Valdosta, Massillon Finally Meet in Historic Matchup

Valdosta, Massillon Finally Meet in Historic Matchup

A game that Massillon Tigers head football coach Nate Moore called “50 years in the making” took place on August 19, 2023, when his team hosted the Valdosta Wildcats on the hallowed grounds of Paul Brown Stadium. The environment was everything you would expect – and maybe more – for a historic game that had so much anticipation and buildup. The possibility of such a contest had been talked about for decades but never materialized until it finally became official with the announcement in early 2023 that the Massillon and Valdosta would finally meet.

Massillon, Ohio, had a “countdown clock” in the heart of its downtown that displayed the days, hours, minutes, and seconds until the Tigers and Wildcats would face off. Valdosta players, coaches, and a bus full of fans departed the VHS campus on Wednesday afternoon of game week to make the all-night, 14-hour journey to Northeast Ohio, where an estimated 16,000 fans would gather for the historic event.

When Valdosta and Massillon finally began the historic showdown, it was the visitors from Georgia who came out roaring the loudest, scoring on a 16-yard touchdown pass that was set up by a long run on the opening play. According to coach Moore, his defense was caught off guard by an unbalanced offensive line from Valdosta.

“It was a perfect storm of bad,” Moore said, describing the series of events that led to the long run to start the game.

Leading 7-0, Valdosta added to the lead on its next possession as the result of another big play, a 65-yard pass and run after the catch. The extra point made it 14-0.

Despite the early deficit, Moore said there “was no panic in our guys at all. I simply told the team to stay calm, and settle in, and that’s exactly what we did.”

In the second quarter, Massillon finally got its offense going and cut the lead to 14-7 on a touchdown run from Dorian Pringle. That’s how the first half ended, with Massillon still trailing by a TD. In the second half, the tide began to turn, and it didn’t take long. The Tigers struck on the first play to start the third quarter, when RB Daone Edwards took it 70 yards for a TD. Just like that, the two teams were even at 14.

With the momentum now with the home team, the Tigers scored to go up 21-14, and it was a lead they would not relinquish. The Wildcats managed to cut the lead to 21-17, but the Tiger put the game away with a fourth-quarter TD to make the final score 28-17.

Coach Moore said he thought the difference in the game came down to conditioning: “I think our guys could have gone another quarter, to be honest.”

Tigers Booster Club president Rob Maylor said he was glad the two teams finally were able to meet, and that he was proud of the welcome that his team, the town, and the fans showed everyone.

“This is what we do,” Maylor said. “We are just very proud of our history of Tiger football. It was great to see the Valdosta fans and their tents. It was a very special night.”

Lifelong Wildcat fan Johnny Holcombe, who serves as president of the Valdosta Touchdown Club Board of Directors and curator of the David Waller Wildcat Museum, said the atmosphere was as good as it gets.

“The fans up there are very classy and very invested in their program,” said Holcombe. “It was a top-notch atmosphere for high school football.”

Of course, with the historic game in the books, the question everyone has now is will Valdosta and Massillon meet again? Moore said he sure hopes so.

“I’m jealous of Valdosta and what they were able to do with the bus trip, and all that,” Moore said. “I want our team to be able to experience that going down there.”

ITG Next was there, and we will be posting video highlights of the historic game, as well as a look behind the scenes from both the Valdosta and Massillon sides. We want to thank Valdosta head coach Shelton Felton and Massillon’s Moore for allowing us locker room access.

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