Tag: <span>Zion Phifer</span>


2019: Massillon 35, Avon 10

Backs, line answer the bell for Massillon
Nov 29, 2019 10:18 PM


PARMA Massillon coach Nate Moore believes in a workmanlike approach to a game.

To the fifth-year Tiger mentor, it’s all about punching the clock on game night and putting in a full 48-minute effort. That’s regardless of who the player is or what may be their perceived role.

On Friday night in a Division II state semifinal against Avon at Parma’s Byers Field, those business-like approaches helped the Tigers run their way to a 35-10 win and a second consecutive berth in the state championship game.

Massillon, 14-0, will face Cincinnati La Salle on Thursday night in Canton for the state title.

The approach started with senior running back Zion Phifer, who stepped into the starting role due to an injury to Terrance Keyes Jr. Phifer clocked and helped to knock out the Eagles thanks to a 146-yard, four-touchdown performance on 20 carries.

“He went out there and did his job,” Moore said. “I’m proud of him for it.”

Phifer’s four touchdown runs came in a variety of styles. There were runs where he was virtually untouched and others where he ran over defenders.

Then, there was his final run, a 25-yarder in the third quarter, in which he spun out of the pile and ran into the end zone. That provided Massillon with a 28-10 lead.

The final score came thanks to Raekwon Venson, a one-yard run with just over seven minutes remaining. Venson ran for 54 yards on nine carries.

“They’re physical, obviously,” Avon coach Mike Elder said of Massillon’s running game. “If you’re going to win these games, you do it in the offseason, you do it in the weight room. You do it with genetics, that’s part of the deal. They’re a physical football team.”

That physicality started up front with a Massillon offensive line which was forced to shuffle a bit when guard John Kouth went down with an early injury. Dylan Garretson, however, came in to fill the void.

It wasn’t the first time Garretson has been called upon to help fill in a vacancy. Like Phifer and Venson, though, the performance was exactly what Moore expected to see when he went in the game.

“He did his job when called upon,” Moore said. “That’s not something, that’s the expectation. That’s the expectation. I’m not going to make it into something it’s not.”

That line helped Massillon rush for 185 net yards on 32 carries. Both Phifer and Venson averaged at least 6.1 yards a rush.

“I’m proud of them,” Moore said. “I’m super proud of them. But I’m proud of everybody.”

Reach Chris at 330-775-1128 or chris.easterling@indeonline.com.

On Twitter: @ceasterlingINDE

Massillon Tigers Black Letter Logo History

2019: Massillon 24, Louisville 0

Injuries, Louisville not enough to slow down Massillon
Oct 25, 2019 10:43 PM

MASSILLON Massillon’s undefeated season remains intact. The Tigers, though, head into their biggest game of the year with a couple of big injury concerns.

Massillon emerged Friday night with a 24-0 win over visiting Louisville. However, in the process, both Tiger quarterback Aidan Longwell and center Cole Jones departed the game in the third quarter with injuries.

After the game, Massillon head coach Nate Moore declined to comment on the nature of either injury. Instead, he focused on the performance his team put forth in improving to 9-0 for the second consecutive season entering the annual rivalry game at McKinley.

“It’s a good ballgame against a good team,” said Moore, whose team has won 20 consecutive regular-season games. “We just kept playing ball.”

The injuries came in the midst of a penalty- and injury-filled third quarter that saw the Tigers pick up seven flags for 57 yards and the Leopards draw four for 30 yards. Louisville also saw running back Nathan Guiley leave the game with a leg injury as well in the quarter.

Massillon had fought its way to a 14-0 lead after it took the second-half kickoff and marched 48 yards to the end zone, with Terrance Keyes Jr. rushing the final 11 yards for the touchdown with 9:44 remaining in the third. The Tigers got the ball on the Louisville side of the 50 after it had unsuccessfully tried an onside kick.

It was on Massillon’s second third-quarter possession in which Longwell was injured as was hit while delivering an incomplete third-down pass. He left the game, with Zach Catrone coming in to play the final quarter and a half.

Catrone would throw a fourth-quarter touchdown to Andrew Wilson-Lamp, a 22-yarder, to give Massillon a 24-0 lead with 2:41 remaining. He was 2-of-4 passing with 33 yards in relief of Longwell.

Longwell was 11-of-19 for 114 yards with an interception in his time.

“I’m proud of him,” Moore said of Catrone, who had also come in for Longwell in last season’s regional-semifinal win over Columbus Whitehall-Yearling. “He did a great job.”

Louisville’s defense, while it would give up 17 second-half points, was stout for much of the game in not giving Massillon too many big plays. While the Tigers finished with 377 yards in the game, the Leopards were able to force a pair of missed field goals – one of which was blocked – while also limiting Massillon to just 5-of-11 on third-down conversions.

The biggest area where Louisville was able to succeed was at the line of scrimmage. Defensive ends Jason Goard and Tony Brahler combined for nine solo and six assisted stops, with Goard recording the Leopards’ lone sack.

“Our kids played hard,” said Louisville coach Jeff Twiddy, whose team falls to 5-4. “They’re really fast. I thought we were physical. I thought we played a good ballgame.”

The problem for Louisville was it was unable to take advantage of any opportunities it had to put points on the board. The Leopards had three drives inside the Tiger 40, two of which ended on downs and the third squelched by an interception by Massillon’s Preston Hodges.

Massillon’s defense limited Louisville to 192 total yards on 62 attempts. The Tigers held the Leopards to just 43 rushing yards on 30 carries.

“We played really well defensively,” Moore said. “I would’ve liked to get off the field a little sooner on a couple of drives. Other than that, it was a great ballgame by our defense.”

While Louisville couldn’t sustain its running game, Massillon’s running game thrived to a tune of 230 yards on 44 carries. Keyes finished with 157 yards on 26 carries for his fourth consecutive 100-plus-yard game.

Zion Phifer added 78 yards on 14 carries. He gave the Tigers a 7-0 lead with a 1-yard run with 9:41 remaining in the second quarter.

“Both of those guys grounded out a lot of really tough yards,” Moore said. “Zion is a great back and did a heck of a job.”

Reach Chris at 330-775-1128 or chris.easterling@indeonline.com.

On Twitter: @ceasterlingINDE

Massillon Tigers Black Letter Logo History

2019: Massillon 49, Warren Harding 7

Start doesn’t slow down Massillon dominance at Warren
Chris Easterling
Sep 13, 2019 9:49 PM

WARREN It’s never about the start. It’s always about the finish.

Or, more importantly, it’s about the final score.

Massillon found itself in its first deficit of the season after Warren Harding turned a literal bad bounce on a punt eventually into a first-quarter touchdown on Friday night at Mollenkopf Stadium. However, by the time the Tigers went into the locker room for halftime, they had once again established control of things.

By the time Massillon got on the buses to head back to Stark County, it had put together its third consecutive win to open the season, this time a 49-7 victory over Warren Harding at Mollenkopf Stadium.

“We’ve been preparing ourselves for adversity since December, since January,” said senior Preston Hodges, whose 48-yard interception return with 39 seconds left in the half gave Massillon a 28-7 lead. “Since when we were in the offseason working out, grinding. We’re prepared for the adversity to hit us at any point. We just knew we had to bounce back.”

The game was called with 3:12 remaining as lightning began to flash around the stadium. At that point, it was all academic for the Tigers, who take a 3-0 record into next Friday’s home game against Penn-Trafford out of Monroeville, Pa.

All three of Massillon’s wins have been running-clock situations in the fourth quarter. Although it took the Tigers a moment to get up and running that way on Friday night.

“We faced some adversity and came through it,” said Massillon coach Nate Moore, whose team faced a 7-0 deficit after Warren turned a punt recovery into a 35-yard touchdown pass from Eliah Taylor to Ty Artis with 10:10 left in the first quarter. “So, I’m proud of the guys staying true to what got us here and to keep working. I thought we played well.”

Even after the quick Warren score, Massillon still needed to get its footing. However, it would turn to the defense first to get a stop to get the ball rolling.

Warren’s defense then forced a three-and-out on the Tigers’ first offensive possession. The Raiders would take the ball on a 14-play, 38-yard journey to the Massillon 33, but turned the ball over on down there.

That’s when the Tigers would catch fire. They would turn their next three possessions into touchdowns – two Zion Phifer runs and a 9-yard Aidan Longwell-to-Jayden Ballard pass – and a 21-7 lead, while their fourth would reach the Warren 20 before a sack and an incomplete pass on fourth down halted the march.

That proved to be no real problem for Massillon, as Hodges stepped in front of a Warren pass at the Raider 48 and raced all the way to the end zone for a Tiger touchdowns. The point-after kick made it 28-7 Massillon with 39 seconds remaining in the half.

Hodges was part of a Tiger defense which limited Warren to just 27 yards on its final 15 first-half plays. The Raiders would finish the game with 160 yards on 49 plays.

“I’m really proud of the guys,” Moore said of the defense. “I thought all three levels played well. Obviously, we’ll get in there and watch the film and all that stuff, but we feel really proud of the guys and their effort.”

The Tiger offense, meanwhile, found its groove both through the air and on the ground after the initial three-and-out. By the half, Longwell had completed 11-of-18 passes for 162 yards and the one score.

Longwell would finish the game 15-of-20 for 200 yards and two touchdowns, moving him within two scoring passes of the career record. He hit Ballard for a 19-yard touchdown strike to make it 35-7 with 3:31 left in the third quarter.

Ballard had seven catches for 94 yards and two scores.

Meanwhile, after netting one yard on its first two runs, Massillon gained 46 yards on its final 12 carries of the half. Both Phifer, who scored on two of his five first-half carries, and Terrence Keyes shared the duties.

Keyes would gain 63 of his 96 yards on his third-quarter touchdown run which gave Massillon a 42-7 lead. Hodges added 50 yards on just five carries, while Phifer finished with 32 yards on six totes.

Reach Chris at 330-775-1128 or chris.easterling@indeonline.com.

On Twitter: @ceasterlingINDE


2018: Massillon 41, Cincinnati Winton Woods 20

Massillon tops Winton Woods, heading to Division II title game

Nov 23, 2018 10:54 PM

GAHANNA Massillon faced an early deficit. It faced a second-half comeback. It faced injury to one of its best players.

Now, the Tigers will face three-time state champion Archbishop Hoban for the Division II state championship.

Massillon earned its first trip to the title game since 2005 thanks to a 41-20 victory over Winton Woods on Friday night at Gahanna’s Wilbur C. Strait Stadium. It is the Tigers’ fourth title-game appearance, and first in Division II.

“I’m really proud of our guys,” said Massillon coach Nate Moore, whose team scored 26 straight points in the second and third quarters to rally from a 10-0 deficit and improved to 14-0 while setting a school record for wins in a season. “They played a whale of a ballgame against a great football team. I’m really proud of them.

The Tigers will lock horns against the 14-0 Knights on Thursday night at 7:30 p.m. at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium. To get there though, Massillon had to exert a bit of revenge on a nemesis from its recent past.

A year ago, Winton Woods overcame a 21-0 Tiger lead in the first half scored the final 56 points to win going away. A year later, the Warriors were the ones who were in possession of the early lead, only to see Massillon roar from behind.

“We’ve been waiting for them all season,” said cornerback Max Turner, whose 38-yard interception return for a touchdown with 21 seconds left in the first half capped a 19-0 Tiger second-quarter run. “I’m talking in the weight room, off-season, 15-for-15 was all for Winton Woods. We knew what it is.”

That didn’t mean Massillon wasn’t in for a little bit of early adversity.

Winton Woods led 10-0 after the first quarter thanks to a 36-yard Yeri Velasquez field goal and a 3-yard Miyan Williams rushing touchdown. The Tigers, meanwhile, had just two first downs and 39 total yards of offense in that same time.

“Just keep playing ball,” Moore said of his message to the team. “Just keep playing football. Keep playing football.”

Jamir Thomas would put Massillon on the board with a 15-yard touchdown run two minutes into the second quarter at 10-7. He would added a 1-yard run with 40 seconds left in the half to give the Tigers the lead for good at 13-10.

Thomas, who would leave the game late in the third quarter with an injury, ran for 83 yards on 12 carries.

Massillon would turn momentum totally on its side just 19 seconds later, when Turner’s pick-six provided it a 19-10 halftime lead. That lead would grow to 26-10 less than a minute into the third quarter when Aidan Longwell hit Tre’Von Morgan for a 58-yard touchdown.

Longwell finished 14-of-27 for 210 yards with one touchdown and one interception. That interception, with Massillon leading 26-13 in the third quarter, was the only crack Winton Woods could find to attempt to get back in the game.

After the pick, the Warriors faced a 3rd-and-29 from their own 24. MiChale Wingfield hit Williams on a screen pass for 75 yard to the Massillon 1.

On the next play, Williams scored his second touchdown of the night to pull Winton Woods within 26-20. Williams, who rushed for 2,742 yards over the first 13 games, finished with 82 rushing yards on 20 carries.

“I thought they did a great job,” Massillon defensive coordinator Craig McConnell said of the defense against Williams. “Honestly, our plan was, if we stop 28 (Williams), we win. I wouldn’t use the words that we stopped him, but limited him. He’s going to make his plays. He’s a great football player.”

With the Tigers’ own All-Ohio running back, Thomas, sidelined for the final quarter, the ball went to junior Zion Phifer. Phifer didn’t disappoint.

“I did it for the seniors,” said Phifer, who gained 76 of his 82 yards on 15 fourth-quarter carries. “When Jamir went down, we had no one else to come up but me. So I did it for me team.”

Phifer’s 13-yard run on the second play of the fourth quarter gave Massillon a two-score lead again at 34-20 after Longwell hit Dean Clark for a two-point conversion. His 1-yard run with 1:34 remaining in the game gave the Tigers a 41-20 lead.

A 21-point lead which Massillon rode into the Division II state championship game.


Reach Chris at 330-775-1128 or chris.easterling@indeonline.com

On Twitter: @ceasterlingINDE


2018: Massillon 45, Columbus Walnut Ridge 14

Massillon pulls away in fourth to bury Walnut Ridge
Nov 02, 2018 10:35 PM

MASSILLON Kameron Simpson took the pass out of the air and took off running. By the time the senior linebacker crossed the goal line, he and his Massillon teammates were well on their way to Week 12.

That doesn’t mean Week 11 was as easy as Simpson’s 45-yard, game-sealing interception return for a touchdown on Friday. Yet, because of the Tigers’ ability to dominate the fourth quarter, they were able to pull away for a 45-14 Division II Region 7 quarterfinal win over Columbus Walnut Ridge at Paul Brown Tiger Stadium.

“They say Week 11 is the toughest bump,” said Simpson, whose pick-6 with 19 seconds left assured Massillon its seventh running-clock finish in 11 games. “So, to go out here and grind it out with my brothers, and for all of us to do our jobs and keep it going, it’s a great feeling. Four more weeks until Week 15. We plan on winning it all.”

The Tigers, who are 11-0 for the first time since 1982, will continue their quest to “win it all” in a regional semifinal contest next week against No. 5-seeded Columbus Whitehall-Yearling at a site to be announced by the Ohio High School Athletic Association on Sunday. The Rams, 10-1 on the season, upset No. 4-seeded Dover 38-31 in another opening-round game on Friday.

Massillon, the region’s No. 1 seed, made sure it wasn’t a third top-four seed in the Region 7 to suffer a setback thanks to a 28-0 run over the final 16:24 of the game. That includes a 21-0 fourth-quarter burst which started with an Aidan Longwell 2-yard run on the first play of the quarter, and ended with Simspon’s touchdown return on its next-to-last play.

The Tigers only held a 112-90 edge in fourth-quarter yards, as they finished with 351 total yards to the Scots’ 256. However, Massillon’s 3-0 edge in scores was more than enough.

“We found a way to get the win,” Tigers coach Nate Moore said. “I’m proud of the guys for grinding it out. It wasn’t pretty, but we’ll certainly take it.”

Massillon won on a night where its vaunted running game was held to 134 yards on 34 rushing attempts, the second-fewest yards in a game this season (Louisville, 123 yards). Leading rushing Jamir Thomas was held to just 40 yards on 17 carries, although it was his 1-yard run with 4:24 remaining in the third quarter which started the Tigers’ game-ending run.

Zion Phifer led Massillon, which was held to a 3-0 lead in the first quarter, with 85 yards on 13 carries. Phifer gave the Tigers the lead for good at 10-7 on an 8-yard run with 6:03 left in the second quarter.

“You have to give credit to those guys,” Moore said of Walnut Ridge, which led 7-3 early in the second quarter on a blocked punt it recovered in the end zone. “They’re fired up on defense. They were playing really, really hard. They were giving us some shifts and some overloads and what-not.”

Massillon’s passing game came through to pick up the slack for the running game. Longwell completed 21-of-33 passes for 216 yards, including an 11-yard touchdown pass to Jayden Ballard with 2:47 remaining for a 38-14 lead.

The gaps were filled in by the Tiger defense, which held Walnut Ridge to just 27 rushing yards, which was 194 yards below its season average. The Scots did throw for 229 yards, 56 of those on a Isaiah Murphy-to-Qian Magwood touchdown which pulled them to within 17-14 with 9:04 left in the third.

Massillon, though, countered Walnut Ridge’s one touchdown pass with two interception returns for touchdowns. Kyshad Mack gave the Tigers a 17-7 lead with 5:48 left in the first half on a 36-yard pick-6.

“The defense played well,” Moore said. “We put them in some bad spots. They bowed up and got some stops. I’m really proud of them for that.”


Reach Chris at 330-775-1128 or chris.easterling@indeonline.com.

On Twitter: @ceasterlingINDE

Massillon Tigers Black Letter Logo History

2018: Massillon 42, Akron Firestone 0

Methodical Massillon moves to 5-0 with rout of Firestone

Sep 21, 2018 10:18 PM
MASSILLON There was a lot of words Massillon coach Nate Moore could’ve conjured up to describe his team’s 42-0 win over Firestone on Friday night at Paul Brown Tiger Stadium.

So, how about the word “methodical” to describe the performance?

“I think that’s a fair way to put it,” Moore said after his team improved to 5-0 on the season.

Game Action vs. Firestone

Methodical would fit perfectly with the approach the Tigers used to take care of a winless Falcon team which had come into the game having scored only 12 points in the first four games combined. Massillon, save for a pair of fumbles, came out and scored on four of its five first-half possessions, then added a fifth score to open the second half.

The Tigers would lead 35-0 16 seconds into the third quarter. That gave Massillon its fourth consecutive running-clock game, and the third time in that span in which the rule was put into effect within one play of the second half starting.

“I thought we did a good job during the week,” Moore said. “I liked out preparation. We were OK today, sloppy in a couple of places. We’ve got to get them cleaned up because we’ve got a big one coming up next week (against visiting Austintown Fitch).”

Both teams seemed content to not rush into things throughout the game, even as Massillon was opening up a 28-0 halftime lead. Firestone, in particular, was methodical when it had the football.

Despite the fact the Falcons only had four first-half first downs, and only two true drives in that span, they still owned a 15:51-8:09 edge in time of possession at the intermission. Even when Firestone set itself up with a first-and-goal from the Tiger 10 after a 63-yard quarterback keeper by George Rozier, its deliberate approach – and lack of timeouts – let the clock run out after a third-down run.

Rozier’s run accounted for 55 percent of the 114 first-half yards Firestone gained. The Falcons finished with 130 yards for the game.

“We kind of knew before the game started that it was going to be a very difficult task,” Firestone coach Eric Mitchell said. “(Massillon’s) a very good football team. They’re a disciplined football team. They’ve got players at every level: Skill, line, quarterback. Our game plan was to come in and try to shorten the game and run the ball a little bit and try to have some success with the short passing game and hopefully keep their offense off the field.”

Game action vs. Akron Firestone

The methodical approach by Firestone was countered by a Massillon offensive attack which was more than happy to play ground-and-pound. That was especially true with the Tigers short-handed due to a handful of players sidelined for a variety of reasons, including some team-discipline related.

“We had guys out because of injury and we had guys out tonight because of program expectations,” Moore said.

Massillon ran the ball 23 times – one of which was a quarterback scramble – out of its 32 first-half plays. Those 23, however, still accounted for 172 net yards and all four first-half scores.

The Tigers would finish with 282 rushing yards on 37 attempts. They had 365 total yards on 48 plays for the game.

Jamir Thomas was the primary beneficiary of the run-first approach, as he topped the 100-yard plateau for the fifth game in a row by halftime. Thomas, who had 107 yards and two touchdowns on 10 first-half carries, finished with 110 yards and three scores for the game.

That total gives him 2,900 yards and 43 rushing touchdowns for his career. That leaves him 190 yards behind Art Hasting’s school-record 3,090 yards, and four scores behind Bob Glass’ record 47 rushing touchdowns.

Thomas’s scoring runs of 11 and 21 yards on the first two Tiger drives staked Massillon to a 14-0 lead with 3:42 remaining in the first quarter. His third scoring run, a 3-yarder on the first play of the third quarter, made it 35-0 Massillon.

Marcellus Blake and Zion Phifer also had first-half scores for Massillon. Blake’s 1-yard run made it 21-0 Tigers with :51 left in the first quarter, while Phifer added a 3-yard scoring burst with 3:29 left in the half for a 28-0 lead.

Jean-Luc Beasley added a fourth-quarter touchdown for Massillon.


Reach Chris at 330-775-1128 or chris.easterling@indeonline.com.

On Twitter: @ceasterlingINDE

Massillon Tigers Black Letter Logo History

2018: Massillon 49, Canton Glenoak 0

Tigers run wild, run past GlenOak23 hours ago

Chris Easterling – The Independent
PLAIN TWP. It was one of those nights at Bob Commings Field on Friday night.

It was a night where almost everything went right for Massillon, and everything went wrong for GlenOak. When it was all said and done, it was a night where the Tigers posted their biggest margin of victory since Week 5 of the 2016 season in rolling to a 49-0 win over the Golden Eagles.

Game action vs. Canton Glenoak

“(Massillon’s) a good football team,” said GlenOak coach Scott Garcia, whose team lost starting quarterback Kindel Richardson to a first-quarter injury. “They took it to us. They have it all. They’ve got an offensive line, the back – (Jamir) Thomas — is as good as they come, and they can spread you out at the same time. They present you a lot of problems.”

Massillon, 2-0 for the first time since 2014, had all of it on display in its biggest win since a 75-7 beating of Toledo Bowsher. The Tigers ran it, they threw it and they stifled GlenOak at every turn.

And that was just in opening up a 35-0 halftime lead.

“They showed that they’re focused,” Massillon coach Nate Moore said. “They showed they’re disciplined. They showed they play hard and really care about this season.”

The Tigers’ big night started with their big running back Thomas powering his way to 170 yards on 11 rushing attempts. All of those were in the first half, as he also ran for three touchdowns of 35, 53 and 49 yards.

Game Action vs. Canton Glenoak

The first two came on Massillon’s second and third possessions, giving it a 14-0 lead. The third came on the first play of the Tigers’ fifth drive, making it 21-0 less than two minutes into the second quarter.

“A really great night tonight,” Moore said of Thomas, who has 278 rushing yards in two games. “He really showed some flashes of some breakaway speed, which didn’t happen much last year. Glad to see that out of him.”

Thomas was just part of the Tigers’ rushing tandem that gained 254 yards in the first half and finished with 343 yards for the game. Zion Phifer, while he wasn’t able to get into the end zone, added 106 yards on eight carries.

Meanwhile, Aidan Longwell added four more touchdown passes, giving him seven on the season. He hit Aydrik Ford on scoring strikes of 35 and 46 yards, while tossing 18- and 17-yard scores to Jayden Ballard.

The final one to Ballard came on Longwell’s last pass of the night, giving the Tigers a 42-0 third-quarter lead. Longwell finished 8-of-13 for 151 yards with the four scores, but two other interceptions in the end zone.

Listen to Longwell’s TD pass to Ballard

“He’s our field general,” Moore said of Longwell. “He’s our quarterback. He’s the one who makes everything work. A couple picks tonight that we certainly don’t want but, he’ll bounce back.”

Longwell’s TD pass to Murphy

Game Action vs. Canton Glenoak

GlenOak, which suffered its worst loss since a similar 49-0 setback at McKinley in Week 4 of the 2005 season, is hoping to bounce back from consecutive tough Friday nights against potentially two of the best teams in the state. The Golden Eagles are 0-2 for the second consecutive season after setbacks to first Toledo Whitmer and now to Massillon.

It was a bit of injury thrown on top of insult, however, on this night with the loss of Richardson. The dynamic junior quarterback suffered what appeared to be a leg injury on GlenOak’s third series of the game after being sacked.

After Richardson was taken off the field on a stretcher, J.T. Cooke came in to play quarterback the rest of the way. Regardless of who the quarterback was, GlenOak finished the night with 76 total yards, 65 of those on the ground,

“We’ve to learn from it and move on,” said Garcia, whose team plays host to Royal Imperial Collegiate (Ont.) next Friday. “We have a lot of season left. Obviously, it’s going to be tough without our quarterback. I thought J.T. stepped up and did some decent things. We just have to get better. Right now, we’re playing with a JV football team.”


Reach Chris at 330-775-1128 or chris.easterling@indeonline.com.

On Twitter: @ceasterlingINDE

Massillon Tigers Black Letter Logo History

2017: Massillon 38 Austintown Fitch 28

Massillon ditches Fitch to keep roll going

Chris Easterling – The Independent

AUSTINTOWN There aren’t many places in which Massillon has played multiple games at where it can say it has accumulated a losing record over the years. The home of the Austintown Fitch Falcons, however, is one of those places.

Well, the proper verb tense would be the past tense of “was” now.

The Tigers went into Greenwood Chevrolet Falcon Stadium on Friday night and both evened their all-time record there while extending their 2017 win streak with a 38-28 victory over Fitch.

“We’re definitely proud of our guys tonight,” Massillon coach Nate Moore said. “They played hard tonight. It was a hard-fought victory.”

Game action vs. Austintown Fitch

The win, the fifth in a row for the Tigers, improves them to 5-1 on the season. Meanwhile, Massillon – which had lost its previous two trips to Fitch – is now 6-6 all-time in Austintown.

Like most trips to Fitch, the Tigers had to fight through their share of adversity. That started before the game even began with a scoreboard clock which didn’t operate, requiring the officials on the field to keep them abreast of the time.

“It was awful,” Moore said. “It’s not their fault; their scoreboard malfunctioned. It was difficult. We kept our own time on the sideline. We knew it wasn’t going to be perfect, but it was going to be a good estimate. The referees did a great job of communicating time to us. It was handled as well as it could possibly be handled.”

There was also a blocked punt which Fitch’s Mike Ferree recovered in the end zone for a touchdown to help the Falcons tie the game at 14-14 in the second quarter. That punt came at the end of a series in which Massillon was flagged for an offensive pass interference to put them well behind the chains.

It was one of only two times the Tigers – or either team, really – punted on the night. But it would the second of four times in which Fitch was able to tie the game, also matching Massillon at 7-7, 21-21 and 28-28.

Game action vs. Austintown Fitch

The Tigers, though, never had to play from behind. A big reason for that was a punishing offensive game plan which featured a whole lot of running the football with Jamir Thomas and Zion Phifer.

Thomas ran for a game-high 163 yards on 30 carries, while scoring touchdowns to give Massillon leads of 7-0, 14-7 and 28-21. Phifer added 92 yards on 21 carries and a score which gave the Tigers a 21-14 third-quarter lead.

“That’s pretty much the game plan,” said Moore, whose team ran for 254 yards on 52 carries in the game. “We used our offensive line that’s played really well. They played really well tonight.”

The go-ahead touchdown for Massillon, though, came through the air. Aidan Longwell found Tre’Von Morgan for a 12-yard touchdown with roughly 4:30 remaining for a 35-28 lead.

Longwell was 7-of-13 for 113 yards with the one score. Morgan had four of those catches for 78 yards.

Game action vs. Austintown Fitch

The Tigers would add a 39-yard field goal by Klay Moll with roughly two minutes remaining for a 10-point cushion. The field goal was set up by the lone turnover of the game, a fumble by Fitch which was returned 35 yards by Dyson Berry.

Fitch would remain in the game thanks to its own rushing attack, which gained 296 yards on 38 attempts. Ralph Fitzgerald’s 58-yard run on the Falcons’ second play tied the game at 7-7 and was part of his 107-yard rushing night.

However, the Falcons’ biggest threat was quarterback Joey Zielinski. Zielinski rushed for 106 of his 114 yards and both of his touchdowns in the second half.

“They’re a good football team that runs the ball well,” said Moore, whose team came up with four fourth-down stops, including three on their side of the 50. “That’s what they do. Their quarterback’s a middle linebacker, so throwing the football’s not going to be their thing. They’re a good team.”


Massillon Tigers Black Letter Logo History

2017: Massillon 56, Bedford 46

Massillon outlasts Bedford in shootout

Chris Easterling – The Independent
Sep 22, 2017 11:06 PM

MASSILLON – Massillon knew what Bedford was coming to Paul Brown Tiger Stadium for Friday night. The Tigers knew that three years ago when the Bearcats called them up to schedule the game in the first place.

Bedford was coming down trying to make a statement. Instead, it was Massillon which, ultimately, made the statement.

The Tigers showed they could light up a scoreboard as well as the highly-touted and explosive Bearcats. They handed Bedford, the state’s No. 9-ranked Division II team, its first loss of the season while winning their fourth in a row with a wild 56-46 victory.

“We needed our offense tonight,” Massillon coach Nate Moore said. “It was a great team with great players that we knew was going to be hard to contain. We got a couple of stops, not enough, but our offense stepped up big. We’re happy with the 10-point victory.”

Game action vs. Bedford

Massillon scored on eight of its first 10 possessions in leading by as many as 26 points after the third quarter. The Tigers took that lead when Aidan Longwell threw the third of his three touchdown passes, this one a 25-yarder to Austin Kutscher with 5 seconds remaining in the quarter.

That was one of four Massillon third-quarter touchdowns which helped turn a 28-22 halftime lead into a 56-30 lead going into the fourth quarter.

While the touchdown pass capped the scoring in the third for the Tigers, it was touchdown runs which were the story of the quarter. Massillon rushed for 126 yards on 20 third-quarter carries, with Zion Phifer scoring on a pair of runs and Jamir Thomas adding a score.

Phifer had 91 of his career-best 196 yards on 10 third-quarter carries. Thomas had 35 of his 99 rushing yards on 10 third-quarter carries.

“We just ran the football,” Moore said of the third-quarter burst. “Our offensive line played great.”

Massillon finished with 292 rushing yards for the game on 58 carries. The Tigers added 128 passing yards as Longwell was 7-of-10 with two scores to Kutscher and one to Jayden Ballard.

The Tigers needed every one of those yards they gained and each of the points they scored. Bedford showed why its offense was so highly regarded by gaining 476 yards of their own and pulling within 56-46 on the second of a pair of Emmanuel Jenkins-to-Davion Johnson fourth-quarter touchdown passes with 7:03 remaining.

Jenkins was 21-of-36 for 313 yards with three touchdowns and one interceptions. Johnson had 16 catches for 259 yards and two scores.

Kenny Wilkins’ fourth two-point conversion run provided the final Bearcat points. Bedford converted five two-point tries, including a Wilkins-to-Jenkins throwback pass.

Massillon couldn’t have gone to the best Hollywood scriptwriter and not come up with a better start to the game. Two Bedford possessions, two turnovers; two Tiger possession, two touchdowns.

Logan Anania’s interception turned into a Longwell-to-Ballard touchdown pass on Massillon’s first offensive play. A Hunter Wantz fumble recovery ended up with a 17-yard Phifer touchdown run for a 14-0 Tiger lead with 8:38 remaining in the third quarter.

Wilkins, though, gave Bedford a 16-14 lead – its lone lead of the game – with a pair of scoring runs as part of his 162-yard rushing night. One was a 65-yard run one play after Massillon went up two scores; the other a 6-yard run five seconds into the second quarter.

Both two-point tries were good for the Bearcats.

Massillon executed a 12-play, 69-yard scoring drive to re-take the lead for good on Thomas’ 3-yard run with 7:09 left in the half. Longwell threaded a pass between a Bedford defender’s hands to Kutscher for a 16-yard touchdown and a 28-16 lead with 2:39 left in the half.

The Bearcats would get a controversial 11-yard touchdown pass from Jenkins to DeCarleen Townsend as the half expired to make it 28-22. Bedford was flagged twice for penalties after being stopped at the 1-yard line with 2 seconds left in the half.