IRONTON — It was the type of call that Ironton coach Bob Lutz had made a thousand times before. It was a solid, no frills, football decision.
Four plays after Portsmouth scored to climb to within two scores, the Trojan defense had Ironton on the ropes, forcing a fourth-and-inches at the Ironton 48.
Lutz decided to go for it. The play led to a first down, the drive led to a score and the game ended with Ironton ahead 50-28, giving Lutz his 360th career victory, tying him for the most all time in the state of Ohio with Hamilton-Badin’s Terry Malone.
The Fighting Tigers scored first and never trailed, rebuffing attempt after attempt by Portsmouth to get back into the game.
After the game Portsmouth coach Curt Clifford spoke highly of his respected rival.
"I told (Lutz) after the game that I'm glad we played him this week because I'm tired of him breaking (records) on me," Clifford said. "He's been doing that to me for 33 years.”
"Our kids played their guts out," he added. "I'm happy for Bob. I wish he could have waited two weeks. Bob is a friend and besides being a friend he's a colleague and I have a ton of respect for Bob and his staff."
Lutz, never one to embrace the spotlight was typically stoic. As the post game press conference began, one of his players came over and said, "I know you don't want it, but congratulations."
"It's not the highlight of my night if you really want to know," Lutz said. "We're trying to stay focused on what we're doing. I don't want anything to take away from what a great bunch of guys that we have playing and coaching and what they've done and what they continue to do.
"It means we've had enough good (players) to win enough games," he added. "And it means (I've) been coaching a lot of years."
Ironton led Portsmouth 28-6 at the half and it looked like the game could become a blow out.
Portsmouth answered immediately in the second half, forcing Ironton to go three-and-out and taking the ball 65 yards on a five-play drive that ended with quarterback Josh Myers hitting Kyle Simpson for a 47-yard score. Myers was 9 of 21 passing for 134 yards with one interception.
Ironton took nearly four minutes off the clock on its next drive, scoring again to increase the lead but Portsmouth's Jon Royster returned the ensuing kickoff 90 yards to cut the score to 35-20. Myers would hit London Malone for an 18-yard score but the Ironton offense proved to be too much.
"I'm not happy with the loss," Clifford said. "I thought we lost our poise at the end of the first half. We had a couple special teams breakdowns that we're not used to. Our special teams ended up getting us back into the ball game with Royster. We just didn't execute on special teams on the punting team and the kickoff team."
While the Portsmouth offense was able to move the ball in the second half, the defense could have used a break. The Trojan defense forced and recovered a fumble in the first half but Ironton played largely mistake-free football the rest of the way, even if they couldn't put the nail in the coffin.
"They kept us to a point where we couldn't pull away," Lutz said. "It was a dogfight right to the end. We went back to the basic stuff. Just pound it off tackle. We put 50 points on the board so the offense wasn't too bad against 10 in the box."
The win likely sets Ironton up with control of its own destiny toward a playoff berth and gives the Fighting Tigers a strong shot at a home game in the first round.
For the Trojans, the playoff picture is less clear. Portsmouth sat at No. 6 in Division IV, Region 15 before the game and its remaining games are against Marietta (1-7) and Western Brown (4-4).
Clifford knows the playoff situation can be beyond their control, whereas next week's game is not.
"I'm not even thinking about (playoffs)," Clifford said. "I'll tell you what I'm thinking about — Marietta. We only have nine seniors on this football team and those guys have not a had a lot of success throughout their careers. I'm going to do everything I can do to ensure that our team has a winning season this year. That's the only thing that's on my mind."
Ironton will have a chance to give Lutz the outright coaching wins record next week against Nelsonville-York.
JOHN STEGEMAN can be reached at email@example.com
Portsmouth 0 6 14 8 — 28
Ironton 7 21 14 8 — 50
I — Wilks 62 punt return (Wetzel kick) 5:10
I — Warner 27 run (Wetzel kick) 10:50
P — Royster 6 from Myers (kick failed) 3:50
I — Preston 1 run (Wetzel kick) 2:00
I — Sias 44 from Preston (Wetzel kick) 23.1
P — Simpson 47 from Myers (Myers run) 7:46
I — Taylor 20 run (Wetzel kick) 3:43
P — Royster 90 kick return (kick failed) 3:20
I — Wetzel 2 run (Wetzel kick) 1:07
P — Malone 18 from Myers (Staker from Myers) 9:19
I — Wetzel 11 run (Preston run) 3:31
RUSHING — Portsmouth — Myers 14-57, Jackson 8-52, Royster 3-7, Kennedy 1-2, Malone 1-6. Ironton — Preston 5-15, Taylor 15-107, Wetzel 15-110, Warner 8-48, Wilks 6-29, Beach 2-12, Lawless 1-0.
PASSING — Portsmouth — Myers 9-21-1 134; Ironton — Preston 2-3-0 61, Taylor 0-1-0 0.
RECEIVING — Portsmouth — Simpson 3-103, Royster 4-6, Malone 2-25; Ironton — Sias 1-44, Monnig 1-17.
Records — Portsmouth 5-3 (2-2); Ironton 6-2 (3-1)