2020 Week 2 Game Preview- Warren G. Harding (1-1) @ Massillon (1-1)
In what is now his ninth season as the head football coach of Warren G. Harding, Steve Arnold is now 2-7 in season openers (wins in 2015 & 2016). However, after the Raiders' 27-10 triumph over Youngstown Cardinal Mooney this past Friday, he's now 7-2 in week 2 games, which includes a forfeited game to Howland back in 2014. That shows his abilty to adjust, make improvements, and bounce back after beginning the season with a solid opponent. The most memorable exxample of Arnold doing that occured in his first season in 2012. After a tough 24-10 loss at Austintown Fitch, the Raiders won the last nine games of the regular season before eventually falling 45-35 in the first round of the playoffs at Mentor, who were led by current Chicago Bears starting quarterback Mitchell Trubisky. Harding will look to have a similar progession this season as they'll look to build off of the momentum from their week 2 victory over Mooney.
With senior Elijah "Record Book" Taylor under center for Harding, you can expect continuous improvement from week to week. For his career, he's 279-of-498 for 3,516 yards and 31 touchdowns, all of which are school records. So far this season, he's completed 60.8% of his passes for 392 yards and 4 touchdowns. One underrated fact about Taylor is that he's not just getting his production from one guy as he's shown a great ability to see the field and spread the ball around to his teammates. For example, the first offensive play against Mooney was a 70-yard bomb to junior Dom Foster, who pulled away for the touchdown. Not only was it the fourth touchdown pass of 70 yards or more in Taylor's career, but all of them were caught by different players (70 yards to Ty Artis, 84 yards to Kay'Ron Adams, and 85 yards to Tyirq Ivory). The Raiders were hoping for an emergence from one of their young playmakers, and Foster has definitely stepped up to the plate as he enters week 3 with 11 catches for 242 yards and 3 touchdowns. Senior DeAveion "Nutty" Burgess has also broken loose for a career season as he's hauled in 10 catches for a 104 yards and 1 touchdown. Defensively, the Raiders have only surrendered 163 yards on 58 carries (2.8 yards per carry) and after giving up 202 yards to Cleveland Benedictine in week 1, they held Mooney to 84 yards on 7-of-16 passing. That effort included an interception by junior Brysen Powell, the son of Warren Western Reserve legend Hank Powell and younger brother of Harding legend Chris Rucker. The Raiders will look to improve on these efforts as they prepare to head to Stark County to face their all-time nemesis.
Massillon Washington is the "Goliath" of high school football. The biblical giant towered over his opposition and often dominated until he meets "David," who defeated him with a stone to the forehead. This past Friday, Massillon joined Valdosta (Georgia; 933), Louisville Male (Kentucky; 906), Highlands (Kentucky; 901) and Mayfield (Kentucky; 900) as the only high school football programs in the country with 900 all-time wins. The bulk of the Tigers success came prior to the beginning of the playoff era (1972-present) as they're credited with 24 AP Poll state championships. In fact, no program in the country has won more national titles as the Tigers received nine of those crowns in 1935, 1936, 1939, 1940, 1950, 1952, 1953, 1959, and 1961. If you check their past scores on MassillonTigers.com (great source of information), you'll understand why their program was so highly thought of back then. That said, despite being Ohio's all-time king in wins and poll championships, the "Goliath" reference comes into play when you consider that five teams have played the roll of "David" as the Tigers finished as state runner ups in 1980 (Cincinnati Moeller), 1982 (Moeller), 2005 (Cincinnati St. Xavier), 2018 (Akron Archbishop Hoban), and Cincinnati La Salle (2019). It's also notable that in 2002, Harding gave Massillon two of their three losses, the latter of which was a 21-20 overtime victory in the Division I state semifinal. The Raiders finished that season as the state runner up.
In January of 2015, Massillon hired Nate Moore as their head coach. Hailaing from the home of Kings Island, Moore is a 1999 graduate of Mason High School who began his head coaching career in 2010 at Minster High School, a member of the powerful Midwest Athletic Conference (MAC) in Western Ohio. After three seasons there, he went to Cincinnati La Salle where he jumpstarted their emergence into a state power as the Lancers started competing with their fellow Greater Catholic League members (Archbishop Moeller, Elder, and St. Xavier, all of Cincinnati) and broke through with their first-ever Division II state title in his final season of 2014. SInce Moore's departure, La Salle has also won state crowns in 2015, 2016, and 2019. Two games into his sixth season as the Tigers' coach, Moore has gone 51-16, which includes a 28-2 run and back-to-back state runner up finishes in 2018 and 2019.
After the recent graduation of Massillon's all-time leading passer in Aiden Longwell, Moore will look for a big season out of senior quarterback Zach Catrone, holds offers from Heidelberg and Baldwin Wallace University. Last week against Bishop Sycamore, it was sophomore signal caller Javian Crable navigating the Tiger offense as he finished with 201 total yards and a score. Whoever lines up at quarterback this week will be armed with one of the more elite wide receiver duos in the entire country in Ohio State commit Jayden Ballard and West Virginia commit Andrew Wilson-Lamp. Pitt commit Terrance Rankl leads the charge up front alongside fellow seniors John Kouth and C.J. Harris, who both hold offers from Mount Union. Raekwon Venson is their leading rusher as he's plowed for 149 yards and 2 touchdowns on 42 carries while fellow tailback Kyree Young, who has yet to suit up for the Tigers this year, holds offers from LSU, Alabama, Nebraska, West Virginia, Purdue, etc. If their offense stalls, they'll utilize the leg of Magnus Haines, who is ranked the #2 senior punter in the country by kornbluekicking.com. Defensively, the Tigers apply pressure with FBS linebacker targets Caiden Woullard (offers from Ball State, Buffalo, Central Michigan, Eastern Michigan, Kent State, etc.) and Jumacius Portis (offers from Central Michigan & Kent State) while senior cornerback Martavien Johnson is currently considering offers from the likes of Kentucky, Maryland, Harvared, Yale, Air Force, Akron, Army, and several MAC schools.
Arnold's nine years as head coach is tied with the late J.O. "Heine" Beck for the second longest tenure in Harding history. They only trail the late Pierre Hill, who won a school record 80 games in 12 years from 1930 to 1941. This past Friday, Arnold passed the late Phil Annarella and moved into third place on Harding's all-time win list and his 52 is only behind Hill and Thom McDaniels, who went 63-21 from 2000 to 2006. If win #53 is to come for Arnold this week, he'll have to do it against a Massillon program that currently owns a 56-25-3 all-time record against Harding. Arnold's two career wins against the Tigers were aided by outstanding performances by Lynn Bowden, who was recently traded from the Las Vegas Raiders to the Miami Dolphins, in both 2015 and 2016. This Friday, he'll look for Taylor to lead the offense against an experienced Massillon squad that working towards their third consecutive appearance in the state championship game.
Good luck Raiders!