiger blitzes with draw plays that were keys in building the 14‑0 lead.

The Tigers didn’t get untracked on offense until trailing by that margin.

“It took a while to figure out what they were doing,” Owens said. “They had No. 76 (Jenkewicz) going to whatever side Ray (Kovacsiss) was on. They hadn’t done that sort of thing before.”

A 30‑yard pass to Harig loosened up the defense late in the half.

But Ignatius regained control with two touchdowns within the first five minutes of the second half.

Here’s a drive‑by‑drive account of the Massillon‑Cleveland St. Ignatius state semifinal football game Saturday night.


MASSILLON ‑ Start on own 30 after opening kickoff. Ryan Sparkman runs 19 yards on second down. Three more plays gain two yards. Punt.

IGNATIUS ‑ Start on own 26 after 23‑yard punt. Drive 74 yards in 13 plays capped by Peter Fitzpatrick;s 19‑yard touchdown run. Big plays: 12‑yard draw play to Fitzpatrick on third‑and‑10; 12‑yard scramble by quarterback Joe Pickens on second‑and‑eight Graham Hearns’ kick good at 4:41 of first quarter.
Ignatius 7, Massillon 0

MAS ‑ Start on own 27 after kickoff. Three plays. Punt.
IGN ‑ Start on own 44 after 21‑yard punt. Drive 61 yards in six plays capped by Brian Spear’s 1-yard run on first play of second quarter. Big plays: 37‑yard pass completion on second‑and‑15; 15-yard pass to tight end John Jaeckin on second‑and‑10. Hearns’ kick pressured by Don Blake, no good at 11:58 of second period.
Ignatius 13, Massillon 0

MAS ‑ Start on own 31 after kickoff. Three plays gain no yards. Punt.

IGN ‑ Start on own 29 after 40‑yard punt. Three incompletions. Punt.

MAS ‑ Start on own 42. Four plays, including 10‑yard Lee Hurst‑to‑Desmond Carpenter pass, to the Ignatius 35. Tim Ruddy intercepts deep pass for Wildcats on next play

IGN ‑ Start on own 9. Five play to Tiger 22 capped by Kevin McGuesack sack of Pickens forcing punt.

MAS ‑ Start on Ignatius 47 with 4:40 left in half. Third‑and‑11 throw back pass to Harig covers 30 yards to Ignatius 18. Sparkman caps six play, 47‑yard drive with 1‑yard TD plunge. Gary Miller’s kick good at 2:37 of second quarter.
Ignatius 13, Massillon 7

IGN ‑ Start on own 48 after kickof f and late‑hit penalty. Lose ball on Scott Sirgo fumble recovery with 1:50 left in half.

MAS ‑ Start on Ignatius 45. Sparkman gains 13 yards on Hurst pass on first down. Drive inside 10 before half ends on missed 28‑yard field goal.

Halftime: Ignatius 13, Massillon 7


IGN Start on Tiger 24 after Fitzpatrick’s 71‑yard kickoff return. Score in four plays on 10‑yard Pickens run. Pickens passes to Jaeckin for two‑point conversion at 9:10 of third quarter.

Ignatius 21, Massillon 7

MAS ‑ Start on own 29 after kickoff. Lose ball on Ruddy interception on second play.

IGN ‑ Start on own 45. Score on fourth play, 42‑yard pass from split end Pat Friend to Jaeckin. Hearns’ kick good at 7:01 of third quarter.

Ignatius 28, Massillon 7

MAS ‑ Start on own 29 after kickoff. Martin catches 36‑yard pass from Hurst on third‑and‑15. Ruddy intercepts two plays later.

IGN ‑ Start on own 35. Three plays. Punt.

MAS ‑ Start on own 25. Lose ball on fumble on attempted hook‑and‑ladder
ladder play.

IGN ‑ Start on own 24. Score on seventh play, a 2‑yard run by Fitzpatrick. Hearns kick good at 11:12 of fourth quarter.

Ignatius 35, Massillon 7

MAS ‑ Start on own 30 after kickoff. Drive 70 yards in five plays capped by Harig’s 40‑yard TD recep­
tion from Hurst. Key play: 11‑yard reception by Troy Manion followed by late hit penalty. Carpenter catches two‑point conversion pass from Hurst at 9:33 of fourth quarter.

Ignatius 35, Massillon 15

IGN ‑ Start on own 49 after onside kick. Lose ball on Chad Buckland interception.

MAS ‑ Start on own 13. On third‑and‑13 Matt Cooney intercepts screen pass and runs 21 yards for touchdown. Hearns Kick good at 6: 15 of fourth quarter.

Ignatius 42, Massillon 15

MAS ‑ Start on own 7 following kickoff. Drive 93 yards in 15 plays, capped by Sparkman’s 1‑yard TD plunge. Two‑point conversion pass broken up in back of end zone at 1:24 of fourth quarter.

Final: Ignatius 42, Massillon 21

Rameir Martin