Flurry of flags fluster Harding against Massillon
WARREN — Flags are sometimes something to behold.
People stand and watch the American Flag for the national anthem.
There are flag lines with area high schools.
Yellow flags weighted with either sand or beans isn’t something that honor much of anything. In fact, few people, other than football officials, respect the item.
Friday, both Massillon and Warren G. Harding saw it fly out of the officials pockets early and often during the Tigers’ 31-21 victory at Mollenkopf Stadium.
Both teams were penalized 19 times for a combined 200 yards. Harding saw yellow 11 times for 110 yards — including a couple of costly pass interference calls.
One of those pass interference calls which incensed Arnold and the Harding sideline, which was called when Massillon had a third-and-13 from its own 14 with 6:30 left in the third quarter.
The drive continued and eventually led to Aiden Longwell throwing his second straight touchdown pass to Austin Kutscher with 4:08 remaining to give Massillon (2-1) a 28-14 lead. Longwell was 8 of 11 for 117 yards, while Kutscher had four catches for 79 yards.
“It comes a point and time you got to let them play,” said WGH coach Steve Arnold, whose team drops to 0-2. “There’s going to be some contact. Every deep ball they were throwing a flag. Let the kids play. I’m saying that on both sides.”
It was something Harding couldn’t overcome, which had plenty of offsides, holding and personal fouls to go with the pass interference calls.
“We don’t have that margin for error to have 100 yards in penalties, we just don’t,” Arnold said. “That will be corrected.”
Unfortunately, it marred a couple of highlights in downtown Warren.
Friday’s game was a tribute to the former Panthers of Warren G. Harding with red and white dominating the visual on the Harding sideline.
The current Warren G. Harding Raiders celebrate the team’s heritage with tributes to the former Panthers of Harding and Raiders of Warren Western Reserve each season. The two schools consolidated in 1990.
Harding celebrates the WWR Raiders with its throwback uniforms this coming Friday when they host Austintown Fitch.
Junior running back Kayron Adams had a breakout night with 18 carries for 195 yards and three touchdowns — including a 66-yard run on the first play from scrimmage with 3:05 left in the third quarter, cutting the Massillon lead to 28-21. Adams was the Division I Austintown Regional 100-meter dash champion as a sophomore. The Tigers saw his breakaway speed firsthand.
“We expect that from Kayron,” Arnold said of Adams, who made up a bulk of the team’s 288 yards rushing.
Harding’s special teams were strained from the get go on an 84-yard kickoff return by Massillon’s Benjamin Krichbaum for a touchdown on the opening play.
“It was a combination of things,” Arnold said. “We were supposed to kick it to the numbers, but we kicked it down the middle. That’s not what we practice all week.”
The Raiders’ defense was hindered when defensive lineman Karpise Sledge went down with a knee injury, being helped off the field by teammates and onto a stretcher with less than 10 minutes remaining. Arnold said his trainer told him Sledge might have a deep bruise.
“We won’t know until he gets it checked out,” Arnold said.
Massillon later drove down for an eventual 21-yard field goal with 4:24 left for the game’s final score.
Along the way, the Tigers a healthy dose of Jamir Thomas and Zion Phifer. The two combined for 199 yards on 40 carries. Thomas led with 27 carries for 148 yards and a score.
On Harding’s side, the passing game was improved. Against Canton McKinley in Week 1, the Raiders had 14 yards. Starting quarterback Chris Chew was 7 of 12 for 58 yards. He had an overthrow in Harding’s final drive of the fourth quarter on fourth down in Massillon territory, but Arnold saw improvement in this facet. Chew added six carries for 34 yards.
“I thought he played well,” Arnold said. “Made a bad decision on that last fourth down. That’s growth. … He’ll learn from it.”
Despite the start, Harding’s coach is looking for better things from his team going forward.
“I’m glad we have a home stretch here,” Arnold said. “Inexperienced team, but we’re going to be fine. We’re going to continue to grow and get better.
“Now we got to fight and see what we’re made of now.”