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Old 11-06-14, 03:00 PM
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Lightbulb Massillon hopes playing contenders pays off in playoffs

Chris Easterling
Updated: Wednesday, November 5, 2014

MASSILLON Everything Massillon has done this season has been to prepare itself for the playoffs. All the way back to the offseason program, it was all about going above and beyond the 10-game regular season.

Now that the postseason finally has arrived for the Tigers, they’re ready to see how well they have been prepared for what awaits them. That starts with Friday night’s road trip to Perrysburg for a Division II, Region 4 quarterfinal.

“The one thing I will say is that I think our schedule set us up to be prepared for the playoffs,” said Massillon coach Jason Hall, who’s leading the team into its sixth playoff appearance in his seven seasons. “Six of the teams we’ve played are in the playoffs. We’ve been in every game.”

During the course of the year, the Tigers’ paths crossed with playoff qualifiers in Perry, GlenOak and Austintown Fitch from Division I; St. Vincent-St. Mary from Division III; Steubenville from Division IV; and Ursuline from Division V. Of that group, four — Fitch, St. V, Steubenville and Ursuline — will be hosting a playoff game this weekend.

The Tigers were 3-3 against those teams, with the wins coming over Perry, GlenOak and Steubenville. While the three losses came in the last five games of the regular season, Hall doesn’t believe that necessarily tells the whole story.

“We had our own mistakes that hurt us in some of those big games,” Hall said. “There were a couple of special-teams blunders, and we gave up a couple of big plays in the St. V game. It’s one thing if you don’t learn from those things. I’ve been really happy with our kids.”

What Hall is hopeful of is that ending the regular season with a win over McKinley — and some of the positives to come out of that win — can be the start of something even bigger. The Tigers certainly didn’t play a perfect game by any stretch against the Bulldogs, but they did show they learned from some of the hiccups they had during the closing stretch of the regular season.

If that carries forward to Friday night’s game at Perrysburg, then Massillon has a chance to be playing into next week — if not beyond.

“I’ve seen the growth in our kids the last five weeks,” Hall said. “Now sometimes you can say, well, you were 2-3 in the last five weeks. But I think, overall, we’ve shown some growth.”

Massillon isn’t the only team in this first-round matchup to have crossed paths with playoff teams during the course of the regular season. Perrysburg’s 10-0 record features three wins over teams still playing football.

The Yellow Jackets opened the season with a win over Division I qualifier Whitmer then won consecutive games in Weeks 3 and 4 over eventual Division III playoff teams in Toledo Central Catholic and Bowling Green. They also played two teams in Holland Springfield and Sylvania Southview that just missed qualifying in Division II, finishing ninth and 10th in Region 4.

“That’s an advantage our kids have had the last few years,” Perrysburg coach Matt Kregel said. “We’ve played the top-notch programs in the area. Lucky enough this year, we beat the top-notch programs in the area.”

Now it comes down to which of the two can take that regular-season experience against other playoff teams and turn it into postseason success for themselves.

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

On Twitter: @ceasterlingINDE
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