Tag: <span>Phil Annarella</span>

Massillon Tigers Black Letter Logo History

2018: Massillon 42, Austintown Fitch 14

Tigers take Fitch’s best shot, stay undefeated
Sep 28, 2018 10:52 PM

MASSILLON Massillon long ago learned to never take an Austintown Fitch team lightly. That’s especially true when the Tigers are carrying around an undefeated record.

So, as the two long-time combatants met Friday night at Paul Brown Tiger Stadium, Massillon didn’t necessarily expect to see its run of lopsided routs continue. The only thing that mattered was continuing the Tigers season-opening win streak.

The Tigers would end up keeping their winning ways going, but it wouldn’t necessarily be easy. They scored three fourth-quarter touchdowns to pull away for a 42-14 win over the Falcons.

“Our kids fought hard,” Massillon coach Nate Moore said after his team improved to 6-0, the school’s best start since 2013. “It was good to see us go the distance in a ballgame and win it in the fourth quarter.”

The Tigers, whose closest game in the fourth quarter previous to Friday was a 37-21 lead over Warren Harding in Week 3, would only lead 21-14 going into the fourth quarter. Massillon would score on three of its final four possessions, while the Falcons went three-and-out on each of their three drives in the fourth.

Massillon held a 151-5 edge in fourth-quarter yardage.

“I just told them I was proud of the way they fought,” said Fitch coach Phil Annarella, whose team is now 4-2. “We played extremely hard; we didn’t play well at times. Sometimes, a 5-(foot-)7 kid can’t cover a 6-5 kid or whatever he is.”

Much of the focus coming in was on Tiger running back Jamir Thomas’ assault on the school’s record books. Thomas came in just 190 yards behind Art Hasting’s career rushing mark, and four rushing touchdowns behind Bob Glass’ record.

For the first half, Thomas couldn’t find the room to run, with just 28 first-half yards on seven carries. That didn’t necessarily hurt Massillon in opening up a 21-7 halftime lead, thanks to big plays in the passing game.

Aidan Longwell threw three first-half touchdown passes, including two to sophomore Jayden Ballard. Tre’Von Morgan added an 18-yard scoring catch which put the Tigers ahead 7-0 on their first possession of the game.

Longwell hit Ballard, then, on a 58-yard touchdown pass on the first play of their second possession to make it 14-0 Massillon. Ballard added a 66-yard touchdown catch to make it 21-7 Tiger in the second quarter.

Longwell finished 13-of-20 for 263 yards and four touchdowns. He and Ballard would hook up for a third score with 11:17 remaining, a 13-yarder to make it 28-14.

The Tiger passing game had its share of issues in the second half, as Fitch was able to mix up its pressures up front. That’s where the Tiger running game, specifically Thomas, came to the rescue.

Thomas would help Massillon open up its first three-score edge of the night when he took off for a 32-yard touchdown run with 8:59 remaining. That put the Tigers in front 35-14.

Thomas finished with 105 yards on 18 carries.

The Tigers once again struggled with ill-timed penalties, with six flags for 56 yards. They also had a second-half interception.

“We had to overcome a fair amount of adversity tonight,” Moore said. “It was good to see our guys respond.”

However, Fitch also has its own hand in making things interesting. That’s especially true when quarterback Dom Montalbano’s second short scoring run, a 1-yarder, pulled the Falcons within 21-14 with 5:48 remaining in the third quarter.

Fitch made its presence known on the very first play from scrimmage, as Roddell Bebbs raced 21 yards into Massillon territory to the Tiger 44. The Falcons would eventually move as far as the 33, only to be turned away on a fourth-and-11 stop by Massillon.

That would be one of three first-half possessions by Fitch to reach Tiger territory. However, only one would actually do scoreboard damage, as Montalbano’s 3-yard touchdown run with 6:56 remaining in the first half pulled the Falcons to within 14-7.

Fitch had 165 total yards at halftime, 58 on a Bobby Cavalier-to-Reuben Talley pass which set up Montalbano’s scoring run. That total was more than the full-game outputs of three of Massillon’s first five opponents.

The Falcons finished with 215 yards.


Reach Chris at 330-775-1128 or chris.easterling@indeonline.com.

On Twitter: @ceasterlingINDE

Massillon Tigers Black Letter Logo History

2016: Massillon 38, Austintown Fitch 21

Tigers ditches Fitch
Strong second half helps Massillon snap three game skid vs. Falcons

By Chris Easterling
Independent sports editor

MASSILLON The power of three.

Massillon came into Friday night’s home game against Austintown Fitch looking for their first three-game win streak since the first half of the 2014 season. To achieve that feat, however, the Tigers were going to have to take care of another three-game win streak.

The Falcons’ three-game win streak over Massillon.

Nobody said accomplishing that feat would be easy. But the Tigers were able to do it, scoring the game’s final 21 points to rally for a 38-21 win over Fitch.

“We have great kids who play hard,” Massillon coach Nate Moore said. “That’s really the bottom line there. They played hard tonight for 48 minutes and came out with a win against a good team.”

The Tigers are now 4-2 on the season. Massillon will look for its first four-game win streak since starting the 2014 season 5-0 next Friday night when it plays host to undefeated Columbus Beechcroft.

If there was one major concern to emerge from the game, it was the health of two key players: Jamir Thomas and Malcolm Robinson. Thomas suffered a leg injury late in the first quarter and didn’t return, while Robinson appeared to injure his ankle with less than two minutes left.

Moore didn’t know the extent of their injuries beyond Friday night.

In Thomas’ place stepped Kordell Ford and Louis Partridge, both of whom were huge in the second-half rally after Fitch went ahead 21-17 with 8:47 remaining in the third quarter. Partridge’s 2-yard run with :28 left in the third gave Massillon the lead for good at 24-21.

That run was set up when Jesse King recovered a Fitch fumble at the Tiger 32. It was one of two Falcon turnovers.

Ford then scored on fourth-quarter runs of 44 and 5 to help provide a cushion for the Tigers. He would finish with a team-high 88 yards on 14 carries.

Partridge had 77 yards on 18 totes. The Tigers rushed for 285 yards as a team on 51 attempts.

Massillon’s first drive was virtually a thing of perfection, giving it a 7-0 lead. The Tigers used 13 plays to go 68 yards, capping the drive with a 1-yard Thomas touchdown run with 6:54 left in the quarter.

The Tigers had a 77-yard fake-punt touchdown by Austin Jasinski negated by a personal foul flag on their next drive. They would still get to the Fitch 2, but lost a net of 13 yard on the next three plays to settle for a 32-yard Nate Gregg field goal for a 10-0 lead with :32 left in the first quarter.

The change of quarters seemed to change both team’s fortunes. Fitch would get a pair of stops while adding two Randy Smith 2-yard touchdown runs for a 14-10 lead with 3:58 left in the half.

The Falcons, who had minus-3 net offensive yards in the first quarter, had 146 second quarter yards on 15 plays. That includes 6-of-8 passing by Nate Fowler in the quarter for an even 100 yards.

Fitch finished with 284 yards. One thing the Falcons did well for the first three quarters was catch Massillon adjusting defensively by breaking the huddle with less than :15 on the play clock and sprinting to the line and snapping the ball.

Once the Tigers started to neutralize that over the last quarter or so, they were able to slow down the Falcon momentum.

“We just kind of simplified everything,” Moore said. “We were having a little trouble with as fast as they were going from huddle to the line of scrimmage to the snap. We basically just simplified some things.”

It would be a Fitch mistake that would help give the Tigers a 17-14 halftime lead. A roughing the passer flag against the Falcons on a third-and-9 incomplete pass put the Tigers on the Fitch 41.

Five Partridge runs – the last a 5-yarder – would put Massillon into the end zone with :51 left in the half. Partridge, who came on with 7:47 left in the second quarter after Thomas left with the injury, rushed for 64 yards on 10 first-half carries.

Fitch took the lead at 21-17 when it marched 55 yards in eight plays on the first possession of the second half. Smith’s third touchdown run, a 5-yarder, provided the margin.


Massillon Tigers Black Letter Logo History

2015: Massillon 6, Austintown Fitch 7

Offense tough to come by, but Tigers can’t capitalize on chances in defeat to Falcons

By Chris Easterling
Independent sports editor

AUSTINTOWN Massillon tried a little bit of everything to get its offense going Friday night at Austintown Fitch.

The Tigers shuffled players and formations, all trying to provide just the right spark. However, they were unable to find the exact recipe to get things jump-started in what turned into a 7-6 loss to the Falcons at Greenwood Chevrolet Falcon Stadium.

“We couldn’t get into a rhythm offensively,” Massillon coach Nate Moore said after his team fell to 2-4. “We have to get back to work this week. We need to get those things fixed.”

Massillon finished with 186 yards of offense. Both Lee Hurst II – who started the game – and Seth Blankenship had moments at quarterback for the Tigers, with Hurst rushing for a team high 52 yards, while Blankenship was 5-of-9 passing for 69 yards.

However, the Tigers’ biggest issue was finishing off drives. Five times Massillon reached the Fitch side of the 50, including two drives inside the 20, without scoring a point.

The only touchdown for the Tigers came on a 60-yard punt return by Austin Jasinski with 8:38 left in the third quarter to pull them within 7-6. The point-after kick was blocked.

“We put the ball on the ground,” Moore said. “We really couldn’t get the run game going, especially in the first half. We were just not executing, plain and simple.”
The Tigers turned the ball over four times, including a pair of fumbles on fourth down inside the Fitch 30. They also fumbled the ball away on their first play, which set the Falcons up for the only offensive score of the game.

After Massillon fumbled on its own 23, Fitch needed just four plays – along with a Tiger offsides – to reach the end zone. Randy Smith’s 3-yard run with 7:37 left in the first quarter, along with Dylan Correia’s PAT, gave Fitch a 7-0 lead.

“Is it every year like this?” asked Fitch coach Phil Annarella, whose team has won three in a row in the series, the last two by a single point. “This is phenomenal. Thank God we’ve come out on top. … We’ve been very fortunate. They played a great game and we were lucky enough to come out on top.”

Fitch managed just three first downs in the second half, but the last of those was huge. Facing fourth-and-2 from its own 47, it drew an offsides penalty on Massillon to give it a first down with less than two minutes left.

The next play, the ball appeared to pop loose and the Tigers recovered. However, the officials ruled the player down and Massillon couldn’t get the ball back.

The Falcons finished with just 154 yards. Their biggest play was a 44-yard run on a broken play set up by a bad snap.

“The defense played great,” said Moore, whose team picked up an interception from Kordell Ford. “I haven’t watched the film yet, but it looked like our front seven really played very well.

I thought our secondary played well too; they were tackling, coverage was good. … It’s a team game: You win as a team and you lose as a team, and as a team, we have to get back to the grindstone and get back to work.”


Massillon Tigers Black Letter Logo History

2014: Massillon 33, Austintown Fitch 34

Fitch ends Massillon’s unbeaten hopes again

Chris Easterling

MASSILLON It was like deja vu for Massillon. For the second year in a row, Massillon found itself needing a furious last-minute rally to try to knock off Austintown Fitch. For the second year in a row, that comeback fell short for the Tigers, this time in 34-33 loss at Paul Brown Tiger Stadium on Friday night.

A year ago at Austintown, the comeback was halted when Fitch picked up a sack with less than five seconds left. On Friday night, the Tigers were thwarted when a 40-yard field goal try went wide right with five seconds remaining.

Either way, it was the second year in a row the Falcons knocked off Massillon when it was undefeated and ranked No. 1 in Division II.

“It came down to a last-second play, but at the end of the day, you can’t make as many mistakes as we did,” Massillon coach Jason Hall said after his team fell to 5-1. “Special-teams blunders; we had some uncharacteristic penalties. Good teams don’t win like that. We didn’t play a great game tonight.”

Which was another eerie resemblance to last year’s 30-27 loss in Austintown. In that game, Massillon had miscues on offense, including bad penalties at inopportune times, which put it behind the 8-ball.

This time, the Tigers had a season-high 11 penalties for 96 yards. It was a jaw-dropping total for a team that had just 14 flags on it the first five games combined.

They also had not one, but two bad punt snaps.

One set up Fitch to tie the game at 14-14 late in the first half.

The other, early in the fourth quarter, was salvaged when Andrew David tracked it down at the goal line and boomed a 48-yard punt. Two plays later, the Tigers even found themselves with a 33-27 lead after Jeff Koch – playing in place of the injured Reggie Rogers – returned a fumble 53 yards for a score with 8:49 remaining.

Except that Massillon would botch the subsequent point-after try, leaving it ahead by just six points. Nine plays later, the Tigers would find themselves behind by a point after Fitch marched  down for a 2-yard Antwan Harris touchdown run – and, most importantly, the subsequent PAT kick – with 4:13 remaining.

Harris, the Fitch quarterback, had a second big rushing performance against Massillon. He rushed for 114 yards and two scores Friday, a year after going for 147 yards and three touchdowns in last year’s win.

“Antwan is Antwan,” Fitch coach Phil Annarella said after his team improved to 5-1. “He does this every week for us. He’s just an absolutely fabulous kid, fabulous football player. He’s carried us through six weeks now, and hopefully, we’ll have him for the last four too.”

Harris had help in the form of tailback Tyler Hewlett. Hewlett, filling in for the injured Darrin Hall, rushed for 133 yards and two scores.

Of course, Massillon probably never saw an ending like the one it ended up having 12 minutes into the game. Two drives into the contest, the Tigers had a 14-0 lead, racking up a 12-play, 80-yard march and a 13-play, 96-yard drive.

J.D. Crabtree scored the first Tiger touchdown, one of two scores by him on a night when he rushed for 114 yards. The second score came on a Danny Clark-to-Rogers touchdown pass, part of a 237-yard passing night by the Tiger sophomore.

All of it, ultimately, for naught in the eyes of their head coach.

“I guess it’s always frustrating,” Hall said. “We played well in spurts. We made a lot of mental mistakes.”

That’s why, when all was said and done, Massillon once again needed a furious last-minute rally to try to beat Fitch. It’s also why, once again, the Tigers couldn’t end up beating Fitch.


Massillon Tigers Black Letter Logo History

2013: Massillon 27, Austintown Fitch 30

Tigers battle back, but run out of time

AUSTINTOWN In the end, there just wasn’t enough time for Massillon to complete the comeback.

Facing the largest deficit of the season and on the road against the state’s No. 4-ranked Division I team, the Tigers came close to pull ing out a memorable win on Friday night at Austintown Fitch. Instead, the time literally ran out on Massillon as it fell 30-27 to the Falcons in front of about 8,000 at Falcon Stadium.

“We’re extremely proud of the kids for the effort,” Massillon coach Jason Hall said after his team fell to 6-1. “They handled a lot of adversity in the game. With five minutes to go in the game, it just started clicking for us. We started doing some of the things we know we can do.”

The Tigers trailed 30-14 with 4:45 remaining after Fitch quarterback Antwan Harris scored his third touchdown of the game, a 1-yard plunge. But two Danny Clark-to-Reggie Rogers touchdown passes – an 80-yarder with 4:30 remaining and a 72-yarder with 2:41 left – pulled Massillon to within three points.

After forcing a three-and-out, the Tigers got the ball back with 1:06 remaining at their 35. Six
plays later, they were at the Fitch 10, then the 5 after a penalty on the Falcons.
On second-and-goal from there, Clark hit Whitfield on a pretty strike just over the goal line for
what appeared to be the go-ahead touchdown with 14 seconds remaining. But a illegal
formation flag wiped that out, moving the ball back to the 10
“Danny’s the reason we got back in this game,” Hall said of Clark, who was 16-of-23 for 358
yards on the night. “He’s a 15-year-old kid who brought the Tigers back with five minutes in
the game. He really made one of the best throws I’ve seen any quarterback I’ve ever had make
(on the Whitfield touchdown that was nullified).”

An incompletion made it third down with 10 seconds remaining. On the next play, though, the Falcon defense forced a scramble, which they tackled inbounds to close the game out.

“They got their money’s worth tonight,” Fitch coach Phil Annarella said after his team improved to 7-0. “My hat’s off to Massillon. What a great comeback. They didn’t quit. ”

Just to get to that point took quite an effort from the Tigers, who spent much of the game playing from behind. In fact, five plays into the contest, they were down 7-0 after Harris — the Fitch quarterback — took off for a 60-yard touchdown run.

The last time the Tigers would even the score up came on their subsequent drive, when Lyron Wilson capped the nine-play march with a 5-yard touchdown to make it 7-7 with 5:53 remaining. By the time Massillon would score again, on J.D. Crabtree’s 38-yard on the fourth play of the second half, it was in a hole it could never completely climb out of.

Massillon set up Fitch’s second score when it failed to convert on a fake punt attempt on fourth down from the Tiger 31. It was compounded by a late hit penalty on Massillon on the Falcons’ subsequent possession, which moved the ball to the Tiger 12, where it was fourth-and-1.

“They typically bring a lot of pressure all the time,” Hall said of the fake punt. “So we tried to bring two people from inside-out down the hashes, and they did a good job covering it. … We got them stopped (then) on third-and-long, it’s going to be fourth and at least 10, and we get a personal foul. It becomes fourth-and-1, and they get a touchdown on that.”

Harris picked up that and more, ripping off a 12-yard touchdown run to make it 14-7 Falcons with 8:36 remaining in the half. The junior quarterback, who was injured on the Falcons’ final offensive play of the game, rushed for 147 yards on 27 carries, including 102 yards in the first half.

The Fitch passing game, which has been called inconsistent by Annarella this week, provided the next score. Harris hit Joey Harrington for a 34-yard touchdown catch-and-run to make it 21-7 with 5:26 remaining in the half.

Massillon tried to cut into that before the half, reaching the Fitch 28. But a 45-yard field goal was blocked, leaving the Falcons ahead by 14 points.

Crabtree’s scoring run to open the second half pulled Massillon to 21-14. But there would be no scoring until the Fitch defense recorded a safety against the Tigers with 10:20 remaining to make it 23-14.