It's doubtful that anyone has played against three more dynamic running backs in the first three weeks of the high school season than Massillon. Week one had the Tigers defending against Ohio State verbal Tony Pittman of Akron Buchtel; the following week they had to contain Raymond Williams of Cleveland Benedictine; and as an encore, sophomore Chris Wells of Akron Garfield was the next challenge.
"They all had different qualities believe it or not," said Massillon head coach Rick Shepas. "Pittman I think is definitely a slasher. He has great speed and he doesn't need much of a hole and he doesn't mess around as soon as he does see the hole. He's very decisive about the way that he runs and all that he needs is a crease and he can break it at any time. He's a special player, a very physical runner, very hard nosed."
Pittman ran for 175 yards and two scores in an opening-season loss at Paul Brown Stadium. Williams, with 145 yards, helped to lead the Bengals to victory against the Tigers in week two.
"The Williams kid is a little bit of a different style runner," Shepas said. "He wiggles, he's got great first and second moves, and he makes defenders miss. And then what's really interesting about him is that he accelerates from a standing stop very quickly, he's very explosive."
Shepas tried to make a clear distinction between Williams and Pittman.
"He's a differently styled runner from Pittman," the coach said. "He doesn't hit up in that hole and pour it up into that hole. He kind of uses his blockers a little bit more, he's a little bit more patient, he waits to see the hole open, tries to make people miss and then he accelerates."
In the third week of the season, Massillon faced arguably the state's best sophomore in tailback Chris Wells.
"Chris Wells, a power runner, a big, bruising type of runner,"
Shepas said. "I think that even when he gets in traffic, he still has
breakaway speed even though he's a very physical ball carrier. He reminds me of
a Tyrone Wheatley type of player."
In hindsight, Shepas said that it was Williams that posed the biggest problem for the Tigers.
"I think Ray Williams (pictured left) was a lot better in person than we thought he was on film," he said. "We thought it was going to be hard to see a back that was better than Pittman but I think the advantage that Ray Williams had is that the offensive line at Benedictine is a lot better than the offensive line at Akron Buchtel."
And which of the three would Shepas give the nod to for making the best impression on him?
"I'd have to say that Williams would be the one guy, if I had to pick, that really impressed me," he said. "It's hard to compare because everybody is on a different team but I just think he's a player-maker. The kid plays on both sides of the ball, he's in great shape, he made plays on the defensive ball and he picked up a fumble and ran it for a (34-yard) touchdown, that was a big play. I just think he's the kind of back that can make his own plays and create on his own, and he can score from anywhere on the field."
But as an underclassman Shepas is convinced that Wells certainly will be a major force to reckon with over the next couple of seasons.
"I think he definitely as a sophomore is going to have a chance to be better than both of those guys," he said. "I like his physicality. I definitely think that Pittman is a physical runner, far more physical than Ray Williams, but I think, as a sophomore, that Wells can be just as physical with a different style. He doesn't quite have Pittman's speed but he's a physical power runner. You've got to tackle him below the waist because he's big and strong. He's got big, strong legs, he's in pretty good shape and he runs the ball hard.
"We've definitely have seen some great ones and it's not over, we're going to see great ones the rest of the way. But I think all in all, they got their yards against us for sure but I think it was great preparation and I think it's going to make us a better football team down the road."
Massillon plays Findlay in week four.
PITTMAN INJURY UPDATE
After a stellar performance in week one against the Tigers, Pittman (pictured left) was injured against North Canton Hoover the following week.
"I got tackled and I hurt my leg, I fell wrong," said Pittman who was in street clothes at the Warren G. Harding game. "I thought it was my foot but it ended-up being my toe. I got turf toe now and I'm out probably two weeks."
Pittman had a noticeable limp at the Harding game but he's determined to play in week four.
"I feel like my leg is better now and I'm going to play next week for sure," Pittman said. "I feel like I should have came out here and played hurt tonight. They were a good team but they wasn't as good as everybody says."
The loss to the Raiders dropped the Griffins to 0-3 on the season.
We're going to turn it around and we will be all right," Pittman said. "I guarantee that, we will be all right."