Welcome to the wonderful world of two-a-day practices.
This year, the Massillon regime will be piloted by a gentleman who departed defending Division II state champion Cincinnati LaSalle for the coveted head coach and athletic director position. It will also mark the return of a former running back, who was a vital cog to Division I regional championships in the 2001 and 2002 seasons under Rick Shepas. Also, joining the staff will be a former Massillon quarterback who steered the Tigers to their first state title game appearance since the 1982 season after a 23-year wait and came within a score of knocking off the powerful Cincinnati St. Xavier Bombers and bringing a coveted playoff title to a city long famished for the playoff hardware that only Stark County high schools Central Catholic, St. Thomas Aquinas, and Canton McKinley all possess.
Let the truth be spoken: this is head coach Nate Moore’s squad. And he is fully in control and the commander-in-chief. And he will also be assisted by the return of Terrance Roddy and the addition of Bobby Huth.
Last season, the Tigers finished with an OK record of 7-4 but what is remembered most by residents of the city was the acrid ending that ensued in their first round Division II contest in the form of an unforgiving 56-7 setback to Perrysburg.
Jason Hall eventually stepped down after seven years atop the Massillon hierarchy to assume the coaching reins at Westlake High School. When Moore took the job, he arrived with the Tigers program in a bit of disarray. Incumbent quarterback Danny Clark departed to continue his athletic and academic career at Akron Hoban High School, who needless to say will face Canton McKinley in the first week of the season next month. Offensive coordinator Badre Bardawil then departed for the St. Thomas Aquinas head coaching job. On the bright side, he was able to retain four assistants from Hall’s staff in Dan Hackenbracht, Joe Pierce, Cale Miller, and Jason Jarvis, whose experiences will be called upon during the course of the season.
It eventually will lead up to the Tigers home opener August 27th against Perry, who, like Massillon is a Division II school now.
For now, these two-a-days will be a chance for the staff to gauge the talents players may possess based on their skill level. It will also involve the installing of offensive and defensive schemes. And there will be various competitions at positions as athletes who played sparingly or not at all. It will be a chance for those who didn’t get a chance to be a starter to try and prove their worth as assets for the 2015 Massillon Tigers.
It has been 10 years since this writer covered his first Tigers two-a-days when Tom Stacy succeeded Shepas. I remember being fresh and not knowing of the Massillon tradition until the team embarked on the greatest 15-week journey that forever brought my respect to Massillon not just as a football city but importantly for how the fans won me over in respect to their zeal for their hometown team.
As these football seasons come and go and as I obviously get older in terms of age, this makes me appreciate the efforts of the players and coaches who are involved in these practices, especially the Tiger moms who feed the players after each practice. This writer recalls being fed by the Tiger moms after two hard practices and from then on it really dawned on me that I was truly in the city of Massillon.
Coach Moore will also experience his first media day. And then his first Kickoff Rally. And it will all come to a peak on that Thursday night against the Panthers. And that will be the night he will not only be the head coach of the Massillon Tigers but the gentleman who will try to add his name to state championship winning head coaches but the first to win a playoff title. And more importantly, he will have my full support as long as he is in the driver’s seat.
August 1st will be the day that the sun will shine on a hot morning in Massillon, Ohio. Fans of all ages will partake in viewing the practices and hear the silence-piercing voices of the coaches and players. It will be the day that separates the tigers from the cubs.
That day will mark the favorite time of year for Massillon residents: the start of two-a-days. And it figures to be one of high octane competition as young men look to be the next athletes worthy of representing Massillon under the Friday evening lights.