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Harding to face big test in Massillon

September 13, 2013
By MIKE McLAIN - Tribune Chronicle (mmclain@tribtoday.com) , Underthelights

WARREN - There's not much more that needs to be done tonight to make the evening more special at Mollenkopf Stadium.

The arrival of the Massillon Tigers should be enough to stir up things. Fans who recall the rivalry between Massillon and the Warren G. Harding Panthers of the pre-1990s will like the throwback uniforms the Raiders will wear to commemorate those earlier teams.

Adding to the festivities will be an appearance by 1960 Harding graduate and Hall of Fame receiver Paul Warfield, who was honored last night with the unveiling of a statue just outside the stadium.

It should make for a unique night for the fans. That's all well and good for Harding coach Steve Arnold, but he has larger issues on his mind.

"It is what it is," said Arnold with no disrespect for the throwback tradition. "Those days are gone. I don't think about that stuff. I coach the Harding Raiders. It's great we have these throwback games and that we pay homage to both great traditions. My job is to prepare the team to play, regardless of what uniforms they wear."

Arnold will need to see improvement from the 1-1 Raiders, who opened the season with a 48-0 loss to Austintown Fitch and followed that with a 21-16 win over Howland. The Tigers have wins over Massillon Perry and Canton GlenOak to their credit - the latter coming in a controversial triple overtime game.

Turnovers have been at the core of the problem for the Raiders. They committed five miscues against Fitch and opened the Howland game with a lost fumble.

The good news last week was that the defense didn't allow a touchdown - Howland's touchdowns were on an interception return and a kick return.

"We got a little more consistent play from some guys," Arnold said. "We still need to get better if we want to win this game. There were some positive things that came out of the game. I thought we played hard for four quarters.

"At some point in time we have to be concerned about ourselves and quit eliminating mistakes. I saw (New York Giants coach) Tom Coughlin say 'we can't win turning over the ball.' That's at every level. We were able to overcome the turnovers we had against Howland."

Senior quarterback Lamar Carmichael is expected to miss another game for the Raiders with a foot injury. Hasan Muhammad will likely get the start.

"We're going to have to play solid special teams and hopefully cause a couple of turnovers and get some stops," Arnold said. "We're going to have to move the ball offensively and hopefully our defense can get us some good field position."

The Tigers are trying something seldom seen at any high school - starting a freshman quarterback. Lefty Danny Clark has completed 18-of-29 passes for 246 yards and four touchdowns. Receiver Reggie Rogers has nine receptions for 188 yards and four touchdowns.

"They're going to throw it around," Arnold said. "We have to get into our coverages and communicate well and be able to tackle. They have a big offensive line. They have a lot of weapons."

J.D. Crabtree and Lyron Wilson handle the rushing chores for the Tigers. Crabtree has 195 yards and two touchdowns on 25 carries. Wilson has 145 yards on 26 carries.

A win could supply the Raiders with plenty of computer points in their quest for a second straight playoff appearance. There's more on the line than just those numbers, however.

"One of the things I stressed to our kids last Friday is that it's not big for both schools; it's big for both communities," Arnold said. "Both cities and schools respect one another, but there's not a lot of love in the air when you talk about Warren and Massillon. We respect what they've done, and I hope they respect what we've done."