All phases clicking in blowout victory
By CHRIS EASTERLING
Independent sports editor
MASSILLON Massillon scored on the ground. It scored through the air. And it scored on defense.
And when it was all said and done Friday night at Paul Brown Tiger Stadium, the Tigers had scored a 35-6 knockout of visiting Lake Catholic to improve to 4-0 for the first time since 2009.
“I think both our offense and defense came out with a great focus tonight, especially after our defense struggled for a few series last week,” said Tiger cornerback Reed Fichter, whose second-quarter interception return for a touchdown helped break the game open. “We came out and made a statement tonight. We’ve got momentum going into next week. We’ve just got to keep our heads on straight and keep getting better each week.”
That’s especially true next Friday night, when Massillon heads to Steubenville, a place that has been a house of horrors. The Tigers are 0-2 since the series was renewed in 2009. But on this Friday night, Massillon made sure to keep its eyes on task at hand against Lake Catholic.
“We came out of Warren (last week) and still feel like we haven’t put together a full four quarter game: special teams, offense and defense all working off each other,” Tiger lineman Nathaniel Devers said. “So we wanted to practice and make sure we could come out and execute. … We’re not looking past anybody. This was a tough team.”
Massillon’s offense wasn’t quite the picture of four-quarter efficiency against the Cougars, as it had been the week before at Warren Harding. Still, the Tigers were good enough, showing at times the diversity of run and pass that can make them a handful for opposing defenses.
On this night, Lake Catholic was forced to choose to deal with the two-headed rushing monster than is Lyron Wilson and J.D. Crabtree. Or, it could try to take away the deep passing game from quarterback Danny Clark.
Turns out, the Cougars had enough problems with both to make it a long night. Massillon finished with 316 total yards, with 172 coming on the ground and another 144 coming through the air.
Most of that damage was done in the first half, which ended with the Tigers in front 35-0.
Massillon went into the locker room with 228 total yards, 117 of those in the air and anotherin the air.
“They were a blitzing team and we were kind of just going with the flow of the game,” Massillon coach Jason Hall said. “We ran at it, and had success running at it. I thought we threw a couple of good balls.”
The Tigers scored on their second and third possessions to take the lead for good at 13-0. The first score came on a 3-yard run by Crabtree, while Clark hit Beau Huffman for a 17-yard scoring strike for the second.
Wilson also got into the scoring act, rushing for a 15-yard touchdown late in the first half. He finished with 97 yards on 14 carries, while Crabtree rushed for 78 on 13 attempts.
The defense took over the scoring from there. Fichter picked off a pass and return it 62 yards for a touchdown and a 20-0 second-quarter lead.
Two Cougar possessions later, Saive Isles – who had earlier set up a score with an interception – hauled in an overthrown pass and returned it 34 yards for a touchdown. Fichter hit Malik Dudley for a two-point conversion and a 28-0 lead.
“As a whole team, we feed off each other,” Huffman said. “No matter, whether it’s defense feeding off the offense or offense feeding off the defense. Tonight, it was the offense feeding off the defense. That was just huge.”
When the Massillon defense wasn’t scoring points, it was doing its best to keep Lake Catholic from so much as getting a first downs. In fact, the Cougars didn’t cross the 50 through three quarters, with just three first downs and 80 total yards in the first 36 minutes of the game.
They finished with 126 total yards, 106 of those on the ground.
The first time Lake Catholic snapped on the Tiger side of midfield came with 10:39 remaining after Massillon botched a punt snap and the Cougars took over 1 yard from the goal line. On the next play, Justin Sanders scored to break up the shutout.
By that time, though, it was 35-6 and Massillon could start thinking about being 4-0 … and Steubenville.