For fans and parents, for sports writers and athletes, the attention will soon turn to basketball. In the hours after Ironton’s 20-14 overtime loss to Coshocton in a Division IV regional final however all the attention was firmly on the night’s events.
Ironton battled back from a 14-0 deficit to tie the game up and force overtime against a powerful opponent. Blow after blow by the Redskins were answered by the Fighting Tigers until the final moment.
The loss was an unspectacular ending to an unforgettable season.
After a three-game winning streak to open the season, Ironton was ranked No. 3 in the state in the Associated Press poll before dropping out of the rankings with tough losses to Ashland Paul Blazer (Ky.) and Logan.
After the 21-7 loss to Logan, the Fighting Tigers came roaring back, outscoring opponents by an average score of 38-12 over the last five weeks of the regular season and first two rounds of the playoffs.
In week eight, the Fighting Tigers beat rival Portsmouth to tie Ironton coach Bob Lutz with Hamilton-Badin’s Terry Malone as the winningest coach in Ohio high school football history. It was week nine against Nelsonville-York — the team the ordinarily occupies Boston Field, the site of Saturday’s loss — when Lutz got the record outright.
The regular season sent Ironton to the playoffs for the 27th time, more than any school in the state except Cincinnati Moeller and Newark Catholic.
After the regional-final loss, Lutz put the season — and the loss — into perspective.
“It’s been a good year for us as a team,” Lutz said. “Milestone’s don’t mean a whole lot to us right now. Our goal was to go as far as we can… We had a good bunch and overall a decent season. Our goal when we started the playoffs was to make a run at it, which means to go the distance.”
The Ironton roster listed 15 seniors, each of which had a hand in helping one of the state’s most successful programs to make it to high school football’s equivalent of the elite eight.
On Saturday senior J.P. Taylor led the way with 70 yards rushing, and senior Jon Pancake hit senior Jon Monning for a 36-yard touchdown pass. The defense had countless big stops and the fan support — as usual for Ironton — was impressive.
The Fighting Tigers carried the banner of southern Ohio well and represented the region proudly.
Congrats to Ironton as well as to Wheelersburg and Oak Hill for making the second round and to Minford and Symmes Valley for also making the playoffs.
Congrats to all the area football athletes, coaches and volunteers on a great 2009 season. Take the time you need to reflect on how great a season it was — then lace up the sneakers and head over to the gym.
JOHN STEGEMAN can be reached at email@example.com