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  #31  
Old 11-25-17, 11:49 PM
DB135 DB135 is offline
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Commentary: 'Special' seniors raise the bar for Tigers

Nov 25, 2017 6:09 PM

MASSILLON

The timeout had no strategic impact on the game's outcome. It's had all the impact in the world when it came to Massillon's football team.

Mere seconds remained in the Tigers' Division II state-semifinal loss to Cincinnati Winton Woods on Friday when Massillon coach Nate Moore asked for time. During that break, he had all of his team's seniors line up in a row facing their teammates and fans and walk to the sidelines together.

One final curtain call for a small but impactful collection of Tigers who had led the way to a 2017 season many never foresaw happening.

"They were a special group," Moore said outside the locker room after the game. "There weren't a lot of people who gave us a chance to do anything like this. I'm really proud of them for raising the bar this year for the guys we have coming back."

Much of the 2017 season was spent talking about the youth on Massillon's roster. It was why there were some fans, quietly, wondering coming into the season what the ceiling truly was for the Tigers.

The seniors, however, knew nothing about youth. The 2017 season was their time, their opportunity, and they were going to do what they had to do to make sure it was as special as possible.

They showed what the ceiling was for their group. A 10-win season for the first time since 2009, which was also the last time the program won a regional championship.

A group of those seniors were at a mid-season Touchdown Club meeting when one of the older members of the club offered up some public praise to them for how they had played to that point and how much he enjoyed watching them. He closed out his comments with, "I can't wait to see what next year holds."

It's took less time than it takes to flip a light switch for at least two of the seniors standing in front of the club to respond, almost in unison, "We're not done yet this year."

They weren't done yet. Not by a long shot.

In fact, they may have saved their very best for the very end, regardless of their final final score. They did so in the face of doubters who told them they weren't a very big group or that they were presiding over a rebuilding year.

For seniors, no two words mean less than the words "next year." There is no next year for a senior, which is why they did their best to set the tone for the Tigers to put off talk of "next year" for as long as possible.

They did so right up until the very last game. The fingerprints of the senior class were all over the start of the state semifinal game.

There was the senior, Anthony Ballard, giving his team the ball on the very first play with an interception. Then, later, giving it a 14-0 lead due to the head's-up play of picking up a blocked field goal and returning it for a touchdown.

There was the senior, Austin Kutscher, doing what he had done all season, which was make big catches and big plays on offense. He took a slip-screen on the game's third play and outran the Winton Woods defense - and he probably would've tried to outrun the entire city of Cincinnati if needed - to give his team a 7-0 lead.

Then, in a play which showed the present and the future for Massillon, Kutscher was on the receiving end of a 50-yard touchdown pass to go up 21-0. It was a play which started with a sophomore (Aidan Longwell) handing off to a junior (Tyree Broyles), who flipped it to freshman (Jayden Ballard) coming back the other way, who then threw a perfect pass into the senior's hands.

One play which epitomized both the talent of the 2017 Tigers and the potential going forward. That potential going forward, however, does so knowing full well what is departing has made the climb that much harder because of how high they set the target.

"The experience is important," said Moore of his returnees for next year, which includes 20 of 22 possible offensive or defensive starting spots potentially filled by individuals who have started multiple games previously. "I think, maybe, more important than that is the motivation to get back. To be so close, I hope that's a highly, highly motivating factor. for these guys."

That's what happens when the bar gets raised. Which is exactly what the Tiger seniors did as they took one final curtain call in front of teammates and fans in the state semifinals.

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

On Twitter: @ceasterlingINDE
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  #32  
Old 12-01-17, 02:31 PM
BigWorm BigWorm is offline
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Originally Posted by DB135 View Post
How's you team doing? Qualify for the playoffs?
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  #33  
Old 12-04-17, 11:50 AM
BigWorm BigWorm is offline
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Can Massilon take the next step next year?
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