2016: Massillon 45, Akron Firestone 14
Massillon makes it five straight with win over Falcons
Independent sports editor
MASSILLON Nate Moore cautioned anyone who would listen that Firestone wasn’t Bowsher.
He told everyone that a ridiculously-overmatched opponent wasn’t what was coming in to Paul Brown Tiger Stadium on Friday night.
The Falcons lived up to the Massillon coach’s advance warnings. Yet, the threat put up by Firestone wasn’t enough to derail the Tigers, who were able to pull away for a 45-14 win.
“You have to compliment their team and their coaching staff,” said Moore, whose team has won five in a row to improve to 6-2. “I thought they did a great job tonight and they had their kids prepared to play. We made some mistakes in the first half; we just have to play a little better.”
The Tigers, who saw a 17-7 halftime lead cut to 17-14 two plays into the second half, scored the game’s final 28 points to pull away.
Massillon will try to ride that momentum into next Friday’s home game against St. Vincent-St. Mary, which has won three in a row over the Tigers, all at Paul Brown Tiger Stadium.
Friday marked the first game in a Massillon uniform for highly-touted lineman Thayer Munford, who had to sit out the first seven games after transferring from Cincinnati La Salle in the spring. Munford’s debut, though, didn’t come on offense, but on defense as he started at defensive tackle.
“I have to take a look at the film, but it seemed from the sideline that he blocked well,” Moore said of Munford, who changed numbers from No. 64 to No. 73 in the second half. “He seemed effective at defensive tackle. It looked like he played good, but we’ll have to grade the film and see.”
After Munford and the rest of the Tiger defense stopped Firestone on its initial drive, the Massillon offense – with Munford at left tackle – proceeded to take the lead for good on its first drive. Methodically marching 80 yards in 10 play, Louis Partridge gave the Tigers a 7-0 lead on a 5-yard run on fourth-and-1 with 6:03 remaining in the first quarter.
That was one of three touchdowns on the night for Partridge, who continues to get better each week for Massillon. A week after rushing for what was a career-high 137 yards in a win over Beechcroft, the sophomore topped that with 143 yards on 24 carries against Firestone.
Partridge had 123 yards on 18 first-half carries. His 17th carry – a 6-yard run – gave the Tigers a 17-0 lead with 5:12 remaining in the half.
“He’s getting better,” Moore said of Partridge. “I saw him hit a nice A-gap seam down there. He’s getting better, which is what we ask all the kids to do.”
In between Partridge’s two first-half scores, Nate Gregg added his seventh field goal of the season, a career-long-tying 32-yarder. That gave Massillon a 10-0 lead.
While Partridge continued his growth, Ethen Jefferson found his first extensive carries to his benefit. Jefferson rushed for 136 yards on 18 and scored two key second-half scores that helped provide the Tigers with the necessary cushion.
“I thought Ethen ran really well,” said Moore, whose team gained 501 total yards, 280 on the ground. “I’m really proud of him. He’s just a tough kid; lunch-pail guy who comes to practice every day and practices his tail off.”
Firestone put together three drives in the first half alone that reached Tiger territory, including a 14-play drive that pulled it within 17-7 at the half. Jordon Jones hit Justin Moore on a 3-yard scoring pass with 20 seconds left in the half.
It became 17-14 just 39 seconds into the second half. Massillon fumbled the kickoff and Firestone fell on it at the Tiger 14.
Two plays after that fumble – the second of the game for the Tigers after four consecutive turnover-less games – Joshua Mitchell scored from a yard out for Firestone. The Falcons finished with 248 total yards, 222 of those through the air.
That, though, would be answered by a Massillon scoring drive. Jefferson’s 6-yard run closed that seven-play, 64-yard drive out to make it 24-14 with 8:30 left in the third.
“It was really important,” Moore said of the quick response. “We had to do that and respond on offense and answer with a touchdown. It was good that we did that.”