1980: Massillon 22, Akron Garfield 21
Eberhart’s field goal beats Rams 22‑21
As Tigers spoil dramatc Garfield comeback
By ROLLIE DREUSSI
“Independent Sports Editor
Bill McGee’s disappointment couldn’t hide his smile.
His Garfield Golden Rams had just stormed back from a 19‑0 halftime deficit to have the Massillon Tigers on the ropes at 21‑19 in the fourth quarter.
But, as it so often seems to happen in Paul Brown Tiger Stadium, Massillon pulled out the victory ‑ 22‑21 on a 25‑yard field goal by Dave Eberhart with 3:39 to go in the game.
It was a wild Friday night in Tiger Stadium, and while McGee will spend a great deal of time thinking about what might have been, he and his Rams can hold their heads high.
The Rams turned in such a fine effort ‑ they dominated most of the statistics ‑ that they received a standing ovation from the 10,739 fans as they headed for their dressing room.
“You don’t hear that too much in Massillon,” McGee said.
The fans did a lot of whooping and hollering for the home team, too. Especially after the Rams took a 21‑19 lead with 10:27 to go in the game on a 33‑yard pass from Rick Carpenter to Willie Davis.
That touchdown climaxed a dramatic Garfield comeback which saw them drive for touchdowns the first three times they got the ball in the second half,
Things were looking dim for the Tigers when they were forced to punt the ball away with 7:54 to go in the game.
The Rams had unleashed a devastating ground game in the second half and were looking to ram home another score to clinch the game.
That’s when the Tiger defense ‑ which had set up two of the team’s three first‑half touchdowns on interceptions ‑ turned out the lights.
Paul Spinden recovered a Ram fumble at the Garfield 24, and eight plays later Eberhart lofted a high, spinning field goal that barely cleared the crossbar. The Tiger defense came back and held again and that was the ball game.
“That was a hell of a ball team,” a relieved Tiger coach Mike Currence said of the Rams afterwards. “It was a big win. I think they were really better than us up front. They handled us physically.
“But Dave Eberhart is a winner. When everybody else was flat and down, he was the one kid on the field who thought we could go down the field and win it. Dave and Jeff Elliott (who had several clutch pass receptions in crucial situations).
“We didn’t deserve to win the game. It was not a team effort. We deserved to win it because of three or four guys, and that was it,” Currence said.
McGee, meanwhile, had mixed emotions.
“The reason I’m upset is we made a lot of mistakes on the field, but I made the crucial one by not going for the two points.”
McGee was speaking of the Rams extra point kick after their third touchdown. Bryan Sparks converted his third straight extra point to give Garfield a 21‑19 lead. However, had the Rams attempted to go for the two points, they would have had either a 22‑19 lead (if successful), or a 20‑19 lead (if unsuccessful).
“I didn’t want to take a timeout at that point, but we should have taken it and gone for two. We may not have made it and lost anyway, but we should have tried.
“I feet bad,” McGee said, “because our players gave 100 percent. They came down and played a great game against a great team in what I think is the greatest football town around, and I kind of feel like I let them down.”
Currence wasn’t so critical of the decision. He said that if the. Rams’ had a three‑point lead, he would have opted to go for the touchdown when the Tigers faced a fourth‑and‑two at the Garfield three yard line just before the field goal attempt.
Currence also noted that McGee pulled a fast one at the start of the second half. He said the Rams played a stack defense throughout the first half, and the Tiger offense made blocking adjustments at halftime to come out and attack that defense. McGee, however, switched defenses, the Tigers missed their blocks and the momentum shifted back to Garfield.
Besides Eberhart’s gritty performance ‑ he was 12 of 19 for 125 yards and two touchdowns and also scored the other Tiger TD ‑ Currence said the play of the defense made the difference.
“You have to give our defense a lot of credit in the first half for coming up with the big play. How do you think St. Vincent beat them (two weeks ago in Garfield’s season opener)? They beat them with the big play,” he said.
It looked at first like Garfield was going to be the big play team, as Greg Wimley took the opening kickoff and raced 95 yards to the end zone. An illegal block back at the Ram 22 yard line nullified the play, however, and Garfield started from its own 11.
They drove out to the 31, and on third‑and‑six, Carpenter’s pass over the middle was picked off by junior linebacker Tim Manion at the 37 and returned to the 16.
Five plays later Eberhart found Elliott open over the middle for a touchdown with 7:22 to go in the quarter. Elliott had come into the game following the preceding play, in which the Tigers’ leading receiver . Mike Feller ‑ was injured. He dove for a halfback pass from Mike Jones, but the pass was a little long and he was racked up into the fence behind the end zone. He walked off the field, but only returned to the game to hold, placements for Eberhart, who added the point after to make it 7‑0.
The Rams took the ensuing kickoff and drove to a first down at their own 35 yard line. Carpenter threw deep for Kevin Talley, who Was open down the right sideline, but just missed connections.
On the next play, a pass to Talley glanced off the senior receiver’s fingertips and into the waiting arms of Tiger safety Mike Spicer at the 47. He returned it to the 19, and six plays later Eberhart hit Mike Reese with a six–yard scoring pass that caromed off the fingers of Jones. Eberhart’s kick was blocked and the Tigers led 13-0 with 1:59 to go in the first quarter.
Manion’s kickoff sailed into the end zone and Garfield started from its own 20. The Rams drove to a pair of first downs and reached the Massillon 28. Tackle Ed Newman sacked Carpenter for a six‑yard loss on second down, and following an incomplete pass Joe Cook punted the ball into the end zone.
The Tigers then marched 80 yards in 17 plays, with Eberhart going the final yard on sneak over right guard. But it was a costly mistake by the Rams that led to the Tigers’ 19‑0 lead.
After taking over at the 20, Eberhart’s third‑down pass to Jones was incomplete. Eberhart punted from his own 24, but before his punt came down, a yellow officials flag hit the turf.
Garfield was guilty of an illegal substitution, and the Tigers had new life and a first down at their own 39.
The 8:02 drive almost stalled again several times, On third‑and‑six from his own 43, Eberhart completed a 14‑yard pass to Elliott, who had slipped to the turf but got up and leaped high in the air to pull down the ball at the Ram 43.
Three plays later it was third‑and‑16, and Eberhart rolled left and fired over the middle where junior halfback Robert Oliver made a leaping grab for a first down at the Ram 32.
Four plays later, it was fourth‑and‑two at the Garfield 24. Eberhart hit a quick look‑in to Reese who was cutting across from the left. The play netted seven yards and first down at the 17.
Eberhart went right back over the middle, to Oliver, for 14 yards and a first‑and‑goal at the three. Three plays later Eberhart scored with 1:55 left in the half.
Garfield drove into Tiger territory, but Jeff Spicer intercepted a pass as the half ended.
Garfield then came out and forced the Tigers to punt three straight times, and each time drove the ball to the end zone. Drives of 47, 37 and 72 yards gave the Rams a 21‑19 lead and roused the Tiger faithful from their state of shock.
Garfield’s first score came when Gills ran three yards with 7:17 to go in the third quarter.
The Rams then got the ball at their own 37, and Cosey roared through a big hole for 36 yards to the Tiger 27. On fourth‑and‑one from the 18, Carpenter faked to Gills up the middle and handed to the speedy Wimley going off left tackle. The play faked out the Tigers and Wimley sped 18 yards to paydirt as the Tiger lead shrank to 19‑14.
Garfield took over at its own 28 and picked up a couple of first downs rushing. A face mask penalty against, Massillon at midfield gave the Rams a first down at the Tiger 33. Carpenter went to the air and found Davis wide open for the go‑ahead TD with 10:27 to go in the game. Sparks kicked the extra point ‑when most of the fans were expecting a try for the two points ‑ and Garfield was leading 21‑19.
The Tigers took over at their own 27, picked up a first down, then got bogged down at their own 40. Eberhart punted and Garfield took over at its own 23 with 7:54 left.
The Rams had the momentum, but linebacker John Mayles blitzed through on first down to nail Cosey for a five‑yard loss. Gills picked up six on second down, but on third‑and‑11 Gills was nailed at the line of scrimmage and Spinden recovered his fumble for the Tigers at the 24 with 6:31 remaining in the game.
Jones gained a yard, and the crowd gasped as Oliver fumbled the ball, but quickly covered it at the 25 on second down, Eberhart found Reese but the senior couldn’t hang onto the ball.
On fourth‑and‑11 and defeat staring the Tigers straight in the eye, Eberhart coolly fired a 14‑yard pass to Elliott, who came up with the ball at the 11 despite being surrounded by Ram defenders.
Vic Pirnik batted down Eberhart’s pass on first down, and the Tiger QB lost a yard when he was forced to scramble on second down.
On third‑and‑16, he found Elliott at the three, and the senior came up with another clutch catch.
The Tigers faced fourth‑and-two. Currence decided to go for the three points, but the Tigers intentionally took a delay of game penalty to get a better angle on the field goal try since the ball rested on the right hash mark.
With Feller holding at the 15, every heart in Tiger Stadium stopped as Eberhart got a little under the kick and it floated toward the goal posts. The high blooper had just enough “legs” to clear the crossbar and give the Tigers the lead with 3:39 to play.
Garfield refused to quit, however, and drove to a first down at their own 48. Following an incomplete pass, Winley almost broke away, but a fine open‑field tackle by defensive back Mike Loretto held him to a five‑yard gain.
Newman and Bob James then teamed up to sack Carpenter for a nine yard loss, and on fourth‑and‑14 from the Ram 44 Newman flushed Carpenter from the pocket and he and Loretto stopped him after a two yard gain.
‘The Tigers ran out the clock as Eberhart picked up a first down on a roll‑out.
Eberhart proved to be a pain to the Rams all night, and McGee was duly impressed with his performance.
“We’ve got a lot of good quarterbacks around Akron, but I’ve never seen anybody throw the ball better than Eberhart. He was right on the money. And their receivers made some fantastic catches. We had people there, but their guys just made great catches. ”
McGee shook his head, but he still couldn’t shake his smile. And he couldn’t hide his pride as fan after fan filed past to tell‑him his team played a great game.
First downs rushing 4 9
First downs passing 6 4
First downs by penalty 1 2
Total first downs 11 15
Yards gained rushing 87 194
Yards lost rushing 24 22
Net yards gained rushing 63 172
Net yards gained passing 125 95
Total yards gained 188 267
Passes attempted 20 18
Passes completed 12 9
Passes intercepted by 3 0
Yardage on passes intercepted 52 0
Times kicked off 5 4
Kickoff average 55.2 51.0
Kickoff return yardage 75 30
Punts 4 1
Punting average 30.6 34.0
Punt return yardage 37 3
Punts blocked 0 0
Fumbles 2 3
Fumbles lost 0 1
Penalties 10 2
Yards penalized 80 26
Touchdowns rushing 1 2
Touchdowns passing 2 1
Touchdowns by interception 0 0
Miscellaneous touchdowns 0 0
Total number of plays 58 55
Total time of possession 27:22 20:38
GARFIELD 0 0 14 7 ‑ 21
MASSILLON 13 6 0 3 ‑ 22
MASS ‑ Jeff Elliott 10 pass from Dave Eberhart (Eberhart kick)
MASS ‑ Mike Reese 6 pass from Eberhart (kick failed)
MASS ‑ Eberhart 1 run (pass failed)
GAR ‑ Larry Gills 3 run (Bryan Sparks kick)
GAR ‑ Greg Wimley 18 run (Sparks kick)
GAR ‑ Willie Davis 33 pass from Rick Carpenter (Sparks kick)
MASS ‑ FG 25 Eberhart
saves Tigers from upset
MASSILLON ‑ Quarterback Dave Eberhart had a big night passing, but it was the senior’s foot that kept the Massillon Tigers from a stunning upset at Paul Brown Stadium Friday night.
The Tigers were trailing the Akron Garfield Rams 21‑19 until Eberhart kicked a 25‑yard field goal with 3:39 left in the game after the Rams had overcome a 19‑0 Massillon lead at the intermission.
Eberhart’s boot gave Massillon a thrilling 22‑21 triumph, the fourth victory in a row for the unbeaten, untied Tigers, who entered the game ranked second in the Ohio Associated Press Class AAA poll. The 1‑2 Rams were unranked.
Ram Coach Bill McGee said he made a crucial mistake by not going for two points after the last touchdown.
Massillon Coach Bill Currence praised the visitors and called it a “big win.”
Massillon scored two touchdowns in the first quarter after pass interceptions.
After a theft by Tim Manion, Eberhart passed 10 yards to Jeff Elliott for the six points, and Eberhart converted successfully. After another theft by Mike Spicer, Eberhart passed six yards to Mike Reese for a score.
An 80-yard, 17‑play drive in the second quarter was climaxed by Eberhart himself with a I‑yard scoring dash.
Garfield came back with vengeance in the second half, scoring on its first three possessions. Larry Gillis, who had 88 yards rushing in 19 carries, scored on a three‑yard run, Greg Wimley on an 18‑yard run and Willie Davis on a 33‑yard pass from Rick Carpenter.
Massillon’s winning field goal came after the Tigers’ Paul Spinden covered a Garfield fumble on the Rams’ 24.
Eberhart completed 12 of 19 passes for 125 yards.
The Tigers led in possession time 27:22 ‑ 20:38, but Garfield was ahead in first downs 15‑11.
The Rams led in rushing yardage 172‑63 because of an122‑yard second half. Massillon gained 78 yards through the air in the first half and led in yards via the pass 125‑95.
The Tigers completed 12 of 20 passes, covered their two fumbles and were penalized 10 times for 80 yards. Garfield connected on 9 of 18 passes with three intercepted, the Rams lost one of three fumbles and they drew two penalties for 26 yards.