Old 09-30-18, 11:49 AM
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Lightbulb Tigers past test ahead of East St.Louis, Ill game

MASSILLON The fourth quarter has meant one thing for much of Massillon's football season. It was a time for a running clock and playing time for plenty of reserves.

Going back to the opener against St. Vincent-St. Mary, the Tigers had not seen an opponent closer than 16 points to them over the first five games of the season. In four of those games, they were playing with a running clock at some point in the final 12 minutes.

Yet, as the fourth quarter began in Friday's home game against Austintown Fitch, a running clock was the furthest thing from the minds of Massillon's players. Not with the Tigers holding just a seven-point lead.

By the time that fourth quarter ended, however, what had been an oddity in relation to the rest of the season had plenty of familiarity. The Tigers used three touchdowns in that final quarter to pull away for their sixth consecutive win by at least four touchdowns, a 42-14 victory to improve to 6-0.

"It's good to see us go the distance in a ballgame and win it in the fourth quarter," Massillon coach Nate Moore said after the game.

Most of the Tigers' games to this point had by won by the end of the first quarter. That's how they have been able to roll up the kind of impressive start which they have been off to, one which has put them among some of the greatest teams in program history.

The 1952 Tiger team was the last team before this season to win five consecutive games by at least 28 points. One has to go back to Paul Brown's last Massillon team, in 1940, to find a team which had won six in a row by that margin.

That 1940 team won its first eight games, and nine of its 10, by that margin. Its closest game was a 26-0 Week 9 win over Youngstown East.

In turning Friday's game from close game to another rout, Massillon simply buckled down on both sides of the football. After Jayden Ballard's third touchdown catch of the game on the second play of the fourth quarter, the Tigers would run the ball on 13 of their final 17 plays, adding two more scores along the way.

Meanwhile, the Massillon defense would force three consecutive three-and-outs before Fitch let the clock run out on its last possession of the game. The Tigers outgained the Falcons 151-5 in the final 12 minutes.

"I feel like we're in good shape," Moore said. "I think it showed tonight. There's no doubt we won the fourth quarter. It's good to see us do it."

That's especially true considering the next challenge which Massillon will be facing. This Friday, the Tigers will play their second out-of-state opponent in the form of Illinois power East St. Louis.

The Flyers, the all-time wins leader in Illinois and just two years removed from their eighth state championship, have taken off since opening the season with a loss to Detroit power Martin Luther King. They will bring a five-game win streak into Paul Brown Tiger Stadium, including arguably their most impressive win of the season, Saturday's 57-33 triumph over previously-unbeaten Belleville West, Ill.

East St. Louis boasts at least a half-dozen Division I-caliber players. That includes Iowa State commit Darrell Simmons on the offensive line and Northern Illinois-bound defensive tackle Demond Taylor among its senior class, as well as safety Antonio Johnson and receiver Lawaun Powell, who are among the top juniors in the state of Illinois.

"It's another tough ballgame next week," Moore said. "We're going to enjoy this tonight. It's back to work after that."

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

On Twitter: @ceasterlingINDE
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