MASSILLON, OH – It had been a while since the Massillon Tigers could look up and see themselves sitting with a double-digit lead as the scoreboard clock hit triple zeroes. That’s exactly what the Tigers were able to do on Friday night, as they handed Stow a 27-10 loss at Paul Brown Tiger Stadium.
But for the last three quarters, that double-figure lead felt like anything but one for the Tigers. After jumping out to a 21-0 second-quarter lead, Massillon was beset by choppy play, turnovers and penalties for the remainder of the game – things which were front-and-center on head coach Jason Hall’s mind immediately afterward.
“I told our guys, if we play this way in what we call our big games,” Hall said after his team improved to 2-1 with a big road test at Mentor next Friday, “not putting anything down on Stow, but if you go on the road to Mentor and play like this, we’ve got no shot. We have to execute. We can’t have turnovers, we can’t have sloppy play. We can’t have cheap penalties, and we’ll address that. … We have to play the way we’re capable of playing.”
In winning, the Tigers may have opened the door to a bit of controversy at the quarterback position. Brody Tonn started for the third straight game, and led the Tigers on scoring drives on each of their first two possessions, including a 59-yard touchdown strike to Jacar Roberson.
But on the third Tiger possession, a combination of four bad or mishandled snaps spoiled any chance Massillon may have had to add to what was a 14-0 lead at the time. And on the next possession, highly-touted sophomore Kyle Kempt made his Tiger debut, coming on to throw a 29-yard touchdown pass to Roberson to give Massillon a 21-0 lead with 9:07 remaining in the half.
“We just weren’t able to really get into a good rhythm at the end of the first quarter,” Hall said. “We came out pretty hot. … Missing snaps and we weren’t getting into a rhythm, so I thought it was time to calm Brody down. Kyle’s been practicing well, so it was time to see what he could do.”
Kempt played the remainder of the game, finishing 6-of-11 for 74 yards. Prior to being removed, Tonn was 4-of-5 for 92 yards with the touchdown.
Hall would not commit to a direction with the quarterback position after the game.
Stow, which could get nothing going in the first quarter, managed to cut it to 21-10 at halftime thanks to a pair of scoring possessions. The Bulldogs broke through on the scoreboard when quarterback Mike Greenwell adeptly kept the ball on an option play for a 49-yard scoring run just 17 seconds after the Tigers had built up their three-touchdown lead.
Aaron Quinn’s 30-yard field goal with 14 seconds left in the half cut it to an 11-point margin. Stow had a touchdown pass called back due to a holding penalty – one of four on the drive against the Bulldogs.
In fact, the yellow flags had quite a prominent presence in the second quarter. Stow was flagged for 10 penalties in the quarter for 80 yards, including three straight procedure flags for kicking the ball out of bounds on the subsequent kickoff after the field goal.
Massillon didn’t fare much better in the penalty department, getting hit for seven second-quarter flags for 60 yards. For the game, the Tigers were flagged 13 times for 120 yards, while Stow had 14 penalties for 102 yards.
“It’s embarrassing, that’s the only word I’ve got for those penalties,” Hall said of the penalties. “It’s embarrassing. I’ve never been in a game where we had that many penalties. We played last week and we had seven penalties.”
Lost in all the choppiness of the game was a slow emergence of the Tiger running game, which was held to just an average of 2.2 yards per carry in the first two games. But against Stow, Massillon finished with 168 yards, averaging 4.7 yards a rush.
Jake Reiman was the primary benefactor of that success. Reiman, who came into the game with 74 rushing yards on the season, finished with 141 yards on 19 carries.
Reiman’s 8-yard run in the first quarter gave the Tigers a 14-0 lead. He added a 5-yard run in the third quarter to close out the scoring.
But, much like the game, Hall had a caveat to the rushing night for his team.
“I thought we ran hard and the kids played hard, but at the same time, we weren’t consistent,” Hall said.
M – Roberson 59 pass from Tonn (McCarthy kick) M – Reiman 8 run (McCarthy kick) M – Roberson 29 pass from Kempt (McCarthy kick) S – Greenwell 49 run (Quinn kick) S – FG 30 Quinn M – Reiman 8 run (Kick blocked)
Mas Stow First downs 14 10 Rushes-yards 36-168 32-99 Comp-Att-Int 10-16-0 12-24-3 Passing yards 166 118 Fumbles-lost 4-2 0-0 Penalties-yards 13-120 14-102 Records 2-1 1-2
In their first two games, the Massillon Tigers were able to run out to big early leads, then found themselves watching as their opponents put a score on the board right before halftime to steal some momentum.
On Friday night at Stow, the Tigers didn’t get off to the fast start they have been noted for. However, they did steal a tric from their first two opponents in taking the momentum right before the half.
Two touchdowns in the last half of the second quarter broke open a tie game and carried Massillon to a 31-14 victory over the winless Bulldogs in front of more than 5,000 at Bulldog Stadium.
“I thought our kids kept fighting through it and fighting through it,” Tiger coach Jason Hall said. “We score the last series of the first half and the first series of the second half. … I thought we were the better team coming in, but you have to play the game. They made us earn our points tonight.”
Massillon’s offense sputtered and struggled to get into any rhythm early, but the Tigers were able to shift it into the gear they needed in order to improve to 3-0. After the Tigers finished the first half strong they continued a season-long trend of roaring out of the locker room as they scored on their first drive of the second half for a 28-7 lead less than three minutes into the third quarter.
“I thought their kids came out ready to play,” Hall said. “They were trying to match up personnel on and off the field. We really weren’t clicking very well. I have to hand it to our kids. This is the first time they’ve really had to handle adversity.”
The Tigers were sitting pretty less than two minutes into the game. Tyler Miller stepped in front of a Bulldog aerial and intercepted it, returning it 39 yards to the Stow 13.
After two plays netted no yards, Alex Winters rushed it in from the 13 to give the Tigers the early edge. Jeremy Geier’s point after made it 7-0 just 2:16 into the game.
Both teams spun their wheels for the remainder of the first quarter, but the Tigers began marching to open the second quarter, reaching the Stow 40. But a holding call on a third down play pushed the ball back to the Bulldog 48. Stow’s Niko Diamantopoulis then stepped in front of an errant screen pass and returned it to the Massillon 10.
Boosted by the pick, John Markulis fought his way in on the first play of the next possession for the Bulldog score. Drew Horning’s PAT evened the score at 7-7 with 10:10 left until halftime.
That score proved to be a wake-up call for the Tigers, who would march 67 yards on 10 plays – aided by a Bulldog personal foul – to take a 14-7 lead when Robert Partridge hit Devin Smith on a 4-yard fade route for a touchdown with 6:46 remaining until the half.
Stow would stun the Tigers with a 62-yard receiver pass from Kevin Podnar to Kevin Herman to take it to the Massillon 19, but penalties and a stout Tiger defense would limit the Bulldogs to a 44-yard field goal try which fell short.
Massillon took a 21-7 lead with 2:41 left in the second quarter when Partridge hit Smith on a 33-yard pass in which Smith managed to chop his feet in the back of the end zone for the catch. That capped a seven-play, 80-yard drive.
The Tigers took the second half kickoff and marched right down the field, with Smith taking a 36-yard catch-and-run to the Stow 1. Massillon made the score 28-7 on Partridge’s 1-yard quarterback keeper.
While Partridge’s score was not exactly a long burst, he did provide a lift to Massillon’s running game, rushing for 42 first-half yards on five carries. He finished 11-of-23 passing for 181 yards.
“I think Rob handled the adversity the best,” Hall said. “A couple of balls were here or there, or maybe a receiver didn’t run a great route, but we kept running our offense and eventually you saw it start clicking. That’s a sign of a good quarterback and that’s the sign of a veteran quarterback.”
Stow would march deep into Tiger territory on its second possession of the third quarter, reaching the Massillon 26. But for the second time in the game, the Bulldogs missed short on a 40-plus-yard field goal, this one from 43 yards.
The Tigers answered Stow’s failed scoring drive with a successful scoring drive of their own. They took a 31-7 lead on Geier’s 29-yard field goal with 9:44 left in the game.
Stow would score with five seconds left when Duane Mitchell hit Podnar on a 45-yard touchdown pass on fourth-and-12.
It’s not time to get carried away with the Massillon Tigers, even if they did knock the stuffing out of Stow 51‑0 in a high school football season opener Friday night.
It is most certainly time, however, to be impressed with their potential.
“I’m looking forward to seeing them in the state playoffs,” said Gary Mattes, the head coach who led Stow to five Metro Conference championships in the 1980s. “They should make it.
“It was just our misfortune to have to play them tonight. I’m sorry we didn’t give the people of Massillon a better show.”
Actually, coach, the good citizens liked the show just the way it was. They were delighted that:
* The revamped 5‑4 “Bengal defense” stopped Stow for no gain or a loss on 17 of 26 first‑half plays.
* Massillon rolled up a 473‑124 advantage in net offensive yards.
* A passing game stocked with a new quarterback, new receivers and mostly new blockers amassed 213 yards.
* The running game produced 102 yards in seven carries from Travis McGuire and 93 yards in 13 rushes from Falando Ashcraft.
* A team that looked good in scrimmages against Cleveland St. Ignatius, Lima and Central Catholic looked even better in the first game that counted.
Some pigskin philosophers believe a coaching staff needs two years to streamline its system. Third‑year Tiger head coach Lee Owens just might be ready to unleash a juggernaut capable of, say, beating Cincinnati Moeller and winning a state title.
“If we play like real Tigers,” said Ashcraft, “we can make the playoffs and go all the way to the title.”
Make no mistake. Owens believes a state title is possible this year.
“This was a great way to start the season. It was a great way to start the decade,” he said.
Owens said he has never had a team come close to scoring 51 points in a season opener; yet, he thought “the story of the night” was the defense’s shutout.
“We were truly dominant on defense,” he said. “Looking back, we could really start to see the defense coming together in our scrimmage at Lima.
“Tonight, we shut out a team that has a very good offense. They moved the ball all over the place in their scrimmage against Buchtel. But we stopped them by being very aggressive and very quick. We were also much more physical than they were.”
Senior tackle Mark Murphy set the tone for the night when, on the game’s first play from scrimmage, he nailed star running back Kalonji Werts for a two‑yard loss. On the next play, he plowed into Werts and caused a three‑yard loss.
“They gave me the inside splits,” said Murphy, a 6‑foot, 228‑pound senior. “I used my speed to get through.”
Stow naturally adjusted to Murphy, reducing the gaps and blocking at his knees, but that only created openings for his teammates.
“The whole defensive front played an excellent game,” said senior defensive back Chad Buckland. “We played well together. I knew we could play like that.”
Murphy said the defense “didn’t play to its full potential.” He wants to see even more intensity next Saturday when the Tigers take on Covington Catholic in Cincinnati at the Buddy LaRosa Classic.
His teammate Mike Martin, a senior defensive end, thinks the intensity will be there.
“The defense played great … and it will the rest of the season, too,” predicted Martin. “We came out pumped and we beat them physically and mentally.”
The beating manifested itself in injuries.
Werts, a speedy senior regarded as Stow’s best player, didn’t see action after the first quarter after suffering a deep thigh bruise.
Stow quarterback Jeff Behrman missed the second half with broken ribs.
Running back Charles Harris was knocked out with a strained knee.
They were “key injuries,” Mattes said, though not pretending the Bulldogs would have made it a dogfight had they played.
“They gave us a lot of problems,” the Stow coach said. “Their execution was excellent. And whoever calls their plays did an excellent job. We couldn’t draw a bead on any one person. And they have an excellent quarterback.”
Barry Shertzer got his first start as the Tigers’ varsity QB. In three quarters, he completed 13 of 26 passes for 175 yards with a mixture of short, medium and long‑range throws.
Flanker Ken Weber, playing despite a dislocated toe, caught three passes. So did split end Steve Brown and tight end Chris Roth.
But the receiver who had the biggest day was Marc Stafford, both of whose catches went for touchdowns.
The Tigers scored the first two times they had the ball, first on an 11‑yard run by Ashcraft, then on an eight‑yard Shertzer‑to‑Stafford pass.
“We did exactly what Coach Owens wanted, and that was to hit them with points early,” said senior captain Brent Bach, an offensive tackle. “We did exactly what we wanted to do.”
The play that turned the game from a rout into a wipeout was a well‑thrown bomb that Stafford caught on the run and carried into the end zone. The play went 48 yards and gave the Tigers a 33‑0 lead late in the third quarter.
Assessing the offense, Owens said, “We really looked smooth on our first two drives. We were running plays just the way you draw them up on the board.
“After that, we seemed to lose our intensity for a while. But were able to regroup.” Owens said “the only negative” of the evening was points after touchdown. The Tigers were unsuccessful on conversion tries following five of the eight touchdowns.
“We need to make those automatic,” he said. “But it’s hard to talk about any negatives after everybody played so well and there were so many positives.”
MASSILLON 51 STOW 0 M S First downs rushing 16 3 First downs Passing 7 1 First downs Penalty 3 1 Total first down 26 5 Net Yards rushing 260 72 Net yards Passing 213 52 Total net yards 473 124 Passes attempted 28 13 Passes completed 14 2 Passes intercepted 0 1 Fumbles/lost 2‑2 6‑4 Punts 3 8 Punting average 47.3 28.6 Penalties 7 8 Yards penalized 70 62
Stow 0 0 0 0 0 Massillon 14 6 19 12 51
M ‑ Ashcraft 11 run (Miller kick) M‑ Stafford 8 pass from Shertzer (Miller kick) M ‑ McGuire 23 run (kick failed) M ‑ Ashcraft 6 run (pass failed) M ‑ Stafford 48 pass from Shertzer (Miller kick) M ‑ Roberson 1 run (run failed) M ‑ Turley 7 return with fumble recovery (kick failed) M ‑ Slicker 1 run (kick failed) INDIVIDUAL STATISTICS
RECEIVING (Massillon) McGuire 2‑36, Brown 3‑17, Roth 3‑32, Ford 2‑56, Weber 3‑34, Hawkins 1‑32. (Stow) Gabele 1‑42, Foster 1‑10.
Here is a summary of the Tigers’ scoring drives:
FIRST HALF First quarter
8:22‑Falando Ashcraft 11 run over right side. Gary Miller kick. Drive: 45 yards, 5 plays. Keys: 11‑yard Barry Shertzer‑to‑Travis McGuire completion on third‑and‑10; 17‑yard Ashcraft run.
5:14‑Marc Stafford 8 pass from Shertzer. Miller kick. Drive: 56 yards, 8 plays. Keys: Ashcraft 17 run; offsides penalty on Stow on fourth‑and-two; 11‑yard Shertzer‑to‑Chris Roth pass one play before TD strike.
4:01‑McGuire 23 run. Kick failed. Drive: 73 yards, 7 plays. Key: 18‑yard Shertzer‑to‑McGuire pass one play after 12‑yard loss on sack.
Massillon hammers Stow 51-0
By BOB STEWART Repository sports editor
MASSILLON ‑ With all the subtlety of a sledge, the Massillon Tigers opened their new season by hammering the visiting Stow Bulldogs 51‑0 before 11,020 fans at Paul Brown Tiger Stadium Friday night.
In a game neither coach thought would happen. Massillon’s players belted the bejabbers out of the visitors, rolling to a pair of quick TDs in the first period, and blowing open the game with a three-TD barrage in the second half that took only 2:13 of clock time. Two of the TDs came within 58 seconds of each other.
The Tigers’ defense, led by hit‑happy Mark Murphy, playing like his Green Bay Packers’ namesake, smacked back the Bulldogs’ first two offensive threats with some body banging that left Stow with minus yards and minus some semblance of sensibilities.
“Well, it certainly was a lot better than that Repository game,” quipped Massillon Coach Lee Owens, who “came a cropper” as the West Coach in The Repository’s inaugural Stark County All‑Star game in June at Canton’s Fawcett Stadium.
“We didn’t expect this,” said Owens after his Tigers amassed 473 yards to Stow’s 124. “The fans now want to know if we are this good, or if Stow was just not very good.
“We thought Stow was very good, but our kids really were fired up. They wanted to get out there and hit people, and they did,” said Owens, the 34‑year‑old mentor beginning his third season here. The win gives him a 17‑6 record in Tigertown.
He noted his team was not trying to score a lot of points, but that the depth of the Tigers this season may be exceptional.
“I was really proud of our second unit,” said Owens. “They played very well, and all our subs seemed to rise to the occasion.‑ I guess they were trying to tell us they should all be No. 1,” he said.
Stow coach Gary Mattes said the Tigers ferocious hitting was the major factor. “Our kids have been hit before, but not constantly like that. We lost a couple good backs, including our quarterback, early, and that didn’t help,” he said.
But he was quick to note be wasn’t making any excuses, and praised the Tigers, noting he was “looking forward to watching them play in the state playoffs. They certainly should be there.
“They have an excellent team, and their offensive execution was just so precise we couldn’t handle it,” he said.
Mattes said his team has to regroup, now. “We still think we have a pretty good football team. We just have to come back and be able to show it,” he said.
Junior running back Falando Ashcraft and junior receiver Marc Stafford each scored two touchdowns, Stafford’s coming on passes from senior quarterback Barry Shertzer, an 8‑yarder and a 48‑yarder.
Ashcraft, who opened the night’s splurge of six‑pointers with an 11‑yard dash, also got the third quarter blitz begun with a 6‑yard run. He finished with 93 yards on 13 rushes, but wasn’t even the top dog.
Travis McGuire, a junior running back who wears No. 1 and makes sure the fans know he thinks he is No. 1 by holding his index Finger aloft even before he gets to the end zone, scored on a 23‑yard scamper which was but one of his seven carries from scrimmage that totaled 107 yards.
The Tigers also got 1‑yard touchdown rushes by subs Ron Roberson and Scott Slicker.
The Tigers dominated every statistic: First downs 26‑5; rushing yards 260‑72; passing yards 213‑52.
Stow 0 0 0 0 0 Massillon 14 6 19 12 51
M – Ashcraft 11 run (Miller kick) M ‑ Stafford 8 pass from Shertzer (Miller kick) M ‑ McGuire 23 run (kick failed) M ‑ Ashcraft 6 run (pass failed) M ‑ Stafford 48 pass from Shertzer (Miller kick) M ‑ Robertson 1 run (run failed) M ‑ Turley 7 fumble return (kick failed) M ‑ Slicker 1 run (kick failed) A – 11,020.