Tag: <span>Justin Zwick</span>

Massillon Tigers Black Letter Logo History

2001: Massillon 17, Mansfield Senior 14

Tiger defense comes To the rescue
Massillon wins mistake filled 17-14 verdict over Mansfield

Independent Sports Writer

The Massillon Tigers beat the Mansfield Tygers at their own game Friday night.

Bolstered by a superb defensive effort, the Tigers edged the Tygers 17‑14 before an announced crowd 11,276 at Arlin Field.

“Our defense played four good quarters of football, “said Massillon linebacker Tony Graves. “They were a good team.”

Massillon didn’t secure its fifth victory against one loss until cornerback Brian Hill picked off a Mansfield pass intended for wide receiver Jeff Montgomery near the Tigers ‑ 40‑yard line with 22.4 seconds left in regulation.

“We work hard on defense,” said Massillon head coach Rick Shepas. “The. kids are starting to understand the scheme and they’re doing a better job of executing it.

“Mansfield has a well balanced offense. To hold them to 14 points is a credit to our defense.”

With tackle Dan Speicher controling the middle, Graves and fellow linebackers Brock Hymes and Andy Alleman filling the gap, and 190‑pound defensive back Markeys Scott hitting with the ferocity of a player 60 pounds heavier, the Massillon defense limited Mansfield to only 46 rushing yards on 25 attempts.

“We knew we had to stop the run and we knew we had to play four quarters of defense,” Graves said. “We did both.”

In the second half, the Tigers also established a running game that helped keep their defense off the field.

After being held to a paltry two rushing yards in 11 carries the first half, Shepas switched from a one‑back formation to a two‑back set. Robert Oliver, the starter, was joined by Ricky Johnson in the backfield. The tandem combined to rush for 128 yards on 22 carries during the final two quarters.

Mansfield played a lot of nickel defense on us, so we decided to go with the two backs,” Shepas said. “Both ‘of those backs ran hard.”

Johnson a 6‑foot, 211‑pound junior, scored Massillon’s lone second‑half touchdown on a 2‑yard sweep to the right at the 3:29 mark of the third quarter. That touchdown capped a nine‑play, 81‑yard drive that was aided by a costly pass interference penalty against. Mansfield.

With Massillon facing a third‑and‑14 from its 15, the Tigers fired a quick out. Mansfield was flagged for pass interference, giving Massillon an automatic first down at the 30.

Justin Zwick and wideout Devon Jordan teamed up for 16 yards, moving the ball to the 50.

Then it was back to the running game. Johnson picked up nine yards off right tackle. Oliver took a handoff from Zwick and raced 25 yards to the 16.

With Mansfield focusing on the run, Zwick hit tight end A.J. Collins on a crossing pattern for 14 yards. One play later, Johnson scored.

While the Massillon defense played a strong game, the special teams struggled. The Tigers missed a short field goal, fumbled away a punt, had a punt blocked and allowed a long kickoff return following Johnson’s touchdown.

Marcus Davis took the ensuing kickoff at the Mansfield 10, cut to the right and found a hole at the 20. He motored down the right side and was hauled down at the Massillon 39.

Mansfield needed eight plays to score. The big play of the drive was a 29-yard pass play from Georg Andress to wide receiver Dane Greer, who made a leaping catch at the Massillon 1. One play later, Andress sneaked over from left guard. Hollister Histed’s conversion kick cut Massillon’s lead to 17-14 with :43.8 left in the third quarter.

The Tigers had a chance to tack on an insurance touchdown late in the game, but fumbled the ball out of the end zone for a touchback.

Hill’s interception, however, denied Mansfield any hope of a dramatic victory.

Massillon’s first touchdown was set up by its defense. Alleman intercepted a pass at the Mansfield 42 and returned the ball six yards before he was brought down.

Operating on a short field, the Tigers put together a six-play, 36-yard drive. Zwick and Jordan teamed up on a curl route for 15 yards, moving the ball to the 20.

Mansfield held Massillon to five yards on two plays before Zwick hooked up with Stephon Ashcraft for nine yards and a first down.

On one of the few successful first-half running plays, Oliver swept the right side and scored. Abdul’s extra point made it 7-0 at the 6:35 mark of the first quarter.

The Tigers made it 10-0 when Abdul booted a 54-yard field goal at the 2:59 mark of the first quarter, a kick that cleared the uprights at the west end of the field by five yards.

Massillon then fumbled away a punt at its own 43 late in the first quarter. On Mansfield’s first play following the turnover. Andress hit Montgomery on a deep post at the Massillon 10 and the wide receiver broke free for a touchdown.

Mansfield had a chance to tie the game late in the first half. Mike Donaldson, a 6-6, 320-pound tackle, gave the Tygers the ball at the Massillon 45 by blocking a punt. The Tigers tried to quick kick on third down, but the strategy backfired.

After the Tygers were stalled at the Massillon 29, they tried a 46-yard field goal. The attempt sailed wide to the left and the Tigers held a three-point lead, one they also had at the end of game.

First downs rushing 6 6
First downs passing 13 5
First downs by penalty 2 0
TOTAL first down 21 11
Net yards rushing 124 46
Net yards passing 231 157
TOTAL yards 355 203
Passes attempted 37 29
Passes completed 24 14
Passes intercepted 0 2
Punts 6 4
Punting average 32 25.8
Fumbles/Lost 3/2 0/0
Penalties 7 4
Yards penalized 60 50

MASSILLON 10 0 7 0 17
MANSFIELD 7 0 7 0 14

M – Robert Oliver 6 run (Abdul kick)
M ‑ David Abdul 54-yard field goal
Man – Monigomery 43 pass from Andres (Histed kick)
M – Ricky Johnson 2 run (Abdul kick)
Man – Andress 1 run (Histed kick)

Massillon rushing: Oliver 20-98, Johnson 9-47.
Mansfield rushing: Phillips 7-22, Perdue 7-12.

Massillon passing: Zwick 24-37-231.
Mansfield passing: Andress 14-29-157 1 TD, 2 INT.

Massillon Receiving: Jordan 11-106, Collins 4-52, Williams 4-32, Oliver 1-19.
Mansfield Receiving: Montgomery 6-78, Davis 5-48.

Justin Zwick

Massillon Tigers Black Letter Logo History

2001: Massillon 54, Austintown Fitch 14

Tigers flatten Fitch
Massillon rallies from 7-0 deficit for 40-point win

Independent Sports Writer

If ever there was a perfect opponent for the Massillon Tigers on the heels of their disappointing loss at St. Ignatius last week, it was the reeling Austintown Fitch Falcons.

Program Cover

Fitch, a program that gave the Tigers fits during the mid‑ and late‑1980s and early‑90s, put up precious little resistance after an impressive game‑opening drive as Massillon rolled to a 54‑14 victory in front of 8,528 fans at Paul Brown Tiger Stadium, Friday night.

It was a game that saw several impressive individual performances by the Tigers.

– Justin Zwick passed for 314 yards and five touchdowns with an 18‑of‑32 performance.
– Devon Jordan caught nine passes for 149 yards and five touchdowns.
– Robert Oliver rushed for 131 yards and one touchdown on 17 carries.

“We wanted Justin to do the job he is capable of doing as a quarterback and he did that today,” said Tiger coach Rick Shepas. “And we just want to continue to improve. We’ve been in a number of big games the last couple of years and it is going to payoff. Our guys continue to get better all year long and it’s going to be a fight every week.”

“We knew after last week we had to bounce back and show everyone we weren’t bogged down and everything,” said Jordan. “Now we have a bigger game next week.”

With undefeated Mansfield waiting in the wings for a date with Massillon at Arlin Field next week, the last thing the Tigers needed was a knock‑down, drag‑out contest with Fitch. Early on, however, it appeared they might be in for just that sort of game.

Fitch executed its first possession with a passion and precision that belied its 1‑3 record, taking the opening kickoff and marching 80 yards in 12 plays to take a 7‑0 lead.

The Falcons utilized a no‑huddle offense to keep the Massillon defense on its heels. Fullback Ray Betts, a 5‑foot‑11, 190‑pound senior, was Fitch’s go‑to guy, carrying the football on six plays. He picked up only 15 yards in those half dozen totes but picked up three first downs in the process.

Falcon quarterback Steve Burnich was on target early, hitting wideout Ross Watson for 15 yards and a first down to move the ball to the Massillon 36, then finding wideout Miles Williams at the Tiger 28.

The drive appeared to have stalled when the Falcons set up for third‑and‑10 at the 26. But Williams ran a fade route to the left corner of the end zone and outfought the Tiger defensive back to haul in Burnich’s high‑arcing pass for the touchdown. Shea Stewart added the extra point at 6:47 of the first quarter.

The Tigers countered by moving from their 31 to the Fitch 32 as Oliver ran for 23 yards and caught a 14‑yard pass from Zwick. After a nine‑yard Zwick‑to‑Joe Jovingo aerial, the drive stalled.

David Abdul salvaged it by connecting on a 49‑yard field goal to make it a 7‑3 game at 4:22 of the first quarter.

Fitch got two first downs on its ensuing possession on two Burnich‑to‑Williams passes but the drive stalled at midfield and the Falcons’ punt rolled out of bounds at the Massillon 10.

The Tigers then drove the length of the field, moving 90 yards in 11 plays while eating almost five minutes off the game clock.

Again Oliver was the main man, rushing the football seven times for 42 yards.

Massillon scored when Zwick, after a fine play action fake to Rickey Johnson, hit Jordan in the end zone from five yards out. Abdul’s point‑after made it 10‑7 Tigers at 8:04 of the second quarter.

A holding penalty on Massillon gave Fitch its only first down on the Falcons’ next possession. The visitors, however, were forced to punt after just three snaps.

The Tigers took over at their 35 and went back to the quick‑strike mode that characterized their offense in the first four weeks of the season.

On third‑and‑eight from the 37, Zwick rolled right and threw a strike to Jordan along the right sideline. The 6‑3, 193‑pound junior wideout hauled in the pass at the Fitch 40, shook off an arm tackle and raced down the boundary untouched into the end zone for the touchdown.

Abdul was true on the conversion kick and Massillon led 17‑7 at 5:28 of the second quarter.

Massillon’s final first half score came after Fitch’s fourth punt, on a possession that began at the Fitch 48.

Zwick zeroed in on Jovingo for a 16‑yard gain on second down to advance the ball to the Falcon 28.

Three plays later, a Zwick pass went through the hands of A.J. Collins and into the hands of Jovingo for an eight‑yard pick‑up and another first down at the 13‑yard line.

After two incompletions, Jordan broke open over the middle on a slant pattern and Zwick put the football between the 8 and the 2 on his wideout’s jersey for the touchdown to make it a 23‑7 contest at halftime.

“Devin Jordan is really proving to be a big‑play receiver,” said Shepas. “He has done it all year. He continues to run well with the football after the catch.

“The neat thing about Devon is he is catching the football everywhere. He is catching it in traffic. In the downpour he catches the wet ball above his head which is one of the tougher catches you have to make.”

Massillon opened the third quarter with a nine‑play, 77‑yard scoring drive that once again featured Oliver. He opened the possession with a 10‑yard burst over left guard, had two more runs that totaled 31 yards, and capped it with a three‑yard touchdown dive at 9:18 of the period. Abdul’s conversion put Massillon up 30‑7.

Fitch, taking advantage of a 51‑yard kickoff return, drove to the Massillon 8 on its initial second‑half possession. But senior tackle Dan Speicher sacked Burnich for a 15‑yard loss on fourth down to get the ball back for the Tigers.

On first down from the Massillon 23, Zwick hit Jovingo with a 15‑yard pass to the 40. Taking advantage of a sensational block by Rickey Johnson, Jovingo went down the sideline to the end zone for a 77‑yard scoring play to make it a 37‑7 contest.

“Rickey Johnson ran 20 yards downfield to make the block,” gushed Shepas. “That was the best block of the night and a very unselfish play by Rickey.”

The Tigers tacked on 17 more points on an 11‑yard Zwick‑to‑Jordan touchdown pass, a jaw‑dropping 53‑yard field goal by Abdul, and Johnson’s 55‑yard scoring jaunt down the left sideline that was made possible by a textbook seal block by Jordan.

“Coaches tell us we all can catch but the thing we have to do is block,” Jordan said. “So I just try to show that every game and every practice. It’s getting better.”

First downs rushing 9 6
First downs passing 14 7
First downs by penalty 1 3
TOTAL first downs 24 16
Net yards rushing 248 56
Net yards passing 314 188
TOTAL yards 562 244
Passes attempted 33 24
Passes completed 18 12
Passes intercepted 0 2
Punts 1 5
Punting average 30 36
Fumbles/Lost 1/0 4/2
Penalties 13 2
Yards penalized 110 20

MASSILLON 3 20 24 7 54
FITCH 7 0 7 0 14

F ‑ Williams 26‑yard pass from Burnich (Stewart kick)
M ‑ Abdul 49‑yard field goal
M ‑ Jordan 5‑yard pass from Zwick (Abdul kick)
M ‑ Jordan 63‑yard pass from Zwick (Abdul kick)
M ‑ Jordan 13‑yard pass from Zwick (Kick failed)
M ‑ Oliver 3‑yard run (Abdul kick)
M ‑ Jovingo 77‑yard pass from Zwick (Abdul kick)
F ‑ Williams 69‑yard pass from Burnich (Stewart kick)
M ‑ Jordan 11 ‑yard pass from Zwick (Abdul kick)
M ‑ Abdul 53‑yard field goal M ‑ Johnson 55‑yard run (Abdul kick)

Massillon rushing: Oliver 17‑131, Johnson 3‑66, Boyd 7‑34.
Austintown Fitch rushing: Betts 17‑47, Tate 9‑41.

Massillon passing: Zwick 18‑32‑314 5 TDs; HeIscel 0‑1‑0.
Austintown Fitch passing: Burnich 12‑24‑188 2 TDs, 2 INTs.

Massillon receiving: Jordan 9‑149, Jovingo 4‑109, Oliver 3‑41.
Austintown Fitch receiving: Williams 5‑123, Betts 2‑11.

Justin Zwick

Massillon Tigers Black Letter Logo History

2001: Massillon 26, Cleveland St. Ignatius 40

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

Independent Sports Editor

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

Program Cover

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Tigers responded by moving 78 yards in 11 plays.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ignatius, sensing a momentum swing, battled back.

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

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

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

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

Gibbs’ kick made it 28‑12 at halftime.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Shepas’ crew
closing gap on Wildcats

Chris Easterling

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Justin Zwick

Massillon Tigers Black Letter Logo History

2001: Massillon 59, Akron Garfield 0

Massillon shuts out Garfield; Iggy’s next

Independent Sports Editor

St. Ignatius Week officially began at 10:43 p.m. Friday.

That’s when the Massillon Tigers saw the final second click off the scoreboard clock at the south end of Paul Brown Tiger Stadium, closing a 59‑0 victory over the Garfield Rams in front of 9,475 high school football fans.

Program Cover

Head coach Rick Shepas ‑ standing on the block ‘M’ at midfield ‑ gathered his players and coaching staff around him after the game and explained the facts of life with regard to the next opponent on the Tigers’ schedule, the vaunted St. Ignatius Wildcats, a team Massillon has never tamed.

“We’re going to have a chance to go up and scout them,” said Shepas. “They’re a good football team. They’ve always been. Our program is improving and we’re going to find out where our program is at next week.”

The Tigers did a commendable job of focusing on the here and now in dispatching Garfield, a foe Shepas described as “dangerous” early in the week as his squad began preparations for the Golden Rams.

The Massillon defense pitched its first shutout of the 2001 campaign, a fact that was not lost on senior outside linebacker Andy Alleman.

“We’re pretty happy but we need to improve quite a bit for next week,” Alleman said. “We had a lot of mistakes. We just made some nice plays here and there and that’s how we got the shutout.

“We’re pretty excited for the (St. Ignatius) game. It’s going to be a big game. But we can’t have nearly as many mistakes as we did tonight or we could get beat.”

The closest Garfield came to scoring on the Massillon defense was when the Golden Rams penetrated to the Massillon 22‑yard line, and missed a 39‑yard field goal in the second quarter.

Shepas admitted his charges were shooting for the shutout.

“(A shutout) is what we wanted going into the game,” Shepas said. “We were looking for that. The kids have been working hard defensively.”

The Tigers had their way with Garfield almost from the beginning, scoring on their first four possessions of the evening, none of which took more than two minutes off the game clock.

On its first possession, Massillon ‑ beginning at its own 26 after a Garfield punt ‑ moved 74 yards in six plays.
Two Robert Oliver running plays netted 23 yards to get things started.

After Justin Zwick hooked up with Devin Jordan for 18 yards and Massillon’s third first down in as many snaps, Oliver swept around left end for nine yards to set up a third‑and‑one from the Rams’ 25.

Zwick, lining up in the shotgun, rolled to his left and found Jordan wide open at the 10. The 6‑foot‑3, 185‑pound junior jogged untouched into the end zone for the touchdown. David Abdul’s conversion kick was true and Massillon led 7‑0 at 8:03 of the first quarter.

Garfield could do nothing on its ensuing possession and punted after three snaps, with the ball rolling dead at the 50‑yard line.

Massillon’s second scoring drive began when David Hill took a screen pass from Zwick and picked up eight yards on first down.

Two plays later Zwick rolled left and completed a pass to Joe Jovingo for 18 yards to the Garfield 15.

From there, Oliver picked up eight yards around left end on first down to the Garfield 7. Then Zwick rolled right and fired a bullet to an uncovered Stephon Ashcraft in the end zone. Abdul’s point after was good and Massillon’s lead with 14‑0 at 3:55 of the first quarter.

On its third possession of the evening, Garfield picked up its third first down of the game but was forced to punt three plays later when Justin Princehorn sniffed out a reverse and brought down Austin Clopton for a two‑yard gain on third‑and‑10.

A high snap was bobbled by the Garfield punter, who finally fell on the football, giving Massillon possession on downs at the Golden Rams’ 33.

Four plays later, Abdul nailed a 28‑yard field goal and the Tigers were up 17‑0 early in the second quarter.

The Massillon defense surrendered a couple of first downs on Garfield’s ensuing possession, but an option play on third‑and‑six lost 10 yards and the Rams were forced to punt.

A clipping penalty on the Tigers negated a spectacular 60‑yard punt return to the end zone by Michael White, but the yellow flag only prolonged the inevitable.

Beginning at their own 24, Massillon went to the ground game. Oliver gained 16 yards up the middle. Rickey Johnson carried for 12 more, then Oliver found seven yards around left end.

On second‑and‑3 from the Garfield 41, Zwick zeroed in on Jordan running a deep out pattern for 27 yards.

Johnson scored on the very next play, skirting right end from 15 yards out. Abdul’s right foot made it 24‑0 Massillon at 7:29 of the first half.

Amazingly, Massillon’s first four possessions of the game resulted in three touchdowns and a field goal as the Tigers generated 240 yards of total offense in the first half.

“That seems to be the way its going,” Shepas said of his team’s quick‑strike ability. “We’ve got a good front.

“We’re getting a good mix of run and pass right now. Zwick is effective calling the plays. Our running backs ‑ if they don’t put the football on the ground ‑ are pretty effective.”

Zwick established a Massillon Tiger career passing record for most attempts (422) and completions (232) with his 16‑of‑23 performance.

Nine of those completions were to Jordan, who seems to have taken over as No. 12’s favorite receiver.

“There’s a lot of receivers you have to deal with when we come out and throw the football,” Shepas said. “We’ve been spreading the ball around.

“Devin seems to be a go‑to guy but remember we thought he was the guy who was going to replace Drobney in the understanding of the defensive coverage.”

Garfield coach Bill McGee certainly was impressed.

“We knew they were good,” McGee said. “They were more of everything than we thought. On offense they really have the whole shot.

“They’re just real good. This and the 1991 team (coached by Lee Owens) for them are the two best teams I’ve seen them have in the past 20 years or so.”

The Tigers second half scoring was more of the same. A one‑yard Zwick to Jordan toss culminated a seven‑play, 81‑yard drive at 9:14 of the third quarter.

Then Zwick found pay dirt himself on a keeper around right end from three yards out at 1:24 of the third.

Garfield sophomore Norman Taylor was injured on the play and was carted off the field.

McGee indicated Taylor’s injury did not appear serious, but added he will be hospitalized for tests.

Junior linebacker Tony Graves tallied for the Massillon defense, scooping up a Garfield fumble and rumbling 49 yards for a touchdown at 10:33 of the fourth quarter.

Oliver, who rushed for a game‑high 130 yards in just ten carries, got into the scoring column on a 28‑yard jaunt with 7:49 to play, and Terrance Roddy closed the scoring on a 56‑yard burst with 2:22 to play.

First downs rushing 14 9
First downs passing 10 2
First downs by penalty 0 4
TOTAL first downs 24 15
Net yards rushing 279 157
Net yards passing 233 87
TOTAL yards 512 244
Passes attempted 23 12
Passes completed 16 6
Passes intercepted 0 1
Punts 1 1
Punting average 27.0 28.0
Fumbles/Lost 2/1 5/1
Penalties 8 4
Yards penalized 70 39

MASSILLON 14 10 14 21 59
GARFIELD 0 0 0 0 0

M ‑ Jordan 25 pass from Zwick (Abdul kick)
M ‑ Ashcraft 7 pass from Zwick (Abdul kick)
M ‑ FG Abdul 28
M ‑ Johnson 15 run (Abdul kick)
M ‑ Jordan 1 pass from Zwick (Abdul kick)
M ‑ Zwick 3 run (Abdul kick)
M ‑ Graves 49 fumble return (Abdul kick)
M ‑ Oliver 28 run (Abdul kick)
M ‑ Roddy 56 run (Abdul kick)

Massillon rushing: Oliver 10‑130, Roddy 2‑60, Johnson 7‑52, Boyd 3‑25.
Garfield rushing: Clopton 19‑67, Norman 12‑31.

Massillon passing: Zwick 16‑23‑233 3 TDs.
Garfield passing: Donatelli 6‑12‑84 1 INT.

Massillon receiving: Jordan 9‑156 2 TDs, Williams 2‑20.
Garfield receiving: Clopton 3‑42, Russall 3-42.

Justin Zwick

Massillon Tigers Black Letter Logo History

2001: Massillon 54, Mt. Lebanon PA. 20

Massillon goes deep to dump Mt. Lebanon
Passing attack clicks early; Tigers rush for over 300 yards

Independent Sports Editor

On a night in which Mike Cur­renee was honored during pre‑game festivities, Massillon utilized a deep passing attack that would have made the former Tigers mentor proud and blitzed Mt. Lebanon (Pa.) 54‑20, in front of 8,971 at Paul Brown Tiger Stadium, Friday.

Program Cover

Mt. Lebanon, which reached the Pennsylvania Class AAAA state semifinals a year ago, had neither the speed nor the skill to match Massillon’s multiple deep threats.

The Tigers jumped to a 14‑0 lead on their first two possessions and were never headed by the Blue Devils, who were playing their sea­son opener.

Massillon’s quick‑strike, no‑huddle attack was razor sharp in the first 24 minutes of play. None of the Tigers’ four first half touchdown drives took more than five plays and each covered at least 50 yards.

Quarterback Justin Zwick and wideout Devin Jordan had the Mt. Leb defense on its heels early, hook­ing up on the deep post pattern for 45 yards on the Tigers very first play from scrimmage and then con­necting on a 38‑yard touchdown aer­ial that put Massillon up 21‑7 mid­way through the second quarter.

“When we hit that one deep on the first play, we knew we’d have that the whole game,” Jordan said after­ward. “We watched film this week and we knew the middle of the field would be open the whole game.”

But Jordan wasn’t the only Tiger receiver on the same wavelength with Zwick in the first half. On Mas­sillon’s second possession of the evening, Stephon Ashcraft made a lunging 33‑yard reception down the left hash mark. Two plays later, Zwick executed the bootleg, then rolled to his right and found Jordan at the 5. The 6‑foot‑3, 190‑pound ju­nior dove into the end zone to put the hosts up 14‑0.

“From the scrimmage tape we saw, we thought we could get over top of them,” said Tiger coach Rick Shepas. “We burned them deep a couple times and that really helped us in those drives. We mixed up the plays pretty good and got in the end zone.”

Robert Oliver opened the scoring for the Tigers, scor­ing from two yards out on a stretch play around right end at 5:58 of the first quar­ter.

Jordan’s 17‑yard touchdown pass from Zwick at 1:04 of the first culminated a three‑play 50-­yard drive. David Abdul’s second point‑after made it 14‑0.

Mt. Lebanon answered with a well‑conceived 12‑play, 80‑yard march, capped by Brian Young’s one‑yard plunge. Young carried the ball nine times on the drive, which ate over five minutes off the clock.

The Tigers came right back and did it in stunning fashion. On first down Oliver gained 11 yards on a draw play to the Massillon 40, then the senior tailback tore off 22 more yards to the Mt. Leb 38. From there, Zwick found Jordan wide open over the middle for six. Abdul’s kick was true and Massillon was up 21‑7 at 7:03 of the second.

“That score was really big,” Shepas said. “Really big. The touchdown after their score was big because they had some momentum going and they’re a big phys­ical football team and they know how to win.”

Abdul boomed a 51‑yard field goal capping a seven‑play drive to make it 24‑7 at 3:29 of the second quarter.

The Tigers closed the first half scoring with a five‑play, 87‑yard drive. It began when junior running back Ricky Johnson skirted right end for 25 yards.

Three plays later, Zwick found Joe Jovingo along the left sideline for a 37‑yard gain to the Mt. Leb 17.

On first down from there, Ashcraft came open along the left hash mark, pulled in a Zwick aerial at the 3‑yard line and stepped into the end zone.

Abdul’s PAT made it 31‑7 at the intermission.

“They’re probably even better skilled that we saw on film,” said Mt. Lebanon coach Chris Haering. “Their skill players are outstanding and they have great depth at those positions.

“You could tell there was a difference athletically too. They are a well‑prepared team and they played out­standing tonight.”

Mt. Leb scored early on the second half when Dan Breid­ing picked up a Tiger fumble and ran 19 yards to pay dirt to make it a 31‑13 ball game.

After the teams exchanged punts, the Tigers put it out of reach by marching 87 yards in 13 plays. Oliver ran the ball on seven of those snaps, picking up 43 yards as the Massillon offensive line asserted itself.
Defeats Mount Lebanon 54‑20
Zwick rolled to his right and hit Jordan in the end zone from eight yards out for the touchdown. Abdul’s kick made it Massillon 38, Mt. Lebanon 13 with less than a minute to play in the, third quarter.

“The threat of having Zwick is big,” said Oliver, who rushed for 135 yards in 18 carries. “It opens holes up for me and the whole offensive line really stepped it up this week.

“The whole week we were talking about how big and physical this team was coming in and the line stepped up and met the challenge. Coach Shepas thought we needed some work since last week the line and the running game wasn’t that good. We got the work and it was good.”

“We had to step it up tonight,” Jordan said. “Justin is leading our team right now and we’ll get even better. We’re getting better.”

Haering said the tone was set early in the game when Jordan and Ashcraft got behind the Mt. Leb defense and Zwick got them the football.

“Giving up those long balls gives them the sense they could do that whenever they wanted,” Haering said. “It gets our guys thinking about backing up, and then they started running the ball effectively too. They just do a tremendous job.

“They have so many tremendous players that you can’t take away any one guy and over commit because then they’ll beat you with some other guys. Coach Shepas has done an outstanding job putting together this group and they have to be proud with the product they’re putting on the field.”

First downs rushing 18 9
First downs passing 8 3
First downs by penalty 3 1
TOTAL first downs 29 13
Net yards rushing 310 217
Net yards passing 235 41
TOTAL yards 545 258
Passes attempted 25 12
Passes completed 12 7
Passes intercepted 0 1
Punts 1 6
Punting average 29 37.8
Fumbles/Lost 3/1 1/0
Penalties 7 6
Yards penalized 77 75

MASSILLON 14 17 3 16 54
MT. LEBANON 0 7 6 7 20

M ‑ Oliver 2‑yard run (Abdul kick)
M ‑ Jordan 17‑yard pass from Zwick (Abdul kick)
ML ‑ Young 1‑yard run (Schnirel kick)
M ‑ Jordan 38‑yard pass from Zwick (Abdul kick)
M ‑ Abdul 51‑yard field goal
M ‑ Ashcraft 17‑yard pass from Zwick (Abdul kick)
ML ‑ Breiding fumble recovery in end zone
M ‑ Jordan 8‑yard pass from Zwick (Abdul kick)
M ‑ Jovingo 2‑yard pass from Zwick (Abdul kick)
ML ‑ Young 62‑yard run (Schnirel kick)
M ‑ Abdul 48‑yard field goal
M ‑ Boyd 2‑yard run (Kick failed)

Massillon rushing: Oliver 18‑135, Johnson 7‑114, Boyd 5‑37.
Mt. Lebanon rushing: Young 31‑199.

Massillon passing: Zwick 12‑25‑235 5 TDs.
Mt. Lebanon passing: Goff 7‑12‑41 1 INT.

Massillon receiving: Jordan 5‑118, Ashcraft 2‑50, Jovingo 2‑39.
Mt. Lebanon receiving: Klett 2‑15, Hrebinko 2‑12.

‑ Statistics compiled by RICHARD CUNNINGHAM

Justin Zwick

Massillon Tigers Black Letter Logo History

2001: Massillon 41, Westerville South 7

Tigers whip past Westerville South

Independent Sports Editor

It took the Massillon about a quarter of football to get their bearings but once they got rolling it was no contest as the Tigers scored three times in a span of five minutes in the first half on their way to a 41‑7 demolition of Westerville South, in front of 11,165 fans Friday at Paul Brown Tiger Stadium.

Program Cover

The vaunted Massillon passing attack fizzled early, misfiring on five of’ its first six throws. But a slick 16‑yard punt return by junior Craig McConnell seemed to spark Massillon in the latter stages of the first quarter.

Taking over at midfield and trailing 7‑0, the Tigers began their first scoring drive of the 2001 season.

It wasn’t a sustained drive by any means. Justin Zwick completed a swing pass to tailback Robert Oliver for nine yards to the Westerville 42, then rolled to his right and nailed Devin Jordan for a 19 yard completion to the 23.

Zwick then rolled left and found junior wideout Stephon Asheraft all alone in the left corner of the end zone for a 23‑yard touchdown. David Abdul hit the point after and it was a 7‑7 game at 1:26 of the first quarter.

Massillon got two huge defensive plays from two sophomores on Westerville South’s ensuing possession to give the Tigers momentum that they kept the rest of the evening.

Inside linebacker Brock Hymes stopped Westerville’s Anthony Gordon with a fine open field tackle after a four‑yard pass completion on a third‑and‑six play, forcing the Wildcats into an apparent punting situation.

Then, on a fake punt, Tiger safety Michael White crunched intended receiver Tom Coleman just as the ball arrived, jarring it loose for an incompletion to give Massillon the ball on downs at the visitors’ 28‑yard line. Coleman got up after about a minute on his back, and walked slowly to the sideline, trying to shake the cobwebs.

“What a hit!” Shepas said. “I think that changed the momentum of the game. From that point on it seemed every hit we made that was big, it seemed to hurt them a little bit.

“Michael White is an outstanding young player with great speed. He’s a hell of a player. He’s going to be around for a long time.”

Following the change of possession, Massillon went for the jugular. A 23‑yard Zwick to Ashcraft completion along the left sideline moved the ball to the Westerville 5. Two plays later Oliver swept around right end for six. Abdul’s PAT made it 14‑7 Massillon at 11:23 of the second quarter.

Westerville managed two first downs on its ensuing possession but was forced to punt the ball from near midfield.

White fielded the punt for the Tigers at the 40 and found a seam along the right sideline to midfield. White then turned on the jets, cutting back across the field and sprinting all the way to the 8‑yard line before being brought down by the punter.

Two snaps later, Zwick rolled right and dove into the end zone. Abdul’s kick was true and Massillon now owned a 21‑7 lead.

The two teams exchanged fumbles midway through the second quarter before Massillon began its fourth scoring drive at midfield.

Zwick got the drive started with an eight‑yard completion to Joe Jovingo and a roughing the quarterback penalty moved the ball to the Westerville 27.

Two plays later Zwick rolled right and hooked up with Jovingo in the right corner of the end zone for a 24‑yard scoring pass. Abdul’s kick made it 28‑7.

The senior place kicker wrapped up the first half scoring with a 28‑yard field goal as time expired.

Massillon’s defense dominated the second half of play. Westerville’s Teter was sacked on consecutive plays early in the third quarter by Humes and Keith Wade, while Gordon ‑ a 1,000‑yard rusher a year ago as a sophomore ‑ could find absolutely no daylight running between the tackles.

He finished with just 12 yards rushing in 17 carries.

“We came out a little too pumped up and Westerville moved the ball in the first half by doing a nice job of mixing it up,” Shepas said. “We really didn’t have a lot to work with as far as what they were doing.

Wasn’t a lot they could come back to in the third and fourth.”

Oliver keyed the Tigers final touchdown drive of the evening, carrying the football three times for a total of 47 yards, including a 12‑yard burst over right tackle for the touchdown.

Abdul closed the scoring with a 51‑yard field goal.

“I was disappointed in our line up front and in how sluggish we played in the second half,” Shepas said. But not with the final outcome.

First downs rushing 3 5
First downs passing 7 5
First downs by penalty 1 3
TOTAL first downs 11 13
Net yards rushing 89 116
Net yards passing 181 130
TOTAL yards 270 246
Passes attempted 29 25
Passes completed 13 14
Passes intercepted 2 3
Punts 5 5
Punting average 32.2 31.2
Fumbles/Lost 3/2 1/1
Penalties 11 7
Yards penalized 126 59

MASSILLON 7 24 0 10 41
SOUTH 7 0 0 0 7

S ‑ Powers 9 pass from Teter (Slomovitz kick)
M ‑ Ashcraft 23 pass from Zwick (Abdul kick)
M ‑Oliver 5 run (Abdul kick)
M ‑ Zwick 7 run (Abdul kick)
M ‑ Jovingo 24 pass from Zwick (Abdul kick)
M ‑Abdul 28 field goal
M ‑ Oliver 12 run (Abdul kick)
M ‑ Abdul 51 field goal

Massillon rushing: Oliver 14‑64, Johnson 3‑16, Zwick 3‑8.
Westerville South rushing: Gordon 17‑12

Massillon passing: Zwick 13‑29‑181 2 TDs, 2 INTs.
Westerville South passing: Teter 13‑24‑100 1 TD, 3 INTs.

Massillon receiving: Jordan 4‑76, Jovingo 3‑38, Ashcraft 2‑47, Oliver 2‑12, Williams 2‑8.
Westerville South receiving: Powers 6‑40 Walker 5‑49, Odom 2‑36.

Justin Zwick

2000: Massillon 13, Marion Harding 17

Tigers are flagged In playoff opener
Marion Harding garners 17‑13 win; Refs hit Massillon with 15 penalties

Independent Sports Editor

They say you can call holding on virtually every play in a football game and it seemed the officials in Saturday’s Massillon‑Marion Harding regional quarterfinal playoff game were intent on doing just that.

In the end, the eighth offensive holding penalty of the game against the Tigers nullified a 53‑yard Justin Zwick touchdown run and Marion Harding escaped Massillon with a 17‑13 victory as a stunned throng looked on at Paul Brown Tiger Stadium.

Fifteen minutes after the game ended, the east stands of the venerable stadium remained crowded as Tiger partisans seemed to be waiting to wake up from a bad dream.

“Penalties helped us a lot all night long,” conceded Marion Harding coach Tim Hinton. “I know the people in Massillon are going to talk about that part of the game for a long, long time. But I don’t control that part.”

Massillon was penalized a total of 15 times for 153 yards in the contest.

Tiger coach Rick Shepas declined comment on the officiating but tipped his hat to the Presidents, who will get a chance to avenge a regular season‑ending loss to Mansfield when they meet the Tygers in a regional semifinal game next Saturday.

“Marion Harding came in very excited for this football game and very well prepared,” Shepas said. “They are very well coached. They have some outstanding skill players. And they did an outstanding job.

“We had opportunities that we didn’t take advantage of. We played very well at times.

We hurt ourselves at times. I give my kids a lot of credit. They played with character all year long. We’ve overcome a great deal of adversity and made some great progress ourselves.”

David Abdul drilled a 48‑yard field goal to give the Tigers a 13‑10 lead in the game with 8:53 to play in the fourth quarter. It was Massillon’s only tally in the second half of the game.

Marion Harding then put together the game‑winning drive, beginning at its own 20 after Abdul’s kickoff reached the end zone.

Quarterback Kyle Adams picked up a first down at the 37 on a 14‑yard option keeper around left end. Three plays later, Rod Keller got the ball on the belly play and generated another first down at the 47.

The Presidents kept grinding it out, reaching the Massillon 35. On second down, Adams dropped back to pass and nearly had his throw picked off.

The reprieve was key as Adams, on the very next play, executed a throwback screen to Vacarro Bracy, who carried the ball down the left sideline 34 yards to the end zone for the go‑ahead score. It was only third reception all season long for the senior tailback.

“We used that play last week against Mansfield Senior and had a big score on it,” Hinton said.”They didn’t ask for the Mansfield tape. I don’t know if they scouted that game or what. So I thought maybe it was worth a shot and they wouldn’t recognize it, and they didn’t.”

Jeremy Krausz got the extra point through the uprights and ‑ with 1:35 to play following the seven‑minute, 14‑play drive ‑ it was desperation time for the Tigers.

Starting at its own 11, after yet another holding penalty on the kickoff return, Massillon made its final run. Perry James picked up 13 on a draw play. A motion penalty nullified a 20‑yard James run before Zwick hit Montale Watkins for a 20‑yard gain to the 44.

A short pass to Jesse Robinson advanced the ball to the 47, but two incompletions later it was fourth‑and‑seven for Massillon. Zwick dropped back to pass, looked to his right then began to scramble left. The field seemed to open up in front of the junior signal caller and he turned on the jets down the sideline.

As Zwick reached the 10‑yard line and it was clear he was going to score, an official trailing the play threw a penalty flag 20 yards behind the Tiger quarterback and bedlam erupted. Even the usually stoic Shepas was incensed, charging a few steps onto the field before thinking better of it.

‘The call was holding and the ball was placed at the Marion 38‑yard line with a few ticks on the clock remaining. A final‑play desperation throw toward the end zone was intercepted, ensuring the Presidents’ triumph.

“That’s a great, great football team we had to play tonight,” Hinton said. “Give Coach Shepas and that team a lot of credit. They had a lot of adversity on those penalties. They kept fighting back and fighting back. They did a heck of a job.”

The Presidents opened the game as if they were going to blow the Tigers right out of their own stadium, following a 40‑yard kickoff return by Travis Harrah that gave the visitors superb field position at their own 45‑yard line.

Adams got Harding off on the right foot with a 21‑yard completion to Derick Ross to the Massillon 35. Rod Keller’s five‑yard run picked up another first down at the Tiger 23, and one play later Adams dropped a perfectly thrown pass into the arms of Rick Beechum in the end zone for six.

Krausz added the point‑after‑touchdown and Marion Harding was celebrating a 7‑0 lead at 9:00 of the first quarter.

Massillon went three‑and‑out on its initial possession of the evening and a 22‑yard punt return by Ross gave the Presidents good field position once again at midfield.

The Tigers got the ball back when Jared Frank recovered Ross’s fumble after Adams completed a screen pass to the elusive wideout.

Massillon embarked on a 13‑play drive ‑ featuring eight carries by senior running back Perry James ‑ but the Tigers had to settle for a 51‑yard Abdul field goal at 10:05 of the second quarter to make it a 7‑3 Marion Harding advantage.

Harding moved from its 20 to the Massillon 40 on its ensuing possession. The drive stalled when Tiger cornerback Matt Shem made a great recovery to bat away a sure touchdown pass to Ross and the Presidents were forced to punt.

Massillon, taking over at its 10‑yard line, began to click. Zwick hit Robinson along the right sideline for 13 yards.

James swept around left end for 12 yards. Zwick meshed with Devon Jordan along the left sideline for 11 yards.

And James went up the middle for 10 more yards. On four consecutive plays, the Tigers picked up four first downs, moving to the Harding 41.

Two more James runs netted 11 yards and another first down but a holding call against the Tigers set up second‑and‑14.

Zwick dropped back and found Jeremiah Drobney all alone in the middle of the Harding secondary for a 30‑yard pickup to the 3.

Another holding call moved the ball back to the 11 but Zwick got it back and more, scrambling around his right side behind a fine block by James for the touchdown.

Abdul’s kick made it 10‑7 at 2:17 of the first half and that score held at intermission.

First downs rushing 8 9
First downs passing 6 6
First downs by penalty 1 1
TOTAL first downs 15 16
Net yards rushing 189 170
Net yards passing 114 133
TOTAL yards 303 303
Passes attempted 18 18
Passes completed 8 11
Passes intercepted 1 0
Punts 3 2
Punting average 54 30
Fumbles/Lost 1/0 2/2
Penalties 15 7
Yards penalized 153 51

MASSILLON 0 10 0 3 13
MARION 7 0 3 7 17

MH ‑ Beechum 23‑yard pass from Adams (Krausz kick)
M ‑ FG Abdul 50
M ‑ Zwick 11‑yard run (Abdul kick)
MH ‑ FG Krausz 31
M ‑ FG Abdul 48
MH ‑ Bracy 34‑yard pass from Adams (Krausz kick)

Massillon rushing: James 21‑123, Zwick 3‑56, King 2‑5, Oliver 1‑5.
Marion rushing: Bracy 13‑76, Adams 7‑41, Keller 6‑21, Troutman 5‑15, Barron 2‑7.

Massillon passing: Zwick 8‑17‑114 INT, Williams 0‑1‑0.
Marion passing: Adams 11‑17‑133 2 TDs, Ross 0‑1‑0.

Massillon receiving: Drobney 3‑65, Watkins 1‑20, Robinson 2‑16, Jordan 1‑11, Williams 1‑2.
Marion receiving: Ross 4‑41, Bracy 1‑34, Beechum 1‑23, Pezley 2‑20, Braddy 2‑6, Woods 1‑9.

Statistics courtesy of Richard Cunningham

Is there a target on the Tigers?

The real victims in last Saturdays controversial Massillon‑Marion Harding playoff game are the players … and maybe not just the ones wearing the orange‑and‑black.

Certainly when considering the consequences of the ‘Flagfest at PB.’, the Tigers got the worst of it. The sequence of events that led up to the final 17‑14 defeat and elimination from the playoffs was shattering to the fans, let alone the players themselves.

For the 70 or so young men that comprise the Massillon football roster, it was a gut‑wrenching way to wrap up 11 months of preparations, beginning last December when the off‑season weight‑training program commenced.

Those boys had to feel as if the outcome of the game, and thus their season, was determined not by themselves or even the guys on the other sideline. They all must believe in their hearts their fate was sealed by the game officials.

Ironically, the Presidents of Marion Harding could feel victimized as well. Their hard‑fought victory over Massillon, a win which gives instant credibility to any football program, is now tainted somewhat by the questions surrounding the flood of penalty flags against the Tigers.

And a flood it was. Of Biblical proportions.

Official statistics had the number of penalties against Massillon at 15 for 153 yards, compared to seven for 51 yards against Marion Harding.

But the back‑breaker was nine holding penalties against the Tiger offense or kick return team, especially the one that brought back what would have been a game­ winning 53‑yard touchdown run by Justin Zwick in the final half­ minute of play.

Now, there’s been talk from both camps that the Tiger offensive linemen, “hold on every play.”

If that is indeed the case, why wasn’t it called more often during the Tigers’ 10‑game regular season? When a team passes the football as often as this one does, the zebras certainly had ample opportunity to whistle offensive holding infractions.

My own highly‑unofficial statistics for eight Massillon games this season had the Tigers committing 13 holding penalties in those contests. The most in one game was three against Akron Garfield, and there were no holding flags at all in the St. Ignatius game, which just happens to feature Ohio’s best tandem of defensive ends, including University of Michigan‑bound Pat Massey.

So how in the world does a team averaging two holding penalties per game suddenly and without warning ‑ the Tigers had only one holding penalty the week before against McKinley ‑ begin grabbing and clutching the opponent enough to draw NINE holding penalties?

When something like this happens, you have to consider cause and effect. Has Massillon’s reputation been sullied so much by the Jesse Scott recruiting allegations and subsequent court cases that the Tigers can’t get a fair shake on the gridiron?

Or was this simply a case of a referee calling what he truly believed to be holding penalties against the Massillon offensive line?

And one more question to ponder. If this officiating crew was especially vigilant on the holding call, where was the flag on Marion Harding’s game‑winning touchdown play when a Tiger tackler was dragged down by a blocker … in the open field no less?

I don’t believe in conspiracies but I do know if an athletic program take the Miami Hurricanes football team for instance gets branded as an outlaw program, it is a target on their back and it’s hard to shake.

Let’s hope all the recruiting … uh, stuff that has been thrown against Massillon’s wall isn’t starting to stick, making the Tigers a target for every official who buys into the bad‑boy image and decides to take matters into his own hands.

Joe Shaheen is sports editor of The Independent.

Kreg Rotthoff
Massillon Tigers Black Letter Logo History

2000: Massillon 28, Lakewood St. Edward 27

Tigers survive a shootout with St. Ed
Abdul’s clutch 36‑yard field goal gives Massillon a 28‑27 victory

Independent Sports Writer

Maintaining their poise with the outcome on the line, the Massillon Tigers executed the two‑minute offense to perfection, putting themselves in position to win a football game.

Program Cover

And junior kicker David Abdul delivered a 36‑yard field goal with 12 seconds remaining, lifting the Tigers to a 28‑27 victory over Lakewood St. Edward before 6,000 at Lakewood Stadium, Friday night.

“We told him he would get opportunities to kick a lot of field goals and he has done a great job for us,” said Massillon head coach Rick Shepas.

Abdul booted the game winning field goal after Massillon had called time out to set up the kick, followed by back‑to‑back St. Edward time‑outs to ice the kicker.

“I didn’t mind the wait,” smiled Abdul. “Those two (St. Edward time‑outs) kind of relaxed me.”

Abdul, a 5‑foot‑9, 174‑pound junior, booted the ball from the left hashmark. The kick cleared the uprights by 15 yards.

“Everything was perfect,” Abdul said. “The snap by (sophomore) James Helschel was perfect. Marquis Williams is a great holder and he got the ball down quickly.”

Williams, a 5‑ 11, 168‑pound junior, gave Helschel plenty of credit. “He isn’t our regular snapper,” Williams said. “He did a great job in a pressure situation of making a good snap.”

Massillon, which improved to 7‑2 heading into next Saturday’s rivalry against McKinley, got the ball back on its own 16‑yard line and trailing 27‑25 with 2:00 left.

Following a five‑yard penalty, the Tigers came up with a big play that set the stage for Abdul’s game‑winning field goal.

Quarterback Justin Zwick rolled right and was pressured by two St. Edward defenders. Throwing on the run, Zwick found a wideopen Montale Watkins on the right side around the Massillon 45. Watkins, a 5‑11, 180‑pound senior, raced upfield before he was hauled down at the St. Edward 37.

“The cornerback pushed me to the inside, then released,” Watkins said. “The safety never came over, so I just sat there.

“It seemed like the ball took forever to get there, but I just made sure I caught it” before I did anything else.”

The pass play covered 52 yards. There was 1:39 remaining.

Zwick hit running back Perry James over the middle for 12 yards, but St. Edward linebacker Dan Tyler sacked Zwick for a nine‑yard loss, pushing the ball back to the Massillon 34.

James, who rushed for 110 yards in the first half, then got the call on a draw play. He ripped off 15 yards to the 19. Shepas promptly called his final time‑out.

“We have confidence in our offense, no matter how much time is left,” Zwick said.

And Abdul delievered.

St. Edward trailed at halftime, but moved ahead 20‑18 at the 3:42 mark of the third quarter.

Running back Raishaun Stover, a 5‑9, 162‑pound junior, found daylight on an isolation play to the left, running 40 yards for a touchdown. Quarterback Troy Smith added the two‑point conversion on a running play, putting the Eagles ahead.

On St. Edward’s next possession, Smith hit Tyler for a 45‑yard gain on a seam route, moving the ball to the Massillon 34.

On the first play of the fourth quarter, St. Edward was faced with a fourth‑and‑one from the Massillon 25. Smith optioned left for three yards, picking up the first down.

Three plays later, Smith optioned right and pitched the ball to Stover. The running back angled toward the end zone and scored, capping a nine‑play, 82‑yard drive. Brian Pierce added the conversion kick to give the Eagles a 27‑18 lead with 10:22 to play.

Undaunted, the Tigers kept their composure and battled back.

“This was a good win because we had to come from behind against a good football team,” Shepas said. “It also helps to have players who can make big plays.”

St. Edward scored on its first possession of the game, with Smith engineering a six‑play, 61‑yard drive.

Two big plays keyed the drive. Smith hit wide out Michael Bowman for 30 yards on a post pattern that moved the ball to the Massillon 21‑yard line. Two plays later, Smith ran a quarterback draw for 19 yards and a touchdown. The extra‑point kick was wide, but St. Edward led 6‑0 at the 8:39 mark of the first quarter.

The Eagles missed a golden opportunity to expand their lead in the first quarter after the Tigers failed to get off a punt from their own 20‑yard line.

Starting 20 yards away from paydirt, St. Edward failed to pick up a first down. A 29-­yard field goal attempt sailed wide to the right and the Tigers were still only six points down.

Capitalizing on the defensive stand, Mas­sillon made the first of several big offen­sive plays on its second possession. James motored 30 yards to midfield on a draw play. Following a St. Edward offside penal­ty, James picked up nine more yards on a stretch play to the left.

The march bogged down, so Abdul was summoned for a field‑goal try, His attempt from 52 yards out barely cleared the up­right, but the Tigers were on the scoreboard, trailing 6‑3 at the 4:05 mark of the first quarter.

After Massillon failed to pick up a first down when a running play was stopped four yards short of a first down on fourth‑and-six from the St. Edward 43, the Eagles padded their lead.

Stover took a handoff, found a gigantic running lane to his left, and outran the Massillon secondary for a 57‑yard touchdown run. The try for the two‑point conversion on a running play failed, but St. Edward opened up a 12‑3 lead with 8:45 left until halftime.

Wasting little time on each snap, the Tigers managed to take lead before in­termission, scoring on each of their next two possessions.

After the Stover touchdown, Jesse Robin­son’s 22‑yard kickoff return combined with a personal foul penalty called against St Edward gave Massillon the ball at the St. Edward 45.

Wasting little time off the clock, Zwick completed passes of 10 yards to Watkins and 14 yards to Williams, moving the ball to the St. Edward 19.

James then took over, picking up six yards on a draw play, 10 more yards on a sweep to the right, and one more yard on an­other sweep to the right. With St. Edward concentrating on James, King got the ball on a counter play, and rumbled untouched into the end zone. Abdul’s extra‑point made it 12‑10 with 6:02 left in the first half.

St. Edward mounted another drive. Sophomore quarterback Shaun Carney teamed with Tyler for a 68‑yard pass play that moved the ball to the Massillon 10. However, the Tigers stiffened defensively. A fourth down pass to Bowman in the end zone was battled away by cornerback Matt Shem and the Tigers regained possession on their seven with 3:24 remaining in the first half.

Massillon quickly moved 93 yards in nine plays, the last four through the air. Zwick and Robinson hooked up on a 42‑yard pass play that moved the ball to the St. Edward 28.

Zwick came back with a six‑yard completion to James in the right flat, then hit Robinson for 15 more yards, setting up a seven‑yard touchdown strike to tight end Jeremiah Drobney. Zwick hit a wide‑open Robinson in the middle of the end zone, giv­ing the Tigers an 18‑12 lead with 33 seconds left until halftime.

And setting up a wild second half.

First downs rushing 9 11
First downs passing 9 8
First downs by penalty 1 1
TOTAL first downs 19 20
Net yards rushing 194 256
Net yards passing 263 278
TOTAL yards 457 534
Passes attempted 30 17
Passes completed 17 11
Passes intercepted 0 1
Punts 2 2
Punting average 47.0 40.0
Fumbles/Lost 3/2 0/0
Penalties 6 9
Yards penalized 74 99

MASSILLON 3 15 0 10 28
ST. EDWARD 6 6 8 7 27

SE ‑ Smith 19 run (kick failed)
M ‑ FG Abdul 52
SE ‑ Stover 57 run (run failed)
M ‑ King 2 run (Abdul kick)
M ‑ Drobney 7 pass from Zwick (Robinson pass from Zwick)
SE ‑ Stover 40 run (Smith run)
SE ‑Stover 9 run (Pierce kick)
M ‑ Watkins 20 pass from King (Abdul kick)
M ‑ FG Abdul 36

Massillon rushing: James 21‑143, Zwick 3‑61.
St. Edwards rushing: Stover 21‑167 Smith 11‑72.

Massillon passing: Zwick 16‑29 243 yards, 1 INT; King 1‑1 20 yards 1 INT
St. Edwards passing: Smith 5‑9 123 yards, 1 INT; Carney 6‑8 155 yards.

Massillon receiving: Robinson 5‑95, James 4‑22, Watkins 3‑83; Drobney 3‑51
St. Edwards receiving: Tyler 4‑148, Bowman 2‑56

Kreg Rotthoff

Massillon Tigers Black Letter Logo History

2000: Massillon 35, Fremont Ross 0

Tigers swarm over Fremont

Independent Sports Editor

Massillon’s Black Swarm defense, much maligned in back‑to‑back defeats to St. Ignatius and Perry, forced a pair of first half turnovers and pitched their first shutout of the season in the Tigers 35‑0 thrashing of the Fremont Ross Little Giants in front of 8,159 at Paul Brown Tiger Stadium on Homecoming Night, Friday.

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“We had a lot of frustration built up from the past two weeks and we just took it out on Fremont Ross,” said Tiger strong safety Robert Oliver. “We finally put it all together and got the shutout.”

The Massillon defense forced three turnovers and limited Fremont to 232 total yards in its best overall performance of the 2000 season. It was a far cry from the 36‑ and 31‑points surrendered in the previous two outings.

“The last couple games we’ve allowed a lot of points on the scoreboard,” observed Tiger linebacker Justin Princehorn, who had a sack and an interception in the same first half series. “It helped to get the shutout tonight.

“We were a lot more fired up tonight. The defense was really pumped. We’re coming together and building momentum going into the playoffs.”

Tiger cornerback Tyrell McElroy, who had nine solo stops last week against Perry, followed up with another fine game, helping to stuff the potent Fremont running game.

“The defense really wanted it tonight,” McElroy said. “We were hyped. We were ready to kill people.”

While the Massillon defense was outstanding, it was the special teams that made the first big play of the game as sophomore James Helscel recovered a muffed punt at midfield after the Tiger offense went three‑and‑out on its initial possession of the game.

The Tigers made Fremont pay for its gaffe as quarterback Justin Zwick dropped back to pass on third‑and‑10, and found Jesse Robinson running free on a post pattern. Zwick was on target with half his high, arcing throw which Robinson hauled in at the 5 on his way to the end zone.

David Abdul boomed the conversion kick over the south bleachers and Massillon was up 7‑0 at the 10:00 mark of the first quarter.

After Massillon kicked off, the Tiger defense would get the ball right back. On first‑and‑10 from the 25, Fremont quarterback James Martin tried to execute an option keeper around right end but lost the handle.

Senior defensive tackle Walter Thompson outscrapped everyone for the ball and the Tigers had possession at the Little Giants’ 32.

Two incompletions and a three‑yard running play forced Massillon to try a 46‑yard field goal. Abdul had the kick lined up but was just short as the ball hit the crossbar and fell away.

Fremont moved from its 20 to midfield on its second possession of the night before Oliver stopped Tyrus Hamilton for a one‑yard loss and McElroy sniffed out a screen play for a three‑yard loss to force a punt.

An unsportsmanlike conduct flag on Fremont helped Massillon move to the Little Giants 22 but a 39‑yard field goal attempt sailed wide left as the first quarter ended.

Again Fremont marched, moving from its 20 to the Massillon 21 on nine plays. On first‑and‑10 at that spot, Princehorn blitzed and sacked Martin for a five‑yard loss.

On the very next play Martin tried to beat the blitz with a quick pop pass over the middle. Massillon’s Jared Frank tipped the ball, which went through the intended receiver’s hands before Princehorn picked it out of the air for a drive‑killing interception at the Tiger 16.

After an exchange of punts, Massillon took over at it’s 20 and Perry James immediately ripped off 12 yards around left end, with another 15 tacked on for a facemask penalty. The senior running back got the ball on a draw play on the next snap and found a gap that yielded another 16 yards to the Fremont 37‑yard line.

Oliver gave James a breather, gaining seven yards around left end and 16 around right end on the very next play as Massillon moved to the 14‑yard line.

“Perry was struggling a little in the first half and we stuck Robert in there and he ran it well and gave Perry a little push,” said Tiger coach Rick Shepas, “We had a lot of draw and a lot of screen in the game plan tonight and it worked out for us.”

One play later, Zwick hit Jeremiah Drobney along the left sideline for 16 yards to the Fremont 1. Then James went flipping into the end zone on second‑and‑goal. Abdul’s kick was good and Massillon carried a 14‑0 lead into the halftime locker room.

The second half saw the Massillon offense get back into synch behind the spirited play of Zwick and the continued effective running of James.

After the defense set the table by forcing Fremont to punt after just three plays, the Tigers took over at their own 38.

Zwick completed passes to James (seven yards), Montale Watkins (six yards) and Robinson (16 yards) to move the ball to the Fremont 33. James then picked up 13 on a draw play and Zwick again got the ball to Robinson for nine more to the 11.

The Little Giants bowed their necks at that point but Zwick was able to sneak in from the 1‑yard line on fourth‑and‑goal. Abdul’s PAT made it 21‑0 with 5:36 left in the third quarter.

After yet another Fremont punt, set up by Brent Dean’s 7‑yard sack of Martin, Massillon regained possession at its 17‑yard line. The lousy field position was not a problem as Zwick and Robinson hooked up for 18 yards on first down. One play later, James got a seam on the draw play and scooted 60 yards to the Little Giants 1.

Robinson went in from there on an end‑around and Massillon led 28‑0 heading into the fourth quarter.

The final Tiger tally was set up by Brian Leonard and Chris Pittman, who combined to stop Fremont’s Aaron Hines on fourth‑and‑one.

Zwick beat the blitz with a quick toss to Jeremiah Drobney for 22 yards on first down. The strong‑armed junior then hit Marquis Williams in the end zone from 11‑yards out. Abdul’s kick closed the scoring at 10:03 of the fourth quarter.

“This was an important win for our team and our unity,” remarked James, who finished with 133 yards in 15 totes. “We came together as a team tonight. We’ve turned this around.”

“We’re trying to get these kids to play for each other,” Shepas said, “Trying to get them to step up and provide leadership without turning to me. It seems like as Zwick goes, we go. When he comes out and gets excited like he did in the second half, we go.”

First downs rushing 7 10
First downs passing 9 6
First downs by penalty 3 0
TOTAL first downs 19 16
Net yards rushing 162 148
Net yards passing 221 84
TOTAL yards 383 232
Passes attempted 25 22
Passes completed 14 11
Passes intercepted 0 2
Punts 2 4
Punting average 28 32.8
Fumbles/Lost 3/1 4/2
Penalties 6 6
Yards penalized 57 64

MASSILLON 7 7 14 7 35
FREMONT ROSS 0 0 0 0 0

M ‑ Robinson 48 pass from Zwick (Abdul kick)
M ‑James 1 run (Abdul kick)
M ‑ Zwick 1 run (Abdul kick)
M ‑ Robinson 1 run (Abdul kick)
M ‑ Williams 11 pass from Zwick (Abdul kick)

Massillon rushing: James 15‑133, Oliver 7‑27.
Fremont Ross rushing: Hamilton 19‑59.

Massillon passing: Zwick 13‑24‑178 2 TD, Williams 1‑1‑43.
Fremont passing: Martin 10‑21‑74 2 INT.

Massillon receiving: Robinson 6‑100, Drobney 2‑39, Watkins 2‑17.
Fremont Ross receiving: Root 6‑31.

Kreg Rotthoff

Massillon Tigers Black Letter Logo History

2000: Massillon 21, Austintown Fitch 9

‘Air Raid’ slowed but Tigers find a way
Massillon records fifth straight Victory against stubborn Fitch

Independent Sports Writer

It’s not all about offense for the Massillon Tigers.

For the second straight week, the running of senior tailback Perry James and a solid performance by the “Black Swarm” defense proved to be the decisive factor as the Tigers survived their first road test ‑ and only regular‑season game on grass ‑ by defeating a very game Austintown Fitch squad 21‑9 in front of a crowd of about 7,000 at Falcon Stadium.

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“We’re not at all surprised by this game,” said Massillon coach Rick Shepas, who is no stranger to Steel Valley football, having grown up in Youngstown. “We have a lot of respect for this team and the job (Fitch coach) Carl (Pelini) is doing with this program. I think they are a greatly‑improved team and they showed that tonight.”

The Tigers’ defense stepped up to the plate while the “Air Raid” offense struggled to get off the ground against a Fitch defense that was mixing in a nickel defense to go with its base 50 front. Massillon rolled up 317 yards – but struggled to connect on several long passes that might have opened things up a bit on the scoreboard.

“We feel great about (our defense),” Shepas said. “They’re playing very solid football. Our offense didn’t take advantage of a couple of opportunities. We didn’t consistently move the football. They were just playing a nickel, nothing that we weren’t prepared for. We worked on it all week.

“We just didn’t take care of certain possessions where we ran a play‑action pass and didn’t hit it and had to go 10 yards and came up short on second and third downs. We really didn’t take care of the football on certain situations.”

Meanwhile, James took advantage of the opportunity to show off his running skills against a team that looked to be guarding against the pass. The senior finished with 156 yards on 22 carries, including an 18‑ yard burst into the end zone with 4:01 left that iced the game.

“I’m excited about that,” Shepas said. “It forces teams to prepare for both.”

James, who rushed for 180 yards in the Tigers’ win over Mansfield Senior in Week Four, said that Mas­sillon was just looking to take what the Fitch defense was giving it.

“We knew that they were going to play that 50 defense, and that we could beat it with the run,” James said. “That really opened up the pass.”

The Tigers looked to have things going on their first drive of the evening, moving down to the Fitch 37 where they had a second‑and‑six. Two incompletions later, Massillon’s 54‑yard field goal attempt fell short.

Massillon’s breakthrough came on its third possession of the game, which started at its own 44 with 3:09 left in the first quarter. An incompletion on first down was quickly followed when Justin Zwick ‑ who was 12‑of‑27 for 142 yards with two touchdowns, but only 7‑of‑17 for 64 yards in the first half ‑ hit Jeremiah Drobney on a crossing pattern that moved the ball to the Fitch 37.

Two James runs netted nine yards before Terrance King broke through the line on a fullback trap play and burst up the left side for 21 yards down to the Falcons’ six‑yard line. King would get rewarded for his effort as Zwick, rolling to his right, found the big fullback for a seven‑yard touchdown just inside the pylon on second down with 12 seconds left in the first quarter.

David Abdul nailed the conversion kick to give the Tigers a 7‑0 advantage.

Starting at its own 30 after an offsides call against the Tigers, Fitch went to work running right at Massillon with fullback Ray Betts. With Betts carrying it eight times for 23 yards, the Falcons moved to the Tiger 29, but stopped short on a fourth-and‑one situation.

The Tigers went three‑and‑out and then were flagged for interfering with the attempt to catch the punt to give the Falcons a first down at the Tiger 44. A 19‑yard strike from Steve Burnich to Ross Watson moved it to the Massillon 25, and the Falcons got on the scoreboard with a 41‑yard field goal by Chris Castillo with 2:55 until half.

Fitch could do nothing with the opening kick of the second half. But Massillon found a way to move it.

After a short gain on first down and an incomplete pass, Zwick found James on a screen pass to the left, and he scampered 18 yards to the Tiger 40. One play later, James again broke free for 20 down to the Fitch 34.

James ran for four yards, then Zwick dropped back and found Jesse Robinson streaking toward the end zone on a post pattern. The junior lofted a perfect pass that Robinson came down with across the goal‑line for a 14‑3 Tiger lead with 8:20 left in the third after Abdul’s PAT.

Both offenses stagnated for the remainder of the third quarter, but Fitch came alive on its first possession of the fourth quarter ‑ with a little help from the officials.

Using three running plays, the Falcons found themselves with a second‑and‑two at the Tiger 37. Burnich fired an incomplete pass on a deep post route, but the officials flagged the Tigers for pass interference, giving Fitch the ball at the Massillon 22.

Fitch was forced to try a 39‑yard field goal after it could only pick up one yard on three plays, but the Falcons missed wide left on the attempt. However, Massillon roughed the kicker, giving Fitch a first down at the Tiger 11.

After two running plays, Brian Sudetic burst across the goal‑line from three yards out to pull Fitch to within 14‑9 with 7:34 remaining. The two‑point try failed.

James seemed to swing momentum back to the Tigers with a 39‑yard run off right tackle on Massillon’s first play after the score. Then the Tigers received a break when Fitch was flagged for pass interference to move the ball to Falcon 30.

The Tigers failed to moved the ball and settled for a 51‑yard field goal try with just over five minutes left. It sailed wide left, giving Fitch a glimmer of hope.

Three plays later, that hope faded when the Falcons coughed the ball up on a third‑and‑10 play from their 20. Senior defensive end Brian Leonard recovered and brought it back to the 18. On the Tigers’ first play from scrimmage after the turnover, James broke through a gigantic hole on a draw play, going 18 yards for the final touchdown with 4:04 left.

First downs rushing 8 4
First downs passing 6 4
First downs by penalty 1 3
TOTAL first downs 15 11
Net yards rushing 170 108
Net yards passing 147 50
TOTAL yards 317 158
Passes attempted 27 18
Passes completed 12 6
Passes Intercepted 0 0
Punts 5 5
Punting average 29.8 40
Fumbles/Lost 0/0 1/1
Penalties 10 3
Yards penalized 90 40

MASSILLON 7 0 7 7 21
FITCH 0 3 0 6 9

M ‑ Zwick 7 pass to King (Abdul kick)
F ‑ Castillo 41 field goal
M ‑ Zwick 30 pass to Robinson (Abdul kick)
F ‑ Sudetic 3 run (Pass failed)
M ‑ James 18 run (Abdul kick)

Massillon rushing: James 22‑156, King 2‑21.
Fitch rushing: Betts 18‑55, Sudetic 15-40.

Massillon passing: Zwick 12‑27‑142 2 TD
Fitch passing: Burnich 6‑18‑50.

Massillon receiving: Drobney 5‑57, James 4‑37, Robinson 1‑30, Williams 1‑11, King 1‑7.
Fitch receiving: Watson 4‑43.

Statistics courtesy RICHARD CUNNINGHAM

Kreg Rotthoff