MASSILLON A little more than fifteen seconds. That, in real time, is barely more than a couple of blinks of the eyes.
On Friday night, it was enough time for Massillon to turn a potential loss into a 21-14 win over St. Ignatius.
“Those guys play hard,” Tigers coach Nate Moore said after his team improved to 4-1 heading into next Saturday’s home showdown with rival McKinley. “I’ve said that from the start. Led by the senior class. These guys just play hard, man. You just let everything play out.”
With 7:17 remaining in the fourth quarter, Raekwon Venson’s 1-yard touchdown, plus Jayden Ballard’s two-point conversion pass to Zach Catrone, allowed the Tigers to tie the game at 14-14. That, however, was just the start.
On the first play of the Wildcats’ next possession, Jaidan Wise fell on a lateral at the Ignatius 15. The next play, Venson tore up the middle of the defense into the end zone for a TD, giving Massillon the 21-14 lead with 7:02 remaining.
“I mean, I think that’s effort,” Moore said of Wise’s recovery. “Why wouldn’t you? I think that’s the right question. It’s not, ‘Why did he?,’ it’s ‘Why wouldn’t he?’ I think that’s effort.”
Venson finished with 96 rushing yards on 29 carries.
The two fourth-quarter TDs contrasted with what the Tigers had been able to generate through the first three quarters. Despite a 209-147 yardage advantage over the initial 36 minutes, their only two scores were a pair of Alex Bauer field goals which gave the Tigers a 6-0 lead with 26 seconds into the second quarter.
St. Ignatius, meanwhile, was able to make sure its two scores were touchdowns. The first came on a 20-yard Marty Lenehan TD run with 3:45 remaining in the first half.
The second TD, even bigger for both, was Emmett Hanna’s 80-yard interception return with 2:56 remaining in the third. That gave the Wildcats a 14-6 lead.
“The defense did a nice job,” said St. Ignatius coach Chuck Kyle, whose team fell to 1-2. “They were out there really too long. Let’s face it, that’s what we started seeing.”
As good as the Wildcats’ defense was, the Massillon defense was just as good. If not better. The Tigers limited St. Ignatius to 152 net yards.
Wise’s recovery was one of three turnovers the Tigers were able to get their hands on. The senior linebacker also came up with an interception in the first quarter which helped to set up Bauer’s second field goal.
Austin Brawley also made an interception in the fourth quarter to set Massillon up at the St. Ignatius 26 with just under six minutes remaining.
“Discipline and effort,” Moore said of his defense.
The Tigers, though, would give the Wildcats a bit more life when they reciprocated with their own interception on a fourth-and-14 play that Chris Snyder returned to midfield with just over four minutes left. Massillon’s defense did not let St. Ignatius get any closer than the Tiger 41 before taking over on downs.
Venson and Jumacius Portis, who added 58 yards on 12 carries, then ran out the rest of the clock.
Reach Chris at firstname.lastname@example.org.
On Twitter: @ceasterlingINDE