MASSILLON It’s awfully easy to win a football game when the other team can’t cross midfield. It’s even easier when they don’t score a point.
It may not have been the easiest of Massillon’s 901 all-time wins on Friday night at Paul Brown Tiger Stadium. That said, the 24-0 victory over Warren Harding was made a lot easier by the performance of the Tiger defense throughout.
“We’re used to our offense really setting the tone in every ballgame that we play in,” said Massillon coach Nate Moore, whose 2-1 team will meet 2-1 Benedictine next Friday night. “It just hasn’t been like that necessarily this year. The defense has. The defense has been outstanding all three weeks that we’ve played. Those guys are playing their tails off.”
The Tigers head into next week’s cat fight on a two-game win streak that has been highlights by a pair of glistening defensive efforts. Massillon has posted back-to-back shutout wins for the first time since doing it to Youngstown Woodrow Wilson and, interestingly enough, Warren, in Weeks 7 and 8 of the 2005 season.
For the second week in a row, the Tigers limited a team to less than 50 net yards of offense, including negative rushing yards. Columbus Bishop Sycamore managed just 46 net yards on 43 plays, including minus-26 rushing yards on 23 attempts, in last week’s 35-0 Massillon win.
Warren was only able to muster 49 net yards on 43 plays on Friday night. The Raiders’ 25 rushing yards netted them minus-5 yards.
Their record-setting senior quarterback, Elijah Taylor, was held to just 54 passing yards while completing 8-of-20 passes with one interception. Despite holding all of Warren’s career passing records, he will depart having not even topped 100 passing yards in three of his four games all-time against Massillon.
“It’s everybody doing their job on every play,” Moore said. “When guys do their job, that gives us a chance. When you have guys who can win one-on-one battles, out of 11 guys on the field, if you have nine, 10, 11 guys winning their one-on-one battle, you’re going to be pretty good.”
That defense also set up Massillon, which led 7-0 at halftime, to deliver the second-half haymaker. It turned a Caiden Woullard blocked punt into a 4-yard Raekwon Venson touchdown, then an Isaiah Clark interception into a 28-yard Alex Bauer field goal for a 17-0 lead early in the fourth quarter.
The Tigers’ defensive performance kept Warren in its own territory throughout the game. The Raiders’ 11 possessions, not counting a kneel-down at the end of the first half, never crossed midfield.
The opposite was true for the Tigers’ offense, which finished with 344 net yards on 67 plays. That included 216 passing yards, 209 of those by Zach Catrone, who returned from a one-game absence due to injury.
Catrone completed 21-of-31 passes with a pair of interceptions. It was his 17-yard pass to Martavien Johnson which gave Massillon a 7-0 first-half lead.
“He was wheeling-and-dealing a little bit,” Moore said of Catrone. “‘Taking what the defense was giving him.”
Massillon would have 12 possessions in the game, with the only one not reaching Warren territory the final one of the game. What cost the Tigers a chance to maximize many of those drives were 13 penalties for 145 yards, as well as three turnovers.
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