Massillon quarterback Shawn Weisend and his Tiger teammates picked up where they left off after last week’s monumental victory against St. Ignatius. Weisend, making his first career start, threw a 40-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Trey Miller on the first play from scrimmage as the Tigers rolled to a 54-0 victory against Youngstown Woodrow Wilson Friday in front of 6,631 people at Paul Brown Tiger Stadium.
“I knew coming in that was the play call,” Weisend said. “I had to think about it all last night and all day today. It was our plan to hit the long ball early.”
Weisend, who scored the winning touchdown with less than 10 seconds remaining against St. Ignatius, had a productive first start, completing 10-for-17 passes for 148 yards and three touchdowns. He added 38 yards on two carries.
“I think (connecting on the long touchdown) built Shawn’s confidence,” said Miller. “It got the team’s confidence up and we rolled from there.”
The No. 4 state-ranked Tigers (7-0) rolled off 15 fourth quarter points to come back to defeat the Wildcats 29-26. This week, a comeback wasn’t necessary. Massillon struck for 35 first-half points, gained a total of 478 yards on offense and held to Redmen to 65 total yards.
But it wasn’t a flawless victory. The Tigers had several dropped passes and also committed eight penalties for 70 yards.
“Without a doubt we made some mistakes”, said senior tight end Brett Huffman. “We had a lack of focus after that big first play. We knew we were going to win, but there was a lack of focus. We have to iron that out before next week.”
Three of the penalties came on third down after it appeared the Tigers had stopped the Redmen, only to give them new life.
Massillon head coach Tom Stacy said the Tigers can’t afford mistakes like that against a struggling, but still dangerous Warren Harding team next Friday.
“That’s a part of focusing,” Stacy said. “A lot of those penalties were silly mistakes. We have to play much better next week or we are going to get killed.”
But the good outshined the bad Friday.
The Tigers forced a three-and-out on the Redmen’s first possession and proceeded to drive 60 yards on eight plays. Weisend showed he can also run with the ball. He faked an inside hand-off and scrambled around the end for 21 yards down to the Redmen 19-yard line. Three plays later, junior running back Brian Gamble took a handoff around the right end – gained a full head of steam – and ran over the Redmen defensive back Rashad Robinson at the 6-yard line before finally being tripped up at the one. Fullback Quentin Nicholson plunged into the end zone on the next play, making it 14-0.
It didn’t take long for the Tigers to punch in another touchdown. This time after forcing a three-and-out, junior Andrew Dailey came off the left end and blocked Allen Vazquez’s punt at the Redmen 10-yard line. The balled rolled back to the 7-yard line where defensive back Neil James pounced on it. Gamble scored two plays later on a 4-yard run.
Gamble, who finished with 123 yards rushing, capped a 13-play, 90-yard drive in the second quarter with a 13-yard touchdown run. Gamble rushed for 35 yards on three carries on the drive.
Weisend capped the first half with a 14-yard touchdown strike to fullback Robert Morris with 46 seconds remaining.
It only took one possession – and one more Weisend touchdown pass – in the third quarter before Stacy decided it was time to pull the starters.
Weisend capped a 4-play, 51-yard drive by connecting with senior tight end Brett Huffman on a 16-yard touchdown throw with 6:58 remaining in the third quarter. Steve Schott’s extra point was blocked and the Tigers led 41-0.
“It think I could’ve done better tonight,” said Weisend. “But I gave my best effort. I had a couple high throws, but I tried to make up for it on other plays.”
“He was hot and cold,” the first-year head coach said. “He missed some routine passes. But I’m just glad this one is over with. I don’t like to coach these types of games.”
Senior running back Lanale Robinson scored on a 21-yard touchdown run later in the third and sophomore K.J. Herring scored from 1-yard out to cap the scoring for Massillon.
The Massillon Tigers felt as if they didn’t play a full game in their biggest win of the season, a harrowing 35-31 victory over Cincinnati Elder in Week Two. They gave up three fourth-quarter touchdowns in that one to turn a laugher into a nail biter.
The Tigers were determined that wouldn’t be the case on Saturday night at Byers Field in Parma with nemesis St. Ignatius providing the opposition.Trailing 9-0 after one quarter, 19-7 at halftime and 26-14 after three stops, the Tigers mounted a fourth-quarter rally that won’t soon be forgotten in Massillon to bring home a 29-26 win that at once exorcised a host of demons and touched off a celebration usually reserved for the end of a world war.
“We never gave up,” said Tiger coach Tom Stacy. “We established before the game started we were playing four quarters. We weren’t going to do what we did down at Elder when we went up big and they came back in the fourth quarter. It was our time to play four quarters and we did it.”
Massillon made a habit of jumping to big early leads in its first five games this season. On Saturday, it went the other way as St. Ignatius established field position early to set up a three-play 31-yard touchdown drive in the first quarter. The Wildcats then capitalized on a fumbled kickoff to get a safety and a 9-0 edge after one quarter.
But the Tigers were undeterred.
“We got off to a terrible start,” said Stacy. “Give them credit, they did a good job in the kicking game. That really cost us and I really felt if we could get back into it before the end of the first half that we’d have a chance.”
The Tiger comeback officially began with 8:03 showing on the second quarter game clock and the ball at the Massillon 11 following a St. Ignatius punt. Three plays later they were set to punt but an errant snap forced Shawn Weisend to improvise and when he finally stopped running the Tigers had a first down at the 27.
Junior quarterback Bobby Huth then found Zack Vanryzin for 14 yards and a first down, and the Tigers kept working their way downfield. A holding penalty set Massillon back to the St. Ignatius 28 but Huth hit Brian Gamble in stride along the right sideline and the junior running back had no trouble locating the end zone for six. Steve Schott’s point after made it St. Ignatius 9, Massillon 7 with 2:48 until halftime.
But St. Ignatius countered with a three-play 76-yard touchdown sprint that took all of 1:20 and followed with a 50-yard field goal at the break that seemed to swing the momentum away from Massillon.
“Our kids at halftime, they were just ticked off,” Stacy said. “They said ‘We’re going to get back into it.’”
And they did, taking the second half kickoff and moving from the Massillon 22 to the St. Ignatius end zone in 14 plays. A 20-yard Huth to Gamble pass play over the middle helped get the ball rolling on the second snap of the march. Then a bubble screen to Gamble four plays later moved it to the Iggy 42.
From there, Gamble carried the ball three times as did junior fullback Quentin Nicholson, who covered the final yard for the touchdown. Schott’s point after made it 19-14 Ignatius midway through the third period.
St. Ignatius did what all great teams do, returning the favor with a seven-play scoring drive, highlighted by a 61-yard Rudy Kirbus to Nick Secue screen pass. Secue scored from a yard out with 3:54 left in the third and the conversion made it St. Ignatius 26, Massillon 14.
Back came the Tigers, this time with a 90-yard drive. Huth and Vanryzin meshed for a 23-yard gainer along the right sideline on the second play of the march. An unsportsmanlike conduct call on the Wildcats on a third down play gave the Massillon drive new life and a fake punt yielded a 10-yard pass completion to Andrew Dailey for another first down.
Huth threaded the needle to Brett Huffman for 25 yards to the St. Ignatius 2. Two plays later the Massillon offensive line blew the Ignatius front into the end zone and Gamble walked in for the touchdown.
It was St. Ignatius 26, Massillon 21 with most of the fourth quarter still to be played..
St. Ignatius moved from its 20 to its 37 on the ensuing possession but on third-and-four from that point tragedy struck the Wildcats. Kirbus dropped back and hit Parris with a pass, only to see the ball dislodged on a thunderous hit by Gamble that left the Ignatius All-Ohio wideout sprawled prone on the Byers Field playing surface.
Coach Chuck Kyle and a trainer rushed to Parris’ side but he had to be removed from the game via ambulance with an ugly looking lower leg injury.
“We were moving the ball but Robby’s hurt,” Kyle said. “He’s hurt. It’s not good. It’s bad.”
Massillon got the ball back on the punt and moved from its 28 to the St. Ignatius 38 when a fourth-and-one bootleg run resulted in a 4-yard loss, giving the ball back to the Wildcats with just 4:00 to play.
The Tiger defense had no margin for error and it came through, forcing a St. Ignatius punt after just three plays.
“Third-and-three, third-and-four,” Kyle said. “We didn’t convert a couple of those and that hurts. That hurts. You have to make a play at that point. They did. We didn’t.”
Beginning at their own 29, the Tigers got a big play as Gamble broke free for 19 yards on an option pitch around left end. Then senior running back Lanale Robinson picked up 10 more on a counter play to the Iggy 37.
On an incomplete pass, however, Huth was dinged and wobbled off the field with the aid of trainers. That brought in Weisend, who – two snaps later – was faced with a fourth-and-15 situation.
“Shawn Weisend never batted an eye, never batted an eye,” Stacy said. “He looked at me and said ‘Coach, I’m going to get it done,’ and he did.”The unflappable senior hit Vanryzin across the middle on a broken play for a 26-yard gain to the host’s 17-yard line.
“It was a busted play, I had to scramble,” Weisend recalled. “He wasn’t open at first. I was scrambling and I saw him going across the middle and I threw him the best ball I could.”
On second down Weisend threw a quick slant to Vanryzin who didn’t stop churning his legs until the ball was at the 4.
A pass interference call on St. Ignatius set up first and goal from the 2. After a loss of three yards on first down, Weisend took the shotgun snap, sprinted left, saw an opening and dashed for the pylon and the game-winning touchdown with just :10 on the clock.
“Their offense started doing some nice things, counters, hitting those little passes, just to keep us off balance,” Kyle said. “Hey, they’re on a roll. Tom’s doing a great job. They got the momentum going. You’ve got to give them credit.
“They were still running the counter and started finding a seam through there. And then rolling out, they were getting outside the contain. And even on the touchdown, we thought we were in a good call. We were coming from way outside and coming in. I have to see why the guy didn’t pin him in because we were coming from way outside and coming in.”
“What a great high school football game,” Stacy said. “That’s a big win for us.
“We’re a good football team. I think we’ll learn a lot about our team on tape. But we beat a really good football team. I don’t think there’s any question about that.”
Stacy admitted the Tigers got a monkey off their back by finally getting past St. Ignatius for the first time in nine games.
“Our kids believed they could do it,” he said. “If that hadn’t been the case, there was no way they could come back from 11 down at halftime. We couldn’t have done it. But our kids believed all week they could do and you can see the end result.
“The thing that impressed me was how hard both teams played and our resolve. Our resolve to get it done was unbelievable. I haven’t been around that kind of resolve probably since the Galion state championship game in 1985. Our guys wouldn’t back down.”
Massillon limited St. Ignatius to just 83 total yards in the second half to make the comeback possible.
“(Defensive coordinator) Steve Kovacs made some great adjustments at halftime,” Stacy said. “He kept his cool and made some great adjustments and I’ve got to give him a lot of credit.”
Backup QB proves big
By JOE SHAHEEN Joe.Shaheen@IndeOnline.Com
In the long and storied history of Massillon Tiger football, Shawn Weisend has written his number into a chapter all to himself.
The senior back-up quarterback came off the bench with less than two minutes to play after an injury to starter Bobby Huth and completed the game-winning drive that carried Massillon to an improbable 29-26 victory over St. Ignatius on Saturday at Byers Field in Parma.
The Tiger win snapped an eight-game losing streak to St. Ignatius and lifted a weight off the program’s back that had reached crushing proportions in the last several years.
With tears of elation streaming down his face after scoring the game-winning touchdown, Weisend tried to express his emotions.
“I can’t explain how it feels,” he said amidst a joyous on-field celebration. “They called my number and I did the best I could. They all had faith in me and faith in the offense.
“Before I was in, Bobby was in, there was 7:10 left and I said ‘It’s going to come down to seconds. Let’s take this game home.’ We did it.”
Trailing 26-21 and facing a fourth down-and-15 from near midfield, Weisend received a critical block from tackle Brendon Smith to elude a fierce pass rush and threw a strike to senior wideout Zack Vanryzin for 25 yards – and a first down – to the St. Ignatius 17.
On the next play, Weisend hit Vanryzin on a quick slant at the 10 and Vanryzin scratched and clawed his way to the 4-yard line.
Four plays later, from the St. Ignatius 5, Weisend rolled left, dove into the left corner of the end zone and victory was Massillon’s.
What was going through Weisend’s head minutes earlier when he was summoned into such a huge game with the outcome hanging in the balance?
“I’m not going to lie to you,” he said. “I was more focused than I ever was in my life. I knew I had to do it and I did it.”
The new season of network television programs has just begun but Rick Shepas had to feel like he was stuck watching reruns on Saturday night when Cleveland St. Ignatius turned a huge mistake on Massillon’s first possession of the ball game into a quick touchdown.
It was exactly the way last year’s Massillon-St. Ignatius game began and the end result was eerily similar, a 38-13 victory for the Wildcats. Now the question is, can the 3-3 Tigers somehow post three wins over their last four games – starting with this Saturday’s visit to Lakewood St. Edward – just to finish at 6-4 and have a shot at qualifying for the playoffs.
For that to happen, Massillon will have to either beat No. 2-rated St. Edward this week or No. 7-rated Warren Harding in Week Nine – both on the road no less – and still count on victories over Friendship Edison of Washington D.C. a week from this Saturday and archrival Canton McKinley in Week Ten. It’s a tall order indeed, especially if the Tigers continue to shoot themselves in the foot before the crowd is even settled into their seats. Massillon was penalized for holding on the opening kickoff, then fumbled on its first two plays from scrimmage, losing the second bobble to St. Ignatius on the Tiger 10-yard line. Three snaps later it was 6-0 Wildcats on a Rudy Kirbus to Collin Meador 3-yard touchdown toss. The point after made it 7-0 at 10:02 of the first quarter.
“It all came down to execution for us and we did not execute,” Shepas observed. “There’s no question that when you play in a football game like this you want to protect the football. Obviously in the first two snaps of the game we had the quarterback run into the running back on play number one. We had a fumble on play two. We put our defense against the wall. “Our problem tonight was execution as it has always been against Ignatius.”
Unlike last year’s Ignatius tilt, the Tigers bounced back after the initial touchdown, putting together a 10-play drive that finally stalled on the Wildcat 30-yard line. Then the visitors bore a gift for Massillon, fumbling the football to Tiger free safety Alex Dahlquist at the Ignatius 11.
Massillon pushed it to the 3-yard line, but a fourth-and-2 running play was snuffed out for no gain, giving the ball back to St. Ignatius on downs. “We got the fumble early and we took it in,” said St. Ignatius coach Chuck Kyle. “They got a fumble and they had to make a decision. Field goal or . what do you do?”
The Tigers opted to go for it and came away empty. “Obviously it did hurt,” said Shepas. “Our kids wanted to go for it in that situation. They were fired up but we just didn’t get it in.”
The Massillon defense stood tall the rest of the first half. St. Ignatius only other score came when Kirbus scrambled away from the Tiger pass rush, found a seam and sprinted 40 yards to the end zone late in the half. “It helps the offensive line so much when the quarterback can do that,” Kyle said. “If you have a seam go ahead. Go ahead. It does cool the jets of the pass rush. Maybe you didn’t call a quarterback draw but if it turns into that, that’s fine because now the defensive line has to keep an eye on you.”
The backbreaker, as far as the Tigers were concerned, came when Kirbus hooked up with Robby Parris for a 34-yard touchdown pass to cap off a nine-play, second-half opening drive. Massillon had St. Ignatius in a third-and-19 situation but couldn’t defuse the bomb and the Wildcats led 21-0 midway through the third period.
Kirbus and Parris repeated their act from near mid-field just over two minutes later to make it 28-0 and the stands began to empty at Paul Brown Tiger Stadium.
“St. Ignatius came out and executed the game plan we practiced for all week,” Shepas said. “There was not one surprise that they came up with during the course of the game.
“When they have the lead at halftime, that opening drive of the second half is important. And in typical Ignatius fashion they take the ball and drive the football and burn a lot of clock and then score that touchdown. It does affect your momentum to a degree but we still had a lot to play for.”
Massillon did put together a couple of late scores with Shawn Weisend under center after Quentin Paulik was sidelined by a late helmet-to-helmet hit out of bounds. But Kyle said afterward he had his reserves in when the Tigers tallied.
“I thought we matched up well against Ignatius and I still believe that,” Shepas continued. “I think we match up well with a few of the next teams we play. Regardless of what people want to say, we play an exciting brand of football here. We have an attack defense. We have an exciting offense. We play the top teams. This is a great place to watch a high school football game. Now we’ve just got to get ready to play. These are things people have to learn from. For me it’s not a problem. I was raised in this fashion. It’s another great week of football. A great opponent coming up and we’ll just get ready for them.”