Tigers never Gave up
In a season filled with ‘nail-biters, Tiger claws wear thin vs. McKinley
By JOE SHAHEEN
Independent Sports Editor
Once again, the Tigers made Massillon proud.
Trailing the favored McKinley Bulldogs 24‑7, late in the third quarter, Massillon clawed its way back into the ballgame and, was on the verge of pulling the upset.
But the storybook finish never materialized. A Tiger turnover at the Pups five‑yard line with less than a minute to play ensured a 24‑21 McKinley victory this afternoon at Fawcett Stadium.
Tigers head coach Jack Rose struggled to find the right wordsafter the game. However, his pride in the comeback his team staged was evident.
“They’ve done that all year,” Rose said, “I’m very proud of them.”
McKinley coach Thom McDaniels tipped his hat to the Tigers amidst a sea of red-and-black.
Good football teams fight back and that’s a good football team over there,” he said.
“They certainly never quit. It was a great game, I don’t think anyone left here disappointed with the show we gave them, although I’m sure the Massillon people were disappointed with the loss.”
Both teams displayed early jitters. The Tigers were intercepted on their first possession after crossing midfield. The Bulldogs penetrated inside the 30 and promptly fumbled it back.
Ater that turnover, the Tigers went three and out and punted it back to McKinley, which took over at its 28. On first down, Bulldogs tailback Adrian Brown got the‑ball on a toss sweep around left end. He broke one tackle as he turned the corner and another at the Massillon 33, before being pulled down as he hit the goal line for a 72‑yard touchdown.
Ray Currie nailed the extra point and the Pups led 7‑0 at 6:20 of the first quarter.
Brown fumbled on McKinley’s next possession late in the first quarter to set the Tigers up with first and 10 at the Bulldogs’ 20 yard line. Two Lavell Weaver runs and a George Whitfield‑to‑Brett Wiles pass set up first and goal at the nine.
Two plays later, Whitfield hit Randy Weiford at the four. On the next play, Weaver spun into the end zone on fourth‑and‑goal from the one. Josh Hose hit the PAT to tie, it at 7‑7 with 10:47 until halftime.
It wouldn’t stay that way long. McKinley moved from its 16 to the 28 after the ensuing kickoff. On second and nine at that point, Brown again got the ball on the sweep around left end and again dashed 72 yards to paydirt. The senior tailback broke a tackle at the Massillon 35 and cut back to the middle of the field to outrace the defensive pursuit.
Currie’s kick made it 14‑7 with 8:17 until halftime.
“We had it defended,” Rose said of Brown’s two long TDs on his signature play. “We just didn’t tackle. Adrian is a strong runner, a physical player. He has the ability to break tackles. But I didn’t think he’d break two long ones on us like that.”
Massillon marched with the ensuing kickoff from its 20 to the McKinley 41. But a dropped pass and a sack of Whitfield forced the Tigers to punt it away from the 50.
Neither team was able to do much until McKinley took over with 1:33 left in the half I at its
own 14. A Rick Roloff‑to‑Ken Peterson pass play, a roughing the passer penalty, and a Roloff‑to‑Brown aerial moved the ball to the Massillon 30. Roloff went to Brown again three plays later and he caught a pass tipped by Massillon defensive back Eric Lightfoot. Brown rambled to the Tiger 17.
Three plays later, Currie attempted a 33‑yard field goal that was good with six seconds on the clock, to make it 17‑7 at halftime.
“The last drive of the half was a key one for them,” Rose said. .”We had them pinned way back there. They come out of there and take it the length of the field to get a field goal and now it’s 17‑7 at halftime. That hurt.”
McKinley took the second half kickoff and – aided by a fumbled punt – penetrated to the Massillon 31 before missing a long field goal.
The Tigers shot themselves in the foot again, losing a fumble on their first play to give McKinley the ball at the 27. Two snaps later, Brown found a huge seam over right guard and ran through a tackler at the five for his third touchdown of the afternoon. Currie’s kick at the 4:42 mark of the third period made it 24‑7.
Some fans began walking to the exits at that point, but the Tiger were undaunted.
They moved from their 15 to the McKinley 17, where it appeared they were stalled on a fourth and five. But Whitfield found Brett Wiles wide open over the middle and the senior tight end carried it into the end zone to make it 24‑13 with just over a minute left in the third period.
The Tigers forced McKinley to punt, but turned it back over on an interception at the Massillon 37. Once again the defense rose, stopping the Pups on three plays to force a punt that rolled out of bounds at the Tigers’ 17.
On second down, Whitfield connected with Devin Williams to the 32. Two plays later, the senior QB hooked up with Nate Wonsick to the 45. Two completions to Brian Baer moved the football to the McKinley 23.
Whitfield then picked up 11 yards on an option keeper around left end. On the next play, Whitfield rolled right and found Vinny Turner wide open at the seven and Turner trotted into the end zone with 3:28 to play.
Whitfield zeroed in on Weiford on a crossing pattern for the two‑point conversion and suddenly it was a nail‑biter at 24‑21.
The Massillon defense again stuffed McKinley on its next possession and the Bulldogs punted after three snaps. Massillon took over at the Bulldogs 42 and Whitfield’s 22‑yard gain on the bootleg around left end got the ball to the 20 with 1:40 to play.
Two plays later, Whitfield meshed with Williams at the 8, where he was hit hard first from the front by Rashan Hall and then from the rear by Shauntel Lodge, forcing a fumble. Demarlo Rozier recovered for the Bulldogs and the celebration began.
McDaniels asserted the Bulldogs were not in a prevent defense on Massillon’s final two drives.
“No, but we were changing defenses on practically every play,” McDaniels said . “But it wasn’t necessarily a prevent. We were looking for them to throw the ball, but we weren’t in a prevent.
”I was concerned about George Whitfield having a career day and I think he did. He had a great game. I talked with him afterward and he can be proud of the way he played.”
Rose said the game got away from the Tigers in the first half.
“We wound up too much in the first half,” he said. “We had a lot of missed assignments. We didn’t, tackle well and (Brown) broke those two long ones on us. In the second half we played a lot better. We got settled down.
“Vinny went down with an ankle injury early and we kind of got knocked out of whack. We regrouped and made a couple of plays there.”