Here is the first of my previews of Mentor opponents for the 2017 season. Throughout July and August, I will post some info on each opponent starting in Week 1 with Massillon.
Who: Massillon Tigers
What: 2017 regular season opener
Where: Paul Brown Tiger Stadium
When: August 25th at 7:30pm
Opposing Coach: Nate Moore (3rd season at Massillon, 12-9 record)
History: Massillon leads the overall series 6-5 after Mentor's victory last year. Mentor's biggest win before the 2000's was in 1968 as they upset the Tigers, 19-0. The two split a six game series from 2005-2010 and resumed playing last season.
Mentor and Massillon are two of the top football programs in NEO. They had an exciting back-and-forth series for six seasons before having a five-year hiatus due to scheduling conflicts. The teams resumed their competitive series last year as the Cards won at home, 57-31. Massillon, a Division II school, finished the regular season 8-2 and returned to the playoffs. Mentor was the 9th seed in Region 1, just barely missing the playoffs. Last year's game saw Mentor RB Isaiah Gullick have his best game of the season. Gullick, now graduated, had 238 yards and 5 TD's. The offensive-powered game saw over 800 yards of offense and 88 points. Massillon's receiver Austin Jasinki had a record-setting night with 15 receptions, 222 yards, and some big plays on defense.
Half of the Tigers' 2016 schedule were playoff teams. Their 4-1 record against those teams helped secure Massillon's 23rd playoff appearance. The Tigers' schedule has a couple changes from last year, but all of the big names return. The first four games (Mentor, GlenOak, Warren Harding, and Ursuline) will set up the season. Massillon will look to try and at least split those games if they want to make the playoffs again. The Week 10 rivalry game with McKinley defines their season. Other games include Fitch, Akron SVSM, and Akron Firestone. New teams to the schedule are Bedford (DII playoff team in 2016) and Canisius (NY), a team that went 7-2 last season. This is certainly one of the most challenging schedules of any team in Division II. The Tigers will be tested, especially in the first few weeks.
2017 Massillon Outlook...
Jasinski (1,834 all-purpose yards and 19 TD's), QB Seth Blankenship (1,819 passing yards and 24 TD's), and a large group of All-District lineman are among the key players that graduated. Jasinski accounted for more than half of the total receptions and more than 2/3 of the receiving yards and TD's. He will be sorely missed. WR Austin Kutscher was second on the team in receptions (16), yards (244), and receiving TD's (4) last year. The senior has a lot of experience and will look to be the go-to receiver in 2017. Junior LB Jamir Thomas has been a standout defensive player for the Tigers dating back to his freshman season. After leading the team in tackles as a freshman, Thomas was 2nd in tackles. Thomas led the team in rushing yards (561) and rushing TD's (10). RB/LB Louis Partridge is a fellow junior who could take a big step forward in 2017. Partridge (484 yards, 7 TD's) shared RB duties with Thomas. He should continue to see time on both sides of the ball as Moore looks for play makers on offense. Anthony Ballard and Kameron Simpson are key returning starters on defense.
The Tigers are light on returning impact players and will have difficulty getting as many wins (8) as last year. It might be a transition season for the Tigers unless they can find an serviceable replacement at QB and get close to duplicating the size/talent on the lines last season.
Next Preview: St Ignatius (Week 2)