WAVERLY — Ty Perkins put on a two-way show, the Fighting Tigers pitched perhaps an unexpected shutout, linebacker Lincoln Barnes boldly held up the Region 19 championship trophy, and Ironton is back in familiar football Final Four territory.
That’s because, in one fell swoop from frigid Friday night at Waverly’s Raidiger Field, the now 14-0 Fighting Tigers torched the previously-undefeated Harvest Prep Warriors (13-1) — by a count of 34-0 in the Division V Region 19 championship game.
With the win, the Fighting Tigers of 2022 join only one other Ironton club with 14 victories in a single football season —that being the state championship team of 1989.
Speaking of 14, proud, storied and tradition-rich Ironton now owns officially that many regional crowns.
The Fighting Tigers are also now in their third state state semifinal in four years —as the 2019 and 2020 squads advanced to the Division V state title tilts, before losing to Kirtland inside the border of Stark County.
But, there is no Kirtland to worry about this season —as the Hornets dropped down to Division VI.
For the Fighting Tigers, Harvest Prep stood in the way on Friday night of another regional championship —a rematch of sorts from the Fighting Tigers’ 21-14 triumph over the Warriors two years ago in the regional semifinals.
But while that was a close encounter, Friday night’s return bout was anything but.
In fact, with Jaquez Keyes’ two-yard touchdown run only five seconds into the final canto, Ironton —surprisingly to many observers —officially put the Ohio High School Athletic Association’s running-clock rule into effect.
With both teams entering at 13-0, several pundits’ predictions were of a down-to-the-wire battle —as Harvest Prep won last season’s Region 19 title, and right at Raidiger Field.
By the outset of the fourth quarter, these Warriors were feeling quite the opposite from a year ago.
They have Perkins, Barnes, quarterback Tayden Carpenter, and the Fighting Tiger terrific defense to thank —or blame —for that.
The only Ironton players to have played against the Warriors two years ago were Carpenter and Barnes.
“I’m pretty pleased with our performance. Just our effort and our toughness. We preach mental toughness, and our mantra this year comes from a quote ‘mental toughness is to physical toughness is four is to one’. Our kids showed that tonight,” said fifth-year Ironton head coach Trevon Pendleton. “We had some kids dinged up, some kids not able to play, some kids fighting some illness, but man they just kept fighting. They battled, they prepared, they did all the little things necessary this week, and I think they showed that tonight with their play. These kids are such a blessing and so fun to coach.”
Defensively, although the Warriors had first-half possessions of 12, seven and even 14 plays, they produced zero points —including the 12-play and 14-play possessions, resulting in turnovers inside the red zone.
“You have to be the storm or you weather the storm, and we weathered the storm there when we couldn’t get off the field on fourth down,” said Pendleton. “We forced turnovers, flipped momentum going into halftime.”
Harvest Prep punted on its initial series following a three-and-out, and turned the ball over on downs on its seven-play series.
In the second half, in part with the running clock going, the Warriors ran just eight plays —three Aidan Rogers quarterback runs, and five Rogers passes of which none were completed.
Ironton forced four turnovers —two Perkins interceptions, one Landen Wilson interception, and one fumble recovery by Barnes, the latter of whom was the Southeast District Division V Defensive Player of the Year.
“He (Barnes) is a very smart football player. Studies a lot of film. He is a three-year starter for us and has led us in tackles multiple years,” praised Pendleton, of Barnes. “Just a tremendous competitor and maybe one of the toughest kids I’ve ever been around.”
Harvest Prep posted just 130 yards of offense on 46 plays, as Rogers — the first-team all-Central District Division V QB who faced the Fighting Tigers two years back — rushed a dozen times and attempted 23 throws.
For the all-Southeast District first-teamer Carpenter, it was quite the contrary.
He completed 15-of-19 passes for 227 yards, carried 12 times for 30 more, ran for a two-yard TD to cap a five-play, 67-yard drive midway through the second quarter, and threw three touchdowns to Perkins —the Southeast District Division V Offensive Player of the Year.
Perkins caught six passes for 123 yards —including scoring strikes of 22 yards in the first frame, and 17 and 20 in the third.
“Ty is just a very talented kid, and he has worked very hard to put himself in that position,” said Pendleton, of Perkins. “Can’t say enough about him. He is a great teammate.”
After Harvest Prep punted on its opening series, the Fighting Tigers drove 70 yards in 11 plays —making it 7-0 halfway through the opening quarter, with Evan Williams’ first of four extra-point kicks.
With the 14-0 halftime lead, and Ironton owning the ball coming out for the third period, the Fighting Tigers marched 83 yards in a dozen plays —going up 21-0 at the six-and-a-half minute mark.
“That drive was very big,” said Pendleton. “Tayden (Carpenter) set the tone with extending plays, then tucking the ball down some and running.”
With three minutes left in the third, the third Carpenter and Perkins pitch-and-catch for a touchdown with Williams’ final extra point made it 28-0.
That was a seven-play and only 45-yard drive.
Keyes then capped the scoring —going in to end a four-play, 20-yard and one-minute-and-23-second series, and following Trevor Carter’s fourth-down sack of Rogers which resulted in an 11-yard loss.
Keyes, the University of Wisconsin commit, ran seven times for 42 yards —as Perkins and Carter are both bound for the University of Cincinnati.
Speaking of the Queen City, that’s where Ironton returns to on Friday night —for a Division V state semifinal date with 13-1 Valley View.
The Spartans — which were a Division IV program a year ago — punched their state semifinal ticket by defeating Milton-Union 21-7 in the Region 20 championship.
Ironton and Valley View venture again in the Final Four —right where they did in 1999, at Cincinnati Princeton High School.
The Fighting Tigers won that matchup for a berth in the state championship game —which is what they will have to repeat for Friday night.
“We make no bones about it. Our goal every year is to win a state championship,” said Pendleton. “It’s a testament to these kids and how much they want to work and the effort and preparation they put in.”
Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.
* * *
Harvest Prep 0 0 0 0 — 0
Ironton 7 7 14 6 —34
I — Ty Perkins, 22-yard pass from Tayden Carpenter (Evan Williams kick), 5:53, 1st (7-0 I)
I — Tayden Carpenter, 2-yard run (Evan Williams kick), 6:00, 2nd (14-o I)
I — Ty Perkins, 17-yard pass from Tayden Carpenter (Evan Williams kick), 6:32, 3rd (21-0 I)
I — Ty Perkins, 20-yard pass from Tayden Carpenter (Evan Williams kick), 2:58, 3rd (28-0 I)
I — Jaquez Keyes, 2-yard run (pass failed), 11:55, 4th (34-o I)
First downs 8 21
Scrimmage plays 46 52
Rushes-yards 22-49 33-118
Passing yards 81 227
Total yards 130 345
Cmp-Att-Int. 9-24-3 15-19-0
Fumbles-lost 3-1 0-0
Punts-Ave. 1-35 1-37
RUSHING —Harvest Prep: Aidan Rogers 12-22, Ernest Pierce 6-22, Marchello Cox 2-16, Shavez Watkins 1-0, Team 1-(-11); Ironton: Tayden Carpenter 12-30 TD, Jaquez Keyes 7-42 TD, Amari Felder 8-24, Shaun Terry 1-16, Zayne Williams 1-14, Jesse Copas 1-6, Landen Wilson 1-(-1), DeAngelo Weekly 1-(-1), Braden Schreck 1-(-12)
PASSING — Harvest Prep: Aidan Rogers 8-23-3-69, Ernest Pierce 1-1-0-12; Ironton: Tayden Carpenter 15-19-0-227 3TD
RECEIVING—Harvest Prep: Justin Batista 4-36, Shawn Ruffin 2-18, Chris Brown 1-25, Shavez Watkins 1-2, Marchello Cox 1-0; Ironton: Ty Perkins 6-123 3TD, Shaun Terry 3-38, Landen Wilson 2-21, Lincoln Barnes 1-29, Amari Felder 1-10, Braden Schreck 1-8, C.J. Martin 1-(-2)