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Hold the Tigers: Big Red visits Massillon

September 20, 2012
By ED LOOMAN - Sports correspondent , The Herald-Star

MASSILLON - Most coaches will tell you the best thing about being 4-0 is the chance to go 5-0.

For his club to seize that opportunity in Massillon, Reno Saccoccia predicts it will need to play a "perfect game."

Big Red and the Tigers, 3-1, will do battle for the 46th time Friday. The Stark Countians hold a commanding 38-5-2 lead in the overall series. However, since the rivalry was restored in 2009, the Red is up 2-1. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. inside Paul Brown Stadium.

"We have to play a perfect game on every snap," Saccoccia said. "We can't let down for a minute. We need to be solid on offense, defense and special teams.

"On offense, we're not going to score every time we get the ball, but we can't be three downs and punt either. We need to get some first downs and maintain or gain field position. Defensively, we can't give up big plays. They are a big play team. Very seldom are they in third down and anything and they're deep."

The Tigers own victories over Akron Butchel (52-21), Maumee (34-12) and Massillon Perry (41-21). The loss came at the hands of Canton Glen Oak (26-24). Massillon was down 20-3 in that contest after three quarters but rallied for three fourth quarter scores to make it close.

"Glen Oak had them down to the point where people leaving the stadium," Saccoccia noted. "They came within a minute of winning the game. So we know we can't have any letdowns."

During an interview with The Massillon Evening Independent following the Perry game, coach Jason Hall noted he's aware of how good a team Big Red will bring to town.

"I just told our kids, without a doubt, next week is the toughest game so far we've played," he said. "That's no knock on anybody. I've already seen them in person and on film. We've got a tough task ahead of us and we better be focused.

"They're a run-the-ball, play-action team by nature. They'll run a lot of formations. Perry gave us a lot of formations, so there's a lot of similar stuff we'll be seeing against Big Red."

Kyle Kempt (6-5, 200) directs the Massillon offense that is averaging 372 yards (122 on the ground and 250 through the air) and 38 points per outing. The senior quarterback has thrown for 1,000 stripes, completing 67 of 95 attempts. He has six scoring tosses and has been intercepted three times.

Seniors Gareon Conley (6-2, 165) and Zach Volzer (6-0, 170) have 16 catches each. Conley's grabs have resulted in 306 yards and four scores. Volzer has 180 in receiving yardage.

Ryne Moore, a 5-8, 175 pound senior, leads the Tiger rushing attack. He has 284 yards on 44 trips and three touchdowns. Powerful senior Kentrell Taylor (6-1, 225) is next with 166 on 23 totes. He has found the end zone six times. A third senior, Ernie Baez (5-5, 140), has 12 carries for 71 yards and three six-pointers.

The offensive front features three returning starters in guards Emmanuel Brantley (6-0, 240) and Nathaniel Devers (6-5, 273) along with tackle Chase Lash (6-5, 298).

Matt Leisure, Massillon's offensive line coach, knows his unit will face a challenge from the Big Red defense.

"We've got to spend a lot of time this prepping for their defenses and the looks they give," he told The Evening Independent. "They're going to present us with a lot of problems with movements and blitzes that they do.

"They do a great job of timing everything up. We want to spend a lot of time on film review and field review of what they try to do each play."

Saccoccia said what makes the Massillon offense so good is "they present challenges all over the field."

"They have good receivers, a very solid quarterback and three tailbacks of different size and styles. The offense line is strong and offensively they present a lot of problems.

"This is the best Massillon team as far as balance and solid play that we've seen in the four years we've been playing them. They play a lot of kids and do a lot of things with the football."

Defensively, the Tigers are surrendering 162 yards per game on the ground and 151 via the pass.

Taylor leads the team in tackles with 23. The linebacker also has recorded three tackles for a loss. Junior Devon Ingram (5-10, 185) has 19 tackles from his linebacking spot.

"Defensively they're solid up middle," Saccoccia added. "The defensive line, their two inside linebackers and their two safeties are strong."

Big Red's offense averages 324 yards a game and 29 points. Through four games, senior Corey Stinson has passed for 560 stripes and five scores.

Senior Matt Petrella leads the receiving corps with 13 catches for 206 and three touchdowns. Senior Evan Westlake and junior Cody Saltsman have seven receptions each.

Junior Robert Hayden has compiled 211 rushing yards to lead his team. Senior Dashon Redman has 191 and senior LeShawn Luke 148.

Big Red's defense is giving up 180 yards a game and holding opponents to 14 points. Big Red foes have managed to earn an average of 31 rushing yards through the first four weeks.

Friday's contest starts a string of six consecutive home games for the Tigers.

"We like to play at home and we like to play on turf," Hall said. "Our kids are built to run on turf. We're definitely excited to have six straight games at home. We've got a couple of big games the first one being Steubenville that's a huge game not only for us but our kids, points and our community. It's very important."

As far as preparing his team for its first road game of the season, Saccoccia simply asked this: "who wouldn't want to play in Paul Brown Stadium."

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