CANTON — In its 11th all-time state championship football tilt, Ironton did set a school record for most points scored in a single state final.
Flip that coin, though, and the Fighting Tigers— in Friday’s Division V final against undefeated South Range — gave up their most points ever allowed in those 11 affairs.
As a result, and unfortunately for Ironton in its third state championship bout in four years, the Fighting Tigers never led against the Raiders —and ended up as state runner-up for an Ohio High School Athletic Association record nine times.
South Range senior standout quarterback Billy Skripac rushed for three first-half touchdowns and threw for two more of at least 40 yards, and the Fighting Tigers allowed 559 total yards — en route to a doubled-up 53-27 defeat inside spectacular Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium in Canton.
Ironton ends another season in the Division V state championship game —but finishes 15-1, and instead of taking home the gold championship trophy, settled for silver once again.
Those 15 victories, though, are in fact an Ironton record for most wins in a single football season.
In 2019 and 2020, Kirtland conquered Ironton 17-7 and 38-0 respectively inside the borders of Stark County, but those state powerhouse Hornets dropped down to Division VI this year.
That opened the door for the Raiders (16-0), playing in their first-ever state championship game — and which had been stung by the Hornets, for several seasons in the state playoffs within the past decade.
It marked the final game for 16 Fighting Tigers seniors —including quarterback Tayden Carpenter and linebacker Lincoln Barnes, who both started in the state title game two years ago in Massillon.
“I want to say how proud I am of these seniors, and some of the things they have battled through and overcome, year after year to get here again. It’s just so impressive. The mentality that these guys have shown and the approach that they take to not only football, but work itself in the weight room, on the field or in the classroom,” said Ironton head coach Trevon Pendleton, who completed his fifth season on Friday. “I don’t think they realize the magnitude of what they’ve done. They will look back and should be proud of what they accomplished because I am very proud of them.”
Unfortunately on Friday, they played far from their best game.
The Fighting Tigers, after allowing a 68-yard pass completion from Skripac to Shane Lindsrom and which led directly to Skripac’s first touchdown run only three-and-a-half minutes in, immediately answered on their opening play —a 66-yard touchdown toss from Carpenter to the tight end Barnes, beating the Raiders right over the middle of the field.
Evan Williams made the first of her final three career extra points, but the 7-7 tie was as close as Ironton got all day.
With 42 seconds left in the opening quarter, Skripac hooked up with Jake Starkey for 30 yards to the Ironton 40 —then, following a flea flicker, the Northeast Inland District Division V Co-Offensive Player of the Year connected the final 40 yards with J.D. Crouse.
The next two Fighting Tiger possessions resulted in a lost fumble followed by a blocked punt after a three-and-out series, and Skripac scored twice more from inside the 8-yard-line —as South Range racked up a 26-7 advantage only three minutes and four seconds into the second quarter.
For the Fighting Tigers, that’s where the game got away from them.
“Those mistakes are hard to overcome. Anytime you are giving good teams great field position and extra possessions, that’s tough, especially when they capitalize on it and capture momentum like they did. Hats off to South Range, they played a really good game,” said Pendleton. “It wasn’t anything that we couldn’t overcome. Just unfortunately couldn’t do it today. But it wasn’t a matter of effort.”
The Raiders later led 32-14 on a Blake Ewert 31-yard run, then upped the advantage to 39-14 exactly midway through the third period — when Skripac and Lindsrom linked up again on a crossing route, this one going for 65 yards with Logan Butcher’s third extra point.
The Fighting Tigers twice got to within three second-half touchdowns —on Carpenter passes to Amari Felder for seven yards and to Ty Perkins for his second score for 31, but the Raiders answered each for finally the 53-27 final.
Both clubs’ quarterbacks completed 331 yards worth of passes (Skripac 12-of-24 for 331 and Carpenter 21-of-36 for 313), but the Raiders rushed for another 220 — compared to the Fighting Tigers’ 47.
Ironton’s deficit forced it to pass almost every down — once it fell behind by three TDs.
“We realize that’s where most games are won, especially as they get bigger and bigger,” said Pendleton. “We fell behind, we had to change our approach, and we had to play from behind after digging ourselves a hole there early on.”
Ewert went off for 142 yards on 19 carries, as South Range only had five-negative yardage plays —all for minus-one yard, and with the final two being kneeldowns.
Skripac added 41 rushing yards on 14 totes, as Lindsrom paced his receiving corps with five receptions for 176 yards.
South Range collected 23 first downs, and punted just twice.
“Defensively, you have to play with great eye control and leverage all the time. You either do that, or you don’t. No matter what they are doing offensively, it’s about what we are doing defensively. If we are doing the right things and handling our business, we’re always going to be in the right position. We weren’t many times today,” revealed Pendleton.
Carpenter completed 21-of-36 in his final game, and his second state final —with a third (seven) of those completions and two TDs going to Perkins for 119.
Still, Ironton punted four times, thrice turned the ball over on downs, threw an interception on its final play, and committed 10 penalties for 92 yards.
“Some of that comes from playing a good opponent. The majority of the penalties today were because of that, they put us in bad positions. A few of them at the end, the deadball personal fouls, are what we call unforced errors. Ten penalties for almost 100 yards is very difficult to overcome,” said Pendleton. “You never want to see that.”
And, for the Fighting Tigers, they didn’t want to see this historic season end —at least not this way.
But, 50 victories in four years —and three state runner-ups —is nothing to apologize for.
“Unfortunately for us, we’re not going to be able to replace these 16 seniors. It’s hard to replace a group like this. You can’t replace them. They all embody what it means to be an Ironton Fighting Tiger. These are very talented kids and very talented football players, but even better people. They’ve put this football program to be playing for state championships every year,” said Pendleton. “Thanks in part to them, I firmly believe we will back in this position sooner rather than later. Just gotta go back to work, roll up our sleeves, and find a way to get three-percent better.”
* * *
South Range 14 18 7 14 —53
Ironton 7 7 7 6 —27
SR — Billy Skripac, 7-yard run (Logan Butcher kick), 8:30, 1st (7-0 SR)
I — Lincoln Barnes, 66-yard pass from Tayden Carpenter (Evan Williams kick), 8:13, 1st (7-7 tie)
SR —J.D. Crouse, 40-yard pass from Billy Skripac (Logan Butcher kick), :42, 2nd (14-7 SR)
SR — Billy Skripac, 5-yard run (kick failed), 11:14, 2nd (20-7 SR)
SR —Billy Skripac, 8-yard run (kick failed), 8:56, 2nd (26-7 SR)
I — Ty Perkins, 31-yard pass from Tayden Carpenter (Evan Williams kick), 5:19, 2nd (26-14 SR)
SR — Blake Ewert, 31-yard run (pass failed), 3:13, 2nd (32-14 SR)
SR — Shane Lindsrom, 65-yard pass from Billy Skripac (Logan Butcher kick), 6:01, 3rd (39-14 SR)
I — Amari Felder, 7-yard pass from Tayden Carpenter (Evan Williams kick), 4:46, 3rd (39-21 SR)
SR —Dean Depizzo, 8-yard pass from Shane Lindsrom (Logan Butcher kick), 7:57, 4th (46-21 SR)
I — Ty Perkins, 27-yard pass from Tayden Carpenter (pass failed), 3:29, 4th (46-27 SR)
SR — Aidan Dominguez, 3-yard run (Logan Butcher kick), 1:45, 4th (53-27 SR)
First downs 23 15
Scrimmage plays 69 58
Rushes-yards 44-220 21-47
Passing yards 339 331
Total yards 559 378
Cmp-Att-Int. 13-25-0 22-37-1
Fumbles-lost 0-0 1-1
Penalties-yards 9-77 10-92
Punts-Ave. 2-20.5 4-30.5
RUSHING —South Range: Blake Ewert 19-142 TD, Billy Skripac 14-41 3TD, Tyler Remish 4-15, Aidan Dominguez 2-12 TD, Shane Lindsrom 2-3, Hunter Knauf 1-4, Jake Starkey 1-4, Ayden Leon 1-(-1); Ironton: Jaquez Keyes 9-21, Amari Felder 4-21, Tayden Carpenter 7-0, Aiden Young 1-5
PASSING — South Range: Billy Skripac 12-24-0-331 2TD, Shane Lindsrom 1-1-0-8 TD; Ironton: Tayden Carpenter 21-36-1-313 4TD, Braden Schreck 1-1-0-18
RECEIVING—South Range: Shane Lindsrom 5-176 TD, J.D. Crouse 3-71 TD, Ayden Leon 3-54, Jake Starkey 1-30, Dean Depizzo 1-8 TD; Ironton: Ty Perkins 7-119 2TD, Landen Wilson 5-61, Shaun Terry 3-13, Lincoln Barnes 2-80 TD, Amari Felder 2-45 TD, Aidan Young 2-18, C.J. Martin 1-(-5)