MASSILLON — Facing essentially a must-win game at Massillon, the Warren Harding football team watched its playoff hopes fade away Friday night.
The Raiders turned the ball over five times and Massillon quarterback Robert Partridge tossed five touchdown passes as the Tigers scored an impressive 39-21 victory over Harding in front of a crowd of 6,451 at Paul Brown Tiger Stadium.
“Offensively, we didn’t do that bad, but we kept giving them the momentum back by turning the ball over,” said Warren Harding coach D.J. Dota. “And even when we didn’t give up a score, we lost field position. You just can’t put the ball on the ground in a big game like this.
“We expected them to throw the ball deep like they did and we had good coverage, but a couple of those were jump balls and they came down with them. We were right there at 20-14 and then they hit a couple big ones on us and all of a sudden we’re in a hole.”
Massillon outgained Harding 390-289, including 260 yards through the air. The Raiders did find success with the running game, piling up 190 yards. Desmond Hymes led the way with 102 yards on 18 carries.
After a scoreless first quarter, Massillon got on the board first, taking a 6-0 lead when quarterback Robert Partridge hooked up with Devin Smith for a 32-yard scoring toss with 10:04 left in the second quarter.
Warren Harding (4-3-1) took a 7-6 advantage with 3:54 left in the second quarter, thanks to an impressive 85-yard drive. Michael Dorsey capped the effort on the 15th play, scoring from 1 yard out.
But Massillon responded with a strong passing attack on offense and turnovers on defense to turn the tide.
The Tigers needed just four plays to regain the lead, as Partridge connected with Justin Olack for a 30-yard score. The PAT gave Massillon a 13-7 lead with 1:37 remaining in the half.
Massillon wasn’t finished. The Tigers’ defense forced a Warren Harding fumble, recovering at the Raiders’ 16 with 59 seconds left. Two plays later, Partridge hit Tyler Allman over the middle for a 16-yard scoring strike. The extra point padded the lead to 20-7 at intermission.
The Raiders’ defense came up with a turnover of its own, recovering a Massillon fumble on the first possession of the third quarter.
The offense took advantage of prime field position at the Tigers’ 39, with a six-play scoring drive. Mikhail Seawood capped the effort with a 1-yard scoring plunge. The PAT closed the deficit to 20-14 with 8:51 remaining in the third period.
That’s as close as Harding would get, as Massillon scored on its next three possessions, including two more Partridge TD passes, to pull ahead 39-14 after three quarters.
Desmond Hymes bolted 10 yards for the score on the second play of the fourth quarter to trim the deficit to 39-21 with 11:38 left in the contest.
The loss makes Harding a long shot to earn a playoff berth. With that in mind, Dota told his team that there are still goals to be met in the final two weeks of the regular season.
“We just have to try to finish strong,” said Dota. “We’ve put our destiny in other people’s hands now, so we have to win out and hope for some help.”