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Massillon History: High School Football

Massillon High School Tigers Football Team

written by archives intern Amanda Wismer

Football came to Massillon in 1894; the first high school game was played in Massillon, between Massillon High School and Canton Central High School. In the early years, the players consisted of working boys because most boys did not attend high school. Further down the road, in 1904-1909 more boys began attending school past 8th grade. 1909 was Massillon’s first undefeated football team. From 1910-1920 high school football in Massillon grew and improved, and by 1916 they were named the Scholastic Champions of Ohio. Similar to the professional teams, the 1918 season was chaotic due to WWI and the influenza epidemic.

Massillon’s high school football team has been the breeding ground for many great players and coaches. From 1921-1925 David Stewart held the head coach position, and his teams consisted of several players that would go on to make great contributions to the game of football. Paul Brown was one of those players; he played quarterback for Massillon under Coach Stewart and went on to do great things in the world of football.

Paul Brown played for Massillon from 1923-1925, then after a short stint at OSU he attended Miami University of Ohio (“Cradle of Coaches”).

Miami has the unique reputation as the ‘Cradle of Coaches.’ Legendary football coaches such as Woody Hayes, Bo Schembechler, Ara Parseghian, Weeb Ewbank, Paul Brown and Sid Gillman all had roots at Miami, and the impact they left on the college football landscape can still be felt today.

After he finished college he went on to coach high school football, very quickly returning to Massillon from 1932-1940. During those 9 years his team won 80 games, lost 8, tied 2, they won 6 consecutive Ohio State Championships and 4 U.S. Scholastic Championships. The 1940 Massillon Tigers team went down in history as the greatest high school team. Paul Brown forever changed football and Massillon High School athletics. After coaching in Massillon he went on to coach the Ohio State University team, then the Cleveland Browns (named in his honor), and ended his career with the Cincinnati Bengals. In 1939 the new Massillon Tiger Stadium was finished. It was built with WPA money and can seat more fans than most high school stadiums and was later renamed after Paul Brown.

He is responsible for being the first to employ year-round coaching staff, to use notebooks and classroom techniques extensively, set up complete game film clip statistical study, grade players from individual film clips, call plays from sidelines by rotating guards as messengers, improved the science of defensive play, switched running backs to defensive specialists, invented face bars for helmets, and used intelligence tests as a clue to player’s learning potential.

Although the war years of WWII took some Massillon football coaches away, the team thrived and the crowds grew in number every year. A survey of Massillon city showed that on Friday nights the least amount of energy was being used. The next decade brought more successful coaches, including Chuck Mather and Tom Harp, and winning teams. 1958 introduced Coach Leo Strong to Massillon football. He was a football trendsetter; he introduced decals on helmets, colored football shoes, uniforms with multi-color stripes, v-neck jerseys with triple stripes and outlined numbers.

In the late 1960s and 1970s the football program grew with great coaches who moved on to great coaching positions. In the 70s the Massillon Tiger Swing Band, which had been improved during Paul Brown’s era, grew in popularity with different shows and events. In 1961 they won their 400th victory; their 500th in 1973 and 1985 was their 600th. In the mid-1980s the team was lead by Coach John A. Maronto, and the team was not the championship winning team of the past. Attendance lowered and supporters and fans were not happy. From 1988-1993 Massillon began to rebuild and resurrect their successful team. Coach Lee Owens made a lot of changes to Paul Brown Stadium and to the athletics. In the 90s the program got back into their winning streak and began producing championship teams. In 1992 they celebrated their 700th win

The Massillon Tigers have cultivated 17 professional football players and 3 have become NFL coaches. At the turn of the century their overall record stood, unchallenged, at 22 official state championships and 9 national championships. The booster club for football to this day makes sure that all babies born in Massillon Community Hospital receive a mini football in their bassinets. Massillon is very proud of its high school football legacy, and look forward to the future successes.

The Massillon Museum’s collection includes a large number of materials and ephemera from both the professional and high school football teams. The collection includes uniforms, footballs, programs, schedules, trophies, clippings, and photographs. For more information contact Archivist Mandy Pond over the phone: 330-833-4061, or via email.

For more information on the Paul E. Brown Museum in Massillon, please visit their website.

Books Referenced:

  • White, John E. (1994). The Massillon Tigers Story: The First Hundred Years. Prescott, AZ: Classic Press.
  • Shearer, Nicholis. (2008). Eclectic. Everyday. Elegant. Massillon, OH: Massillon Museum.
  • Vogt, Margy. (2002). Towpath to Towpath. Massillon, OH: Bates Printing, Inc.


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