Eberhart, Tiger ‘D’ turn back Bruins
By ROLLIE DREUSSI
Independent Sports Editor
“You like it to come down to the last game and have it mean something.”
With that statement, Massillon Coach Mike Currence officially kicked off the Tigers’ “second season,” and what a one‑week season it’s going to be.
Quarterback Dave Eberhart passed for 218 yards and two touchdowns and the defense allowed just two field goals ‑ despite five Tiger turnovers ‑ as Massillon turned back a determined Parma Padua Franciscan team 14‑6 Friday night in Paul Brown Tiger Stadium.
The win raised the Tigers’ record to 8‑0‑1, and stretched their regular‑season unbeaten streak to 31 games. Canton McKinley Senior, who makes up the Tigers “second season” opponent, plays Toledo Scott in Canton tonight and takes a 7‑1 mark into that game.
Should the Bulldogs win ‑ and they are heavy favorites ‑ it looks like they will be unable to hold their lead in the Division I, Region 3 computer rankings. The Bulldogs should fall to second place while the Tigers regain the lead.
It doesn’t really matter, since that will all be decided next Saturday starting at 2 p.m. in Paul Brown Tiger Stadium when the two arch rivals square off for the 85th time.
And just like the old days when the Associated Press state crown was sometimes on the line, the winner of this game will earn a berth in the Division I computer playoffs while the loser will likely be done for the year (even though the top two teams in each region qualify for the playoffs this season).
“I think we either win or we’re out of it,” Currence said of speculation that the teams could finish one‑two no matter who wins.
“It’s good coming down to the last ball game, and all the marbles are riding on it,” he added.
Most of the marbles Friday night were riding on the Tigers’ passing attack, as the Bruins stopped the Tigers cold inside.
“Padua’s defense in the middle is as good as any we’ve seen all year. Rick Miller, Tony Czack and John Pavia gave us trouble all night,” Currence said of the Bruins’ two linebackers and middle guard.
“And you go to the outside so often and everybody’s out there shaking hands with you. We finally had to change our attack and come out throwing to get them off our backs.
“And you have to give our defense credit. They could have scored (a touchdown or two) on us, but the defense didn’t let them,” he added.
“We shut off their trap and sweep,” Padua coach Tom Kohuth said. “It would have been interesting if it would have poured down rain like it was supposed to. We just weren’t as disciplined in the secondary as we’re capable of.”
Kohuth said quarterback Paul Lucchese, who started despite a strained knee, was only “about 80 percent,” and had to wear a knee brace. which cut down on his mobility.
“It cuts down on our offense a little bit because he can’t run the option,” Kohuth said.
Kohuth said the Bruins also went more conservative in their attack to cut down on turnovers that have plagued them in recent games.
“We had been throwing quite a bit, but we decided to keep it on the ground tonight. But when you get behind, you have to throw some.”
And it was an errant throw by Lucchese with just over five minutes left in the game ‑ and Massillon leading 14‑6 ‑ that did in the Bruins.
The Bruins had taken a Tiger punt at their own 31, and had a second‑and‑19 at their 41 when Lucchese went long down the left sideline. His receiver fell down, however, and Paul Turner picked off the pass at the 37 and returned it 32 yards to the Bruin 31.
An insurance touchdown pass from Eberhart to Mike Reese was called back because of a penalty, and the Tigers then merely ran out the clock.
That TD pass, which covered 28 yards, would have given Eberhart the single‑game record for most yards passing. He finished with 218, which was just short of Brent Offenbecher’s 1977 record of 232 yards against Gahanna Lincoln.
Eberhart did complete 15 of 26 passes, which is the second‑most completions in one game (Offenbecher had 17 once and 15 three times). His two TD passes that did count ‑ one went to Jeff Elliott and the other to Mike Jones ‑ gave him 12 on the year, one more than Offenbecher tallied as a senior. It also gives him a shot at the modern day record of 14 in one season (1958) by Joe Sparma.
Eberhart reached another milestone by going over the 1,000‑yard mark for the season. He has now passed for 1,067 yards.
He did throw three interceptions against the Bruins, however (he had only two going into the game), and two of those led to field goals by Padua’s Shaun Rafferty.
After a scoreless first quarter, Eberhart was intercepted by Padua’s Scott Chura at the Bruin 35. The Tiger defense appeared to have the Bruins stopped, but on third‑and‑nine from the 36 Lucchese hit Paul Houdek with a pass at the Tiger 45 and he broke through a pair of defenders and rambled to the 16, where Turner made the touchdown‑saving tackle.
Dennis Dunn and Miller each gained four yards, but Miller was stacked up for no gain on third‑and‑two from the seven. Rafferty was then summoned onto the field and he connected from 24 yards out to put the Bruins on top 3‑0 with 9:02 left in the half.
The Tigers took the ensuing kickoff and drove to the Bruin 18, but Eberhart fumbled the ball and Padua’s Ray DePaul recovered at the 23.
The Bruins had to punt, but Matt Burton’s boot took a Padua bounce and he ended up with a 60‑yard kick and the Tigers were in the hole at their own 17.
Eberhart hit Mike Feller with a 12‑yard pass, and then on third‑and‑seven the Tigers got a boost when the Bruins were called for pass interference. That gave the Tigers a first down at their own 46.
Eberhart hit Elliott with a seven‑yard slant‑in, was almost intercepted by Chura again on second down, then hit Feller with a perfect strike for 25 yards and a first down at the Bruin 22.
On the next play, Everhart went deep for Elliott and made a perfect pass while Elliott made a great over-the‑shoulder catch in the back of the end zone for a touchdown. Eberhart booted the extra point and the Tigers’ finally had a 7‑3 lead with just 57 seconds left in the half.
The Tigers had one more play, following a Bruin punt, but Eberhart’s desperation pass was intercepted by Chura. Everhart made up for it, though, with a hard, high tackle as Chura tried to return the interception.
The Tigers received the kickoff to start the second half. After an 18‑yard pass from Eberhart to Feller for a first down, Miller picked off an Everhart offering at his own 45 and returned it 10 yards.
The Bruins surprised the Tigers with a halfback pass on first down that netted 29 yards to the Tiger 16. The drive bogged down, however, as William Askew batted down a pass at the line on second down and Turner covered Lucchese’s intended receiver on third down so well that the Bruin QB had to throw the ball away out of bound,
Rafferty then came on again and booted a 29‑yard field goal with 9:10 to go in the third quarter, cutting the Tigers’ lead to 7‑6.
The Tigers started at their own 27 following the kickoff, and got another break on third‑and‑nine when the Bruins were again called for pass interference. The Tigers then got some semblance of a running game going, and with the help of a 19‑yard pass from Everhart to Jones, moved to a first down at the Bruin seven.
On third‑and‑goal from the 15, Everhart threw into the end zone for Jones, who made a tremendous diving catch for the touchdown, Eberhart converted the kick, for a 14‑6 Tiger lead with 2:47 to go in the game.
There was no more scoring, though the Tigers had a few close calls. One was when a Bruin punt bounced off a Tiger player and was alertly recovered by Elliott. The other was when the Bruins started driving but were thwarted by Turner’s interception.
Individually, the Tigers’ Don Fulton led the team with 45 yards rushing, and now has 305 on the season. Jones picked up 44 and now has 522.
Elliott and Feller each caught five passes and Jones hauled in four.
Tiger fans are reminded that the Booster Club meeting will be held Monday at 8 p.m. in the Washington High School auditorium. The meeting is open to the public, and helps officially kick off “Massillon‑McKinley Week.”
First downs rushing 7 2
First downs passing 9 3
First downs by penalty 2 0
Total first downs 18 5
Yards gained rushing 120 74
Yards lost rushing 28 19
Net yards gained rushing 92 55
Net yards gained passing 218 97
Total yards gained 310 152
Passes attempted 27 14
Passes completed 15 5
Passes intercepted by 1 3
Yardage on passes intercepted 33 23
Times kicked off 3 3
Kickoff average 53.0 50.7
Kickoff return yardage 62 46
Punts 4 8
Punting average 38.8 31.3
Punt return yardage 0 14
Punts blocked 0 0
Fumbles 4 2
Fumbles lost 2 0
Penalties 5 5
Yards penalized 45 54
Touchdowns rushing 0 0
Touchdowns passing 2 0
Touchdowns by interception 0 0
Miscellaneous touchdowns 0 0
Total number of plays 63 45
Total time of possession 25:49 22:11
Attendance 10 ,745
PADUA 0 3 3 0 6
MASSILLON 0 7 7 0 14
PADUA ‑ Shaun Rafferty 24 FG
MASS ‑ Jeff Elliott ‑22 pass from Dave Eberhart (Eberhart kick)
PADUA ‑ Rafferty 29 FG
MASS – Mike Jones 15 pass from Eberhart (Eberhart kick)