Chris Easterling – The Independent PLAIN TWP. It was one of those nights at Bob Commings Field on Friday night.
It was a night where almost everything went right for Massillon, and everything went wrong for GlenOak. When it was all said and done, it was a night where the Tigers posted their biggest margin of victory since Week 5 of the 2016 season in rolling to a 49-0 win over the Golden Eagles.
“(Massillon’s) a good football team,” said GlenOak coach Scott Garcia, whose team lost starting quarterback Kindel Richardson to a first-quarter injury. “They took it to us. They have it all. They’ve got an offensive line, the back – (Jamir) Thomas — is as good as they come, and they can spread you out at the same time. They present you a lot of problems.”
Massillon, 2-0 for the first time since 2014, had all of it on display in its biggest win since a 75-7 beating of Toledo Bowsher. The Tigers ran it, they threw it and they stifled GlenOak at every turn.
And that was just in opening up a 35-0 halftime lead.
“They showed that they’re focused,” Massillon coach Nate Moore said. “They showed they’re disciplined. They showed they play hard and really care about this season.”
The Tigers’ big night started with their big running back Thomas powering his way to 170 yards on 11 rushing attempts. All of those were in the first half, as he also ran for three touchdowns of 35, 53 and 49 yards.
The first two came on Massillon’s second and third possessions, giving it a 14-0 lead. The third came on the first play of the Tigers’ fifth drive, making it 21-0 less than two minutes into the second quarter.
“A really great night tonight,” Moore said of Thomas, who has 278 rushing yards in two games. “He really showed some flashes of some breakaway speed, which didn’t happen much last year. Glad to see that out of him.”
Thomas was just part of the Tigers’ rushing tandem that gained 254 yards in the first half and finished with 343 yards for the game. Zion Phifer, while he wasn’t able to get into the end zone, added 106 yards on eight carries.
Meanwhile, Aidan Longwell added four more touchdown passes, giving him seven on the season. He hit Aydrik Ford on scoring strikes of 35 and 46 yards, while tossing 18- and 17-yard scores to Jayden Ballard.
The final one to Ballard came on Longwell’s last pass of the night, giving the Tigers a 42-0 third-quarter lead. Longwell finished 8-of-13 for 151 yards with the four scores, but two other interceptions in the end zone.
Listen to Longwell’s TD pass to Ballard
“He’s our field general,” Moore said of Longwell. “He’s our quarterback. He’s the one who makes everything work. A couple picks tonight that we certainly don’t want but, he’ll bounce back.”
Longwell’s TD pass to Murphy
GlenOak, which suffered its worst loss since a similar 49-0 setback at McKinley in Week 4 of the 2005 season, is hoping to bounce back from consecutive tough Friday nights against potentially two of the best teams in the state. The Golden Eagles are 0-2 for the second consecutive season after setbacks to first Toledo Whitmer and now to Massillon.
It was a bit of injury thrown on top of insult, however, on this night with the loss of Richardson. The dynamic junior quarterback suffered what appeared to be a leg injury on GlenOak’s third series of the game after being sacked.
After Richardson was taken off the field on a stretcher, J.T. Cooke came in to play quarterback the rest of the way. Regardless of who the quarterback was, GlenOak finished the night with 76 total yards, 65 of those on the ground,
“We’ve to learn from it and move on,” said Garcia, whose team plays host to Royal Imperial Collegiate (Ont.) next Friday. “We have a lot of season left. Obviously, it’s going to be tough without our quarterback. I thought J.T. stepped up and did some decent things. We just have to get better. Right now, we’re playing with a JV football team.”
MASSILLON The storyline going into Friday night’s season opener between Massillon and St. Vincent-St. Mary was simple. It would be the Tigers’ talent-laden offense against the Irish experienced and strong defense.
Turns out, someone forgot to tell the Massillon defense it was going to have to take second billing.
The Tigers forced four St.Vincent-St. Mary turnovers, while stifling the Irish offense most of the night, to help key a 35-7 victory at Paul Brown Tiger Stadium.
“I thought we really controlled the line of scrimmage,” Massillon coach Nate Moore said. “I thought our front seven played really well. I thought they did a good job of reading their keys. A lot of mid-direction stuff and jet-sweep stuff and they did a really good job with that.”
The key to the Tiger defensive effort, as much as the takeaways, was the way they did not allow the Irish to get their running game established. At least, not with highly-regarded tailback Terrance Keyes Jr.
A year after rushing for 198 yards against Massillon in a 13-10 Irish win in Week 9, Keyes was held to just 10 yards on 11 carries. As a team, St. Vincent-St. Mary had just 85 rushing yards on 32 carries, including just 20 yards on 14 second-half carries.
“I think we definitely had trouble establishing the run,” said Irish coach Bobby Nickol, who was making his head-coaching debut. “There was a couple of small things we wanted to do, get the passing game going (because) we thought there was a couple of holes we were going to be able to take advantage of. We knew they were athletic; we knew that blocking-scheme-wise, we had to do a couple of different things up front to keep their blitzing off-base.”
The Tigers, though, made sure that even when St. Vincent-St. Mary was able to get things going, it didn’t go far. Of the four takeaways Massillon had, three of those came in its territory.
The first, a fumble recovery by Deon Williams a the Tiger 45 on the Irish’s first possession, set up Massillon’s first score. Aidan Longwell hit Aydrik Ford on a 24-yard touchdown pass on a fourth-and-seven play to give the Tigers a 7-0 lead with 4:51 remaining in the first quarter.
It was one of three touchdown passes by Longwell, who was 14-of-21 for 150 yards. He added second-half scoring tosses to Tre’Von Morgan and Dean Clark, which helped to blow open what had been a 21-7 game at the half.
“We were efficient in the passing game at times,” said Moore, whose team ran for 177 yards, including 109 yards and a score by senior Jamir Thomas. “There’s some things we have to sharpen up.”
The Irish helped to turn the relatively close game at the break into a lopsided one with giveaways on three of its first four second-half possessions. Ben Krichbaum recovered a pair of fumbles on strip sacks for Massillon, while also intercepting a pass at the Tiger 15.
It was more than just turnovers which helped the Tigers turn away the Irish. They also managed to swing momentum to their side almost instantaneously after St. Vincent-St. Mary appeared to get it going its way.
The Irish capped a 13-play, 80-yard drive when Luke Lindsay hit Joshua Jones on a 19-yard fade route to tie the game at 7-7 with 8:53 remaining in the first half. Massillon, though, turned the subsequent kickoff into an 88-yard Tyree Broyles touchdown for a 14-7 lead which it would never relinquish.
“It was freaking huge,” Nickol said of Broyles’ return. “It was absolutely huge. It’s 7-7, we have a lot of momentum going and things are kind of pushing our way. … As soon as he brings that back, it just kind of took the wind out of our sails.”
Six seniors and one junior comprise the list of position captains for this year’s football team. All played significant roles last year in helping Massillon to a 10-4 record and a spot in the playoff state semifinals. The players named are as follows:
Dean Clark – Defensive back. Second on the team last year with 68.5 tackle points, including 44 solo tackles and 49 assists. 4.5 tackles for loss and one sack. Also caught seven passes for 131 yards and one touchdown.
Justin Gaddis – Offensive line. Returning starter anchoring a line that rushed for 2,353 yards and surrendered just nine sacks through 14 games.
Aidan Longwell – Quarterback. Completed 166 of 282 passes for 2,423 yards and 21 touchdowns. Threw just five interceptions. His pass efficiency of 322 and yards per attempt of 19.1 against Youngstown Ursuline ranks first all-time.
Kyshad Mack – Linebacker. Assumed the starting role midway through the season. Sixth last year with 38.5 tackle points. Three tackles for loss and one sack. Will also play some wide receiver this year.
Tre’von Morgan – Wide receiver. Caught 36 passes for 489 yards and 2 touchdowns, including the game winner last year against Canton McKinley.
Jamir Thomas – Running back. Rushed 349 times for 1506 yards, an average of 4.3 yards per carry. Scored 21 touchdowns. Set a new mark for total carries in a season, eclipsing the old one by 96 carries. Third all-time in total yards for a season. His 42 attempts against Canton McKinley is the second highest all-time. Also played linebacker, recording 27 tackle points. One interception.
Deon Williams – Offensive line / defensive line. Returning starter on both sides of the line. Last year recorded 23.5 tackle points and one quarterback sack.
Jamir Thomas, Massillon’s ironman running back, was named 2017 Division II 1st Team All-Ohio by the Ohio Prep Sportswriters Association. He was the lone Tiger to be represented in this group. The 6′-1″, 212 lb. junior finished the year with 1,506 yards on 349 attempts. Thomas also tallied 21 touchdowns in helping his team win the regional championship. Last year Jamir was named Special Team All-Ohio linebacker.
Other players of note making the list are as follows:
Ashland quarterback Keagan Armitage – 1st Team
Bedford running back Kenny Wilkins – 1st Team
Cincinnati Winton Woods linebacker Chris Oats – Defensive Player of the Year
Cincinnati Winton Woods quarterback Kenny Mayberry – 2nd Team
New Albany defensive lineman Will King – 2nd Team
Ashland offensive lineman John Valentine – 3rd Team
The Touchdown Club annually presents the Bob Commings Hardnose Award to a deserving Massillon Tiger football player, emulating one that plays hard, hits hard and well represents his team. Bob Commings was a very successful coach for the Tigers from 1969 to 1973, compiling a record of 43-6-2, including Massillon’s last state championship (1970). HIs 1972 team qualified for Ohio’s first ever state playoff game. Commings departed following the 1973 season to become head coach of the University of Iowa and later coached at GlenOak High School, for which their field was later named.
The selection of the deserving player is based on a weekly accumulation of votes cast by the members of the Touchdown Club at their Tuesday meetings. This year’s award winner is Jamir Thomas. Just a junior, he joins a stellar list of past recipients, including John Mulbach (Ohio State), David Whitfield (Ohio State), Charles Danzy (NFL coach), Chris Spielman (Ohio State), Shawn Crable (Michigan) and Brian Gamble (Illinois/Ashland)
Thomas was slated to play this season on defense almost exclusively at linebacker. But due to an early unforeseen depletion of running backs, he was thrust into the primary offensive position. According to Massillon Head Coach Nate Moore, Jamir readily accepted the change and was prepared to do anything he could to help the Tigers be successful. His performance was more than was expected, eventually being named First-Team All-District at the position, and helped his team capture the regional title in the playoffs.
Thomas finished the year with 1,506 yards, 3rd among all Massillon players. The yards came on 349 carries, blowing away the previous mark of 253. He also scored 21 touchdowns, which ranks 5th. The 42 carries against Canton McKinley in a 16-15 victory ranks 2nd and the 37 carries against Ashland ranks 5th. The five TDs against Canisius, NY, set a new single-game record and the four touchdowns against Ashland and three against Austintown Fitch are both in the Top 10 of the category. But Jamir also played some defense, recording 22 solo tackles and 10 assists in a part-time effort.
Defensive dominance set tone for Tigers’ regional title
Chris Easterling – The Independent
MANSFIELD Massillon put together another four-quarter defensive performance. Because of that fact, the Tigers find themselves as one of the final four teams remaining in the Division II state football playoffs.
From start to finish, Massillon controled the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball, and its defense never allowed New Albany to get its wing-T offense going in as it rolled to a 24-6 win in Friday night’s Division II Region 7 championship game at Mansfield’s Arlin Field.
“Our defense played lights out,” Massillon coach Nate Moore said after the Tigers won their first regional title since 2009. “We gave up a touchdown on a blocked punt, but our defense pitched a shutout tonight against a really good offense. Flipping from a five-wide (offense) a week ago to a wing-T this week, I’m just really proud of those guys.”
New Albany’s offense, which was predicated on running the football, never really got up and running against Massillon, which will face Cincinnati Winton Woods in next Friday’s state semifinal at Columbus St. Francis DeSales High School. The Warriors rallied to beat three-time reigning Division II state champion Cincinnati La Salle 16-14 on a last-second field goal in another regional final Friday.
To get to that game, though, Moore’s team kept the Eagles grounded. New Albany was limited to just 145 total yards, including just 101 rushing yards on 37 attempts.
New Albany’s only points came on a 16-yard blocked-punt return by Jack Scharfe with 9:29 remaining. By that point, however, Massillon had run up a 24-6 lead.
“You just have to tip your hat,” New Albany coach Pat Samanrich said. “Tonight, Massillon was just a better team and, you know what, I hope they go win the whole thing for Region 7. I was very impressed with their defensive scheme. It was just guys running down-hill playing together.”
Massillon, meanwhile, was running down-hill all night on offense. That is, when the Tigers weren’t throwing it down-field as well.
The tone was set from the very start of the game, as Massillon pounded out a 14-play, 72-yard drive to take a 3-0 lead on a 25-yard Klay Moll field goal. While the Tigers ran on 10 of the 14 plays on the drive, they moved to the Eagle 7 thanks to a 41-yard pass from Aidan Longwell to Jayden Ballard.
Longwell finished 20-of-30 for 258 yards passing for Massillon, including a 22-yard touchdown pass to Austin Kutscher with 1:20 left in the third quarter for a 24-0 Tiger lead.
The Tigers, meanwhile, ran the ball 49 times for 231 yards on the night. Jamir Thomas rushed for 130 yards on 33 carries, including a 2-yard scoring run for a 10-0 lead 1:33 into the second quarter.
“We were really balanced,” Moore said. “We hurt ourselves with the penalties tonight. I’m disappointed with that. But you have to play through that and keep swinging.”
Those Tiger penalties, 12 for 120 yards, were what prevented the game from really turning into an even-bigger rout. Massillon had a touchdown run called back for an illegal shift on its first drive, then had a a litany of flags on one fourth-quarter possession which left it looking at a first-and-41 situation from its own 40.
Those flags, as well as a missed field goal on the Tigers’ third possession of the game, were really the only blemishes on the night. Massillon only punted once, although it was blocked and returned for the lone Eagle touchdown.
Even those, however, couldn’t keep Massillon from its date with a football game on Thanksgiving weekend for the first time in eight years. That, Moore believes, is a credit to the players.
“They just play hard,” Moore said. “That’s the biggest key. When you get to this level of high-school football, that’s what you notice. The teams that get here aren’t necessarily the most talented; they’re the most disciplined and they just play hard.”
Video courtesy of Brian Skowronski – An Ashland point of view
WOOSTER It was cold. The field had a thin layer of snow on it at the start.
In other words, it was perfect conditions for Jamir Thomas and Massillon’s defense to do what they do best in a 28-7 Division II Region 7 semifinal win over Ashland at Wooster’s Follis Field.
“The weather conditions were great,” a happy Massillon coach Nate Moore said after his 9-3 team advanced to next week’s regional final against New Albany at a site to be determined. “This is playoff football. I don’t know what else you want; move to Florida if you don’t like this.”
Thomas and the Tigers defense certainly felt right at home in the conditions, with a 27-degree temperature at kickoff. The former carried the Massillon offense on his back, while the latter never let the explosive Ashland offense get off the ground.
The 6-foot-1, 212-pound Thomas bulldozed his way to a career-high 196 rushing yards on 37 carries. He also scored all four of the Tigers’ touchdowns on runs of nine, three, 27 and three yards.
“He did a great job,” Moore said of Thomas, who accounted for almost half of Massillon’s 409 total yards.
Thomas provided the only first-half score, a 9-yard run just 22 seconds into the second quarter for a 7-0 Massillon lead. He would blow the game open with a pair of third-quarter runs within 114 seconds of each other – a 3-yarder with 2:24 left and a 27-yarder with 30 seconds left – to make it 21-0 Tigers going into the final quarter.
The final Thomas touchdown run came with 53 seconds remaining, a 3-yarder plunge.
“We got to go over and see them play McKinley (in Week 10), so I got to see them there,” said Ashland coach Scott Valentine, whose team bows out at 9-3. “We knew he was good. As time went on, he broke some runs, but I was proud of our defense the way they played, especially the first half and even in the second half as far as containing some of that stuff.”
While Ashland’s defense was able to contain Massillon some of the time, the Tiger defense was able to contain the Arrows almost all of the time. The only Ashland touchdown was a 27-yard pass from Keagan Armitage to Bryke Williams with 7:33 remaining to pull it within 21-7.
A week after the Arrows put up 48 points in a come-from-behind win at Columbus Mifflin, it could never consistently get going against Massillon as they were held to 223 total yards. At least, they weren’t able to get going enough to find the end zone.
Armitage, Ashland’s Mr. Football candidate, was limited to just 17-of-32 passing for 129 yards and the score. He did run for 87 yards on 17 carries, but fumbled twice.
“We played well,” Moore said. “We forced some turnovers, which was huge for us, especially in the first half. I’m really proud of our guys.”
Of course, Ashland proved to be its own worst enemy in many regards. The Arrows turned the ball over three times, compared to just one Tiger giveaway.
All three of the Arrow fumbles came in Massillon territory. A second-possession fumble at the Tiger 24; a fumble on a second-quarter run as Ashland was about to score a touchdown that went out of the end zone; and a third-quarter fumble at midfield.
“That’s the thing,” Valentine said. “When you’re playing good people in these situations, you can’t turn the ball over. You can’t have some of the penalties we had. Our kids laid it on the line; I’m proud of their effort. It’s just those things hurt us.”
Those turnovers also helped Massillon reach its first regional championship game since 2012
MASSILLON Massillon threw the first punch. The Tigers threw the last one as well.
In between, they endured more than their share of body blows from a Boardman team that had no intention of letting its No. 7 seed define what kind of football team it really was. However, the final blow thrown by Massillon was enough to help it keep on playing, as it rallied for a 28-23 win in Friday’s Division II Region 7 quarterfinal at Paul Brown Tiger Stadium.
“You just keep swinging,” said Massillon coach Nate Moore, who picked up his first playoff win at the school, while ending the program’s three-game postseason losing streak.
With just over nine minutes remaining, that streak looked like it may well be on its way to continuing. Boardman went in front 23-14 on quarterback Mike O’Horo’s 5-yard touchdown run with 9:19 left.
Then the Tiger offense, which had mustered just 50 total yards over its previous seven combined possessions, came alive. A passing game that had just 74 yards through three quarters exploded for 118 in the final 12 minutes.
On Massillon’s next two possessions after the Spartans opened up the two-score lead, it came up with touchdown passes from Aidan Longwell to Austin Kutcher, a 36-yarder with 8:40 remaining, and to Dean Clark, a 19-yarder with 5:46 left.
Kutscher’s catch, part of a seven-catch, 104-yard night, pulled the Tigers within 23-21. Clark’s catch — one play after he nearly pulled in a pass in the end zone — put Massillon ahead to stay.
“We had great practices all week,” said Moore, whose team will play Ashland in a regional semifinal next Friday at a site to be announced. “For some reason tonight, the shots weren’t falling. They just weren’t. But if you play hard and keep swinging, hopefully you have a chance to win the game in the fourth quarter. That’s what happens.”
Longwell, who was 6-of-9 for 118 yards with the two scores in the fourth, finished the game 13-of-25 for 192 yards with the two touchdowns and one interception.
It took all of 16 seconds for Massillon to throw the first punch of the game. Tyree Broyles took the opening kickoff virtually untouched to the end zone for a 91-yard touchdown return and a 7-0 Tigers lead.
“We actually thought that if they kicked it to Tyree, that we would take it to the house,” Moore admitted.
It was a lead that lasted less than two-and-a-half minutes. After Jujuan Forte brought back the subsequent kickoff 55 yards to the Massillon 35, Boardman took a quick six plays to traverse that distance for the game-tying score.
Maurice Pickard did the honors for the Spartans, scoring on a 7-yard run with 9:22 left in the first quarter. Tommy Fryda’s point-after kick squared it at 7-7.
Massillon’s response was almost as fast as Boardman’s. The Tigers took all of 2:19 to go 57 yards in eight plays, with Jamir Thomas running it in from the Spartan 6 for a 14-7 lead after Klay Moll’s PAT kick with 6:56 remaining in the first quarter.
With three touchdowns in the first 5:04 of the game, it seemed like a shootout was on the way. Except that it would take just over 14 minutes of clock time — and six combined possessions between the two teams — before another score.
Boardman would end the scoring moratorium with an 8-yard touchdown run by O’Horo with 4:47 remaining in the first half. The Spartans, though, missed the PAT kick to keep the Tigers in front at 14-13.
Massillon, after scoring the first two times it touched the ball, was limited to just 60 yards on its final five first-half possessions. Boardman, meanwhile, was held to 50 yards on its four non-scoring drives in the first half.
Boardman would take the lead on the opening drive of the second half. Fryda’s 36-yard field goal just sneaked over the crossbar to cap a 14-play, 52-yard drive to make it 16-14 Spartans.
O’Horo’s 5-yard touchdown run with 9:19 remaining made it 23-14 Boardman. O’Horo finished with 48 rushing yards on 17 carries, while throwing for 89 yards while completing 12-of-21 passing.
Massillon rallies to take out archrival McKinley Oct 28, 2017 5:54 PM
CANTON The last time Massillon played archrival McKinley, in the last game at Fawcett Stadium, it saw its heart ripped out by a late Bulldog score. The first time the Tigers played in Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium, their archrivals’ sparkling new home, they weren’t about to allow lightning to strike twice.
Massillon emerged from the 128th meeting against McKinley with a 16-15 victory which wasn’t completely secured until Sam Snyder’s 45-yard field goal with 90 seconds remaining was pushed wide left.
“It was swinging back and forth, back and forth,” said Massillon running back Jamir Thomas, who rushed for 124 yards and a touchdown on 42 carries. “It was a hard-fought game, really. They’re a really good team; they’re top-10 in the state in Division I. Us coming in and beating them, that’s a good thing.”
The Tigers, who will take a 7-3 record into Friday’s Division II Region 7 quarterfinal against Boardman at Paul Brown Tiger Stadium, took the lead for good on Tre’Von Morgan’s 8-yard touchdown catch – and Klay Moll’s point-after kick – with 6:02 remaining. For both Morgan and Moll, there was a bit of redemption.
Morgan dropped a sure touchdown catch on Massillon’s first possession of the second half, which would have extended its 9-7 halftime lead. Moll, meanwhile, suffered his first missed PAT kick of his career after the Thomas’ 2-yard run in the second quarter put the Tigers in front.
Morgan, though, atoned on the go-ahead drive with a 52-yard catch-and-run to the McKinley 25, then with the touchdown which tied the game at 15-15. Moll, then, gave Massillon the lead with the point-after kick.
“It’s was very big,” said Morgan, who had a team-high 77 yards on four catches. “I dropped one in the end zone, and they just kept telling me to keep playing. So I kept playing.”
One part of Massillon’s team which kept playing the entire game was its defense, which never allowed McKinley’s high-octane offense to get into a consistent groove. The Bulldogs did gain 267 total yards to the Tigers’ 248, but the explosive plays weren’t there.
The biggest play for McKinley was a 40-yard run by Javon Lewis to the Massillon 31 on the final Bulldogs drive of the game. However, that drive netted just three yards before Snyder’s field-goal try.
“A lot of it was heart,” Massillon linebacker Logan Anania said. “It was just who wanted it more. I feel like we did.”
McKinley’s two scoring drives accounted for 127 of the 267 yards. The first, a 55-yard march, put the Bulldogs in front 7-0 with 8:13 left in the first quarter on Keyshawn Watson’s 13-yard touchdown run.
The second, a 72-yard drive, ended on a Josh Chandler 1-yard run with 9:15 remaining. Sio Saipaia ran in the two-point conversion on a counter play for a 15-9 McKinley lead.
Chandler, playing just his second game after missing four with an injury, ran for a team-high 107 yards on 18 carries for McKinley. Watson, the former Tiger playing in his second game for the Bulldogs, was limited to just 32 yards, while also having a kickoff return for a touchdown negated by a hold and then muffing a punt.
McKinley rushed for 242 yards as a team on 38 attempts.
“We felt we were able to run the ball on them,” said McKinley coach Dan Reardon, whose team enters the playoffs at 8-2. “And we really did a good job. I don’t know what the yardage was, but we felt like our ability to run the ball never wavered. (But) we put ourselves in some long yardage situations with some penalties.”
If there was an Achilles’ heel for McKinley all day, beyond the Tiger defense, it was those penalties. The Bulldogs were flagged 13 times for 110 yards, including nine for 65 in the first half alone.
“Cost us the game,” Reardon said of the flags.
One negated Watson’s kickoff return for a score immediately after Massillon went ahead 9-7. The Bulldogs also help set up the Tigers’ first touchdown when it was flagged for holding on the kickoff, then hit for a hold and a false start to force them to put from their own 10.
A 30-yard punt by McKinley put Massillon on the Bulldog 40. Seven plays later, the Tigers scored on Thomas’ 2-yard run for their first lead of the day.
It wouldn’t last the remainder of the game. However, Massillon would still have the last lead of the game.
Redemption story: Morgan’s TD catch keys Massillon win against McKinley Oct 28, 2017 6:30 PM
CANTON Redemption is available in high school football.
Seizing it is another matter entirely.
Massillon’s Tre’Von Morgan snatched his Saturday afternoon. McKinley’s Sam Snyder came painfully close to grabbing his own.
Morgan’s 8-yard touchdown reception and Klay Moll’s ensuing extra point midway through the fourth quarter rallied Massillon to a 16-15 win against McKinley at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium in the 128th edition of this rivalry.
A crowd of approximately 14,000 braved wet, cold conditions to christen Benson Stadium in a matchup that dates back to 1894.
Saturday wasn’t a masterpiece, but as is usually the case it was close at the end, with the game being decided by two points or less for a third straight year.
Junior Jamir Thomas, who two years ago had McKinley’s Dominque Robinson flip over him for the winning score and last year helped bleed out the clock in a Massillon win, called the feeling “incredible” after the Tigers beat the Bulldogs for the sixth time in the last seven meetings and improved to 70-53-5 in the series.
No one would have been surprised if he had described the feeling as “dead tired,” considering he carried the ball a season-high 42 times for 124 yards and a touchdown Saturday.
“I feel good. I feel real good,” said Thomas, a Canton native, who waved good-bye at the McKinley stands after the game. “We lift and prepare for this and we come out here and wear teams down. That’s our motto and that’s just what we do.”
Morgan, a 6-foot-6 junior, dropped what would have been a 29-yard touchdown pass midway through the third quarter. That would have put the Tigers up two scores. They eventually turned the ball over on downs, and then found themselves trailing early in the fourth quarter when McKinley’s Josh Chandler scored on a 1-yard touchdown run.
“They just told me to keep playing,” Morgan said about his teammates, “so I kept playing.”
With Massillon down 15-9, it was Morgan’s 47-yard catch and run that flipped the field. The Tigers eventually faced a fourth-and-3 from the McKinley 8. After a timeout, sophomore quarterback Aidan Longwell found Morgan wide open on a fade route for the score with 6:02 left.
Moll, who missed a point-after try earlier in the game for the first time in his career, knocked this one through to give the Tigers the 16-15 lead.
“Roll the dice. Big game,” Massillon head coach Nate Moore said about his decision. “We thought about playing for field goal-field goal, but how often do you get that close with a chance like that? We took a chance and the kids executed.”
Morgan finished with four catches for 77 yards, while Austin Kutscher added six catches for 37 yards. Longwell, who had been knocked out of the game briefly in the first half with a leg injury, returned to complete 11 of 17 passes for 121 yards, the one TD and no interceptions.
“That shows a lot of guts,” Moore said about Longwell.
McKinley got two shots after Morgan’s touchdown.
The first one was short-circuited by a penalty — a theme throughout the day for the Bulldogs.
The second one had life when Javon Lewis broke loose on a 40-yard run.
McKinley eventually faced a fourth-and-7 from Massillon’s 28 with 1:30 left. After a timeout, Bulldogs head coach Dan Reardon elected to have Snyder, his senior kicker, try a 45-yard field goal for the lead.
It was Snyder who missed from 37 yards last year in the fourth quarter against Massillon with his team down 21-19.
“I felt good about Sam kicking it,” Reardon said about Saturday. “A bunch of kids said, ‘Yeah, give him a chance. He’ll make this kick.’ And we went with it. He felt good about it.”
But Snyder’s attempt sailed just to the left of the uprights. Massillon ran out the clock from there.
Massillon dominated the time of possession 31:00 to 17:00 thanks in part to its running game with Thomas and clutch play on third down (9 of 17), but also because the Bulldogs couldn’t get out of their own way.
McKinley was penalized 13 times (which matched a season high) for 101 yards. A holding penalty in the first half negated Keyshawn Watson’s 90-yard kickoff return for a touchdown and the flags plagued the Bulldogs throughout.
“Cost us the game,” Reardon said, the disappointment seeping out of him.
McKinley (8-2), which has lost two straight after starting 8-0, did not look like the No. 8-ranked team in the state in Division I. Junior QB Alijah Curtis completed only three passes for 24 yards and was intercepted once. Watson muffed a punt.
Chandler, in his second game back after missing four straight because of a knee injury, carried 18 times for 107 yards. Watson, the former Massillon player, had a 13-yard touchdown run on the game’s opening drive. McKinley finished with 242 yards on the ground.
Both McKinley and Massillon had clinched playoff spots entering Saturday. The Tigers (7-3) will host Boardman next week in the first round of the Division II, Region 7 playoffs, according to JoeEitel.com’s projections. Official pairings will be announced Sunday by the OHSAA.
McKinley could have earned a home game in Week 11 by beating Massillon. Now the Bulldogs will go on the road to either Cleveland St. Ignatius or Lakewood St. Edward next week.
SCALZO: In gritty game, Tigers ride workhorse to victory
Joe Scalzo – Canton Repository CANTON The upset was complete, the victory bell was ringing, the party was starting, but before he joined his teammates, the Tiger at the end of the postgame handshake line wanted to leave a parting message for his arch-rivals.
So Massillon junior Jamir Thomas jogged over to the nearly-empty home stands at Tom Benson Hall of Fame stadium, formed a “W” with his hands and waved goodbye.
Two years after McKinley quarterback Dominique Robinson dove over Thomas’ body and into the end zone in the final game at the former Fawcett Stadium, Thomas was leaving Canton’s iconic field in a much better mood.
“This definitely feels better,” he said moments after singing the alma mater with his teammates in front of Massillon’s student section following the 16-15 victory. “Two years ago, him (Robinson) diving in the end zone really killed everything, especially coming in the last moments of the game.
“This year, we were able to run the ball, control the line of scrimmage and control the game clock. We came out here to win, and that’s what we did.”
In a game that had all the beauty of a construction site, the 6-foot-1, 212-pound Thomas repeatedly pounded away at the inside of the McKinley defense, chipping paint off his helmet and precious seconds off the clock, 3.0 yards at a time.
He carried the ball 42 times for 124 yards — exactly half of the Tigers’ total offensive output — as Massillon controlled the ball for 31 of the game’s 48 minutes.
It was the type of game only Jim Tressel (or Mike Fratello) would love, but it was the type of game Massillon needed to play.
“We had a plan going in and we were able to see that through in a lot of ways,” said Tigers coach Nate Moore, who improved to 2-1 in the rivalry against McKinley coach Dan Reardon. “We felt it was important to help our defense out.”
At times, the Pups seemed to feel the same way. They were flagged 13 times for 101 yards. They muffed a punt. They made attempting a forward pass seem as risky as buying junk bonds.
It was all the more mystifying considering this is a team that has more seniors than the Hartville Kitchen at lunchtime.
Massillon, meanwhile, was supposed to be a year away from contention after graduating four FBS recruits, a two-year starter at quarterback and its most dynamic wide receiver. But the Tigers’ young team kept getting better, while the Bulldogs’ experienced team — one that looked like state championship contenders just a few weeks ago — seems to have stalled.
“That team is good and we were definitely the underdogs,” Thomas said. “But in this game, it really doesn’t matter. You can be 0-9. Anybody can win.”
McKinley still finishes the regular season with an 8-2 record. It still has a share of the Federal League title. It still has its third straight playoff berth. But all that seems empty as the Pups stumble into the postseason for the second straight year.
Instead of hosting a first-round playoff game, the Bulldogs will likely travel north to play one of Cleveland’s two Catholic powerhouses. If they win, the other one likely awaits.
Anyone like those odds?
Massillon, meanwhile, benefits from playing in Division II, Region 7, the same region Perry rolled through over the past two years en route to back-to-back state championship game appearances. With the Panthers stuck in Division I and no frightening foe looming in the first three rounds, does anyone think the Tigers can’t do the same?
But all that can wait. The playoffs should never overshadow high school football’s biggest rivalry. Saturday’s game may not have been an instant classic — more like a distant throwback — but it was everything the city’s fans come to expect.
Meaningful. Emotional. Consequential.
Oh, and physical. Boy, was it physical.
“A lot of it was heart,” Tigers linebacker Logan Anania said. “It was just who wanted it more.
Irish bottles up Tiger offense in come-from-behind victory
Chris Easterling – The Independent
MASSILLON There equation was simple for Massillon’s offense through eight games. Run the football to win football games.
Then, in the ninth game against St. Vincent-St. Mary, the Tigers were held to their lowest rushing total of the season. Not surprising, the Massillon offense was also held to its lowest point total of the season as the Irish came out of Paul Brown Tiger Stadium with a 13-10 victory.
“We couldn’t get anything going running the football,” said Tigers coach Nate Moore, whose team will take a 6-3 record into next Saturday’s showdown at archrival McKinley. “That’s where football’s started for 150 years. You have to be able to run the football.”
Instead, Massillon was held to just 111 yards on the ground on 32 attempts by a St. Vincent-St. Mary defense which posted its signature performance of the season. The previous season low for the Tigers on the ground was 123 yards in the opener against Mentor, which was, not surprisingly, also a loss.
Of Massillon’s rushing yardage, 40 came on its opening drive of the game. That ended in a 30-yard Klay Moll field goal for a 3-0 lead with 6:45 remaining in the first quarter.
“They just fought,” said an emotional Irish coach Marcus Wattley, whose 6-3 team took the lead for good at 13-10 on a 10-yard Ryan Fischer-to-Scott Walter touchdown pass with 3:15 remaining. “I told them before the game, ‘It’s going to take 48 minutes. Nothing short of that; not 42, not 24. It’s going to take 48 minutes.'”
Massillon, which went three-and-out on its subsequent possession after the Irish go-ahead score and never saw the football again, took a 10-0 lead on Jamir Thomas’ 7-yard run with 4:20 remaining in the second quarter. That score was set up by an interception one play earlier by Max Turner which he returned 42 yards.
The Tigers wouldn’t get closer than the Irish 41 after that play. That possession was ended when St. V’s Joshua Jones came up with an interception on a deep pass by Aidan Longwell, only his second pick thrown this season.
Longwell was 5-of-16 passing for just 32 yards. His longest pass was a 10-yarder to Tre’Von Morgan in the first quarter.
The Irish safeties remained deep for the entirety of the game, taking away the deep routes from Massillon. Moore said the defensive scheme made perfect sense because of what the Tigers were unable to do all night.
“We have to run the football,” Moore said. “If they can play off, and we can’t run the football, then why would see a coverage that would allow us to just throw the ball down the field.”
While St. Vincent-St. Mary was bottling up Massillon’s offense, the Tiger defense was doing a solid enough job of keeping the Irish in check as well. St. V had just 108 total yards in the first half, which ended with the Tigers in front 10-0.
The struggles Massillon created for the Irish was enough to force Wattley to make a quarterback change. Fischer came on for the final two first-half possessions, after Turner’s pick helped set up the Tigers with a two-score lead.
Fischer would make a huge 21-yard pass to Walter to set up the Irish’s first score, a 1-yard run by Terrence Keyes with 9:26 left in the third quarter. The point-after kick was blocked, making it 10-6 Tigers.
Fischer finished 7-of-15 for 73 yards. Keyes rushed for 198 yards on 31 carries.
“Ryan came off and he led,” Wattley said. “I can’t say enough about it. He prepares himself like he’s a starter. He got his opportunity to make plays today, and he made them.”