The Massillon Tigers were looking for a prescription to cure themselves of the recent struggles they have been through recently. Fortunately for them, the Buchtel Griffins were just the medicine they needed.
Massillon matched its best first-half point production this season, and carried that on through to the end of a 48-14 win over the struggling Griffins in front of 7,014 at Paul Brown Tiger Stadium.
“It’s like a weight off our shoulders, definitely,” Tiger center Blake Seidler said. “I really don’t know how to explain it. It’s a mixed feeling. It’s a win, at the same time, you just have to, I don’t know, take it one at a time, I guess. It’s kind of hard to explain.”
The win snaps a two-game losing streak for the Tigers, who improve to 3-4 with a visit from Warren Harding forthcoming next Friday. Buchtel, which has struggled in Ricky Powers’ first season at the helm of his alma mater, fell to 1-6.
Things were academic by halftime, when the Tigers led 31-6. K.J. Herring added the topper to start the second half, when he returned the kickoff 89 yards for a touchdown and a 38-6 lead.
Herring had his best all-around game of the season, in large part because the Tigers were without the services of DeVoe Torrence. Torrence was out with a sprained ankle.
Making the most of the chance, Herring rushed for 157 yards on 12 carries with touchdown runs of 42 and 70 yards.
“It felt good,” Herring said. “It felt really good. I talked to the linemen – I talked to everybody on the team – and I just asked them, ‘We need to come together and finish this out.’ I’m really proud, because everybody came up, even the people who came in. … We just all came together and it worked out.”
Massillon’s offense scored on five of its seven first-half possessions to build up its 25-point edge. One of the two drives the Tigers were stopped on, they still managed to get the ball back on a fumbled punt at the Buchtel 46.
The Tigers were aided by great field position throughout the half, something that wasn’t the case in last week’s loss at St. Ignatius. Massillon’s worst starting position was its own 34 against Buchtel; its best starting position against the Wildcats was its own 28.
“That’s what you have to do if you want to win in high school football week in and week out,” Tiger coach Tom Stacy said of the field position. “That’s what we did tonight.”
The first two Tiger drives started on the Buchtel side of the 50, including their first drive, which started at the Griffin 2 after a blocked punt. That drive took all of one play – a 2-yard Steve Yoder run – to crack the end zone.
Justin Turner’s 11-yard run on a direct snap made it 14-0 after Steve Schott’s PAT kick.
Buchtel – which actually had more first-half yards than Massillon, 173-165 – cracked the scoreboard with six seconds left in the first quarter. That came on a 27-yard Tahj Dent-to-Dominique Gray pass, although the subsequent two-point run failed to keep it at 14-6.
Massillon scored on its final three second-quarter possessions – after it forced the fumble on the punt less than two minutes into the quarter. The Tigers made it 45-6 after Herring ripped off a 70-yard run on Massillon’s first second-half play.
Buchtel’s offense wasn’t exactly stifled through the course of the evening. The Griffins mustered 310 yards for the game – five fewer than Massillon – and had a 14-play, 75-yard scoring drive to cut it to 45-14 with less than a minute left in the third quarter.
“Our defense was on the field a lot tonight,” Stacy said. “I think in the third quarter, they were on the field for almost the entire quarter.” By then, though, many in the crowd were more interested in what was going on in the Indians’ American League Division Series game against the Yankees. There was a loud, sustained roar from the crowd when Travis Hafner’s game-winning hit was shown on the video screen during a break in the action.
The last bit of intrigue came with 5:52 left, when Schott booted a 28-yard field goal for a 48-14. The kick tied him with David Abdul for Massillon’s career field goal record with 29.
By CHRIS EASTERLING Chris.Easterling@IndeOnline.com
Football isn’t a game of life-or-death. That is, unless one is talking about a team’s playoff life or an offseason spent wondering “What if?”
The Massillon Tigers didn’t fall asleep Saturday night pondering that question. They didn’t have to, after knocking off previously-undefeated McKinley 10-7 in front of 17,950 at Paul Brown Tiger Stadium earlier in the day.
“I’m really proud of this group of kids,” Tiger coach Tom Stacy said. “It’s really special, because they fought and they fought. We’ve been so close all year to winning a big game. To finally able to do it against your archrival, and an undefeated team, is big.”
The win punches Massillon’s ticket back into the Division I playoffs, sending the Tigers to Perry to face the 9-1 Panthers in a Region 2 quarterfinal game.
There was a chance – a good one – Massillon could have qualified for the postseason, even with a loss to McKinley. But, for the 6-4 Tigers, Saturday’s win was certainly a confidence-builder – as players puffed up their chests and sprinted across the turf to take the Victory Bell back from the Bulldogs.
“This is probably the best win I’ve ever experienced in my life,” said senior linebacker Antonio Scassa. “We beat McKinley and we’re going to the playoffs and we’re going to make a run. It’s the best feeling I’ve ever had.”
The record will officially state that it was Steve Schott’s career-long 47-yard field goal with 6:38 left in the third quarter which won the game for the Tigers.
But, the Tiger defense deserves a lot of the credit.
The Tigers forced three Bulldog turnovers, held All-Ohio running back Morgan Williams out of the end zone and set up both Massillon scores with big plays.
“We just figured we had to come out and play defense,” Tiger senior free safety Darion McGuire said. “The defense always says that we can win the game ourselves. No putting down our offense, but we know that they can’t win if they (the other team) can’t score.”
McKinley scored on its third play of the game, when fullback George Tabron ripped off a 23-yard touchdown scamper on a simple trap play. Tabron ran through a gaping hole and wasn’t touched until his teammates swarmed him in the end zone.
Zack Campbell’s extra point made it 7-0 Bulldogs with 9:31 left in the first quarter.
The Tigers wouldn’t give McKinley many more chances to score. In fact, the closest the Bulldogs would get to the Massillon end zone was the Tiger 35 in the fourth quarter, a drive which ended on an incomplete pass on fourth down.
Not that McKinley didn’t move the ball on Massillon. Williams, who rushed for over 300 yards combined in two games against the Tigers a year ago, looked well on his way to another huge performance in the first half.
The Bulldog senior rushed for 131 yards on 17 first-half carries. Because of Williams, McKinley took at least one snap in Massillon territory on four of six first-half possessions.
Williams found the sledding much tougher in the second half. He would only muster 29 yards after halftime on 12 carries.
“It’s hard to keep Morgan in check if you just play regular football,” McGuire said. “If you play off of your emotion and heart, then you can keep any running back or any offense in check. … Everybody just played with a lot of heart today.”
It was the Tigers’ ability to change the field position with a big defensive play that made all the difference. All three of Massillon’s fumble recoveries were made in McKinley territory, including one by Cody Colly at the Bulldog 47 which set up Schott’s go-ahead field goal.
“You can’t beat your sister if you turn the ball over three times,” said McKinley coach Brian Cross. “A couple of those were pretty good hits, but a couple of those, we just didn’t secure the ball. That’s the name of the game.”
But it was a big play in the special teams department which got Massillon back in the game in the first half. After McKinley was forced to punt at their own 45, Corey Hildreth swooped in up the middle on the rush and blocked the kick, and Colly fell on the ball at the Bulldog 30.
It was Hildreth’s second blocked punt of the season. He also blocked one, which he returned for a score, against Moeller.
“It was a totally different scheme (than against Moeller),” Hildreth said. “There was totally different blocking up front, so we had to do a totally different scheme. The blocking for our team was amazing. It opened the hole right up, and I just came right through.”
Two plays later, Bobby Huth hit Trey Miller down the right sideline for a 29-yard touchdown pass at the 7:21 mark of the second quarter. Schott’s PAT tied the game at 7-7.
“We run a lot of outs, quick outs and stop routes,” Stacy explained on the call. “When we get opportunities in the red zone, we like to go over the top some. People overplay those routes sometimes. We had an opportunity to do it. Bobby put it up there, and Trey ran underneath it. I think their defensive back slipped. That was a big play for us.”
From there, it became a chess match of sorts. Neither team could get an edge on the other – until Scassa forced the fumble early in the third quarter.
The Tigers took the fumble recovery and moved the ball to the Bulldog 27. But a sack pushed the ball back, and Massillon slowed to a halt at the McKinley 30.
That brought Schott on to kick the 47-yarder while the wind swirled through the stadium. But the junior got plenty of leg on it, and the ball – which seemed in slow motion as it sailed through the air – cleared the crossbar with a little room to spare to give the Tigers the lead.
“Right off my foot, I knew it was good,” Schott said. “I didn’t have any second-guesses about that.”
No doubt, some may have second-guessed Stacy late in the game when he elected to go for it facing a fourth-and-3 at the McKinley 27. A field goal there, and it’s a six-point game.
“We talked about it,” Stacy said of kicking the field goal. “The thing I didn’t want to have happen was them block it and have a chance to return it. If they were going to win it, they were going to have to earn it by driving the football against our defense. Obviously, our defense, the way they played in the second half, had a pretty good chance to stop them even if we didn’t get it.”
But the Tigers went for it, and the move paid off when Huth hit fullback Tommy Leonard in the flat for an eight-yard gain to the 19. From there, all that was left was the countdown to the playoffs for the Tigers.
Tiger offense makes good on pledge:
By CHRIS EASTERLING
The Massillon Tigers finished Saturday’s game with 140 yards of total offense. Or, to put it differently, 20 yards fewer than Bulldog All-Ohioan Morgan Williams rushed for in the game.
But, when the dust settled in the 115th installment of the “The Game” at Paul Brown Tiger Stadium, the only numbers that mattered at all to the Tigers were illuminated on the scoreboard. Those numbers read, Tigers 10, Bulldogs 7.
“I don’t care if you win by a point in this game,” Tiger coach Tom Stacy said. “It doesn’t matter. A win’s a win. I can’t reiterate enough, I thought both teams played outstanding defense.”
And while the Massillon offense may not have worn out the lights on the scoreboard, it did something even more important, something which was critical to the Tigers’ success.
It took care of the football.
“No turnovers,” Tiger senior Brian Gamble said with a smile in the locker room afterwards.
“No turnovers” was a mantra for the Tigers in the days leading up to the McKinley clash. That’s because, in the seven games prior to it, Massillon had turned the ball over 21 times.
But on a day in which the weather was typical Ohio – dreary, then rainy, then snowy, then sunny, all the while windy and cold – Massillon took care of the football like it was its first-born.
“We emphasize it every week,” Tiger senior Andrew Dailey said. “We talk ball security, ball security. People stepped up in the big game. We played to our potential.”
The Tigers struggled to get the big play on offense for much of the day.
The first such play came in the midpoint of the second quarter, after Massillon blocked a Bulldog punt and recovered at the McKinley 30. On the second play of the series, Bobby Huth rolled to his right, avoided the rushing defender, and threw downfield.
Trey Miller, who had run an out pattern, turned up field and got by the Bulldog defensive back. About the time the defender fell down, Miller hauled in the pass and raced into the end zone for the game-tying touchdown.
Amazingly enough, that was one of only three plays which went for more than 10 yards for Massillon all game long. That doesn’t count a 33-yard touchdown pass to J.T. Turner which was called back due to a penalty.
In fact, the Tigers only amassed 46 yards in the second half. But, considering the way they were protecting the football, and the way their defensive counterparts were taking it away from McKinley, it was more than enough.
“We certainly didn’t play well enough on offense,” Stacy said. “That’s to the credit of their defense. I just thought they played tremendously. They have a tremendous defense. You just have to give their staff a lot of credit.”
“We had trouble moving the football period in the second half. I’m just thankful we got a pass there for the first down to run the clock out. That was big.”
As big as the numbers on the scoreboard which recorded the Tiger victory.
Bottom line for Dogs: ‘We didn’t execute’
By GREG KOHNTOPP
McKinley had already wrapped up a playoff berth and a first-round home game by the time it traveled to Paul Brown Tiger Stadium to face rival Massillon in Saturday’s 115th showdown between the two storied programs.
Massillon, on the other hand, was fighting for its playoff lives.
It would be easy to say Massillon just wanted it more, but don’t tell that to McKinley head coach Brian Cross after the Tigers’ upset No. 3-ranked McKinley 10-7.
“That had nothing to do with it,” the fourth-year coach said after his team fell to 9-1. “We turned the ball over, and we didn’t get the job done. We had a lot to play for, too. We played for pride, and that’s bigger than anything else. That’s what this game was about. It’s pride. You have to live with it for 365 days, so they had nothing more to play for than we did.”
The Bulldogs lost three fumbles and had a punt blocked, leading to all 10 of Massillon’s points.
The Tigers’ first seven points came immediately following Corey Hildreth’s blocked punt, which was recovered at the McKinley 30. It set up a Bobby Huth to Trey Miller 29-yard touchdown strike with 7:21 remaining before the half.
The final three points came after Massillon linebacker Antonio Scassa blitzed McKinley quarterback Danny Grimsley in the third quarter, chased him back 12 yards then stripped the ball. Fellow inside linebacker Cody Colly fell on the loose ball at the McKinley 47. From there, the Tigers only penetrated to the 30-yard line, but it was close enough for Steve Schott to split the uprights for a 47-yard field goal for the winning points.
“We had two turnovers lead to those 10 points,” said Cross. “That’s the name of the game. That’s what it’s all about. You have to give them credit for forcing those.”
There is no doubting how big of an impact the turnovers had. But it was more than turnovers that put the Bulldogs on the short end of the score. McKinley put the ball on the turf two more times and also had a muffed punt, which the Bulldogs recovered on their own three yard line. Then, there was the 2-of-12 passing for 21 yards for McKinley.
“We didn’t throw the ball well,” Cross said. “We didn’t execute and that’s the bottom line. We had guys open and we didn’t make plays. We have got to do a better job throwing the ball.”
If there was a bright spot in the defeat, it was how well the McKinley defense played. That unit held the Tigers to just 57 yards rushing on 40 carries and 83 yards through the air.
Linebacker George Tabron was a part of 14 tackles and defensive end Martavian Thigpen was also in on several plays, including a pair of sacks.
“Looking at the stats, I thought our defense played really well,” said Cross. “We held them to 40 rushes and 57 yards. You can’t play much better than that.
Massillon overcomes four turnovers to end two‑game losing skid
By CHRIS EASTERLING Chris.Easterling@lndeOnline.com
It was anything but an Instant Classic, but when you’re trying to fight your way into the playoffs, anything will work.
Certainly, the Massillon Tigers aren’t about to give back the 27‑12 victory they secured over the Buchtel Griffins on Friday night in front of 7,728 at Paul Brown Tiger Stadium.
“I’ll tell you what, when you’re playing our schedule, you’ll take them anyway you can get them,” Tiger coach Tom Stacy said. “I thought our kids really played hard. Obviously, the turnovers kept it from being a lopsided game, and our inability to score in the red zone again. We have to continue to work on that. But I thought our kids played hard.”
The win snaps a two‑game-losing streak for Massillon, which is now 4‑3 heading into next Satur day’s road test at Warren Harding. It is also the Tigers’ first win against an Ohio team this season.
But it didn’t come easy, as Massillon turned the ball over four times ‑ three on fumbles. The Tigers also were just 2‑of‑5 in red‑zone scoring chances.
“It feels good, but we’re looking to next week now,” said Tiger senior Brian Gamble, who rushed for a game high 135 yards while also catching a touchdown pass and intercepting a pass. “It’s over with.”
The first half set the tone for the whole game, as both teams struggled with .turnovers ‑ the Tigers had ,.three while Buchtel turned it over once ‑ and missed chances.
Still, the Tigers were able to muster the biggest offensive play of the half when Bobby Huth hit Giorgio Jackson for 62‑yard touchdown with 3:42 left in the first quarter to put Massillon ahead 10‑6 after Steve Schott’s extra point. Jackson caught the pass at about the Buchtel 40, side‑stepped a defender or two, then outran the rest into the end zone for the score only offensive touchdown of the half.
Jackson had 135 yards on eight catches. Many of those were simple out patterns in which he was able to turn it up field and get yards after the catch.
“I love getting the ball to Giorgio,” said Huth, who threw for a season‑high 261 yards. “I can throw that five‑yard out, and he can turn it up for 20 yards. He’ll break a couple of tackles.”
The only other touchdown before the intermission gave Buchtel a 6‑0 lead just 2:17 into the game. On the first play of the Tigers’ second possession, the ball squirted free and was picked up by the Griffins’ Johnny Adams, who simply outran everybody to the end zone for the score. The extra point was missed, keeping it at 6‑0 Buchtel.
The Tigers would hold onto the football on their next drive, which consumed 4:07 off the clock and moved them from their own 33 to inside the Griffin 1. However, while Massillon was lining up to try to punch it in on fourth down, it was flagged for a false start, moving it back past the Buchtel 5. Schott was called to boot the 23‑yard field goal, which he did to cut it to 6‑3 Buchtel with 5:23 left in the first quarter.
With the Tigers up 10‑6, Massillon’s Mike Sampson would force a Buchtel fumble with less than eight minutes remaining in the half, and his teammate Steve Yoder would fall on it at the Griffin 38. The Tigers would pickup 13 yards on the drive to the Griffin 25, but stalled again. Schott padded the Massillon lead by hitting a 42‑yard field goal for a 13‑6 edge with 6:02 left until the band show.
The Tigers would get two more possessions in the half, both of them reaching Griffin territory. But both would result in turnovers, once on a fumble at the Buchtel 40 and the other an interception at the Griffin 5.
“I think it’s a matter of some of them, we were forcing the play,” Stacy said. “Instead of throwing it away and going to the next down, we’re trying to force the ball in there and trying to make something out of nothing. You can’t do that, especially in the red zone. You can’t take points off the board.”
Buchtel would reach Massillon’s 30 on its next‑to‑last possession of the half ‑ the only time in the first half it ran more than one offensive play in Tiger territory ‑ but turned the ball over on downs.
“I think our defense just played hard,” said Tiger linebacker Cody Colly. “I think that’s what it was. We just knew we had to get the job done because there was a lot on the line. We just played our hearts out and that’s what got it done.”
Things would change on Massillon’s first drive of ‑the second half , which started at the Buchtel 40 following a punt. On the fourth play, Huth hit a wide‑open Gamble down the right sidelines, and Gamble ran into the end zone for the touchdown. Schott’s PAT made it 20‑6 Tigers with 9:29 left in the third quarter.
Gamble would give the Tigers good field possession for their second drive when he came up with an interception at the Griffin 49. Four plays later, Huth hit tight end Josh Cross just inside the front right pylon for a 15‑yard touchdown and 27‑6 Tiger lead after the PAT with 7:28 left in the third.
Adams tacked on an offensive touchdown when he caught a 15‑yard scoring pass from Glen Campbell on a fourth‑and‑5 play. The score cut it to 27‑12 with 2:55 left in the third after the PAT kick failed.
Buchtel would get the ball right back at the Tiger 48 after a fumble following a reception. But the Griffins fumbled it right back five plays later at the Tiger 36, a drive which would end in a missed field goal.
“We fought hard,” said Buchtel coach Claude Brown, whose team falls to 3‑4. “We made a couple of mistakes there. We’ve got to catch the ball, we have to hold our blocks and we have to make plays.”
Buchtel 6 0 6 0 12
Massillon 10 3 14 0 27
B ‑ Johnny Adams 28 fumble return (Kick failed)
M ‑ Steve Schott 23 FG
M ‑ Giorgio Jackson 62 pass from Bobby Huth (Schott kick)
M ‑ Schott 42 FG
M ‑ Brian Gamble 30 pass from Huth (Schott kick)
M ‑ Josh Cross 15 pass from Huth (Schott kick)
B ‑ Adams 15 pass from Glen Campbell (Kick failed)
Massillon rushing: Gamble 27‑135; Tommy Leonard 5‑31; Andrew Dailey 1‑0.
Buchtel rushing: Kameron Alexander 12‑58; Ernest Pitts 15‑43; Norman Wolfe 1‑10; Adams 2‑6.
By CHRIS EASTERLING Chris.Easterling@IndeOnline.com
Thanks to the one-man show that was St. Ignatius senior Matthew Merletti, the Massillon Tigers find themselves at a crossroads in their season. One way leads back to the playoffs, the other to an end of the road after the week 10 game with McKinley.
“We need to probably win out, or come close, to make the playoffs,” Tiger coach Tom Stacy said after his team fell to 3-3 following a 30-16 loss to St. Ignatius on Friday night in front of 12,458 at Paul Brown Tiger Stadium. “Any time you lose a couple of games in a row, you worry about people jumping ship on you. We told our guys, we can’t have any of that happen and win out. We have to have everybody with us – coaches, players, everybody from the third-stringer to the first-stringer. They’re going to have to rally around.”
Merletti single-handedly put the 6-0 Wildcats on his back on this evening, rushing for a game-high 221 yards on 31 carries, while adding a back-breaking 79-yard interception return for a score in the fourth quarter. He finished with 398 yards total between his rushing, receiving and return yards.
“Tony Gonzalez had a pretty big game here a few years ago,” said St. Ignatius coach Chuck Kyle, whose team is now 6-0. “It was one of those types of things. Tom and I even talked about Matt before the game. He said, ‘That 22 (Merletti) is just a tremendous player.’ And I said, ‘We need him to be.'”
Afterwards, the senior talked about how he and his Wildcat teammates were inspired all week by memories of Massillon’s 29-26 win over Ignatius a year ago. That broke an 0-8 skid against Ignatius by the Tigers.
“We definitely thought about that, no question about it,” Merletti said. “That was a big motivator.”
Now Massillon needs a similar kind of motivation as it heads into the final four games of the season. It starts next Friday night when Buchtel visits Paul Brown Tiger Stadium.
“We have to coach better and we have to play better,” Stacy said. “If you want to win games, that’s what you have to do.
“It’s going to be our job to pull them together. That’s why you coach. I’m really confident will bounce back next week. I really am.”
The Tigers went back to good, old-fashioned smash-mouth football on their second series of the game, one which ended with Steve Schott kicking a 33-yard field goal to give Massillon a 3-0 lead with 4:32 left in the first quarter. The drive took 15 plays, with 10 of those being running plays, including a 3-yard run by Brian Gamble on fourth-and-1 from the Ignatius 23 to keep it alive.
But the Wildcats answered, thanks in a large part by a 56-yard run by Merletti, who was untouched until Gamble tackled him at the Tiger 6. Two plays later, Merletti gave Ignatius the lead with a 3-yard run with 3:00 left in the quarter, making it 7-3 Wildcats after Nick Yako’s PAT kick.
Gamble again needed to save the Tiger defense on Ignatius’ next possession – but only momentarily. Merletti ripped off a 61-yard run through a gaping hole up the middle to the Massillon 12, where Gamble finally brought him down.
Once again, it took Ignatius two more plays after Merletti’s big run to find the end zone, this time on a 2-yard run by Merletti. Yako’s PAT made it 14-3 Ignatius just 38 seconds into the second quarter.
Massillon’s offense mixed it up on its subsequent possession, balancing a Gamble run with big pass plays in the flats to Trey Miller, Andrew Dailey and Bryan Sheegog to move to the Ignatius 6. However, a big sack on third-and-5 pushed the ball back to the Wildcat 15, and Schott was called on to hit a 32-yard field goal to cut it to 14-6 with 6:04 left in the half.
The Tigers would again move the ball on their next drive, boosted by a big 29-yard pass from Bobby Huth – who was 11-of-14 for 139 yards in the second quarter alone – to Miller to the Wildcat 31. But a fumbled pitch short-circuited the drive, which ended with an incomplete pass on fourth down from the Ignatius 26.
Massillon would get a final shot at points in the half when an Ignatius punt was downed at the 50. Two quick passes moved it to the 29, where Schott hit his third field goal of the half – a 46-yarder – to cut it to 14-9 Ignatius at halftime.
Merletti again prevented the Tiger defense from getting off the field on the Wildcats’ first drive of the second half. This time, it was a 43-yard catch-and-run on a simple swing pass that turned a third-and-7 from the Ignatius 41 into a first-and-10 at the Tiger 16.
As was the case the first two times Merletti ripped off a big play, it took the Wildcats just two more plays to find the end zone. This time, it was a 16-yard run off right end for a touchdown with 8:22 left in the third quarter to lift St. Ignatius to a 21-9 lead after the extra point.
The Tigers’ evening may have been defined by their two third-quarter possessions. The first, which reached the Ignatius 32, ended with a fumble.
But it was the second which may have left the mortal wound. After Kevin Massey returned an interception for Massillon to the Wildcat 10, the Tigers were able to move to the 3, where they faced fourth-and-goal. But the pass into the end zone was high and broken up, leaving the score at 21-9.
“I had some really bad calls in the red zone I wish I had back,” Stacy said. “I blame myself for that. I really believe that was a turning point in the game.”
Ignatius would tack on a 28-yard Yako field goal seven plays after it recovered a muffed punt on the Tiger 32 midway through the fourth quarter to make it 24-9. Merletti would then cap the night with a 79-yard interception return for a score with 5:09 remaining that made it 30-9 Wildcats after the extra point was blocked.
Huth would provide the final margin with a 2-yard run with 2:47 remaining.
By CHRIS EASTERLING Chris.Easterling@IndeOnline.com
Six plays into the second half, the Massillon Tigers had grabbed control of the momentum and the lead in its game Friday night at Mentor. By the time the third quarter ended, the lead – if not the momentum – had shifted to the Cardinals.
Five plays into the fourth quarter, a Tiger fumble left little question who held the momentum. That momentum eventually carried itself over into a 19-7 Mentor win over Massillon in front of approximately 9,500 at Jerome T. Osbourne Sr. Stadium.
“We score a touchdown, and we think the game’s over,” said Tiger coach Tom Stacy, whose team falls to 3-2. “It’s like we stopped playing. I don’t know what the problem is. We have to look at the tape, see what the problem is and get them corrected.”
After both teams failed to mount any sort of scoring threat in the first half, the third quarter turned into a shoot-out. It started when the Tigers’ Chris Thornton recovered a pooch kick at the Mentor 35.
Six straight carries by Brian Gamble put Massillon into the end zone, the last of which covered three yards. Steve Schott’s extra point with 9:24 left in the third quarter gave the Tigers a 7-0 lead.
Gamble – who finished with 115 yards on the night – looked like he was venting some of the pent-up anger he had from the first half. He was screaming into the air as he walked off the field at halftime, part of it due to an official’s negation of an apparent Tiger touchdown.
“I thought he played well,” Stacy said of Gamble. “I can’t fault the kids’ effort. I thought we played hard. They just made more plays than we did.”
Bobby Huth appeared to hit Giorgio Jackson on a 50-yard “Hail Mary” pass on the final play of the half. However, the official behind the play came in and ruled the pass incomplete.
Television replays appeared to back up Massillon’s contention. Still, the ruling stood, and it was 0-0 at the intermission.
“They said he rolled over and didn’t have the ball,” Stacy said.
After Gamble’s touchdown, the Tigers didn’t have the ball much more in the third quarter. That’s because Mentor would chew up 79 yards on 15 plays on its subsequent possession, taking off over five minutes of clock time before Bart Tanski hit Brandon James on a 7-yard touchdown strike with 3:54 left.
The extra point kick was wide right, and Massillon kept the lead at 7-6. But not for too long.
“After nearly shutting them down in the first half … obviously they just executed better than we did,” Stacy said. “We scored, and it’s like it lit a fire under them.”
Massillon would go three-and-out on its next possession, and punt it to the Cardinals at their own 49. It would take only six plays for Mentor to march over that distance, thanks to a 30-yard quarterback keeper by Tanski to the Tiger 12.
Bill Deitman would give Mentor the lead for good, bull-rushing his way in from two yards out with 1:40 left in the quarter. The PAT pass was no good, keeping the Cardinal lead at 12-7.
“I think after that (Tiger touchdown) drive, we challenged our team on the bench,” said Mentor coach Steve Trivisonno, whose team is 4-1. “We felt we were a little soft on that series. After that, I thought we controlled the game real well.”
The Tigers would put together one final legitimate scoring threat in the game, starting after Deitman’s run. From its own 35, Massillon moved down to the Mentor 15 – with help from a big 31-yard Huth-to-Gamble strike on the final play of the third quarter.
However, the drive – and most likely the Tigers’ hopes – would end when the Cardinals’ Shane Molder popped the ball loose from the Massillon ballcarrier and Nate Wilson fell on the ball for Mentor at its own 5.
“We shot ourselves in the foot,” Tiger coach Tom Stacy said. “We killed ourselves with penalties. We put the ball on the ground. We shot ourselves in the foot. Supposedly we didn’t catch the ball in the end zone at the end of the half, I don’t know. We just didn’t make any plays. They made more plays than we did.”
The final nail would be driven in the Tiger coffin with 1:58 remaining as Tanski capped a short four-play, 19-yard scoring drive with a 3-yard run. Kevin Harper’s PAT provided the final margin.
Not that the Tigers have long to dwell on the setback.
“We better get back to work, because we’re playing a better football team next week,” Stacy said, referring to next Friday’s home game with St. Ignatius. “It doesn’t get any easier.”
Massillon 0 0 7 0 7
Mentor 0 0 12 7 19
Mas – Brian Gamble 3 run (Steve Schott kick)
Men – Brandon James 7 pass from Bart Tanski (Kick failed)
Men – Bill Deitman 2 run (Pass failed)
Men – Tanski 3 run (Kevin Harper kick)
Massillon rushing: Gamble 26–115, K.J. Herring 4-29, Tom Leonard 1-1.
Mentor rushing: Deitman 19-78 TD, Tanski 19-75 TD
Massillon passing: Bobby Huth 13-30-108
Mentor passing: Tanski 11-18-102 TD
Massillon receiving: Bryan Sheegog 4-27, Andrew Dailey 3-21, Gamble 2-36.
Mentor receiving: James 4-33 TD, Mike Popelas 3-51.
With the annual season-ending rivalry game with McKinley looming one week from today, Massillon Tiger coach Tom Stacy didn’t want any slip-ups against underdog Eastlake North Friday night at Paul Brown Tiger Stadium.
Stacy was adamant that his players focus on Eastlake, so much so that early in the week he banned them from addressing McKinley.
“We had a gag order on talking about McKinley,” Stacy said. “We did. We said don’t mention the name. Don’t talk about it.
“This program has had some slip-ups in Week Nine. I was part of a couple of those.”
Despite a steady drizzle for the first half of the game, the Tigers didn’t slip or slide or otherwise screw up their perfect record. Instead they blew Eastlake away 49-14 in front of 6,936 fans to improve to 9-0.
“I’ve coached in a lot of places and I’ve seen some very good football teams,” said Eastlake North head coach Nick Toth. “One of the things that makes Massillon a good team is they’re really well coached from top to bottom.
“I watched nine films on them and I only saw one thing I thought we could take advantage of that they were a little bit structurally weak. This is a well-coached football team. That guy is doing a very, very nice job over there.”
Eastlake North finished with 211 total yards but most came after the Tiger starters were out of the game.
“Our starters really got after them,” Stacy said. “That’s good to see. We told them they better go out and play hard. I thought our starters did a good job with that.”
Bobby Huth had a superb game at quarterback, connecting on 9 of 13 for 213 yards and two touchdowns. Stacy wanted to get his junior signal caller in a groove for the showdown next weekend.
“We wanted to get him in a rhythm and get a little bit more balance in our offense tonight,” said Stacy, noting the Tigers had 300 yards rushing and 274 yards passing. “If the weather had been better we’d have thrown a little bit more.”
The Tigers broke on top without the benefit of an offensive snap as senior cornerback Troy Ellis picked off a Mitch Weisbarth aerial at the Eastlake North 42 and ran it all the way back for a touchdown at 10:31 of the first quarter. Steve Schott’s point after was good and Massillon was up 7-0.
“If he hadn’t picked off that pass and ran it back, we’d have lost 42-14 instead of 49-14,” Toth quipped.
Massillon’s first offensive possession ended in a fumble but the next time the Tigers touched the ball there would be no such relief for Eastlake.
Huth hit Zack Vanryzin for seven yards along the right sideline on first down. Then senior running back Lanale Robinson ripped off 16 yards around right end and tacked on 22 more on a similar play to reach the end zone. Schott’s kick was true and the Tigers were up 14-0 with almost four minutes remaining in the first quarter.
Another three-play drive the next time Massillon had the ball yielded yet another touchdown. The possession began with a flea flicker play as Huth stood in the face of the North pass rush and found Vanryzin wide open at midfield. The senior wideout caught the ball and then weaved his way through the Ranger secondary down to the North 15.
Two plays later Robinson went over his right guard, ran through at tackle at the 5-yard line and scored the Tigers third touchdown of the evening. Schott’s conversion boot made it 21-0 with just under a minute to play in the opening stanza.
Massillon’s only sustained drive of the first half began at its 31. Eight plays later – six of which were runs by Gamble – Huth found senior tight end Brett Huffman all by himself at the North 14. Huffman snatched the ball out of the air and ambled in for the touchdown.
“I went up the line and I saw there was nobody around me and I was hoping Bob saw it too,” Huffman said. “He did and he got it to me. It was perfect pass. Good throw, good catch, good touchdown.”
Schott’s conversion was on target and Massillon’s lead grew to 28-0 at 4:06 of the first half.
Gamble made an incredible diving catch to key the Tigers final first-half possession. The drive began at the Massillon 20 with a 23-yard Huth to Gamble hook-up.
Two plays later Huth wound up and let fly in Gamble’s direction down the right hash. The ball looked to be overthrown but Gamble dove and – with his body parallel to the ground – latched onto the ball for a 30-yard gain to the North 26.
“That was a heck of a catch,” Stacy said. “I didn’t think he was going to get to it. I didn’t think there was any way.
“It gets to the point where you kind of take him for granted some times. He is a great player.”
Five plays later Huth lofted the ball into the end zone and Trey Miller pulled it in for Massillon’s fifth touchdown of the first half. Schott was accurate with his conversion kick and the Tigers carried a 35-0 lead into the halftime locker room.
The Tiger defense was relentless, limiting North to 82 total yards in the first two quarters and only 16 yards rushing.
Massillon sacked Weisbarth three times, with Lorenzo Grizzard, Dirk Dickerhoof and Paris McCall doing the honors for the Tigers.
Robert Morris opened the second half scoring with a 16-yard burst into the end zone, capping a drive that got started with a 59-yard Shawn Weisend to Vanryzin aerial. Schott’s kick pushed the tiger lead to 42-0 midway through the third quarter.
Massillon’s final touchdown came on an electrifying 80-yard run by Robinson on the second play of the fourth quarter.
Robinson finished with a career high 169 yards rushing on just 11 carries.
You could probably take Massillon’s last three opponents, roll them all into one, and you still wouldn’t have as good a team as the one the Tigers will face this Saturday when Cleveland St. Ignatius comes a calling at Paul Brown Tiger Stadium. But the Tigers don’t look at it that way. Head coach Rick Shepas won’t let them. Shepas and his coaching staff want the 3-2 Tigers to prepare for a faceless opponent this week, not one that this proud football program has never defeated. They want the Tigers to get ready for St. Ignatius in much the same fashion as they got ready for Mansfield, Findlay or Calvin Coolidge High of Washington D.C, a 52-8 victim of a rejuvenated Massillon team last Saturday night in the house that Paul Brown built.
“We’re not going to change anything,” said Tiger co-captain Jason Reinmann when asked about preparations for St. Ignatius. “We’re going to work hard. We have faceless opponents so nothing is going to change at all. “We’re going to work all week and at the end of the week we’re going to go out there and get our paycheck.”
St. Ignatius is 4-1 after suffering a 29-13 loss to Athol Springs (N.Y.) St. Francis on Saturday. Tiger co-captain D’angelo McClendon admits the team’s mindset going into the annual St. Ignatius tilt may have been a problem in past years. “Most definitely,” McClendon said. “Last year and all the way back I think so. This year, we keep it in our heads that we’re just going to come out and let it all hang out basically. That’s the influence our coaches give us as well. That’s what they’ve been telling us all year long.” We’re going to attack every game the same way. We don’t care if it’s St. Ignatius or a scrap team, we’re just going to come out and just go hard for four quarters.” That approach paid dividends against Coolidge as Massillon scored six of the first seven times it had the football on offense to race to a 49-0 halftime lead. With Ramon Kelly and Caleb White sharing the ball carrying chores, the Tigers capitalized on field position provided by Kelly’s 48-yard opening kickoff return and moved 46 yards in five plays to jump out 7-0 against the Colts. Kelly scored the first of his three touchdowns on a 2-yard burst over right tackle and Steve Schott tacked on the extra point at 10:23 of the first quarter. “I think we’re getting a little bit better,” Shepas said. “Our offensive line is starting to understand what we expect and we’re starting to communicate better. We can tell from the plays we were calling and the assignments that they are blocking that we’re getting better. We’re getting a better running game.”
The Tigers turned the ball over on an interception on their second possession. It was about the only thing they did wrong on Saturday. “In a lot of ways our quarterback play is improving and it has improved with the checks at the line of scrimmage,” Shepas said. “I like the way Quentin Paulik has been managing the game. But there’s still some things to work on. He’s still staring down some throws but we’re just going to continue to get better. I love to practice and you take care of a lot of that at practice.” Massillon got that interception right back when free safety Alex Dahlquist swooped in and picked off Coolidge’s Andre Glanville at the Tiger 30. Dahlquist, who led the team in tackles a week ago against Findlay, then raced 70 yards to pay dirt for Massillon’s second score of the evening at 6:43 of the first quarter. “Alex (Dahlquist) started out the year that way last year,” Shepas said. “He didn’t finish the year like that.” If he started out slow (this season), I’d rather him get to the point where he is now where he’s going to finish the season stronger.”
Paulik dropped a high arcing 40-yard bomb into Kurt Jarvis’ waiting hands on a well-executed fly pattern to give the Tigers a 21-0 lead at 3:33 of the first quarter and the rout was on.White would add a 16-yard touchdown run, cutting inside of Mike Morningstar’s fine block on the right side of the line, and Kelly tallied his second and third scores of the night on short runs about three minutes apart on the second quarter game clock.White closed the first-half scoring with a two-yard burst into the end zone after Brian Gamble gave the Tigers the short field by tackling the Coolidge punter before he could get off the kick. The third and fourth quarters were shortened from 12 to eight minutes and a running clock was employed at times to keep things from getting out of hand. “Confidence was a factor for this team early on and I think we’re gaining in that,” Shepas said. “We’re starting to take care of the ball a little bit better. We’re starting to develop some balance with a better running game.
All those things are factors. “We’re going after this thing all the way. All of our goals are still on the board. We didn’t start the way we wanted to but maybe we wouldn’t be where we are if we hadn’t started the way we did.”
By William R. Sanderson William.Sanderson@IndeOnline.com
Massillon wanted to establish a ground game at Findlay. It’s safe to say they did just that after Ramon Kelly ran all over the Trojans for a 36-16 Tiger victory at Donnell Stadium on Friday night.Kelly, a 5-foot-8, 175-pound senior, ran for 288 yards and two touchdowns on only 24 carries. Caleb White added 82 yards and two touchdowns on 15 carries to help the Tigers improve to 2-2 on the season. Findlay drops to 0-4.
The success the Tigers had running the ball came in an odd-looking package – a tight, I-formation set. “In this case we were trying to build off the running game we had last week,” Massillon coach Rick Shepas said. “We are a similar offense to Findlay. We both line up in the spread. I know we like playing against other spread teams because we see it so much in practice. So, I wanted to see how the guys would respond when we packed it in.”The Tigers responded pretty well. They established a 9-0 lead in the first half and then maintained the advantage in the second half.Kelly showcased tremendous speed on several carries. He would appear destined to be stopped behind the line but would simply outrun the defenders to the corner. “There is no question about it,” Shepas said, “Ramon has a great burst.” While he didn’t get the same gaudy numbers as Kelly, Shepas praised his other running back – Caleb White, a 5-11, 178-pound senior. “Both our backs really ran the ball hard,” Shepas said. “Ramon ran the ball hard and Caleb did too. He broke some tackles.”
On the other side of the ball the Tiger defense had Findlay under control for the majority of the contest.Findlay struggled to muster 53 yards in the first half and 120 yards for the game. Wide reciever Zach Kraus started at quarterback for Findlay after one quarterback had been benched and another was injured last week. That forced Findlay into a largely ground-oriented attack.Massillon’s ground game kicked into high gear from the very start of the game, but a couple of mistakes kept the halftime score from being any larger than 9-0 Tigers.On the opening possesion, Kelly and White took turns gouging yards. Massillon got as far as the Findlay 2 before a fumbled snap forced the Tigers to settle for a 24-yard Steve Schott field goal to make it 3-0 with 8:21 on the clock.Schott had another chance in the opening minute of the second quarter, but just missed a 47-yard opportunity wide right. The defense would share credit for Massillon’s next score when Alex Dahlquist intercepted a Findlay pass and gave the Tigers the ball on the Findlay 22. A few plays later White ran in for a two-yard touchdown. A bad snap cost Massillon the extra point and the score was 9-0 with 7:08 to go in the second quarter.Massillon came five yards away from adding to its lead at the end of the first half. With under a minute to go, Massillon advanced to the Findlay 5 when Findlay’s Andrew Leddy and Jason Inbody brought down Tiger quarterback Quentin Paulik for a big loss. A screen pass from Paulick to Kelly brought the ball back to the five and the Tigers spiked to ball to stop the clock with :14 left. On fourth-and-four, the Trojan defenders held fast.
“We had some opportunities we didn’t take advantage of,” Shepas said of the first half. “Still our defense played fantastic and we had the advantage going in the second half.” That Massillon defense came up big again in the third quarter when Lorenzo Grizzard jumped on a fumbled pitch. A little while later Paulik threw an 11-yard touchdown pass to a wide-open Brett Huffman. The extra point was blocked to make the score 15-0 at the 7:57 mark of the third quarter.For a brief moment, Findlay looked like it might make the finish an exciting one when Greg Mills broke a return 95 yards for a score on the ensuing kickoff, but Massillon answered promptly with touchdown runs by White and Kelly to make the score 29-10 before the end of the third quarter.The Findlay offense finally had some measure of success in the fourth quarter with the matter essentially decided. Mills and Kraus both ran the ball to set up a 10-yard Andre Strzempka touchdown catch from Jeff Foltz. The kick made it 29-16 with 4:53 remaining.Kelly had one final score for good measure when he broke a 38-yard jaunt for a touchdown at the 2:38 mark. Schott’s kick made it 35-16.Massillon will go into next Saturday’s game with Washington D.C. Coolidge with a 2-2 record, not that Shepas places a whole lot of importance on the .500 mark. “It doesn’t matter,” he said. “We take it one game at a time.”
The Massillon Tigers could only muster a field goal from a couple of early turnovers, then was unable to deal with Akron Buchtel’s athleticism and trailed the Griffins 25-10 at halftime when lightening forced postponement of Friday’s opening game of the 2004 high school football season.The game will be resumed at 10 a.m. today at Paul Brown Tiger Stadium. Gates will open at 9 a.m.
The Tigers actually drew first blood, moving 67 yards in six plays to take a 7-0 lead. The payoff came when senior running back Jermaine Moncrief hit into the middle of the line then bounced outside and swept around his left end for a 13-yard touchdown run. Steve Schott added the point after at 6:41 of the first quarter.Buchtel came back on its ensuing possession and moved 65 yards in just five plays, the final 45 yards on Bryan Williams’ burst over left tackle to the end zone.
Rayshon Dent added the extra point to knot the score at 7-7 at 4:06 of the first quarter.Williams run would have never taken place if not for Buchtel’s fake punt on fourth-and-four that gave the Griffins a first down.Massillon got a huge break when Buchtel failed to execute a punt snap on its next possession and the Tigers recovered at the Griffin 9-yard line.
But two running plays and an incomplete pass forced Massillon to call on Schott who was true with a 28-yard field goal to give the hosts a 10-7 lead at 11:52 of the second quarter.Buchtel received the ensuing kickoff and got superb field position when a Tiger was flagged for grabbing the facemask, giving the Griffins the football at the Massillon 42.On first down, Williams – whom Buchtel coach Claude Brown said would not play on offense due to a shoulder injury – found a gaping hole around the left side of his offensive line and went the distance for a touchdown.
The point after was botched but the Griffins owned a 13-10 lead at 11:34 until halftime.Massillon was forced to punt but Buchtel fumbled on its third play from scrimmage and Tiger linebacker Robert Morris fell on the pigskin at the Griffin 40.Tiger running back Paris McCall picked up nine yards and a first down to move the ball to the 28.Two plays later, on third-and-8, Quentin Paulik hit Zack Vanryzin for what appeared to be a 26-yard touchdown pass. However, the Massillon tally was nullified by an illegal procedure penalty against the Tigers and a subsequent 48-yard field goal attempt was wide left.After the game’s initial lightning delay held the contest up for about 45 minutes, Buchtel came out with a little lightning of its own.
Senior quarterback Dorrell Knight connected with Teon Stallworth on a 62-yard bomb over the outstretched hand of the Tiger safety. The conversion pass failed and Buchtel led 19-10 at 6:36 of the second quarter.It went from bad to worse for Massillon as the Tigers fumbled a handoff on first down on its very next possession. Buchtel’s Kristopher King picked up the loose ball and went 36 yards for a touchdown. Once again the Griffins’ conversion pass fell incomplete but the visitors had built a a 25-10 lead.The Tigers had two more possessions before the game’s second and final lightning delay but could not generate a first down.