By Keno Sultan
MASSILLON—Most of the Massillon Tigers football players have never played the game Duck Hunt on the Nintendo Entertainment System.
The Tigers designed a new game and it might as well be called Falcon Hunt.
Senior Kyle Kempt tossed four scoring aerials in the first half while rendering Austintown-Fitch's blitzes powerless as the Tigers made their ammunition felt early in gunning their way to a eye-popping 28-7 lead against a Falcons team that had not trailed all season and were shockingly never threatened by the fifth-ranked team in Division I en route to an emphatic 34-14 victory over the undefeated Falcons.
All week long, the discussion was about Austintown-Fitch's vaunted rushing attack which had been uncontrollable in their six wins. The only problem is that Massillon took that personally and it was well known by their performance in which the Tigers were at their most physical, knocking six visiting players out of the game and dissipating the Falcons running game.
“I thought it was as good as a performance as we have had all season,” Massillon head coach Jason Hall said. “You have to be proud of our players and coaches. The coaching staff put a game plan together and the kids bought into it and they executed it. I thought we came out with a lot of energy and started the third quarter with a lot of energy as well. I thought it was as complete as a game we have played. I think everyone in Massillon is proud of the Tigers tonight.”
The forecast for another venerable evening in Massillon was conceived on the second possession the Tigers had the ball. On the Tigers second possession, Kempt completed a 34-yard pass to senior Gareon Conley to set up real estate for the hosts at the Austintown Fitch 32-yard line. Staring down a blitz, Kempt threw a pass on a slant to junior receiver Beau Huffman, who wrestled the ball away from Fitch defender Keith Lawrence and hurdled over another defender and was into the end zone for the Tigers first touchdown. The extra-point kick by Andrew David garnered Massillon an early 7-0 lead.
Austintown-Fitch was undeterred by the early score. Quarterback Matt Futkos engineered a scoring drive that spanned seven plays and ended with him carrying three Tigers defenders into the end zone and tied the game at 7-7 after Ken Kilpatrick's point-after kick.
But the play of the game came at the end of the first quarter which effectively began to start the funeral procession for the Falcons. Staring down yet another blitz, Kempt found junior receiver Marcus Whitfield, who made a defender miss and was on his way to a 59-yard touchdown as he rumbled down the Massillon sideline to the jubilant cheers of Tigers fans. The Tigers led 14-7 after the first quarter and from then on, the rout was underway. Kempt threw two touchdown passes to Gareon Conley in the second quarter, one coming after a fumble was created by J.D. Crabtree that sparked a 14-point second quarter and a 28-7 lead at intermission. Both scores spanned 18 and 33 yards.
Kempt's touchdown passes all came under duress from heavy blitzes.
“I personally think we have the best quarterback in the state of Ohio in Kyle Kempt. Not only is Kyle a great football player, he's a great kid. You tie in our receivers and that got our running game going through our offensive line. It makes Kyle stronger when we have a running game.”
Ryne Moore and Ernie Baez were bulldozers for Massillon's rushing game. The offensive line opened up lacerations on the heavier Falcons defensive line and allowed them to do serious damage pounding the ball whereas Fitch was never able to muster any momentum in their running game. Moore scored on a 27-yard touchdown run but the extra point was blocked, completing Massillon's scoring for the evening as they led 34-7 after three quarters.
And the Tigers defense were at their most physical in a performance that was hauntingly reminiscent of their decapitating of another offensive scoring machine in Steubenville. Austintown-Fitch had not seen an attack like that all season and faced a team that displayed grit resolve. And as a result, the Falcons walked off the field a puzzled team trying to put the puzzles back in their season after they were disheveled by the Tigers all evening.
“I'm proud of our kids. We lined up and played. We told our kids you're the better team. We lined up and played. Win the battle up front and run to the ball. I thought we did that tonight,” Hall said.
Tyler Hewlett scored the other touchdown for Austintown-Fitch on a seven-yard touchdown run on the fifth possession of the second half for the Falcons.
Massillon will face off next week against Pauline Johnson (Canada). Massillon will look to try and get as many players to play as possible but Hall is not taking the Canadian team lightly and sure is not looking ahead to Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary or Canton McKinley, which is two weeks away.
It is one week at a time for the Tigers, just how Hall likes it. He left a compliment of his players as to just how far they have come seven weeks into the season.
“I like how our athletes represented Massillon and their families tonight,” he said.
Most of the Massillon players have never played the game Duck Hunt on the Nintendo Entertainment System. But they obtained a winning score in the hunting down of Austintown-Fitch in what was a successful falcon hunt.
PLAY(s) OF THE GAME: Huffman and Whitfield's touchdown catches
MASSILLON—Beau Huffman recalled his brother Brett wrestling away a pass from a Canton McKinley defender in a 2005 Division I, Region 2 championship game at the Akron Rubber Bowl and crossing the end zone to put Canton McKinley on perilous terrain to give the Tigers a 21-3 lead in the third quarter and an eventual regional title.
Like Brett, Beau was not going to be denied when Fitch defender Keith Lawrence had a hand on the ball. His score set the tone for the Tigers and a possession later, Marcus Whitfield made his involvement felt when he scored on a 59-yard touchdown to follow Huffman's 32-yard score. Both scores proved to be instrumental in the Tigers 34-14 zapping of Austintown-Fitch.
“That first score was huge. We had ran that play earlier and I missed on it. I saw that if we ran the same play again, I could score. It set the tone and we fed off of it,” Huffman said. “He (Kempt) threw it away from the pressure and I just scored from there.”
“It was all 11 men working together. On my touchdown, they were blitzing like on Beau's first touchdown and we picked up the blitz. And it was a good block by my man and I scored,” Whitfield said. “It was something we worked on.”
Beau Huffman and Marcus Whitfield had no intention of being denied. And both responded for the Tigers in humongous fashion.