The Massillon Tigers appeared to have a season-defining win all wrapped up with just over two minutes left in Saturday night’s showdown of unbeatens at Byers Field against St. Ignatius when Tyler Miller came up with an interception inside the Tiger 5 to preserve a one-point lead. But in the midst of the Tigers’ jubilation came a cold splash of water. A penalty flag. This one for defensive holding against Massillon, negating the potential game-clinching pick.
Given new life, St. Ignatius scored on a 5-yard Bobby Grebencs run with two minutes remaining, carrying the Wildcats to a 26-21 lead which would prove to be the final margin in Massillon’s first loss of the season.
“Our kids handled adversity,” Tiger coach Jason Hall said. “We came up short.” The penalty which altered the final two-plus minutes of the game came on a defender who was away from the play. Hall, though, wouldn’t comment about it directly.
“I have to watch it on film,” Hall said. “I’m not going to make any excuses, it’s not my mentality. I’m going to have to look at it on film. I couldn’t see it because it was on the far side of the field, but I do know that it wasn’t the guy that the ball was thrown to. … We’re not going to make excuses.”
The Tigers fall to 5-1 with the heart-wrenching loss. Not that they can dwell for long on the defeat, as a trip to face undefeated Steubenville awaits Friday night.
“We have to get back to work,” Hall said. “We don’t have any time to cry about this.”
What the Tigers do need to do is look at what they did to gain a 21-14 third-quarter lead over the top-ranked Wildcats, who are now 6-0. That’s especially true considering the 14-0 deficit Massillon faced less than two minutes into the second quarter.
In order to do that, Massillon did what it does best, which is hit on the big play.
The Tigers’ first scoring drive – which cut the deficit to 14-7 with 40 seconds left in the half – was bolstered by a 47-yard pass from Robert Partridge to Devin Smith to take the ball to the Ignatius 22. Partridge then hit Grunder for the 5-yard scoring pass to slice the deficit in half.
“Momentum kind of swung away a little bit,” St. Ignatius coach Chuck Kyle said. “They made adjustments with their receivers.
They have some skilled guys, and that was a concern for us the whole week, and they hit a few.”Massillon hit one of its biggest plays in the third quarter to tie the game at 14-14. Facing a fourth-and-1 at his own 29, Hall elected to go for it, and tailback Alex Winters rewarded him with a 71-yard touchdown run with 8:26 left in the quarter.
“A lot of the guys were saying, ‘Punt,'” Hall said. “But that was, to me, my way of saying to my kids that this was our time. We’re going to do it. … If you’ve ever read Joe Paterno’s book, there’s a quote in there that says, ‘In order to win, sometimes you have to take the chance to lose.’ It’s football; it’s fourth-and-1. We’ve got a couple of 300-pounders, let’s do it.”
It certainly looked like the Tigers were going to do it on their next possession when Partridge hit Smith for an 82-yard pass down to the Wildcat 3. The next play, Winters fought his way in to the end zone to give the Tigers a 21-14 lead – following the PAT – with 3:58 left.
Partridge finished 16-of-29 for 265 yards with a touchdown and three interceptions. Smith had six catches for 135 yards.
The Tigers’ problem, especially early, was slowing down the Wildcats’ junior tailback Bobby Grebencs. Grebencs had 122 rushing yards in the first half on 20 carries, as Massillon struggled to gain any sort of control of the line of scrimmage.
Grebencs’ 1-yard run with 6:13 left in the first quarter helped give the Wildcats a 7-0 lead. He then scored from 3-yards out with 10:16 left in the half to help make it a 14-0 Ignatius edge.
But the Tigers slowed Grebencs – and conversely, the Wildcat offense – for much of the second half, which helped open the door for their comeback. However, Grebencs got loose for 48 yards – and two touchdowns – on 10 fourth-quarter carries, the last one of 10 yards being the biggest, as it gave the Wildcats the lead for good. He finished with 217 yards on 40 carries.
“I kept asking him, ‘Are you OK?'” Kyle said. “He kept saying, ‘Yeah, no problem.'” And, thanks to a second chance, there wasn’t any problem for St. Ignatius. Unfortunately for the Tigers, their problem would come thanks to that second chance.
Iggy passes by Tigers Wildcats jump out to 49-0 lead at half, cruise to 49-7 win
By CHRIS EASTERLING The Independent
MASSILLON, OH —
The St. Ignatius Wildcats spent the first half of Friday night’s game at Paul Brown Tiger Stadium putting on a clinic. Unfortunately for the Massillon Tigers, they were on the other end of the Wildcats’ demonstration.
St. Ignatius jumped out to a 49-0 halftime lead and never looked back in posting a 49-7 victory over the Tigers in front of around 8,000 at Paul Brown Tiger Stadium. It is the worst defeat the Tiger program has suffered since a 46-0 loss to Alliance in 1962.
“They came out and executed, and we buried ourselves in a hole defensively and offensively right off the bat,” Tiger coach Jason Hall said. “We were just never able to … we were just almost shell-shocked. That’s the feeling I saw and I felt with our kids. They’re a good football team. Do I think they’re 49-7 better than us? No. We made some mistakes in all phases of the game. It’s just a situation where we have to keep working.”
The loss dropped Massillon to 3-3 on the season, and 1-11 all-time against the Wildcats. The Tigers will step out of the country next Friday when Brantford (Ont.) Collegiate Institute visits.
The Wildcats, who led 35-0 after one quarter, scored on all five of their first-half possessions, and added a pair of interception returns for scores in building up their seven-score edge at the intermission.
“Mainly the message was like anything else,” Hall said of the halftime talk. “I told them it’s a life lesson. Winners fight and losers quit.”
St. Ignatius, which has won five in a row since dropping their season opener to Glenville, was led by the precision passing of quarterback Andrew Holland. Holland, who played only in the first half, completed 10-of-11 aerials for 262 yards with three touchdowns.
By the end of the first quarter, Holland already had 229 yards through the air, and all three touchdown passes.
“Quarterback presence really was what you saw tonight,” St. Ignatius coach Chuck Kyle said. “When he felt the pressure from the outside, he did a very good job of stepping up into a seam and still looking downfield. A lot of quarterbacks will step up, but they look down to see where they can run. But he was still looking up for where he could throw, and that paid off.”
Where the Wildcats hurt the Tigers the most was with the deep post pattern. Connor Ryan had all three of his catches for 136 yards and two scores on that particular play.
Joey Parris added five catches for 101 yards and a touchdown.
While the Wildcat offense was clicking on all cylinders in the first half in racking up 373 yards, the Tigers were struggling to get anything going against a stout St. Ignatius defense. Massillon trailed 21-0 before picking up its first down of the game, and had just 22 yards on 23 first-half plays. The Tigers ran just two plays in Wildcat territory in the first half, both coming from the Ignatius 49 amd each resulted in lost yardage.
Massillon finished the game with 135 total yards.
“They controlled the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball,” Hall said. “They were being aggressive. We just couldn’t get anything moving up front.”
Adding to Massillon’s struggles was the fact two of its first four pass attempts were intercepted by St. Ignatius defenders and returned for scores. The first, a 25-return by Jake Ryan, made it 14-0 Wildcats, while Dan Fox brought one back 35 yards to make it 35-0 with 24 seconds left in the first quarter.
The Tigers’ first score didn’t come until J.T. Turner stepped in front of a pass in the third quarter and returned it 60 yards for a touchdown to make it 49-7 Ignatius.
SCORING SUMMARY SI – C. Ryan 30 pass from Holland (Hennessey kick) SI – J. Ryan 25 interception return (Hennessey kick) SI – C. Ryan 68 pass from Holland (Hennessey kick) SI – Parris 25 pass from Holland (Hennessey kick) SI – Fox 35 interception return (Hennessey kick) SI – Holland 1 run (Hennessey kick) SI – Johnson 47 run (Hennessey kick) M – Turner 60 interception return (Geier kick)
St. I Mas First downs 15 9 Rushes-yards 35-145 32-78 Comp-att-int. 10-14-1 9-26-3 Passing yards 262 57 Fumbles-lost 2-0 2-0 Penalty yards 59 35
By CHRIS EASTERLING Chris.Easterling@IndeOnline.com
Thanks to the one-man show that was St. Ignatius senior Matthew Merletti, the Massillon Tigers find themselves at a crossroads in their season. One way leads back to the playoffs, the other to an end of the road after the week 10 game with McKinley.
“We need to probably win out, or come close, to make the playoffs,” Tiger coach Tom Stacy said after his team fell to 3-3 following a 30-16 loss to St. Ignatius on Friday night in front of 12,458 at Paul Brown Tiger Stadium. “Any time you lose a couple of games in a row, you worry about people jumping ship on you. We told our guys, we can’t have any of that happen and win out. We have to have everybody with us – coaches, players, everybody from the third-stringer to the first-stringer. They’re going to have to rally around.”
Merletti single-handedly put the 6-0 Wildcats on his back on this evening, rushing for a game-high 221 yards on 31 carries, while adding a back-breaking 79-yard interception return for a score in the fourth quarter. He finished with 398 yards total between his rushing, receiving and return yards.
“Tony Gonzalez had a pretty big game here a few years ago,” said St. Ignatius coach Chuck Kyle, whose team is now 6-0. “It was one of those types of things. Tom and I even talked about Matt before the game. He said, ‘That 22 (Merletti) is just a tremendous player.’ And I said, ‘We need him to be.'”
Afterwards, the senior talked about how he and his Wildcat teammates were inspired all week by memories of Massillon’s 29-26 win over Ignatius a year ago. That broke an 0-8 skid against Ignatius by the Tigers.
“We definitely thought about that, no question about it,” Merletti said. “That was a big motivator.”
Now Massillon needs a similar kind of motivation as it heads into the final four games of the season. It starts next Friday night when Buchtel visits Paul Brown Tiger Stadium.
“We have to coach better and we have to play better,” Stacy said. “If you want to win games, that’s what you have to do.
“It’s going to be our job to pull them together. That’s why you coach. I’m really confident will bounce back next week. I really am.”
The Tigers went back to good, old-fashioned smash-mouth football on their second series of the game, one which ended with Steve Schott kicking a 33-yard field goal to give Massillon a 3-0 lead with 4:32 left in the first quarter. The drive took 15 plays, with 10 of those being running plays, including a 3-yard run by Brian Gamble on fourth-and-1 from the Ignatius 23 to keep it alive.
But the Wildcats answered, thanks in a large part by a 56-yard run by Merletti, who was untouched until Gamble tackled him at the Tiger 6. Two plays later, Merletti gave Ignatius the lead with a 3-yard run with 3:00 left in the quarter, making it 7-3 Wildcats after Nick Yako’s PAT kick.
Gamble again needed to save the Tiger defense on Ignatius’ next possession – but only momentarily. Merletti ripped off a 61-yard run through a gaping hole up the middle to the Massillon 12, where Gamble finally brought him down.
Once again, it took Ignatius two more plays after Merletti’s big run to find the end zone, this time on a 2-yard run by Merletti. Yako’s PAT made it 14-3 Ignatius just 38 seconds into the second quarter.
Massillon’s offense mixed it up on its subsequent possession, balancing a Gamble run with big pass plays in the flats to Trey Miller, Andrew Dailey and Bryan Sheegog to move to the Ignatius 6. However, a big sack on third-and-5 pushed the ball back to the Wildcat 15, and Schott was called on to hit a 32-yard field goal to cut it to 14-6 with 6:04 left in the half.
The Tigers would again move the ball on their next drive, boosted by a big 29-yard pass from Bobby Huth – who was 11-of-14 for 139 yards in the second quarter alone – to Miller to the Wildcat 31. But a fumbled pitch short-circuited the drive, which ended with an incomplete pass on fourth down from the Ignatius 26.
Massillon would get a final shot at points in the half when an Ignatius punt was downed at the 50. Two quick passes moved it to the 29, where Schott hit his third field goal of the half – a 46-yarder – to cut it to 14-9 Ignatius at halftime.
Merletti again prevented the Tiger defense from getting off the field on the Wildcats’ first drive of the second half. This time, it was a 43-yard catch-and-run on a simple swing pass that turned a third-and-7 from the Ignatius 41 into a first-and-10 at the Tiger 16.
As was the case the first two times Merletti ripped off a big play, it took the Wildcats just two more plays to find the end zone. This time, it was a 16-yard run off right end for a touchdown with 8:22 left in the third quarter to lift St. Ignatius to a 21-9 lead after the extra point.
The Tigers’ evening may have been defined by their two third-quarter possessions. The first, which reached the Ignatius 32, ended with a fumble.
But it was the second which may have left the mortal wound. After Kevin Massey returned an interception for Massillon to the Wildcat 10, the Tigers were able to move to the 3, where they faced fourth-and-goal. But the pass into the end zone was high and broken up, leaving the score at 21-9.
“I had some really bad calls in the red zone I wish I had back,” Stacy said. “I blame myself for that. I really believe that was a turning point in the game.”
Ignatius would tack on a 28-yard Yako field goal seven plays after it recovered a muffed punt on the Tiger 32 midway through the fourth quarter to make it 24-9. Merletti would then cap the night with a 79-yard interception return for a score with 5:09 remaining that made it 30-9 Wildcats after the extra point was blocked.
Huth would provide the final margin with a 2-yard run with 2:47 remaining.
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.”
The new season of network television programs has just begun but Rick Shepas had to feel like he was stuck watching reruns on Saturday night when Cleveland St. Ignatius turned a huge mistake on Massillon’s first possession of the ball game into a quick touchdown.
It was exactly the way last year’s Massillon-St. Ignatius game began and the end result was eerily similar, a 38-13 victory for the Wildcats. Now the question is, can the 3-3 Tigers somehow post three wins over their last four games – starting with this Saturday’s visit to Lakewood St. Edward – just to finish at 6-4 and have a shot at qualifying for the playoffs.
For that to happen, Massillon will have to either beat No. 2-rated St. Edward this week or No. 7-rated Warren Harding in Week Nine – both on the road no less – and still count on victories over Friendship Edison of Washington D.C. a week from this Saturday and archrival Canton McKinley in Week Ten. It’s a tall order indeed, especially if the Tigers continue to shoot themselves in the foot before the crowd is even settled into their seats. Massillon was penalized for holding on the opening kickoff, then fumbled on its first two plays from scrimmage, losing the second bobble to St. Ignatius on the Tiger 10-yard line. Three snaps later it was 6-0 Wildcats on a Rudy Kirbus to Collin Meador 3-yard touchdown toss. The point after made it 7-0 at 10:02 of the first quarter.
“It all came down to execution for us and we did not execute,” Shepas observed. “There’s no question that when you play in a football game like this you want to protect the football. Obviously in the first two snaps of the game we had the quarterback run into the running back on play number one. We had a fumble on play two. We put our defense against the wall. “Our problem tonight was execution as it has always been against Ignatius.”
Unlike last year’s Ignatius tilt, the Tigers bounced back after the initial touchdown, putting together a 10-play drive that finally stalled on the Wildcat 30-yard line. Then the visitors bore a gift for Massillon, fumbling the football to Tiger free safety Alex Dahlquist at the Ignatius 11.
Massillon pushed it to the 3-yard line, but a fourth-and-2 running play was snuffed out for no gain, giving the ball back to St. Ignatius on downs. “We got the fumble early and we took it in,” said St. Ignatius coach Chuck Kyle. “They got a fumble and they had to make a decision. Field goal or . what do you do?”
The Tigers opted to go for it and came away empty. “Obviously it did hurt,” said Shepas. “Our kids wanted to go for it in that situation. They were fired up but we just didn’t get it in.”
The Massillon defense stood tall the rest of the first half. St. Ignatius only other score came when Kirbus scrambled away from the Tiger pass rush, found a seam and sprinted 40 yards to the end zone late in the half. “It helps the offensive line so much when the quarterback can do that,” Kyle said. “If you have a seam go ahead. Go ahead. It does cool the jets of the pass rush. Maybe you didn’t call a quarterback draw but if it turns into that, that’s fine because now the defensive line has to keep an eye on you.”
The backbreaker, as far as the Tigers were concerned, came when Kirbus hooked up with Robby Parris for a 34-yard touchdown pass to cap off a nine-play, second-half opening drive. Massillon had St. Ignatius in a third-and-19 situation but couldn’t defuse the bomb and the Wildcats led 21-0 midway through the third period.
Kirbus and Parris repeated their act from near mid-field just over two minutes later to make it 28-0 and the stands began to empty at Paul Brown Tiger Stadium.
“St. Ignatius came out and executed the game plan we practiced for all week,” Shepas said. “There was not one surprise that they came up with during the course of the game.
“When they have the lead at halftime, that opening drive of the second half is important. And in typical Ignatius fashion they take the ball and drive the football and burn a lot of clock and then score that touchdown. It does affect your momentum to a degree but we still had a lot to play for.”
Massillon did put together a couple of late scores with Shawn Weisend under center after Quentin Paulik was sidelined by a late helmet-to-helmet hit out of bounds. But Kyle said afterward he had his reserves in when the Tigers tallied.
“I thought we matched up well against Ignatius and I still believe that,” Shepas continued. “I think we match up well with a few of the next teams we play. Regardless of what people want to say, we play an exciting brand of football here. We have an attack defense. We have an exciting offense. We play the top teams. This is a great place to watch a high school football game. Now we’ve just got to get ready to play. These are things people have to learn from. For me it’s not a problem. I was raised in this fashion. It’s another great week of football. A great opponent coming up and we’ll just get ready for them.”
Rick Shepas had one admonition for his charges following Massillon’s 37‑12 loss to St. Ignatius at Byers Field in Parma Saturday night.
“Don’t feel sorry for yourselves,” Shepas said in the postgame huddle at midfield.
The Tigers don’t have time for self‑recrimination. On Friday they play host to No. 8‑rated Lakewood St. Edward, which is coming off a 37‑0 win over Huntington (Ind.) North on Saturday.
“We’re 4‑2 and we’ve got a decision to make on how much better we’re going to get,” Shepas told the Tigers, who can give their playoff hopes a huge lift with a victory this week over computer points rich St. Eds.
“This is what we want,” Shepas said. “We’ve put ourselves in a playoff‑type, atmosphere during the regular season. It’s going to be a great opportunity for our kids to show what they can do. It will be a great opportunity for us to play well and have a chance to get in the playoffs as well.
“But one way or the other, our team is going to come out of this with a lot. We’re going to benefit from this one way or the other.”
A cardinal sin against any team boasting the talent that St. Ignatius puts on the field is falling behind early, but that’s the fate that befell Massillon. The Wild cats scored on a botched punt snap then converted a 21‑yard punt return off a Tiger three‑and‑out series into a 21‑yard Brian Hoyer touchdown pass less than four minutes into the game.
“You can’t come up here and go down 13‑0 to a team like St. Ignatius and expect to do anything,” Shepas said.
“The last time we were up here that happened. It happened again tonight. It’s just up to us as far as the way we play, the way we coach.”
Joe Palcko’s short touchdown run capped a 10‑play St. Ignatius drive to make it 20‑0 with 10:03 until halftime.
The Tigers countered with a four‑play, 76‑yard scoring drive that featured a 19‑yard Steve Hymes to Erie Copeland aerial and a 46‑yard catch and run by junior tight end Wayne Gates.
Caleb White caught a perfectly thrown swing pass from Hymes and sprinted 16 yards for the score.
“We just started catching the football and making some plays,” Shepas explained.
But St. Ignatius iced it after the Tigers turned the ball over on downs at midfield late in the half. Two Hoyer to Josiah Kedzior passes netted 36 yards and then Hoyer carried it in himself from 10 yards out to make it 30‑6 at the intermission.
“Early on we felt like we had a really good game plan,” Shepas said. “We did stop their run in the first half. We thought we put our guys in some pretty good situations tonight. For the most part our guys played hard. We were a little bit disappointed at the end. We have a young football team. We’re going to get better from being in situations like this against a great football team like this.
“For as many distractions as we have in Massillon I think our kids did a great job.
SCORING SI ‑ Gallagher 19 fumble recovery (Kedzior kick) SI ‑ Ramella 21 pass from Hoyer (Kick failed) SI ‑ Palcko 3 run (Kedzior kick) M ‑ Caleb White 16 pass from Steve Hymes (Kick failed) SI ‑ Kedzior 30 FG SI ‑ Hoyer 9 run (Kedzior kick) M ‑ Relford 4 pass from S. Hymes (Kick blocked) SI ‑ Palcko 5 run (Kedzior kick)
INDIVIDUAL STATISTICS Massillon rushing: C. White 6‑19, Tuffy Woods 7‑15, Steve Hymes 11‑14. St. Ignatius rushing: Palcko 20‑80 2 TDs, Stancus 8‑71, Hoyer 4‑50 TD.
It was a Friday the 13th horror story of Hollywood proportions for a vast majority of the 15,051 fans at Paul Brown Tiger Stadium who witnessed the Massillon Tigers 29‑21 defeat at the hands of Cleveland St. Ignatius Friday night.
The Tigers looked like a well‑oiled machine in taking a 14‑3 halftime lead and out‑gaining the defending state champions 236‑74 in total yards in the first half.
Massillon extended its advantage to 21‑3 on Billy Relford’s 81‑yard interception return for a touchdown with just over two minutes left in the third quarter.
With St. Ignatius star running back Carter Welo sitting on the bench with a left shoulder injury, it appeared the Tigers were well on their way to their first‑ever victory over the Wildcats.
Despite an 18‑point deficit, Ignatius coach Chuck Kyle stayed cool and so did his charges. “We needed to get a score,” Kyle said. “It’s 21‑3. Plenty of time. If we get one in here, there’s plenty of time.”
A facemask call on Massillon gave St. Ignatius the ball near midfield on its ensuing possession. Two plays later, Tony Gonzalez shook himself loose in the Tiger secondary and junior quarterback Brian Hoyer found him for a 37‑yard pass and run for six points. The conversion kick was good and Massillon’s lead had been sliced to 21‑9 with a few seconds remaining in the third quarter.
“Tony gets that one and he has that great speed and he takes off and gets it and that’s just what we needed right there because the kids got excited,” Kyle said. “They got excited. “When things are going wrong, you just say something is going to hit and you put it in the hands of the guys who can get it done for you.” That would be Gonzalez, who has verbally committed to play his football at Ohio State next season.
After Massillon went three‑and‑out on its next possession, St. Ignatius took over at its 31. Two Hoyer completions moved the ball to the Massillon 35. Then it was back to Gonzalez, who got behind the Tigers coverage and caught Hoyer’s high‑arcing 35‑yard aerial in the end zone at 9:59 of the fourth quarter. The kick made it Massillon 17, St. Ignatius 16, and the Wildcats could smell blood.
W hat happened next was truly a nightmare for the Tigers. Beginning on their 20‑yard line, Massillon was flagged consecutively for too many players on the field, an illegal formation and a false start to set up first‑and‑25 from the 5‑yard line. One play later, Gonzalez stepped in front of a Massillon pass in the flats and zipped 15 yards to pay dirt. The conversion pass play failed but St. Ignatius was now on top 22‑21.
Massillon looked to be rallying back following the kickoff. The Tigers moved the ball to near midfield on four consecutive running plays. On the fifth, they coughed up the football and the Wildcats recovered on the Massillon 43.
A 25‑yard Hoyer pass to an uncovered Gonzalez set up Joe Palcko’s two‑yard scoring burst. The point after kick made it St. Ignatius 29, Massillon 21 with 4:41 to go.
The Tigers would move the football to the Ignatius 30 in the game’s waning moments but four straight incompletions ended any hope for a late comeback
Afterward, Massillon head coach Rick Shepas was composed. “I think we could have played harder in the second half but this is part of the learning process,” he said. “When the momentum went, it went pretty quick.”
And how do you stem the tide against a team as accomplished at coming back as St. Ignatius?
“You just have to make some plays,” Shepas said. “We were in position to make some plays and we didn’t. “It’s another situation where we’ve played them four times. We had them beat three out of the four probably and we just let them have it. They’re a good team and that’s why they win. They have a great coaching staff. But it’s all a part of the process and it’s a matter of how we handle it from here.”
Massillon was held to 68 total yards in the second half and Shepas praised Kyle and his staff for their halftime adjustments. “They made some good adjustments but nothing we couldn’t handle,” he said. “It’s all a part of the process. It is a long season. It’s 15 games and our guys have to learn how to play four quarters with this team.”
Defending state champs continue Tigers, mastery of Massillon 29‑21 verdict
For the first two quarters, it appeared Massillon had finally gotten over the hump against its chief tormentor.
The defense set up both of the Tigers first half touchdowns by intercepting Hoyer on a pair of deep throws.
The first pickoff came on a third‑and‑11 call from the Wildcat 41‑yard line. Hoyer was looking to Gonzalez on a deep post pattern but senior free safety Craig McConnell swooped in front and intercepted the football on a dead run at the Massillon 30, returning it to the St. Ignatius 48.
On first down from there, left guard Vince Volpe and left tackle Bradley Grizzard opened up a gaping hole and Johnson tore through the cavity for 34 yards to the 14.
One play later, Johnson who rushed for 209 yards in 23 carries ‑ galloped around the left end of the Massillon line and went untouched into the end zone as senior wideout Stephon Ashcraft wiped out a St. Ignatius defensive back with a superb block. Max Shafer tacked on the extra point and Massillon led 7‑0 at 9:20 of the second quarter.
Hoyer again tested the Tiger secondary on the Wildcats ensuing possession, throwing down the left hash mark as Marquees Watkins applied the rush. Relford made a leaping interception at mid‑field and Massillon was in business once again. Three running plays ‑ two by Terrance Roddy and one by Tuffy Woods ‑ gave the Tigers a first down at the St. Ignatius 41.
Then it was time for Johnson to shine once again. The 5‑foot, 193‑pound senior took a handoff from quarterback Matt Martin and burst through a hole opened up by senior center Reggie McCullough. He was 10 yards past the line of scrimmage when he encountered Ignatius defensive back Darnell Martemus, shaking right then exploding past the stunned Wildcat and into the end zone. Shafer’s conversion kick was true and Massillon led 14‑0 at 6:46 of the second quarter.
St. Ignatius avoided the first half shutout with a 387 yard field goal at 4:15 of the second quarter.
“We have some soul searching to do because at times we didn’t play our best football,” Shepas said.
“That’s a great football team … Massillon,” Kyle remarked. “This was a great battle. People got their money’s worth.”
That is if you’re a fan of horror stories.
St. Ignatius 29 Massillon 21 M I First downs rushing 12 6 First downs passing 2 10 First downs by penalty 0 3 TOTAL first downs 14 19 Net yards rushing 250 103 Net yards passing 54 203 TOTAL yards 304 406 Passes attempted 21 25 Passes completed 5 12 Passes intercepted 2 4 Punts 5 5 Punting average 40.6 31.4 Fumbles/Lost 3/2 2/0 Penalties 10 1 Yards penalized 88 5
Massillon 00 14 07 00 21 Ignatius 00 03 06 20 29
M ‑ Johnson 15 run (Shafer kick) M ‑ Johnson 41 run (Shafer kick) I ‑ Kedzior 38 FG M ‑ Relford 81 interception return (Shafer kick) I ‑ Gonzalez 37 pass from Hoyer (Run failed) I ‑ Gonzalez 35 pass from Hoyer (Kedzior kick) I ‑ Gonzalez 15 interception return (Massey pass from Hoyer) I ‑ Palcko 2 run (Kedzior kick) MEN
Massillon rushing: Johnson 23‑203 2 TDs, Roddy 9‑42, Woods 7‑14. St. Ignatius rushing: Welo 16‑78, Palcko 12‑43 TD.
Massillon passing: Martin 5‑21‑54 2 INTs. St. Ignatius passing: Hoyer 12‑25‑203 2 TDs, 4 INTs.
Massillon receiving: Jordan 3‑40, Heiscel 1‑9, Hill 1‑5. St. Ignatius receiving: Gonzalez 4‑102 2 TDs, Kralik 5‑59, Massey 2‑31.
Ten years later, History repeats as St. Ignatius Iggy trips Tigers again; Tops Massillon for berth in state title game
By JOE SHAHEEN Indenendent Sports Editor
Massillon was in this very same spot ten years ago, playing St. Ignatius in the Division I state semi-final game.
The Tigers dropped that 1991 contest by a single point, 14‑13.
On Friday night, the outcome was the same. Only the point totals were different.
The St. Ignatius Wildcats ‑ a team that lost four of five games during one stretch this season ‑ once again had too many bullets in the gun for Massillon and handed the Tigers a 49‑20 defeat in a Division I state semifinal game in front of an announced crowd of 29,871 at the Akron Rubber Bowl.
Two big plays went against the Tigers and the snowball effect was a 29‑point defeat in a game that was in doubt until the final six minutes of play.
Key play No. 1 came with a minute left in the first half and Massillon trailing 21‑14. St. Ignatius’ All‑Ohio linebacker John Kerr forced a Tiger fumble and teammate Ryan Franzinger fell on the football in the end zone to give the Wildcats a two‑touchdown cushion at halftime.
Key play No. 2 came after the Tigers had cut the lead to 28‑20 deep in the third quarter and needed a defensive stop to really put some pressure on the Wildcats. St. Ignatius faced a third‑and‑nine deep in Tiger territory but converted a first down on a pass interference penalty against Massillon.
Three pays later Franzinger bucked over left tackle and into the end zone from three yards out to re-establish a two‑touchdown St. Ignatius lead.
Massillon would get no closer the rest of the way.
“The fumble right before the half, it did hurt us because it was just like the first meeting.” lamented Tiger coach Rick Shepard referring the St. Ignatius’ 40‑26 victory in Week Four of the regular season. “Something stupid before the half that gives them a cheap touchdown.
“That series after we scored to cut it to one touchdown, that was key for them as well.”
But Shapes stressed it isn’t so much about the plays St. Ignatius makes in a big game, as the mindset of some of the Tigers.
“We have a lot of great kids but they just struggle with confidence sometimes,” Shapes said. “We work harder on that than we do the X’s and O’s because that’s what it comes down to.
“St. Ignatius isn’t a complicated team. They’re fundamental. They go out and execute and they play with great confidence. We’re working toward that. We’re four years into this program. When you get to this point, you’d like to take it further I just have to remind myself that it’s only four years.”
As always seems to be the case in a big game, St. Ignatius jumped out to an early lead. The Wildcats faced a third‑and‑three situation at their own 22 after taking the opening kickoff. Quarterback Nate Szep dropped back to throw and zeroed in on junior wideout Tony Gonzalez at midfield.
Gonzales screened the defender away from the ball, made the catch and was off to the races for a 78‑yard touchdown. Phil Gibbs drilled the extra point and Iggy led 7‑0 at the 10:26 mark of the first quarter.
Massillon marched from its 22 to the Ignatius 39 but was forced to punt. The Wildcats failed to move the ball after three snaps and punted back to the Tigers.
Craig McConnell’s 7‑yard return set Massillon up with a first down at midfield. David Hill picked up a couple of first downs on runs of three and six yards. Ricky Johnson went up the middle for seven yards and a first down at the St. Ignatius 8 as the Tigers ran the football effectively.
On second‑and‑goal from the 7, Zwick pump faked and zipped a pass to Stephon Ashcraft in the left corner of the end zone for the touchdown. David Abdul’s kick was true and Massillon had tied the game 7‑7 at 2:32 of the first quarter.
St. Ignatius reclaimed the lead with a 10‑play, 80‑yard drive. The big play in the march was the final one. On third‑and‑10 from the Massillon 40, Szep found senior wideout Matt Miller open at the 30. Miller eluded the cornerback and went down the sideline, diving into the end zone for the touchdown after being hit at the 2.
Gibbs added the conversion kick and St. Ignatius was back on top at 14‑7 with 11:48 to play in the first half.
“We really felt good about the way our defense was playing the last three weeks,” Shepas said. “But they find out a way to jump out at 7‑0. I thought we answered well. We were hanging in there. They come out and score another touchdown on a crossing route. Just some things busted on us early.
“It’s kind of like trying to plug the dike sometimes. I just wish some of these kids would go out and feel the confidence I have in them.”
After two punts, a missed field goal attempt and another punt, Massillon took over at its 32‑yard line midway through the second quarter.
A Zwick to Devin Jordan sideline pass was good for a first down at the Massillon 43. Two plays later, Jordan ran a hitch and go and Zwick dropped the ball in his hands for a 29‑vard gain to the St. Ignatius 20.
Ryan Boyd picked up five yards on an inside handoff and Johnson added seven more on the same play to set up the Tigers with a first-and‑goal at the 9.
Again Zwick handed the ball to Boyd and the senior running back slashed up the middle. He was hit at the two by the Wildcats’ Kevin Stanek but dragged him into the end zone for the touchdown. Abdul’s kick was true and the Tigers had again tied the game at 14‑14 at 4:38 of the second quarter.
But St. Ignatius reasserted control of the game, taking the ensuing kickoff and driving 76 yards in nine plays. Chuck Flanagan’s 16‑yard burst up the middle on the first play set the tone. Then Franzinger came up with a big first down, picking up three yards on a fourth‑and‑1 from the Massillon 43.
On the very next play, Szep hit Gonzalez down the right sideline for 28 yards to the 12. Two snaps later Szep sneaked into the end zone from a yard out. Gibbs’ conversion kick split the uprights and the Wildcats were right back on top 21‑14 at 1:07 of the first half.
Disaster struck the Tigers on the second play after the ensuing kickoff. On second‑and‑10 from the Massillon 23, Zwick was pressured by Kerr, who batted the ball out of the quarterback’s hand. A wild scramble ensued and when the players unpiled, Franzinger had the football for a St. Ignatius touchdown with 44 seconds until the band show.
Gibbs again converted the point‑after and St. Ignatius carried a 28‑14 lead into the lockerroom.
“That was big,” agreed St. Ignatius coach Chuck Kyle. “You need the defense to get turnovers certainly, but that was an added bonus.
“That was one of those plays that seem to take forever.”
Massillon had to punt on its first possession of the second half but the Tigers got the ball back when Keith Wade drilled Szep and caused a fumble that Andy Alleman recovered at the Massillon 32.
A Zwick‑to‑Jordan pass earned a first down at the 42. Five plays later another Zwick‑to‑Jordan aerial netted another first down at the St. Ignatius 26. A pass interference penalty gave Massillon a first down at the Wildcats 13.
Then Hill took an inside handoff, bounced off Kerr at the 10 and jaunted into the end zone. The extra point failed but Massillon trailed by just one score at 28‑20 with 4:43 to play in the third.
St. Ignatius proved its mettle by taking the ensuing kickoff and driving 63 yards in 12 plays ‑ with the aid of a third‑down pass interference call ‑ to reclaim the momentum Massillon had sought from the game’s opening moments. The Wildcat touchdown came with 11:55 to play and made it St. Ignatius 35‑20.
Massillon moved to midfield on its next possession but the drive stalled and the Tigers turned the ball over on downs. That, essentially, was the ballgame.
“We play a good schedule but we played the big boys twice,” Shapes said of the eight‑time state champions. “We weren’t able to get these two and we’re just going to have to work on it. It is something we have to overcome as a program and as a community as well.”
Szep was sensational once again for St. Ignatius, completing 13 of 25 passes for 273 yards and two touchdowns. The senior signal caller also ran for a score and did not throw an interception all night long.
“He’s a good player,” Shepas said. “I didn’t think he’d play as well the second time around. I thought we’d get to him more than we did but we didn’t.
“We didn’t get a bad push on the front. We didn’t have the coverage behind it we worked on.
“Winners make things happen. It might look like they’re getting breaks, they’re just doing what they do. They’re making plays. That’s the way it should be really.”
IGNATIUS 49 MASSILLON 20 M I First downs rushing 11 8 First downs passing 9 9 First downs by penalty 4 2 TOTAL first downs 24 19 Net yards rushing 173 171 Net yards passing 186 272 TOTAL yards 359 343 Passes attempted 42 25 Passes completed 20 13 Passes intercepted 1 0 Punts 3 3 Punting average 31.3 30.3 Fumbles/Lost 2/1 1/1 Penalties 3 6 Yards penalized 40 78
MASSILLON 7 7 6 0 20 IGNATIUS 7 21 0 21 49
SCORING I ‑ Gonzalez 78 pass from Szep (Gibbs kick) M ‑ Ashcraft 7 pass from Zwick (Abdul kick) I ‑ Miller 39 pass from Szep (Gibbs kick) M ‑ Hill 8 run (Abdul kick) I ‑ Szep 1 run (Gibbs kick) I ‑, Franzinger recovered fumble in and zone (Gibbs kick) M ‑Hill 13 run (run failed) I ‑ Franzinger 2 run (Gibbs kick) I ‑ Welo 20 run (Gibbs kick) I ‑Welo 29 run (Gibbs kick)
INDIVIDUAL STATISTICS Massillon rushing: Johnson 14-71, Hill 9‑42. Ignatius rushing: Welo 15‑101, Franzinger 10‑35.
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.
IGNATIUS 14 MASSILLON 13 M I 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)
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.”