Tigers beat

'best team in Kentucky'

 

Tigers play like kings of the Jungle

 

Fourth ‑ down savvy,

fourth‑quarter scoring flurry

give Tigers 39‑14 win

 

By STEVE DOERSCHUK

Independent Sports Editor

 

CINCINNATI ‑ On the First of September, in the second week of the high school football season, during the third game of the Buddy LaRosa Classic, the Massillon Tigers became kings of the fourth down.

 

It helped that they were kings of the fourth quarter, ripping off 21 mind‑boggling points, whipping their thousands of highway followers into a frenzy, and scoring a 39‑14 victory over the Covington Catholic Colonels.

 

But had they not first become kings of the fourth down, who knows?

 

Maybe they would not have been kings of The Jungle, the name Bengals fans give Riverfront Stadium.

 

A scant 63 seconds into the game, the team from the Kentucky town across the Ohio River, just over yonder paddleboat, had struck like an unexpected plunge into icy water. Covington Catholic linebacker Nate Roedig swooped into the path of a Barry Shertzer pass and returned his interception 35 yards for a touchdown.

 

Not only did the Colonels lead 7‑0. They stopped the Tigers on three plays to set up a fourth‑and‑11 on the Massillon 25‑yard line.

 

What the Tigers did next defied all the laws laid down by men named Knute and Woody and, for that matter, Paul Brown, who was Massillon head coach Lee Owens' personal host the night before during an NFL exhibition game.

 

You might have seen a thousand games and never witnessed a fake punt in that precarious situation. But that is what the Tigers did.

 

Scott Karrenbauer's snap went not to punter Chris Roth, but to one of the ''up men,'' a "blocker'' named Troy Burick, who happens to be a quarterback. One of the "punt coverage" men happened to be Travis McGuire, a running back with exceptional receiving skills. McGuire faded off the line to a wide-one spot. Burick flicked him the ball. McGuire raced 20 yards for a first down.

 

"Punt," Owens pointed out, "is a four‑letter word. It's like surrendering."

 

From there the Tigers maneuvered for a touchdown in 11 plays (on Falando Ashcraft's six‑yard run on fourth down). James McCullough went in from the 3, the point after kick failed, and it was 7‑6.

 

On Massillon's next possession, Ashcraft rushed five yards on fourth‑and‑one from the Colonel 42, Shertzer gained three yards on fourth‑and‑one from the 30, and Ashcraft made four yards on fourth‑and‑one from the 8. Shertzer scored from three yards out, a conversion pass failed, and it was 12‑7 with 6:36 left in the first half.

 

On their next possession, set up by a Dan Hackenbracht interception, the Tigers again turned a fourth‑arid‑one into a first down. But this time the drive ended with a punt.

 

Hackenbracht came right back, intercepting another pass from sophomore quarterback Adam McCormack and returning it 40 yards to the 8 with 1:09 left in the half.

 

McGuire, one of the aforementioned masters of deception, caught a conventional pass from Shertzer on an eight‑yard scoring play that gave the Tigers an 18‑7 halftime lead.

 

Covington Catholic cut the gap to 18‑14 midway through the third quarter, and it stayed that way until late in the fourth period before the Tigers exploded.

 

First Eric Wright recovered a fumble to set up a 15‑yard bootleg run for a touchdown by Shertzer with 3:27 left in the game.

 

Then Wayne Gallion recovered a fumble on the ensuing kickoff and Ashcraft roared 35 yards for a touchdown on the next play.

 

Then Covington Catholic went nowhere in three plays, and Scott Karrenbauer weaved through tacklers before breaking into the clear on a 77‑yard punt return for a touchdown.

 

Ryan John converted all three P.A.T. kicks. The Tigers had scored 21 points in a span of 104 seconds.

 

Massillon's share of the crowd spent the final three minutes of the game on its feet, rocking the stadium with noise.

 

''We don't like to be in close games ... we don't like anyone to be close to us," said Ashcraft, who was named game MVP in a media vote after rushing 28 times for 190 yards. "We started executing the way we should have been doing all along.

 

"This is great ... this is better than the McKinley game."

 

Ashcraft was clearly enjoying himself as he celebrated with teammates on the field long after the game. Before the Tigers gave way to Cincinnati Moeller and Mount Carmel (Ill.), combatants in the fourth of Saturday's five Classic games, they united in front of their fans and basked in a long, loud ovation.

 

The Tigers out gained the Colonels 369‑111 in net offensive yards en route to a 2‑0 record.

 

"To tell you the truth," Owens said, "I was not real concerned even when they made the game 1814 (on a 42‑yard TD pass from McCormack to Nate Cogswell). Their receiver was hit by two of our defenders and he basically just bounced into the clear. That was pretty much all the offense they got the entire day."

 

Owens wasn't wrong. Not counting the 42‑vard pass, the Colonels gained an average of 2.03 yards in their other 34 offensive plays.

 

"It was another great game by the defense," Owens said.

 

The Tiger offense had planned to pick apart Covington Catholic with a passing game but Shertzer was not sharp, completing seven of 23 throws for 67 yards, with one touchdown.

 

"Barry was not his normal self," Owens said. "Part of that is inexperience. Part was the tough man-to‑man coverage they used. One thing about Barry ... he never gets down on himself."

 

The offensive line got down to business and blocked large running gaps for Ashcratt and McGuire ‑ 12 carries, 52 yards).

 

"We used about all we had on defense as well as offense," said Covington Catholic head coach Lynn Wess, who has had his team in the Kentucky Class 3‑A state championship game the last three years. "We had quite a few problems with their delay draw. They block it very well."

 

David Wilson, the Colonels' star senior running back, said the Tigers were a little bigger and a little faster. "They play good football."