Massillon tops Winton Woods, heading to Division II title game
Nov 23, 2018 10:54 PM
GAHANNA Massillon faced an early deficit. It faced a second-half comeback. It faced injury to one of its best players.
Now, the Tigers will face three-time state champion Archbishop Hoban for the Division II state championship.
Massillon earned its first trip to the title game since 2005 thanks to a 41-20 victory over Winton Woods on Friday night at Gahanna’s Wilbur C. Strait Stadium. It is the Tigers’ fourth title-game appearance, and first in Division II.
“I’m really proud of our guys,” said Massillon coach Nate Moore, whose team scored 26 straight points in the second and third quarters to rally from a 10-0 deficit and improved to 14-0 while setting a school record for wins in a season. “They played a whale of a ballgame against a great football team. I’m really proud of them.
The Tigers will lock horns against the 14-0 Knights on Thursday night at 7:30 p.m. at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium. To get there though, Massillon had to exert a bit of revenge on a nemesis from its recent past.
A year ago, Winton Woods overcame a 21-0 Tiger lead in the first half scored the final 56 points to win going away. A year later, the Warriors were the ones who were in possession of the early lead, only to see Massillon roar from behind.
“We’ve been waiting for them all season,” said cornerback Max Turner, whose 38-yard interception return for a touchdown with 21 seconds left in the first half capped a 19-0 Tiger second-quarter run. “I’m talking in the weight room, off-season, 15-for-15 was all for Winton Woods. We knew what it is.”
That didn’t mean Massillon wasn’t in for a little bit of early adversity.
Winton Woods led 10-0 after the first quarter thanks to a 36-yard Yeri Velasquez field goal and a 3-yard Miyan Williams rushing touchdown. The Tigers, meanwhile, had just two first downs and 39 total yards of offense in that same time.
“Just keep playing ball,” Moore said of his message to the team. “Just keep playing football. Keep playing football.”
Jamir Thomas would put Massillon on the board with a 15-yard touchdown run two minutes into the second quarter at 10-7. He would added a 1-yard run with 40 seconds left in the half to give the Tigers the lead for good at 13-10.
Thomas, who would leave the game late in the third quarter with an injury, ran for 83 yards on 12 carries.
Massillon would turn momentum totally on its side just 19 seconds later, when Turner’s pick-six provided it a 19-10 halftime lead. That lead would grow to 26-10 less than a minute into the third quarter when Aidan Longwell hit Tre’Von Morgan for a 58-yard touchdown.
Longwell finished 14-of-27 for 210 yards with one touchdown and one interception. That interception, with Massillon leading 26-13 in the third quarter, was the only crack Winton Woods could find to attempt to get back in the game.
After the pick, the Warriors faced a 3rd-and-29 from their own 24. MiChale Wingfield hit Williams on a screen pass for 75 yard to the Massillon 1.
On the next play, Williams scored his second touchdown of the night to pull Winton Woods within 26-20. Williams, who rushed for 2,742 yards over the first 13 games, finished with 82 rushing yards on 20 carries.
“I thought they did a great job,” Massillon defensive coordinator Craig McConnell said of the defense against Williams. “Honestly, our plan was, if we stop 28 (Williams), we win. I wouldn’t use the words that we stopped him, but limited him. He’s going to make his plays. He’s a great football player.”
With the Tigers’ own All-Ohio running back, Thomas, sidelined for the final quarter, the ball went to junior Zion Phifer. Phifer didn’t disappoint.
“I did it for the seniors,” said Phifer, who gained 76 of his 82 yards on 15 fourth-quarter carries. “When Jamir went down, we had no one else to come up but me. So I did it for me team.”
Phifer’s 13-yard run on the second play of the fourth quarter gave Massillon a two-score lead again at 34-20 after Longwell hit Dean Clark for a two-point conversion. His 1-yard run with 1:34 remaining in the game gave the Tigers a 41-20 lead.
A 21-point lead which Massillon rode into the Division II state championship game.
In one of the most exciting finishes in Massillon football history, the Tigers pulled out a 28-22 come-from-behind victory in the waning seconds of their home opener against Gahanna Lincoln Friday night.
The passing combination of Brant Offenbecher to Curtis Strawder and a two-yard touchdown by Greg Carpenter with 35 seconds left in the game snatched a sure victory from the Lions’ jaws.
“THAT’S THAT old Tiger spirit,” happy head coach Mike Currence said after the game.
The Tigers seemed doomed after the Lions drove 63 yards in 16 plays to score a touchdown and the go-ahead two-point conversion, making it 22-21 with 2:11 left in the game.
The situation seemed dimmer still when the Tigers faced an impossible fourth down and 19 on their own 30 yard line with 1:11 showing on the clock.
But Offenbecher, a junior went deep and Strawder, also a junior, made a terrific, diving, over-the-shoulder catch at the Gahanna 29 yard line. Three plays later Carpenter crashed off right guard for the winning score.
“They’re tough,” Currence said of the Lions after the game. “I don’t know who is going to beat them.”
THE LIONS had used the power-running of tailback Tim O’Cain and some timely passes by quarterback Fred Henley for their three scores. O’Cain gained 82 yards in 29 carries.
The Tigers filled the air with passes, as Offenbecher completed 11 of 23 for 232 yards and one touchdown. Strawder hauled in six passes for 169 yards and one touchdown.
The Tigers had gone ahead 21-14 on a three-yard touchdown run by Carpenter with 9:51 left in the fourth quarter.
The Lions then took the ball and went on a sustained march, using 19 plays and 7:40 on the clock to march 63 yards for their score.
O’Cain gained 31 of those yards (on nine carries), including two yards on a fourth and two situation to the Massillon 46 yard line with 6:18 left to play.
THE LION drive was aided by two penalties, one an interference call on 3rd and 16 at their own 29 that gave them a first down at the 44, and an unsportsmanslike conduct call against the Tigers for having 12 men on the field that gave Gahanna a first and one at the Massillon nine.
Henley then took the ball on a sneak for four yards and it was first and goal Gahanna from the five with 3:20 to go.
Senior fullback Mark Carter carried to the three, O’Cain picked up another yard around left end and Carter carried to the one-yard line.
On fourth and goal from the one, Carter got the call again and he nudged the ball over the goal line.
Gahanna had the ball placed at the left hash mark for the extra point attempt and Henley rolled far to his right, forcing Tiger defenders to commit themselves, then found senior halfback Ted Hall open in the back of the end zone for a 22-21 Lion lead.
STRAWDER TOOK the ensuing kickoff at the Massillon 27 and returned it to the 39. Offenbecher picked up six yards running when he couldn’t find anyone open.
Offenbecher then found Strawder at the 45 on a sideline pattern but the junior receiver bobbled the ball when he turned to run up field and dropped it. It wouldn’t have mattered because the Tigers were assessed 15 yards for an unsportsmanlike conduct call.
Following an incompleted pass it was fourth and 19 at the Massillon 30 with 1:11 to play. Offenbecher then threw the long pass to Strawder at the Gahanna 29.
An interference call against Gahanna (defensive back Willie Carpenter grabbed Strawder’s shirt and held him at the 16) along with an unsportsmanlike conduct call on the same play gave the Tigers a first down at the eight.
Offenbecher rolled to the left and gained six yards and the clock stopped with 43 seconds when Gahanna’s Carpenter was injured. Massillon’s Carpenter then scored over right guard – the same play he had scored the Tigers’ third TD on.
SECONDS LATER, Tiger defensive back Darron Longshore intercepted a Lion aerial at the Massillon 43 and the Tiger offense ran out the clock.
Gahanna bead coach Neal Billman, who had turned somersaults on the field after the Lion took the lead, was dejected as be talked about the game afterwards in the visitor’s dressing room.
“What can you say?” he asked.
“Our kids had great desire and I’m very, very proud of them. Last week Massillon lost to a great team (9-7 to Barberton) and tonight we lost to a great team.
“But that’s football. That’s why we play the game, because it’s not easy,” Billman said.
“IT WAS A great game to watch, I supposes, if you weren’t in the middle of it,” he said.
“We had a 16-year-old kid a make a mistake (their safety didn’t play back far enough on Strawder’s catch) and they had a 16-year old kid put the ball right over the helmet of another kid. If the ball would have been anywhere else it would have been incomplete.”
Tiger head coach Mike Currence was all smiles in the Massillon lockerroom.
“Our game plan was to throw,” he said. “With Pringle in there we would have had a better night on the right side.”
Tiger senior receiver Mark Pringle has missed both of the opening games with a shoulder injury. Currence said his height (6-1) would have helped counteract Gahanna’s Ted Hall (6-3) at the right defensive halfback slot.
“OUR KIDS came back, Currence noted, “It’s been a real rough week. We were expecting a great year and we’ve just been through agony the last week,” he explained.
Asked how be felt after the Lions went ahead late in the game, Currence said: “I thought the guy upstairs didn’t like me anymore.
“You really have to tax yourself going down the field like that,” he said of the Tigers last-ditch drive.
Strawder, the soft-spoken 5-10, 147-pount wide receiver, said of his catch: “We had to win, you know. I just kept my eye on the ball and it came to me. I felt real good after I caught it.”
Strawder’s ‘miracle catch’ is key
THE GAME, started out with the Lions taking the opening kickoff and marching 80 yards in 13 plays for a TD.
Wide receiver Lawrence Dempsey made a diving catch in the right corner of the end zone on a five yard pass from Henley and John Orkis booted the point after for a 7-0 lead.
The Lions picked up six first downs in that drive, including one on a 15-yard penalty for a personal foul.
The Tigers didn’t wait long to retaliate as Offenbecher found Shrewder wide open down the middle for a 62-yard TD pass on their first play from scrimmage. Offenbecher set up the play with a good fake to Carpenter. Mark Westover’s extra point kick tied the score.
Following a Gahanna punt, the Tigers drove to the Lions’ 19 yard line but an Offenbecher pass was intercepted in the end one by Orkis.
AFTER ANOTHER Gahanna punt a cliping penalty against the Tigers on the return, Massillon took over on its own 15.
The Tigers then drove 85 yards in 14 plays with Jeff Beitel sweeping the right side for the final five yards and the TD. Westover’s PAT kick made it 14-7 and that score stood up until the half.
The Tigers took the second-half kickoff and drove from their own 37 to the Gahanna 12 but the drive died following a pair of incomplete passes on third and fourth downs.
Gahanna couldn’t move the ball and had to punt again, but the Tigers’ Marc Longshore fumbled the punt and the Lions’ Bryan Hicks recovered at the Tiger 25 yard line.
O’Cain carried the ball four straight times for 13 yards. He gained seven yards on the next play and a face mask penalty against Massillon put the ball at the Tiger three.
CARTER THEN carried three yards to paydirt and Orkis’s conversion kick knotted the score at 14.
The Tigers then took the kickoff and went 73 yards to score with 9:51 left in the game.
Carpenter scored on a three-yard run and Westover added the point after kick for a 21-14 lead. Key plays in the drive were passes of 33, 10, 11 and 9 yards from Offenbecher to Strawder.
Gahanna then went on its go-ahead drive add the Tigers pulled out a miracle to even each team’s record at 1-1.
The Tigers will entertain Cleveland Glenville Friday night at Paul Brown Tiger Stadium. Tickets are on sale for the 8 p.m. contest at the Washington High School ticket office. Demmer Hardware stores and Hal’s Sport Shop.
GRIDSTICK M G First downs rushing 7 10 First downs passing 9 4 First downs penalties 1 2 Total first downs 17 16 Yards gained rushing 106 153 Yards lost rushing 15 28 Net yards gained rushing 91 135 Net yards gained passing 232 68 Total yards gained 323 193 Passes attempted 23 10 Passes completed 11 6 Passes intercepted by 1 1 Yardage gained on passes intercepted 0 0 Times kicked off 5 4 Kickoff average (yards) 46.6 41.2 Kickoff returns (yards) 65 78 Times punted 1 4 Punt average (yards) 40.0 36.0 Punt returns (yards) 0 0 Had punts blocked 0 0 Fumbles 1 1 Lost tumbled ball 1 0 Penalties 7 7 Yards penalized 87 70 Touchdowns rushing 3 2 Touchdowns passing 1 1 Touchdowns by interception 0 0 Miscellaneous touchdowns 0 0 Total number of plays 58 42 Total time of possession 20:36 27:24
Massillon 7 7 0 14 28 Gahanna 7 0 7 8 22
G – Lawrence Dempsey 5 pass from Fred Henley (John Orkis kick); M – Curtis Strawder 62 pass from Brent Offenbecher (Mark Westover kick); M – Jeff Beitel 5 run (Westover kick); G – Mark Carter 3 run (Orkis kick); M – Greg Carpenter 3 run (Westover kick); G – Carter 1 run (Ted Hall pass from Henley); M – Carpenter 2 run (Westover kick).
Take it from Neal Billman, now is not the time to desert the Tigers and rookie head coach Mike Currence.
“Massillon has some fine young players,” the coach of the Gahanna Lincoln Lions said after Friday night’s 10-0 victory over Washington High School before 9,109 at rainy Paul Brown Tigers Stadium.
“IT’S A terrible thing to come into a new job and try to whip a team into a winner in the first year,” he said. “I had to do it at Ghanna and was 3-6. The people stayed with me and they ought to stay with this young man. He’s a proven coach.”
If somebody would only turn off the spigots and give Massillon’s new run and shoot offense a chance, the Tiger faithful, Currence and the team would be in a lot better shape.
Currence stuck to control football Friday night. Also running out of the single slot and double wing alignments, the Tigers moved the ball well but again had fumbles at the wrong time. They recovered six of their 10 miscues, losing one less than they did against Middletown.
The Orange and Black picked up 267 net yards to Gahanna Lincoln’s 134 and 14 first downs to the Lions’ three but the Tigers’ lost the ball at the Gahanna 20, eight, three, 29, 15 and six yard lines.
First and second quarter Bret Traylor handoffs to Rich Cleveland went awry. Traylor lost the ball in the third stanza when he sprinted out to pass and was hit a good whack.
THE TIGERS ran out of downs on the 20 in the first quarter.
Defensive back Kent Parrill intercepted Traylor’s second quarter pass at the 15-yard line. Marc Longshore’s fourth quarter aerial to Greg Carpenter from the six went incomplete even though Greg made a valiant diving try for it.
The Tigers had gotten close in via a Longshore to Sam George 41-yard effort. Cleveland’s 16 and 23-yard runs got them down deep in the first and second quarters. Carpenter’s 30-yard run also put them in scoring position in the first quarter.
By letting Lions off the hot spot so many times the WHS team was bound to get hurt. It happened in the third quarter.
JUNIOR tailback Tim O’Cain, a 10-flat 100 runner, broke through the center, cut to the right sideline and was gone for 49 yards for a touchdown on what Billman called an isolation play and Currence termed a counter. Monster back Anthony Grizzard and end Dave Engler almost stopped him about midway in his run.
Parrill kicked his conversion with the clock reading 0:37.
The Lions’ final score came when Parrill intercepted a pass in the fourth quarter on the Tigers’ 19. Three plays later, with 1:25 left, Parrill booted a 28-yard field goal and Massillon was shut out for the first time in 46 years in its first two games. It was also the first double loss at the beginning of a season since then.
Ghanna is 2-0.
“I saw some improvement tonight but what a way to lose,” Currence said. “You beat somebody to death the whole game and they beat you on the long one.”
Currence is quite perplexed about the Tigers’ ball handling problem.
“I WISH you would tell me what to do about it,” he said. “I don’t know what to do. I don’t know why we’re having all the mistakes we’re having. I do know the elements had something to do with it. I haven’t played on dry land yet. Whenever I get a chance to play on dry land I’ll have something to compare.”
Currence pointed out that with Gahanna’s three yards and a cloud of dust wing-T offense they were not about to make mistakes.
“They’re a good team,” he said. “That one cloud was a big one.”
Then Currence cautioned, “Nobody had better come to town and think the Tigers’ morale is going to be down. I haven’t been here long but I have a feeling these kids will be tougher next week than they were this week. I think we did a pretty decent job.”
BILLMAN WAS happy that Gahanna never gave up.
“We’ve been that type of team through our tradition,” he said. “We’ve always played it nothing to nothing and have never concerned ourselves with the elements. We won a championship lat year in the rain.”
Billman said the Lions did some great blocking on the touchdown play. Left tackle Tim Stropki and fullback Vic Reed had the key hits, according to their coach.
“The Tigers are a very courageous and well coached team,” he said. “We had to make some middle adjustments at half time.”
Billman praised right linebacker Glenn Bradford for playing great football.
Here are the top net rushing yardages: Massillon – Cleveland, 111 in 18 carries; – Carpenter, nine in 56. Cleveland lost only one yard; Carpenter, none. Gahanna – O’Cain 55 in 11; – Reed 33 in 11.