IRONTON — At first, Wheelersburg was on a roll on Friday night — and for a quarter, fired their collective cannons on all per se cylinders.
Unfortunately for the Pirates, they turned the game over — in more ways than one —to archrival Ironton in the second quarter and second half.
As a result, and perhaps surprisingly, Ironton ended up putting the Pirates on the Ohio High School Athletic Association’s running-clock rule for the final three minutes and 11 seconds —as the Fighting Tigers scored the final 40 points over the final three quarters en route capturing a convincing 40-6 eason-opening victory inside Ironton’s historic and jam-packed Tanks Memorial Stadium.
Wheelersburg was hit with a running clock, as four second-quarter turnovers turned the game around in Ironton’s favor for the final three periods.
The Fighting Tigers torched the Pirates for 27 second-period points —none more emphatic than Landon Wilson’s interception return which covered the entire length of the field, 99 yards to be exact with two minutes remaining.
All four first-half Tiger touchdowns came directly off Pirate giveaways —which included three fumbles for the first three turnovers, followed by Wilson jumping the route at the goal line and taking it back all the way the other way for a dramatic 14-point swing.
Meanwhile, Ironton indeed defensively swarmed the Pirates all evening —giving up just 60 Wheelersburg rushing yards on 38 carries, part of 205 total yards on 46 plays from scrimmage.
“It’s the team and the testament to these guys and the way that they work. They scratch, claw and fight. They will do anything. These guys have put so much time and effort into this,” said Ironton coach Trevon Pendleton. “I’m super proud of them, and they are definitely reaping the benefits.”
The Fighting Tigers have now won the last two meetings in this now 32-game grudge match series, as the contest two years ago at Ironton turned into a 30-6 second-half runaway.
On Friday night, it became a game of takeaway and keep-away by the Fighting Tigers, and one of giveaway by the young and inexperienced —and now even banged-up —Pirates.
Two of their turnovers, including the second lost fumble on an exchange, came inside the red zone.
In his preview interview for Friday’s affair, Wheelersburg veteran coach Rob Woodward emphasized the importance of not making mistakes.
The same held true for his postgame media interview.
“We made a lot of mistakes out there. I’m not going to stand here and blame it on any one thing, except we were not as ready or prepared as we needed to be tonight,” said Woodward. “We got down and became very limited on the things we were able to do. They recognized that and were able to tee off on that, and that’s just what happens.”
Trailing 27-6, the Pirates turned the ball over on downs at midfield following nine plays to open the third quarter —followed by three consecutive three-and-out series’ and punts.
The Fighting Tigers tacked on two more touchdowns — a 39-yard pass from quarterback Jon Wylie to Ty Perkins with a minute left in the third, before Amar Howard hit paydirt from five yards away in the fourth for the running-clock rule to take effect.
That was with 3:11 left, and speaking of 311, that’s how many total yards the Fighting Tigers tallied.
Howard had a game-high dozen carries for 37 yards, part of Ironton’s 219 rushing yards on 35 attempts.
Meanwhile, Wheelersburg was held to only to 205 — with Bryson Stamper completing half of his eight passes for 145 yards, but one of those went to Brock Brumfield for 70 yards and another in the second stanza for 71 yards to Josh Clark.
In fact, as Ironton punted three first-half times and the Pirates punted three times following three-and-outs, Wheelersburg went deep and up top late in the first quarter —as Stamper completed the aerial to Brumfield at midfield, who then turned and dashed to the end zone for the Pirates’ only points.
Ironton defender Jaquez Keyes went for the interception, but mistimed the jump, and Brumfield made him pay by making the catch-and-run.
“We always try to take shots when we can and where we can. Put pressure on teams. Great throws and catches by our guys there,” said Woodward. “That’s always been a part of our offense.”
From there for the Pirates, though, as Newfound Glory once sang, it was “all downhill from here”.
On the opening play of the second quarter, and on 3rd-and-12, Stamper scrambled to his left —but was hit and fumbled the football, as the Fighting Tigers recovered at the Pirates’ 17-yard-line.
With Tayden Carpenter at quarterback for Ironton, and on the very first play following, the athletic Wylie took an end around to the right —and scored only eight seconds into the second stanza.
Matt Sheridan kicked Ironton’s extra point — the first of four from him in his Fighting Tiger debut.
But the turnovers, and turnabout, were just beginning.
After Stamper connected deep downfield for Clark for the 71-yard gainer to Ironton’s seven, a false start penalty pushed the Pirates back to 2nd-and-goal at the 12.
The Pirates then fumbled on the exchange, and after a nine-yard team loss, the Fighting Tigers took over again at their own 21 —and with 9:13 to play in the half.
Four plays later, and from his own 40 at the eight-minute mark, Keyes burst up the middle and all the way to the end zone —making it 14-6 with Sheridan’s second extra-point kick.
It was a coming out party for Keyes, who rushed for 85 yards on only a half-dozen carries.
But the Pirates’ mistakes, and Ironton’s opportunities of capitalizing, only compounded and continued.
After another illegal-procedure penalty made it 1st-and-15 at their own 40, another Pirates’ lost fumble — on the next play — put Ironton in business again at the Wheelersburg 39.
The Tigers needed only seven plays and two minutes and 38 seconds for their next drive —with Keyes capping it off again from one yard out this time.
That set up the Pirates punting again after their second three-and-out, but the punt touched the returner Wilson’s calf as he tried to let it roll dead —and instead Wheelersburg recovered at the 3-yard-line.
However, Wilson only needed two plays to quickly redeem himself —stepping in front of Stamper’s pass in the right flat just outside the goal line, and going the entire 99 yards for the touchdown to make it 27-6 with Sheridan’s third extra point.
That was with 2:05 left in the half, and proved to be a deflater for the Pirates.
“We talked all week about being down in the red zone, we’re driving on everything. We’re not worried about double moves. Landon (Wilson) actually called it before the game,” said Pendleton. “He said ‘if I break on a route, it’s going to the house.’ He was able to capitalize.”
Wylie, who rushed for 32 yards on seven carries, completed 4-of-10 passes for 79 yards in early relief of Carpenter.
The sophomore Wylie is Ironton’s ace baseball pitcher, as he also caught one pass for seven yards —with Perkins making two catches for 55.
“Jon (Wylie) is a great player. Does a lot of things well, is very poised, and is a big-time athlete who has been in big moments already,” said Pendleton. “This was his first varsity action ever in front of almost 10,000 people, but he handled it well.”
Conversely, several Pirates played in their first varsity game on Friday night —and it didn’t go according to plan.
Wheelersburg also suffered some injuries along the way, including the all-Ohio cornerback Clark, who was taken away in an ambulance.
The Pirates are already playing without tight end and linebacker Caleb Arthur, who suffered a season-ending knee injury.
“We’ve got some growing to do and we’ve got to grow up fast. The schedule in front of us is definitely tough. Hope the guys that got banged up are going to heal up. Lots of bumps and injuries and different things that come with playing football,” said Woodward. “We’re going to have to move forward and work to get better. You have the biggest growth from week one to week two.”
And in week two the Chillicothe Cavaliers — the defending Frontier Athletic Conference champions — come calling to Ed Miller Stadium.
The Cavaliers, which Wheelersburg squashed last season 31-0, lost their season opener to Teays Valley — by a count of 28-17.
As for the young Pirates, Woodward said his club “continues to go out there and get after it every single day.”
“I thought our defense played really well, and I wanted them to continue to fight and get in the best conditioning shape as we could,” said the coach. “We look to play our best football as we move along throughout this year.”
* * *
Wheelersburg 6 0 0 0 —6
Ironton 0 27 7 6 — 40
W — Brock Brumfield, 70-yard pass from Bryson Stamper (kick blocked), 3:13, 1st (6-0 W)
I — Jon Wylie, 17-yard run (Matt Sheridan kick), 11:42, 2nd (7-6 I)
I — Jaquez Keyes, 60-yard run (Matt Sheridan kick), 8:00, 2nd (14-6 I)
I — Jaquez Keyes, 5-yard run (run failed), 5:04, 2nd (20-6 I)
I — Landon Wilson, 99-yard interception return (Matt Sheridan kick), 2:05, 2nd (27-6 I)
I — Ty Perkins, 39-yard pass from Jon Wylie (Matt Sheridan kick), 1:01, 3rd (34-6 I)
I — Amar Howard, 5-yard run (kick failed), 3:11, 4th (40-6 I)
First downs 7 14
Scrimmage plays 46 49
Rushes-yards 38-60 35-219
Passing yards 145 92
Total yards 205 311
Cmp-Att-Int. 4-8-1 6-14-0
Fumbles-lost 3-3 3-1
Penalties-yards 5-35 9-70
Punts-Ave 6-45.3 5-42.6
RUSHING —Wheelersburg: Carson Williams 8-22, Jake Darling 3-16, Ethan Glover 4-12, Derrick Lattimore 9-10, Eric Lattimore 2-3, Creed Warren 1-5, Casey Doerr 1-2, Bryson Stamper 8-(-1), Team 2-(-9); Ironton: Jaquez Keyes 6-85 2TD, Ashton Duncan 3-53, Amar Howard 12-37 TD, Jon Wylie 7-32 TD, Tayden Carpenter 4-3, DeAngelo Weekly 1-5, Austin Masters 1-2, Nate Cochran 1-2
PASSING — Wheelersburg: Bryson Stamper 4-8-1-145 TD; Ironton: Jon Wylie 4-10-0-79 TD, Tayden Carpenter 2-4-0-13
RECEIVING— Wheelersburg: Josh Clark 1-71, Brock Brumfield 1-70 TD, Eric Lattimore 2-4; Ironton: Ty Perkins 2-55 TD, Aaron Masters 1-17, Jon Wylie 1-7, Landon Wilson 1-7, Cole Freeman 1-6
Reach Paul Boggs at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1926, by email at email@example.com, or on Twitter @paulboggssports © 2021 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved