Tag: <span>Dave Hartman</span>

Massillon Tigers Black Letter Logo History

1991: Massillon 26, Austintown Fitch 7

Massillon rebounds Tigers smashing in 26‑7 win
Biggest point spread ever against Fitch

Independent Sports Editor

At 8 p.m. Friday, he was Falando the Forgotten Man.

By the time Dick Goddard was doing the weather, the fore­cast had changed. It was: Be­ware of the Fabulous Falando.

That is, watch out for the guy who rushed for 214 yards to car­ry Massillon to a 26‑7 victory over Austintown‑Fitch before 11,376 at Paul Brown Tiger Sta­dium.

Program Cover

“I was getting tired of hear­ing that if you stopped No. 1 (Travis McGuire) you stopped our running game,” Massillon head coach Lee Owens said af­ter his team improved to 4‑1 on the coolest night of the season (Fitch is 2‑3).

Amazing anyone would think so, considering Ashcraft rushed for 1,182 yards last year as a junior, but true, Owens insisted .

The false perception was cre­ated by the fact Ashcraft’s run­ning mate, Travis McGuire, is off to such a hot start. McGuire came into the game with 439 rushing yards to Ashcraft’s 281.

“Falando,” Owens added, “was tired of hearing it, too.”

Ashcraft didn’t sound a bit like a vindicated man after the game, though. He spoke matter of factly about becoming the fifth‑leading ground gainer in a single game in Massillon his­tory (ahead of him are Homer Floyd, 263; Bill Harmon, 224; Art Hastings, 220; and Ace Grooms, 215).

“Our scouting report showed that the plays I do were open against Fitch last year,” Ashcraft said. “So, that’s what we ran tonight.”

Ashcraft explained that Mas­sillon’s offensive line controlled the line of scrimmage, McGuire provided tough lead blocks (“He’s a good blocker”), while receivers Geoff Merchant and Mark Hawkins cleared the way for some of his long runs with strong upfield blocking.

That wasn’t the whole story. Ashcraft broke more than a few tackles by knocking defenders into next Tuesday.

“I was also reading a little better tonight,” Ashcraft said. “I was waiting back a little more to see where the best openings were.”

Ashcraft and McGuire each scored two touchdowns. McGuire wound up with 96 yards on 13 carries, including a 46‑yard touchdown run on a counter play that broke open the game.

Fitch had used the passing of senior quarterback Jeff Melody to close a 13‑0 halftime deficit to 13‑7 midway through the third quarter. The Tigers answered that challenge by scoring on their next possession, on McGuire’s long run.

“We played some smash ­mouth,” Owens said. “Our thinking was to bust it up there, bust it up there, bust it up there … and having had some success with that, it opened up the coun­ter play.”

The Tigers tried only four passes and completed none, largely because the game plan was to run, partly because standout safety Troy Burick was thrust into the quarter­backing job due to starting QB Nick Mossides’ sprained knee suffered in last week’s loss at Cincinnati Moeller.

Burick played every snap Fri­day at both quarterback and safety.

“That’s the first time I’ve ever done that,” Burick said. “I feel a little bit bruised, but I’m all right.

“I started the game at quar­terback against Nordonia last year and played safety, too. But I didn’t play much in the second half because we were so far ahead.

“I was definitely rusty early in the week in practice. Playing quarterback against Garfield (three weeks ago for just one series) didn’t help much. But I thought things went pretty well as the week went on. I had a lot of confidence in the team and the coachers put me in a good position.”

It is probably fair to call Melody the second‑best quar­terback the Tigers have faced this year, after Moeller’s Shawn Brennan. As usual, the Tigers stuffed the running game (Fitch netted 20 yards on the ground) and the opponent resorted to the pass. Melody connected on 15 of 25 tosses for 180 yards. The Tigers wound up outgaining Fitch 331‑200 in total offense.

Fitch head coach David Hartman, who was a senior lineman on the 1964 Massillon team, attended the Moeller game last week. He nodded his head when asked if the same pass schemes that had worked for Moeller were the ones clicking for Fitch, that is, those that feature a lot of rollouts, bootlegs and scrambles by the quarterback.

“They (the Tigers) seem not to want to give up the big play,” Hartman said. “They give up a lot underneath. We tried to run on them, we just couldn’t.”

“Our kids fought. It’s just that they had some 300- and 250­-pounders going up against our 165‑pounders.”

If some aspects of the Fitch game were reminiscent of the one with Moeller, the products as wholes were far different. The Tigers did finish off Fitch to the extent the 19‑point spread was the biggest in the history of the series, still led by Fitch, four games to three.

“We had a lot better concen­tration than we had at Moel­ler, ” said the Tigers’ fine senior end, Jason Woullard. “We were aggressive the whole time. For some reason, we lost some of our intensity in the third and fourth quarters against Moel­ler. I don’t know if it was the long road trip catching up to us, or what. I don’t want to make excuses. We were intense to the end tonight.”

Hartman, using mostly juniors and off to the worst start in his 10 years at Fitch, now has three losses to playoff conten­ders. The two besides Massillon ‑ Mentor and Youngstown Chaney ‑ are unbeaten.

“Massillon,” Hartman said when asked to compare, “is the strongest team we’ve played so far, without a doubt.”

There is some doubt as to who will play quarterback next Saturday against unbeaten and state‑ranked Toledo St. Francis.

“If Nick is healthy,” Owens said, “he’s our quarterback.”

Mossides wore a knee brace and walked without crutches along the sidelines at Friday’s game. Owens said indications are there’s “a good chance” Mossides will be ready to face St. Francis.

It was clear right away Fri­day that Ashcraft was ready to face Fitch. On the Tigers’ first play from scrimmage, he gained 15 yards on a play called back by clipping. He proceeded to surge for gains of 5, 3, 9, 10, 4 and 16 yards, by which time the ball was on the 1. He took it in from there, Jason Brown added the P.A.T. kick, and it was 7‑0 three seconds past the halfway point of the first quarter.

The drive covered nine plays and 49 yards.

The defense stuffed Fitch on three plays and Ashcraft went right back to work.

Ashcraft bulled, twisted and sprinted for gains of 22, 4, 24 and 21 yards to ram the ball to the Fitch 16. On third down from the 10, McGuire stampeded over the left side for a touchdown. Brown’s kick was wide right and it was 13‑0 with 24 seconds left in the quarter.

The Tigers had a chance to make it an early blowout after Dana Wofford blocked a punt and Bubba Pachis recovered the ball at the Falcons’ 20‑yard line. However, Fitch stopped Ashcraft for no gain on fourth-­and‑goal, enabling the Falcons to escape with just a 13‑0 half­time deficit.

Melody started to warm up the passing game late in the half, when he kept drives alive and the ball away from the Ti­gers.

The Tigers’ Eric Woods shut off a last‑second Fitch scoring threat by blocking Gary Pritch­ard’s 35‑yard field goal attempt with three seconds left in the half.

The Tigers got the first pos­session of the third quarter and were poised to go for it on fourth‑and‑one from the Fitch 44. However, an offsides penal­ty against the Tigers led to a punt.

The situation led Owens to question Fitch’s “sports­manship.” Owens contended the Fitch defenders were call­ing Massillon’s cadence, which is against the rules. Owens said he tipped off game officials that Fitch might do this.

Fitch used the possession following the punt to make the game close. Melody mixed up his passes (junior Bob Moore caught six for 60 yards on the night) and drove the Falcons 79 yards in just eight plays. The touchdown came on an eight-­yard scramble by Melody. Pritchard’s extra point made it 13‑7 with 5: 21 left in the third quarter.

The Falcons got a bit cocky at that point. Senior lineman Todd Draper turned to the Massillon crowd and cupped his hand over his ear, as if to say, “I can’t hear you.” Dave Hackenbracht, a former Massillon linebacker whose brother Dan hopes to re­turn to the 1991 Tigers following an injury, stood and got into a jawing match with Draper.

The Massillon offense made a loud reply of its own. After starting on their own 47 follow­ing a short kickoff, Ashcraft plowed for a gain to the Fitch 46. The next play was the counter to McGuire that went for 46 yards down the right sideline for a score. A conversion run failed, but the Tigers led 19‑7 with 4:44 left in the third quarter. They were never seriously threatened again.

Ashcraft added the coup de grace on a three‑yard TD run with 1:26 left in the game. That capped a 10‑play, 63‑yard drive and was punctuated by Brown’s P.A.T. boot.

Owens was concerned about a few areas, such as the team’s failure to score after the block­ed punt, and another opponent’s ability to complete passes.

But the victory one week after an emotional loss to Moeller was more than welcome.

“Our pride had been ques­tioned,” he said. “We had some­thing to prove.”

St. Francis had no trouble im­proving to 5‑0 Friday, scoring a 35‑7 win over Grafton Midview (2‑3).

Moeller struggled Friday to outlast Cincinnati Xavier 28‑21.

Chaney, one of the teams that beat Fitch, beat Boardman 14‑3 a week after Boardman stunned defending state champion War­ren Harding.


First downs rushing 14 4
First downs passing 0 7
First downs by penalty 0 1
Totals first downs 14 12
Yards gained rushing 337 54
Yards lost rushing 6 34
Net yards rushing 331 20
Net yards passing 0 180
Total yards gained 331 200
Passes attempted 4 25
Passes completed 0 15
Passes int. by 0 0
Times kicked off 5 2
Kickoff average 44.6 27.0
Kickoff return yards 16 79
Punts 4 6
Punting average 31.0 26.2
Punt return yards 5 48
Fumbles 0 0
Fumbles lost 0 0
Penalties 8 6
Yards penalized 66 54
Number of plays 48 51
Time of possession 20:34 27:26
Attendance 11,376

FITCH 0 0 7 0 7
MASSILLON 13 0 6 7 26

M ‑ Ashcraft 1 run (Brown kick)
M ‑ McGuire 10 run (kick failed)
F ‑ Melody 8 run (Pritchard kick)
M ‑ McGuire 46 run (run failed)
M ‑ Ashcraft 3 run (Brown kick)

Individual statistics

(Massillon) Ashcraft 25/214, McGuire 13/96, Burick 6/21;
(Fitch) Kamrad 6/16, Ferraro 8/‑2, Melody 10/0, Sandquist 1/6.

(Massillon) Burick 0-4-0;
(Fitch) Melody 15‑25‑180.

(Fitch) Moore 6/60, Vanek 3/33,
Ferraro 3/56, Sandquist 1/3, Barwick 1/20, Kamrad 1/8.

Eric Wright
Massillon Tigers Black Letter Logo History

1990: Massillon 7, Austintown Fitch 14

Another loss in Austintown

Tigers’ Twilight zone
rears its ugly head, 14-7

Independent Sports Editor

AUSTINTOWN ‑ The Massillon Tigers have found their Bermuda Triangle. They have located their Twilight Zone. They have landed on their Field of Dreams (nightmares are dreams, too, aren’t they?). For the Tigers, its name is Fitch Stadium. They lost there 14‑7 Friday night to drop to 3‑2 in the 1990 high school football season.

The Fitch Falcons, 5‑0 this year, improved to 3‑0 against Massillon at that dastardly place. In 1986 the Tigers lost at Fitch on the last play from scrimmage. In 1988 they lost on a game‑ending field goal.

Last night they lost with a quarterback who played much of the fourth quarter with a concussion not discovered until after the game, played in a murky rain.

Counting the games in Massillon, the Tigers are 2‑4 in the all‑time series against Fitch.

Program Cover

‘We could make so many excuses if we wanted to. But maybe that’s not what we need to be doing right now’
Lee Owens

Fitch’s head coach throughout has been David Hartman.

In 1965 Hartman earned a diploma from Washington High. Maybe they should take it back. On the other hand, it’s nothing personal. “You’ve got to do what you’ve got to do,” Hartman said amid Fitch’s post‑game celebration.

What Fitch does best is block out of the wing‑T formation on offense. Hartman ought to get an honorary masters degree in misdirection.

“We have guys going this way, that way and every which way,” Hartman said. “Massillon has a lot of quick kids who really swarm to the football. If you run the same guy on the same play all of the time, they’ll kill, you. With a.11.9ur misdirection, they had a difficult time ganging up on us.”

Tiger head coach Lee Owens knows better than anyone two straight losses is the wrong direction.

“We were flat, there were some big penalties, the field was wet we could make so many excuses i
we wanted to. But maybe that’s not what we need to be doing right now,” Owens said. “There was a
point in the game when they were outplaying us. We started playing harder, but we couldn’t get over the

“There’s no reason for what happened tonight. I really felt coming in we were definitely the better team. Fitch played a good ball game. We didn’t.”

Fitch’s misdirection started clicking at the end of the first half when the Falcons drove 57 yards for a touchdown. With 1:22 left in the half, 6‑4 tight end Dave Fitz‑Patrick caught an eight‑yard touchdown pass from 5‑9 quarterback Frank Senediak on third‑and‑eight.

“We thought their cornerback would be playing up and he was,” Fitz‑Patrick said. “That enabled me to get pretty open.”

Senediak, a carbon copy of Fitch’s bootlegging wizard who was the 1988 quarterback, Derrick Fletcher, passed just enough to keep the Tigers off balance, completing six of seven for 68 yards.

Senediak also ran 16 times for 64 yards. His ball handling was the key on Fitch’s opening possession of the third quarter, which ended when he hit another wide‑open receiver, running back Chris Davis, on an 18‑yard touchdown pass.

Gary Pritchard, who gave up soccer to be a placekicker, boomed the P.A.T. and it was 14‑0 with 7:54 left in the third quarter.

Facing a must‑score possession, the Tigers did just that, driving 65 yards off the ensuing kickoff for a touchdown. It wasn’t easy. Following two bootleg runs by quarterback Barry Shertzer that went for losses, it was fourth‑and‑16 from the 29.

Tight end Chris Roth lined up on the right side, beat the coverage on a post pattern, and hauled in a nicely thrown bomb from Shertzer for the touchdown. Ryan John’s P.A.T. kick sneaked over the crossbar and it was 14‑7 with 3:47 left in the third quarter.

It was unclear when Shertzer suffered the concussion, but it may have been on a hit during one of those bootleg runs.

Shertzer, who completed a key third‑and‑11 pass of 37 yards to split end Steve Brown, was woozy after the contest. At 1:15 a.m., he was in the emergency room at Massillon Community Hospital. It was believed he would stay overnight as a precaution.

Shertzer had thrown only one interception in four games but was picked off twice Friday. The Tigers also fumbled the ball twice.

“Their offense did a nice job, but as far as their defense I thought it was mostly a matter of us stopping ourselves,” Owens said.

The Massillon (defense took control in the fourth quarter. With just under seven minutes to go, the Tigers had caught on to Fitch’s misdirection and stuffed the falcons deep in their own territory. On a third down carry that went nowhere, Fitch senior running back Jim Toto made the mistake of yelling an expletive at Tiger cornerback Chad Buckland.

Fitch was penalized half the distance to the goal and had to punt from its own 14.

A 43‑yard punt still left Massillon in excellent field position, but Fitch had the ball back on a fumble on the next play.

The Tiger defense made another big stand, but a punt evaded return man Troy Burick, who pounced on the pigskin at the 7.

On the next play, Falando Ashcraft charged over the left side and nearly broke away for a touch­down. He was stopped after a 21­yard gain. Two plays later, Ashcraft bounced outside and gained 32 yards to the Fitch 42. The Tigers were in business.

Ashcraft ran two yards on a cri­tical fourth‑and‑one moments la­ter, but on first down, a Shertzer pass seemed to slip out of his hand and went directly into the arms of Toto.

“It was an automatic,” Owens said. “Fitch didn’t have our receiv­er covered and Barry called the au­dible.”

But Fitch called the shots after that, and ran out the clock.

Nobody seemed to give Fitch much of a chance before the game, a fact not lost on the Falcons.

“Even the local paper, The Vindi­cator, said we didn’t have a chance,” said Senediak. “It got us fired up when we read we weren’t supposed to have much talent or much size. We didn’t think we were going to win. We knew we were going to win.”

Fitz‑Patrick, the tight end who caught the early touchdown pass, painted the Falcons as a confident bunch.
“We think we can win the state championship,” he said.

Owens had said before the game this year’s Fitch team is capable of beating any state power on a given night, but may have difficulty doing it consistently.

Hartman concedes the Falcons still have some proving to do. “That remains to be seen,” he said, when asked if his team is cap­able of beating Ursuline, Mooney and Boardman, three powerhouses left on the schedule.

The Tigers’ next three games are against Nordonia, Indianapolis North Central and Youngstown East, all at home.

‘To tell you the truth, I didn’t say much to our players after the game,” Owens said. “It’s clear what we have to do … work our tails off and rebuild after these set­backs.”

First downs rushing 3 11
First downs passing 6 3
First downs by penalty 1 0
Totals first downs 10 14
Yards gained rushing 119 177
Yards lost rushing 25 14
Net yards rushing 94 163
Net yards passing 155 68
Total yards gained 249 231
Passes attempted 25 7
Passes completed 10 6
Passes int. by 2 0
Yardage on pass int 0 20
Times kicked off 2 3
Kickoff average 38.0 44.7
Kickoff return yards 32 34
Punts 3 4
Punting average 42.7 38.5
Punt return yards 14 27
Fumbles 3 2
Fumbles lost 2 1
Penalties 4 6
Yards penalized 35 46
Number of plays 50 55
Time of possession 18:11 29:49
Attendance 11,500

Individual statistics

(M) Ashcraft 12‑89.
(F) Sene­diak 16‑70, Javit 12‑38, Davis 10‑39.

(M) Shertzer 10‑25‑2,155 yards.
(F) Senediak 6‑7‑0, 68 yards.

Massillon 0 0 7 0 7
Fitch 0 7 7 0 14

F – Fitz-Patrick 8 Pass from Senediak (Pritchard kick)
F ‑ Davis 13 pass from Senediak (Pritch­ard kick)
M ‑ Roth 29 pass from Shertzer (John kick)

Chad Buckland
Massillon Tigers Black Letter Logo History

1989: Massillon 23, Austintown Fitch 13

Tiger offensive line keys win over Fitch
Massillon 4-1 after wild night

Independent Sports Editor

On second thought, don’t bring back those lazy, crazy days of summer.

The Massillon Tigers’ 23-13 football victory over Austintown Fitch Friday replaced lazy and hazy with wild and woolly, and when the crazy thing was over, the home team had turned its season around on the first day of autumn.

The Tigers had spent the week with a 41-7 gorilla of a loss to Cincinnati Moeller riding on their backs. They spend today savoring a win over the state’s fourth-ranked team and carrying a 4-1 record and a mess of computer points into the second half of the season.

Tiger running back Ryan Sparkman, who rushed for 123 yards and two touchdowns, was driven by, among other things, last year’s 20-19 loss at Fitch on a last-play field goal, and last week’s loss to Moeller.

Program Cover

“All I was thinking was strictly paybacks,” Sparkman said.

Well, maybe not all.

“We wanted to show people, show our fans, how much pride we have,” he said.

Considering the weather – Hurricane Hugo shipped RainStorm Baby Huey to Ohio – there were an awful lot of fans to show.

As a scout named Phil from Warren Western Reserve (Fitch’s opponent week nine) said, “Great crowd in this stuff.” The count was 9,886 in Paul Brown Tiger Stadium, including a fine following from Fitch.

Most of them came having heard all about this monster offensive line Fitch was supposed to have – and did have.

But Massillon’s offensive line was at least as good on this night.

“Our players showed more emotion than they’ve shown in a long time,” Tiger head coach Lee Owens said. “You could see it in our running backs…and our offensive line.”

“Our line improved drastically.”

Sparkman ran with tremendous heart in the game; yet, he was annoyed when approached by a reporter because he thought he was going to be questioned about his great game.
But when a question about the line came up, he smiled broadly.

“All I have to say about how good our line is is that you saw the proof on the field tonight,” he said.

Added quarterback Lee Hurst, “The line executed well. I had a lot of time to throw and a lot of room to run.”

Chimed in running back Lamonte Dixon, “The line ran near perfect.”

They saw it the way Fitch, head coach David Hartman did when he said, “The key to the game was their offensive line controlling the line of scrimmage.”

Tiger tackle Mike Silverthorn said he kept hearing that Fitch had a better offensive line than Moeller.

“We wanted to show that we were as good as them,” Silverthorn said.

“We just had to play better and we did. Fitch had a strong defensive line, equal to if not better than Moeller’s. It was a tough game.”

The Tigers won it by bouncing back from a 6-0 deficit, hanging on for a 9-6 half time lead, and taking control by scoring on the first possession of the second quarter.

Along the way, crazy things kept happening. Among them:

<Trailing 6-0 and facing fourth-and-10 from the Fitch 39, the Tigers lined up to punt. A fake was called from the bench, and center Scott Karrenbauer zipped a short snap to Sparkman, who weaved 18 yards for a first down. That set up Gary Miller’s 25-yard field goal.

The Tigers are five-for-five in fake punt situations during Owens’ two years here.

<Sparkman gave the Tigers an apparent lead with a 19-yard touchdown run, but the play was waved off by a clipping penalty. It came down to fourth-and-15. Owens had the play for such dire straights – a tricky handoff-pass – but not the right guy. The Tigers practice the play with flanker Troy Manion, but Desmond Carpenter wound up on the field. Carpenter came through, though, taking a short pitch from Lee Hurst, who went out for a pass. Carpenter dumped the ball to Hurst, who dragged a tackler to the 9 for a first down. Sparkman scored three plays later.

<Trailing 9-6, Fitch faced fourth down from the Tiger 7-yard line with nine seconds left in the half. The Falcons played Chinese checkers with the line, lining up far to the left of place-kicker Jeff Wilkins, then shuffling en masse back to normal position as the Tiger defense scrambled to cover all bases. Wilkins, the man who kicked the game-winning 43-yard field goal against the Tigers last year, also happens to be this year’s Fitch quarterback. The fake was on. Instead of trying a field goal, Wilkins rolled right and passed incomplete to diving Jim Toto in the end zone. The Tigers had dodged the proverbial bullet.

<Massillon drove to the Fitch 25 after taking the second-half kickoff and faced
fourth-and-10. They went for it – and made it on a 13-yard Hurst-to-Manion pass, setting up the TD that led to a 16-6 Tiger lead.

<Wilkins scored less than two minutes later on a 49-yard run – after almost being
sacked – to make it 16-13.

<Leading by just three points and facing second-and-long after a penalty, the Tigers were in jeopardy of giving the ball back to Fitch’s potent offense. The situation got worse for a split second as Hurst threw a rocket to Manion, who slipped and fell on the rain-soaked sand turf. Manion kept his eye on the ball, though, and made a sensational catch from a prone position for a first down at the Fitch 16. Hurst scored on a 5-yard bootleg run five plays later and the Tigers led 23-13.

<Massillon ball. Less than five minutes left in the game. Fourth down on the Fitch 6. Kick the field goal and swell the lead to 13? Tiger coaches debated – and decided to keep doing what they have done most of the year, go for it on fourth down. The call is a pass to the left corner of the end zone. It is intercepted by Wilkins, now playing defensive back. Wilkins runs a marathon for an apparent touchdown.

Moments earlier, an apparent 21-yard TD pass from Hurst to Sparkman was canceled by a penalty. Now it is Fitch’s turn. Wilkins’ return is wiped out by an illegal use of hands penalty.

“We made a lot of good calls tonight,” Owens says later, adding, “and one bad one. I’ll take the responsibility for that.”

Somebody remembers Wilkins’ field goal last year and asks of the interception return, “How long was that nightmare?”

It went 99 yards and, had it stood and been accompanied by a two-point conversion, would have put Fitch within a field goal of a one-point win.

<Wilkins wasn’t finished. On fourth-and-12, 88 yards from the end zone, he scrambled and completed a 36-yard pass. Fitch finally died on the Massillon 15-yard line. The Tigers’ only punt of the night became the game’s final play.

Fitch, 4-1 this season, still leads the Massillon series 3-2. This was the only game not decided in the fourth quarter, although, like the others, it left nobody bored in the final period.

Weather conditions were similar to the ’86 game at Fitch when the Tigers lost in heavy mud when Leo Hawkins scored on the final play from scrimmage.

With such games in mind, Owens said, “thank goodness for sand turf and all the people in the community who made it possible to get it installed for this season. It was sand turf that allowed us to play on a good field despite the rain.”

Owens said there was another factor helping the Tigers.

“Our fans cheered louder than they have all season and came out in this kind of weather,” he said.

“Thank you, fans.”

As the fans headed for the exits and awaited next week’s invasion by Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary, they seemed in a mood to reply, “You’re welcome.”

Here’s a review of the teams’ possessions:
Fitch – Start with opening kickoff on Tiger 23. Drive 77 yards
in 11 plays. Big plays, 19-yard Wilkins-to-Mrakovich
dump pass followed by 20-yard run by Torno. Wilkins
scores on 7-yard bootleg run. Wilkins’ kick fails at 6:29
of first quarter.

Fitch 6, Massillon 0
Tigers – Blake returns kickoff to 31. Drive 61 yards in 13 plays to
Fitch 8. Big plays, 16-yard Hurst-to-Harig pass; 18-yard
Sparkman run on faked punt. Miller kicks 25-yard field

Fitch 6, Massillon 3
Fitch – Touchback on kickoff. Drive from own 20 to Tiger 36
before third-down sack on third play of second quarter
goes for ninus-6 and forces punt.
Tigers – Start on own 36. Drive 64 yards in 13 plays for
touchdown. Big plays, 17 run by Dixon; 10-yard
Hurst-to-Martin pass on third down; 19 TD run by
Sparkman wiped out by penalty; 16-yard halfback
pass from Carpenter to Hurst on fourth-and-15 goes
to the 9. Sparkman scores on a 2-yard run. PAT
kick wide right at 5:20 of second quarter.

Tigers 9, Fitch 6
Fitch – Start on own 34 after kickoff; move to 49 on 12-men-
on-field penalty. Drive 44 yards in 10 plays to 7.
Set up for fake field goal attempt on fourth down
with nine seconds left in half. Wilkins’ pass to
Toto incomplete in end zone.

End of first half

Tigers – Blake returns second-half kickoff to 34. Drive
66 yards in 14 plays for touchdown. Big plays,
15-yard Hurst-to-Martin pass; 13-yard Hurst-
to-Manion pass on fourth-and 10; fourth-down,
1-yard run by Sparkman to 3 on fourth down.
Sparkman scores from less than a yard out.
Miller kick good at 7:49 of third quarter.

Tigers 16, Fitch 6
Fitch – Start on own 49 after kick return and facemask
penalty. Drive 51 yards in three plays. Wilkins
scores on 49-yard run. Wilkins kick good at
5:57 of third quarter.
Tigers 16, Fitch 13
Tigers – Start on own 26 after kickoff. Drive 74 yards
in 11 plays for touchdown. Big plays, sliding
13-yard catch by Manion at Fitch 16 on
second-and-15; Sparkman’s fourth-down run
of 1 yard for first down to the 5. Hurst scores
on a 5-yard bootleg run. Miller kick good at
0:47 of third quarter.

Tigers 23, Fitch 13
Fitch – Start on own 28 after kickoff. Drive to Tiger
41. Lose ball on McCue interception.

Tigers – Start on own 36. Drive 60 yards in 12 plays
to Fitch 6. Big plays, 26-yard Sparkman
run; 21-yard Hurst-to-Sparkman TD
pass-canceled by penalty; 14-yard Dixon
run. Lose ball on interception by Wilkins.
Wilkins’ 99-yard return for TD canceled by
illegal use of hands penalty during return.

Fitch – Start on own 11; drive 77 yards to Tiger 12.
Big plays, 36-yard Wilkins’ completion on
fourth-and-12 from the 9. Lose ball on downs.

Tigers – Run three plays and punt for first time in
game. Game ends on Roth punt.

MASSILLON ……………… 23
FITCH ……………………… 13

First downs rushing 12 11
First downs passing 7 3
First downs by penalty 2 1
Totals first downs 21 15
Yards gained rushing 211 202
Yards lost rushing 17 15
Net yards rushing 194 187
Net yards passing 144 109
Total yards gained 338 296
Passes attempted 24 17
Passes completed 12 7
Passes int. by 1 1
Times kicked off 5 3
Kickoff average 53.8 59.0
Kickoff return yards 89 90
Punts 1 1
Punting average 40.0 45.0
Punt return yards 8 0
Fumbles 1 1
Fumbles lost 0 0
Penalties 6 8
Yards penalized 64 62
Number of plays 70 50
Time of possession 26:04 21:56
Attendance 9,886
— — —
(M) Sparkman 25-123, Dixon 10-56, Hurst 8-11, Ashcraft 2-4.
(F) Mrakovich 10-63, Campbell 9-34, Torno 3-23, Wilins 10-64, Toto 1-3.

(M) Hurst 11-23-1 123, Carpenter 1-1-0 16.
(F) Wilkins 7-17-1 109.

(M) Martin 4-44, Sparkman 3-25, Manion 2-37, Harig 2-17, Hurst 1-16.
(F) Toto 2-55, Tofil 3-26, Mrakovich 1-20, Campbell 1-8.

Kickoff returns – (M) Blake 3-89.

Fitch 6 0 7 0 13
Massillon 3 6 14 0 23

F – Wilkins 7 run (kick failed)
M – FG Miller 25
M – Sparkman 2 run (kick failed)
M – Sparkman 1 run (Miller kick)
F – Wilkins 48 run (Wilkins kick)
M – Hurst 5 run (Miller kick)

Rameir Martin
Massillon Tigers Black Letter Logo History

1988: Massillon 19, Austintown Fitch 20

Fitch kicker knocks win(d) out of Tigers

Independent Sports Editor

AUSTINTOWN ‑ Defeat came like a knuckle sandwich for the Massillon Tigers Friday night.

Two thin slices of bread ‑ the first play of the game and the last ‑ were enough to smother a middle that belonged to Massillon. Enough to put Austintown‑Fitch in the money with a 20‑19 high school foot­ball victory.

The end came as time expired on a 43‑yard field goal by Fitch junior Jeff Wilkins, who said he was “scared to death.”

“It was like the life was taken out of all of us,” Massillon head coach Lee Owens said. “That’s the tough­est loss I’ve ever been through … and the players, too.”

The Tiger locker room, caked with mud, sweat and tears, was anger and dejection.

As the players showered, dressed and walked out, though, they were greeted by a scene that touched Owens.

Massillon fans lined up to form a tunnel at the door, cheering and ap­plauding the Tigers as they headed to the bus.

“I worked my tail off to get the players back up in the ‘locker room,” Owens said. “Those fans did a lot better job than I could have.”

Fitch got the ball back on a punt with 1:57 left and drove 50 yards in 12 plays. Quarterback Derick Fletcher scrambled for what proved to be three had‑to‑have‑’em yards to the Massillon 26. He went out of bounds with three seconds left.

Forty‑three yards is a helluva distance for a high school place‑kicker. You see NFL kickers miss from there every Sunday. But Mas­sillon fans had watched Wilkins boom two kickoffs into the end zone twice after he was penalized five yards for kicking off out of bounds.

There was an eerie sense that he had a chance.

The Fitch head coach, former Massillon player David Hartman, was not optimistic. He had hoped the play on which Fletcher scram­bled for three would net 12 on a side­line pass.

He watched Wilkins get off the kick from the left hash mark.

“I couldn’t tell if it was good,” he said. “It was crazy. I just waited for the signal.”

This reporter stood five yards be­hind the goal post as the ball boomed high into the night air. The line was perfect. But would it have enough juice?

It did. Barely, clearing the cross­bar by no more than six inches. The referee’s hands shot skyward. Fitch had won.

“How often is a high school kicker going to make a 43‑yarder under that kind of pressure?” Owens said.

Minutes later, a victory bell rang in the distance. It had the sound of a funeral knell as orange‑clad fans filed out of what had been a packed visitors’ grandstand.

For those who had seen Massillon play at Fitch two years earlier, the ring carried a haunting echo.

Then, as on this night, the Tigers entered the fourth quarter seeming to have victory put away. But on that night, Fitch scored twice in the closing minutes, including on a short run by Leo Hawkins on the last play from scrimmage for the win.

The outcome left both teams with 4‑1 records.

It left the two camps in quite different moods.

Owens was fighting tears and could barely speak.

“We had opportunities to win and we didn’t win,” the coach said quietly. “We needed to make a cou­ple of first downs the last time we had the ball and we didn’t. We gave the opponent an opportunity to make a great kick.”

The Tigers overcame a shocking start. On the first play from scrimmage, 5‑foot‑8 junior halfback Chuck Wesson broke through the left side of the line on a counter play and raced 80 yards for a touchdown.

By the start of the fourth quarter, though, Massillon seemed in com­mand, having just pushed a 12‑10 halftime lead to 19‑10.

Wesson had outrun Tiger safety Joe Pierce on that 80‑yard play. But late in the third quarter, Wesson fumbled after fielding a punt, and, Pierce recovered at the Fitch 35. On fourth‑and‑two from the 7, quarter­back Lee Hurst scored on a bootleg run and kicked the extra point to create the 19‑10 score with 11 seconds left in the third quarter.

Fitch, however, drove 61 yards for a touchdown on its next posses­sion, thanks largely to a 40‑yard Fletcher‑to‑Wesson pass on third-­and‑long. Matt Zokle scored from six yards out, Wilkins’ kick was good, and the Tiger lead shrank to 19‑17 with 7:51 left.

The Tigers didn’t “go conserva­tive.” On fourth‑and‑inches from his own 30, Owens gambled big with a “go‑for‑it” call. But then, giving Fitch the ball back would have been a gamble, too, because the Falcons had looked good on that 61‑yard drive.

Hurst sneaked for two yards and, the first down.

On third‑and‑nine, the Tigers gambled again with a pass. This time it didn’t work. Fitch safety Chuck Campbell intercepted and the Falcons had the ball at the Tiger 41.

The Tigers staged a big defensive stand, highlighted by T.R. Rivera’s sack of Fletcher that set up fourth-­and‑nine. This time, it was Fitch going for it on fourth down … but failing to make it. An incomplete pass returned the ball to Massillon on the Tiger 33 with 3:18 left.

“I thought it might be over,” Fletcher said.

The Tigers rushed three times for six yards and elected to punt. Hurst’s boot sailed 22 yards and went out of bounds at the Fitch 33 with 1:48 remaining.

Fletcher went to work. He com­pleted a 13‑yard pass at 1:42, escaped what seemed to be a sure interception at 1:20 and completed a nine‑yard toss to set up fourth-­and‑one at 0:44. Wesson rammed for four yards and a first down at 0:23, when Hartman used his final timeout.

At 0:12, Rob Tofil went out of bounds after catching a 12‑yard pass from Fletcher. At 0:08, Fletch­er took off on the scramble that set up the winning field goal.

“We had the desire to win,” Fletcher said. “Some of us went both ways the whole game (Fletch­er among them ‑ he even played on kickoff teams), but we’re in excel­lent shape. I wasn’t ever tired, really.”

The Tigers would have been in better shape had they converted their extra points.

The sting of Wesson’s 80‑yard TD trek was erased quickly enough. On the Tigers’ second play from scrim­mage, fullback Jason Stafford grabbed a short rollout pass from Hurst, streaked down the left side­line, amazingly broke out of a box of tacklers, and sprinted home on a 69‑yard touchdown play. Hurst’s booming PAT attempt, however, was called wide right.

The Massillon defense put on good stands in Fitch’s next three series. After the third one, Mark Owens returned a punt 20 yards to the Fitch 32.

On fourth‑and‑four from the 26, Stafford slanted over the right side for a first down, hurdled over the safety Fletcher like Edwin Moses in his prime, and exploded into the end zone on a 26‑yard run.

The Tigers went for two and moved to within 1 1/2 yards of the goal stripe after a pass interference call against Fitch. A run up the mid­dle failed, and what would have been two valuable points were nixed.

Fitch then drove 66 yards in 16 plays to where Wilkins made a 25­-yard field goal nine seconds before the band show. Fletcher’s mastery at running the wing‑T offense was as much a factor as anything. He was the same sort of elusive quar­terback as Barberton’s Butch Momchilov proved to be against the Tigers on Sept. 16.

Fletcher’s value went beyond his statistics ‑ 40 yards rushing and 117 yards passing.

The Tigers did a good job bottling up hard‑running fullback Matt Mrakovich (20 yards in eight car­ries), although Mrakovich man­aged three pass receptions for 30 yards on bootleg plays. After Wes­son’s 80‑yarder, he added 38 yards in 11 carries for 108 yards on the night.

Stafford rushed 78 yards in 13 car­ries and caught two passes for 82 yards, giving him 160 combined yards. Hurst completed six of 11 passes for 128 yards and two in­terceptions.

Fitch wound up with a 325‑278 edge in total yardage.

Hartman now owns a 3‑1 record against his alma mater.

“I’m just so proud of the team,” the Fitch coach said. “Last year, it seemed a number of times we were destined to lose some tough ball games. Maybe the way we won tonight is a sign something else is destined for us this year. Maybe this is our year.”

Massillon’s year isn’t over, the Tigers’ head coach said.

“There’s not much time for feel­ing sorry for ourselves,” he said. “We’ll come back. I promise that.”

First downs rushing 8 9
First downs passing 3 6
First downs by penalty 0 0
Total first downs 11 15
Yards gained rushing 162 208
Yards lost rushing 12 6
Net yards rushing 150 208
Net yards passing 128 117
Total yards gained 278 325
Passes attempted 11 17
Passes completed 6 9
Passes intercepted 2 0
Times kicked off 4 4
Kickoff average 53.8 52.0
Kickoff return yards 36 81
Punts 3 3
Punting average 30.7 38.0
Punt return yards 48 0
Fumbles 2 1
Fumbles lost 0 1
Penalties 4 6
Yards penalized 43 35
Number of plays 41 62
Time of possession 17:06 30:54
Attendance 8,500

(Mas) Stafford 13‑78, Dixon 9‑54, Hurst 8‑18.
(Fitch) Wesson 12‑108, Mrakovich 8‑20, Konnerth 9‑28, Fletcher 11‑40.

(Mas) Hurst 6‑11‑2 128.
(Fitch) Fletcher 9‑17‑0 117.

(Mas) Stafford 2‑82, Carpenter 1‑26, Owens 1‑6, Manion 1‑10, Harig 1‑4.
(Fitch) Wesson 2‑48, Mrakovich 3‑30, Kon­nerth 1‑4, Scott 1‑13, Tofil 1-13.

MASSILLON 6 6 7 0 19
FITCH 7 3 0 10 20

F – Wesson 80 run (Wilkins kick)
M ‑ Stafford 69 pass from Hurst (kick failed)
M ‑ Stafford 26 run (run failed)
F ‑ FG Wilkins 25
M ‑ Hurst 7 run (Hurst kick)
F ‑ Zokle 6 run (Wilkins kick)
F ‑ FG Wilkins 43

T.R. Rivera
Massillon Tigers Black Letter Logo History

1987: Massillon 38, Austintown Fitch 29

Tiger offense runs wild against Fitch
Massillon attack fells Falcons 38 – 29

Independent Sports Editor

The Mets are dead. Long live the Tigers.

The New York Mets. And the Massillon Tigers.

What’s the connection? Well, what happened in Paul Brown Tiger Stadium Friday night was “football the way it oughtta be.” Weren’t they saying something like that in the Big Apple last year?

Program Cover

The offenses went berserk as the Washington High football team outscored Austintown‑Fitch 38‑29. Only 8,284 folks showed up in P.B.’s Big House. But the ones wearing orange were loving it.

When was the last time a Massillon crowd jumped into a game like this? That was a question goin’ around.

And it didn’t stop at the locker room door.

“A football team needs to generate a lot of emotion,” said Massillon quarterback Erik White. “A lot of that comes from the fans. I get pumped up when I hear them. We need our fans behind us and I’d like to thank them for tonight.”

Football the way it oughtta be?

The Tigers scored five touchdowns on a Fitch team that had given up a combined two TDs to its four previous opponents. Every coach from Knute to Woody would think that means “de‑fense.” But Friday’s offensive outburst was the stuff fans could sink their teeth into.

It was the most impressive onslaught against a quality opponent during the John Maronto era. Last year’s 27‑0 win over Akron St. Vincent‑St. Mary ‑ next Friday’s Tiger foe ‑ had been the Maronto era’s most impressive previous outburst.

Maronto, a disciple of defense, was disturbed about Friday’s missed tackles and fundamental lapses that allowed Fitch to amass 294 net offensive yards.

But he broke into a spontaneous grin when asked if he was happy anyway.

“This one was an awfully big win for the town,” the coach said. “it was a win for pride. The kids won with heart and effort. I can’t think of any better words. It’s an indication of the character they have.”

The pride had been twice wounded by Fitch, coached by former Massillon player David Hartman. Fitch beat Massillon 21‑19 in 1985 and 13‑10 in 1986 in the only two meetings the rivals have had.

Vengeance belonged to the Massillon offense. The Tigers amassed 326 yards, 235 on the ground and 91 in the air.

Senior tailback Jerome Myricks rushed 25 times for 119 yards and scored three more touchdowns. His totals at the halfway point of the season include 76 rushes, 585 yards and 12 touchdowns.

Junior fullback Jason Stafford, coming off the bench after junior David Ledwell got the start, rushed 70 yards in five carries. Ledwell, reinserted after Stafford turned an ankle, carried once for 14 yards.

Added Maronto, “Erik White’s stats were not as impressive as they have been (White completed 6 of 12 passes for 91 yards), but he showed a lot of poise and leadership. And the offensive line deserves a whole lot of credit. (Guard) Tracy Liggett and (center) Don Gerber are a couple of juniors who have become outstanding. People around the country know about (guard) John Woodlock and (tackle) John Schilling. And (tackle) Billy Kline has come on and done a real nice job.

“Our tight ends (Gerald Pope and Jeff Harig) continue to block well We’ve got a nice chemistry going.”

Chemistry and a four‑game winning streak. The Tigers improved to 4‑1 while hard‑luck Fitch fell to 2‑3 heading into next week’s game against Youngstown Ursuline.

“They just outmanned us,” said Fitch’s Hartman. “Their offensive line is huge. But we played with a lot of heart. We had lousy field position in the first half and we got behind. We certainly moved the ball in the second half when we got field position. We just didn’t stop them.”

The Tigers defense stuffed Fitch in the first half, allowing only 39 nets yards. But Fitch cranked up its wing‑T attack in the second half, enabling outstanding senior tailback Mike Sztary to finish with 114 yards in 15 carries. He also returned a kickoff 96 yards for a score.

Fullback Kevin Motter wound up with 61 yards in 7 carries, while junior quarterback Darick Fletcher ran for 43 yards and passed for 50 more.

Sztary, who is listed at 165 pounds, gives the impression of a much bigger back during his fearless slashes with the ball. But a visit to the locker room after the game revealed that his program weight is accurate. He is, in fact, a skinny kid with deceptive strength.

“We didn’t make any adjustments for the second half,” Sztary said. “We just played with a lot of heart.”

But every time Fitch would threaten to get back in the game, the Tigers put on a scoring drive of their own.

The Tigers started the game on their own 24 after taking the opening kickoff and came out throwing. White passed on three of the first four plays but the Tigers had to punt following an incompletion. Fitch mishandled Mark Kester’s boot and the Tigers’ Vernon Riley recovered at midfield. On the next play, White launched a bomb toward the right flag in the end zone and Fitch’s Rod Turner intercepted at the 5.

“I knew right then we were going to move the ball, even though it was an interception,” White said. “We were determined. We were confident.”

Fitch drove 34 yards and had a second‑and‑one when Hartman gambled and sent in the Falcons’ first pass of the night. Fletcher threw into double coverage. Myricks, playing free safety, easily reached the 30‑yard toss and tipped it to cornerback Steve Siegenthaler, who raced 20 yards to the Tiger 45‑yard line.

The Tigers then went on a long running march that included gains of 3, 8, 3, 3, 6, 6 and 2 yards, a 6‑yard pass, then runs of 2, 2 and 3 yards. That ended the first quarter with the ball on the 3‑yard line on third-and‑goal.

On the first play of the second quarter, Myricks went straight up the middle with a gigantic hurdle step that carried him into the end zone. Lee Hurst’s kick made it 7‑0.

The field position Hartman cited then came into play. Sophomore return man Charles Wesson fielded

Hurst’s booming kickoff near the goal line and slipped at the 1, where his knee was ruled to have touched the ground. On third‑and‑one, Myricks and Siegenthaler slammed Motter for a yard loss and the Falcons had to punt. A short boot gave the Tigers possession on the Fitch 35. On third‑and‑seven, White led Harig with a perfect looping pass that gained 31 yards down the left sideline, putting the ball on the 1. Myricks again hurdled straight ahead for the score, and Hurst’s boot made it 14‑0 with 7:36 left in the half.

Then came a shocker.

Fitch immediately got back in the game when Sztary took Hurst’s kickoff near the right corner of the end zone, charged up the middle, broke a tackle at the 30 and sailed into the clear on a 96‑yard touchdown run. Jeff Wilkins’ kick made it 14‑7 at the 7:20 mark.

Then … the aftershock.

The Tigers scored two plays after the ensuing kickoff. On second‑and‑four, Stafford went up the middle on a quick hitter, encountered two tacklers at the first‑down mark, then did a Myricks imitation. Stafford exploded out of the pack and was off to the races, scoring on a 59‑yard run. Hurst converted again to make it 21‑7 with 6:1 3 left in the half.

An interception by Myricks ended Fitch’s next possession three plays after it started. Myricks returned the pickoff 26 yards to the Fitch 38. A personal foul against Fitch and a 10‑yard run by Myricks set up Hurst’s 27‑yard field goal, which gave the Tigers a 24‑7 halftime lead.

A different Fitch team came out of the locker room.

The same guys who couldn’t total 40 yards in the first half gained 60 on their first four plays of the second half. Three plays later, on third‑and‑goal from the 9, Fletcher rolled right, broke two tackles, and scored. The point‑after was blocked by Vernon Riley, but Fitch was back in the game, trailing 24‑13 with 8:30 left in the third quarter.

The Tigers struck back.

Myricks, a man for all reasons, returned the kickoff 40 yards. White connected with Pope on a 16‑yard sideline route that put the ball on the Fitch 40. After a 5‑yard motion penalty, it was time for Myricks’ weekly breakaway. The 5‑11, 181‑pound senior followed blocks by Stafford, Kline and Woodlock around the right side, saw daylight in the middle and cut back to it, broke three tackles as he headed for the right sideline, and went scott free the last 25 yards down the right sideline.

“When I break into the open field, I feel I can score,” said Myricks. “Again, I have to thank the offensive line for letting me get that far. The whole line blocked great again.”

“Fitch is one of the best defenses in the state. Scoring 38 points against them … that’s not too bad.”

Myricks’ 45‑yard TD burst and Hurst’s kick made it 31‑13 with 6:37 left in the third quarter.

It was the killing blow, even though Fitch managed to sandwich a 10‑yard scoring run by Sztary and a 13‑yard TD pass from Fletcher to Rod Tofil around a 15‑yard touchdown run by White.

White has scored on keepers two straight weeks. Last week, he ran a bootleg left to hit Barberton with a 4‑yard TD run. Last night, he faked the quick hitter to the fullback and rolled right, showing good speed as he outran the fooled Fitch defense into the end zone.

The second half was a game of neither team being able to stop the other. The Tigers won the game by being unstoppable in the first half, as well.

Maronto credited Brandon Oliver, the new offensive coordinator, and offensive assistants Nick Vrotsos, Tom Jarvis, Ron Bayduke and Tim Manion for putting together a package that was too hot for Fitch to handle.

“Really, though, it’s the players who deserve the credit,” Maronto said. “We’ve got a lot of big games coming up. We’ve got a lot of work ahead. But the players deserve to savor this one a little while.”
First downs rushing 10 11
First downs passing 6 3
First downs by penalty 1 2
Total first downs 17 16
Yards gained rushing 246 236
Yards lost rushing 11 1
Net yards rushing 235 22
Net yards passing 91 71
Total yards gained 326 294
Passes attempted 12 10
Passes completed 6 5
Passes Int. by 2 1
Times kicked off 7 5
Kickoff average 54.1 46.2
Kickoff return yards 90 198
Punts 2 2
Punting average 20.5 39.0
Punt return yards 6 0
Fumbles 0 1
Fumbles lost 0 1
Penalties 6 5
Yards penalized 34 55
Number of plays 51 44
Time of possession 27:05 20:55
Attendance 8,284

FITCH 0 7 14 8 29
MASSILLON 0 24 7 7 38

M ‑ Myricks 3 run (Hurst kick)
M ‑ Myricks 1 run (Hurst kick)
F ‑ Sztary 96 kickoff return (Wilkins kick)
M ‑ Stafford 59 run (Hurst kick)
M ‑ FG Hurst 27
F ‑ Fletcher 8 run (kick failed)
M ‑ Myricks 45 run (Hurst kick)
F ‑ Sztary 10 run (Fletcher run)
M ‑ White 15 run (Hurst kick)

John Miller
Massillon Tigers Black Letter Logo History

1985: Massillon 19, Austintown Fitch 21

Fitch flattens Tigers 21-19
Ex-Tiger Hartman: “Words can’t describe the way I feel”

Independent Sports Editor

MASS ILLON – The magic that was a win over Barberton get flattened by a Fitch fist Friday night.

Austintown‑Fitch, whose lumberjack linemen have to grunt to squeeze into jerseys marked “extra‑large,” had a tight squeeze on the scoreboard, trimming the Massillon Tigers 21‑19. But this was no cheapie, Fitch led 333‑182 in total yards.

The Tigers, who overcome a 20‑9 halftime deficit and beat Barberton 30‑20 last Saturday, went flat in the second half against Fitch, losing a 12‑7 edge at the intermission, falling to 4-2 on the season and going on the critical list of playoff contenders.

Fitch improved to 5‑1, winning its third straight since a 21‑12 loss to McKinley.

Program Cover

“Words can’t describe the way I feel about winning here,” said Fitch head coach David Hartman, who was a senior on the unbeaten 1964 Massillon team.

Words came hard to the conquered coach, the Tigers’ John Maronto.

“We had a chance to win, even as poorly as we played at times, but we didn’t rally when we had to,” Maronto said. “They probably deserved to win. That was the best football team we’ve played. And their quarterback is one excellent athlete.”

The quarterback was Dave Phillips. Maybe he has something to do with Phillips 66. He was slippery enough.

Late in the third quarter, with the Tigers nursing their 12‑7 lead, Fitch had the ball with a fourth‑and‑inches 15 yards away from the Massillon endzone. While many among the throng of 10,988 in Paul Brown Tiger Stadium followed fullback Leo Hawkins as be leaped into the middle, presumably with the ball, Phillips kept and sprinted 15 yards around right end to a score.

He also ran for a two‑point conversion, and Fitch led 15‑12 with 10 seconds left in period three.

Hartman decided to go for the jugular, ordering an onside kick.

The move backfired royally. Massillon’s Tim Carpenter pounced on the high‑bouncing squibber, and the Tigers marched 53 yards to regain the lead. A 23‑yard ran by Michael Harris on a fake‑reverse and a 20‑yard pass play to tight end Daimon Richardson were the big plays that set up a one‑yard TD blast by Norris.

Norris’ kick made it 19‑15 with 9:56 left in the game.

In defense of the onside kick, Hartman said, “The defense was playing extremely well, and we’d rehearsed that play a lot, I thought we had a 50-50 chance. We just didn’t get a good kick.”

Instead, Fitch got a kick in the pants. But the Falcons got back up and started slugging away with their ground game again.

Norris ‘ kickoff was high, but short, giving Fitch premium field position eight yards short of midfield. Using the same factor, deception, that resulted in the previous Fitch touchdown, the Falcons turned a pair of fourth‑and‑one situations into big plays that set up the winning touchdown.

Wingback Pat Starch went 17 yards on a dive option on fourth‑and‑inch from the 48. Tailback Fred Smith picked up 11 yards on fourth‑and‑one from the 35.

But Fitch still needed to get into the endzone, trailing by four, and things were looking up far the Tigers when Smith was stopped for no gain at the 19.

The Falcons were looking at a third‑and‑five, but a late hit was called on the play, an unusual flag considering the critical time in the game and the apparent lack flagrant contact.

The ball was marched half the distance, to the 9. Hawkins was stuffed for only a yard gain, but Phillips then took matters into his own hands, keeping and wriggling through the right side for eight yards and a score.

Mike Wilson made a big play when he blocked the PAT kick, keeping the score at 21‑ 19 with 5:05 left.

The kickoff went to the man the Tigers hoped would get the ball, but Wes Siegenthaler could negotiate his way only to the 24 on the slippery turf.

On first down, Michael Harris gained five yards, but on second down quarterback Paul Fabianich fired the ball toward Smrek, but Wilson sniffed out the play, stepped in front of the receiver and picked off the ball. He raced 40 yards up the right sideline, picked up a good block that knocked Phillips out of the way, cut to the middle and streaked into the end zone on an electrifying 85‑yard touchdown trek.

The PAT run failed, but the Tigers had seized the lead and the momentum one minute before halftime.

Hartman thought his team could shake loose Smrek for a touchdown on the play that backfired. The Tigers, he explained, had been lining up Wilson as a monster back to the strong side of their formation.

Now it was fourth‑and‑seven with 45 second left. Fabianich’s pass to the right sideline was complete, but fell far short of the first down.

Fitch took over with 40 second, left, and the game was history.

“Passing hasn’t been an integral part of Massillon’s offense,” noted Hartman. “We got hem into a position where they had to beat us by passing, and that’s not what they do best.”

Nor is it what Fitch does best.

The Falcons were in position to take firm control of the game, leading 7-6 and moving the ball effectively they arrived at a third‑and‑three on the Massillon 21.

Phillips dropped back to pass and bobbled the snap, and the Tigers were fortunate to recover his fumble.

Now it was third‑and‑five. The Tigers gambled on the big play, sending Jerome Myricks down the right sideline on a fly pattern. Fabianich’s bomb was out of his reach at the 40.

With just under four minutes left, Ken Hawkins punted to the Fitch 41. Fitch stalled on three plays, and the Tigers regained possession on a punt at their own 31 with 1:27 left.

The situation dictated pass, Maronto hoped to cross up the Falcons with a couple of runs, but Harris gained only a yard on first down, and Norris was stopped after two yards on a second‑down draw play.

The Tigers gambled with the bomb again on third down, but Bart Letcavits couldn’t catch up to Fabianich’s missile.

“They crossed us up when the monster wound up playing the weak side when we threw that pass,” Hartman said. “It was either a fortunate accident by them or a very good guess.”

The game began with both teams moving the ball well. Fitch’s initial drive stalled on the Tigers’ 31, and Massillon’s first possession ended with Norris kicking a low line drive on a 32‑yard field goal attempt. Norris was handling the place‑kicking as a result of Todd Manion having been injured when he was hit by a practice kick during pregame warmups.

Fitch turned its second possession into a score, driving 80 yards in 10 plays, with Smith going the final 10 yards on a sprint draw. Chris Berni’s PAT boot made it 7‑0 with 8:02 left in the first half.

Harris made a sparkling return on the ensuing kickoff, and the Tigers set up on their own 44. Four nice runs by Harris and a 20‑yard Fabianich‑to‑Siegenthaler completion to the 11 led to a two‑yard TD burst by Norris. Norris hit the PAT kick badly, and the score stayed at 7‑6 with 4:29 left in the half.

A short kickoff triggered another Fitch drive, but Wilson’s interception intervened.

Manion’s loss was not a clear blow initially. Norris has shown great promise as a kicker.

“I was kicking the ball well before the game,” Norris said. “It wound up being just one of those nighs.”
Fitch wound up with a 225‑132 lead in rushing yards, a statistic under-scored by Fitch’s lead of 29:47 to 18:13 edge in time of possession. Hawkins led the way with 91 yards in 19 carries.

Harris led he Tiger ground game with 96 yards in 19 trips, but the other Massillon backs were held in check.

Phillips completed six of 14 passes for 108 yards, Fabianich four of eight tosses for 50 yards.

“Phillips was a great quarterback,” said Tiger defensive tackle Duane Crenshaw. “They made some good plays. We made some good plays. It was one of those games where it looks like the last team that has the ball will win.

“Now we’ve got to regroup. We’ll come back.”

The Tiger’ remaining games are against Cleveland St. Joseph (4‑1), Akron St. Vincent‑St. Mary (2‑3), Perry (5‑1) and McKinley (5‑1).

The comeback won’t be easy.


First downs rushing 8 13
First downs passing 2 5
First downs by penalty 1 1
Total first downs 11 19
Yards gained rushing 139 246
Yards lost rushng 7 21
Net yards rushing 132 225
Net yards passing 50 108
Total yards gained 182 333
Passes completed 4 6
Passes int. by 0 1
Times kicked off 4 4
Kickoff average 40.5 42.5
Kickoff return yards 59 57
Punts 3 2
Punting average 38.3 34.0
Punt return yards 1 3
Punts blocked by 0 0
Fumbles 1 1
Fumbles lost 0 0
Penalties 5 10
Yards penalized 52 73
Touchdowns rushing 2 3
Touchdowns passing 0 0
Miscellaneous touchdowns 0 0
Number of plays 43 63
Time of possession 18:13 29:47
Attendance 10,998

FITCH 0 7 8 6 21
MASSILLON 0 12 0 7 19

Duane Crenshaw