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Legacy game: Fitch, Massillon set for matchup at Falcon Stadium

Correspondent photo / Robert Hayes The Austintown Fitch Falcons run onto the field within a navy and red haze before their season-opening victory over Chaney.

AUSTINTOWN — Everyone knows the legacy of the Massillon Tigers, a tradition that’s been on-going since 1891.

Paul Brown, Obie, historically the Tigers (3-2) have one of the most successful high school football programs in the country.

With that being said, it’s no surprise that the Austintown Fitch Falcons (3-1) have had their fair share of run-ins with the Tigers.

This evening will mark the 27th time the Falcons and Tigers have met with Massillon holding a four-game winning streak over the Falcons. Austintown Fitch’s last victory over the Tigers was an old-school, defensive 7-6 win at Falcons Stadium in 2015.

The block “F” adorned on Austintown’s helmet carries a special meaning, even more so against such a historically revered program.

“We talk about it all the time, these are the games that you play for Austintown Fitch,” Falcons coach TJ Parker said. “It’s really nice to see a lot of the other local area games, but these are the big boy games that the select few get to play in.

“Our best players need to find ways to rise in those occasions, and defensively those guys need to step up and make plays when called upon.”

Massillon comes into tonight with a record of 3-2 and they are coming off a 35-18 loss at home against St. Edward. But, the Tigers have recorded a 49-46 shootout win over Warren G. Harding on the road and they are scoring an average of 29.8 points a contest. The Falcons are going to have to find ways to do what they’ve done all year and that starts with winning the turnover battle.

With six interceptions and five forced fumbles on defense, the Falcons find ways of creating opportunities, made better with the fact that senior querback Devin Sherwood hasn’t thrown a pick all season.

“It plays into how the defense can react to them and how the offense can react,” Parker said. “If we’re scoring points, and we’re putting it up, then the defense can be more aggressive to try to create that turnover or try to get them behind the sticks.

“If it’s a back-and-forth game where things are tight on both sides of the ball, then hey, maybe they have that bend but don’t break attitude, you know they have to buckle up when the team gets inside the red zone.”

Sophomore DeShawn Vaughn Jr. leads the team with four interceptions, including a trio of picks against Chaney in the season opener.

Senior linebacker Devin Pounds has a pair of fumble recoveries, while fellow senior linebacker C.J. Schisler leads the team with 30 total tackles and two forced fumbles.

Junior cornerback Cam Smith is always dangerous in the secondary as well, posting a sack, an interception, and 14 tackles.

Austintown Fitch can find paydirt with ease as well, scoring 40 or more points in their last three matchups, including a 42-28 win at Canton McKinley.

It’s also an offense that has only punted a staggering four times all season.

Sherwood, who passed John Ballard two weeks ago as the program’s all-time leader in career passing yards, has completed 55 of his 81 pass attempts for 837 yards, four touchdowns, and no interceptions.

He also leads the Falcons on the ground with 311 yards and five touchdowns on 41 carries. Sophomore running back DJ Williams boasts six trips to the endzone and has rushed for 269 yards on 34 attempts.

Senior wideout Tyler Evans also etched his name in the history books recently, zooming past Chris Smalldino for career receptions, while catching 16 passes so far this fall for 314 yards and a score. Sophomore Dan Evans III leads his team with a pair of touchdown receptions.

When you boil the numbers down it translates to one thing — two excellent football teams with a lot of muscle who have a lot to prove. Massillon owns the all-time record against Fitch, holding an 18-8.

It’s going to be a slugfest, but is anything less really expected?

“This has been going on for a long time, the Massillon-Fitch game, so it’s etched in our history,” Parker explained. “So, our kids and our fans look forward to it, and I think vice-versa. I think that Massillon looks forward to coming to Austintown, and playing in our stadium.

“A lot of them I’ve seen talk about frequenting some of our restaurants, and places, so there’s history there. Of course to be the best team, to want to be an elite program in the state, you have to compete versus the elite programs in the state, and they’ve shown in the past that they are one of those elite programs.”

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