By Tom Williams
Rapid scoring drives to open both halves sent the Massillon High football team to an easy 24-7 victory over Warren Harding in Thursday’s storm-delayed game at Paul Brown Tiger Stadium.
The Tigers (7-1) scored touchdowns on their first two possessions of the first half and their opening drive of the second half. Their first two touchdowns came after a successful onside kick and a recovered fumble
“I wasn’t happy with the way we started,” Harding coach Rick Rios said. “We warned our guys that that onside kick was coming.
“Lo and behold there it was and we did not respond to it very well. Before you know it, we turned the ball over and it was 14-0.”
The Tigers seized control immediately, scoring two touchdowns in 65 seconds before the game was four minutes old.
First, the Tigers won the opening coin toss and deferred to the Raiders (1-7). Then Coach Jason Hall rolled the dice with an onside kick gamble that worked as Anthony McCarthy recovered the ball at the Harding 49.
“We decided to do it about three minutes before we came out,” said Hall of the onside kick that followed the one-hour delay. “We thought let’s get a momentum swing.”
Five plays later, quarterback Kyle Kempt hit Ernie Baez with a screen pass and the junior wide receiver raced 23 yards for the Tigers’ first touchdown.
On the Raiders’ first offensive play, quarterback Lamar Carmichael fumbled and Massillon’s Kentrell Taylor recovered at the 20 yard line.
Three plays later, Kempt and Baez connected again, this time for a 25-yard score. Baez caught the pass near the sideline, dodged a would-be tackler and ran untouched to the end zone for a 14-0 lead with 8:46 remaining in the opening quarter.
A partially blocked punt set up the Tigers’ next score. Eric Copeland broke through to get his hand on Kyle Cogley’s punt and Ryan Rambo picked up the ball and raced to the Harding 36.
Early in the second quarter, Anthony David kicked a 36-yard field goal for a 17-0 lead.
Massillon scored on the first possession of the second half, marching 61 yards on seven plays. Kempt found Cory Calhoun alone at the 20 and the wide receiver completed the 30-yard score for a 24-0 lead.
Harding’s score came in the final minute when quarterback Jalyn Powell scored on a 10-yard run.
“I thought Harding played physical,” Hall said. “They were more physical than us. We were able to execute some plays, take advantage of the onside kick and turnovers. All in all, it was not a great performance.”
In the second quarter, the Raiders escaped further damage Tigers defender Alex Winters intercepted Carmichael. The Raiders’ defense stiffened, forcing a a three-and-out series. The key plays was when Roger Craig sacked Kempt for a 14-yard loss on second down.
Late in the third quarter, Powell gave the Raiders a late spark when broke free for a 62-yard gain to the Massillon 25. Wide receiver Aaron Qualls then took advantage of a lucky bounce for a 32-yard reception. Carmichael’s pass deflected off Tigers defender Jake Tisevich into the falling Qualls’ arms at the Massillon 7.
But the Tigers kept the Raiders off the scoreboard by limiting them to one yard on the next four runs.
Powell rushed eight times for 86 yards and caught three passes for 22 yards.
Kempt completed 14 of 26 passes for 176 yards. Montel Harrison caught five of them for 42 yards while Baez had four for 48.