IRONTON —All the Trojans needed, at that juncture, was a mere yard.
Unfortunately for visiting Portsmouth on Friday night, the Ironton Fighting Tigers didn’t give an inch —and instead, seemingly, took a southern Ohio country mile.
That’s because the Fighting Tigers, in the 129th all-time football meeting against archrival Portsmouth, turned a 9-0 deficit through the opening 13 minutes into 36 unanswered points —posting a 36-9 runaway win and making good on a pre-Halloween gift grab of proverbial treats inside historic Tanks Memorial Stadium in Ironton.
That’s correct, as the Trojans — on the wrong end of 42-7 and 50-9 lopsided losses against Ironton the past two seasons — took a 9-0 advantage only 55 seconds into the second quarter.
In addition, Ironton quarterback Tayden Carpenter — who was sacked for a four-yard loss by Portsmouth’s Jalen Jones on the game’s fifth play — suffered a season-ending injury with a broken foot.
But in leading 9-7, and with under a minute in the opening half, the Trojans drove 11 plays and 56 yards in four minutes —all the way to the goal line.
Just like that, though, an entire game turned.
The Trojans had a bad snap back to quarterback Drew Roe, Roe never got the ball, and instead Ironton recovered at its own 6-yard-line.
From there, following five plays and a Portsmouth punt, the Fighting Tigers torched the Trojans over the final 17 minutes —scoring 29 more points, taking the lead for good, and almost putting their six straight Ohio High School Athletic Association running clock on an Ohio Valley Conference opponent.
With the loss, the Trojans ended their regular season at 7-3 —and finished 4-2 in the OVC, which was won outright by the talented and highly-touted Fighting Tigers for the third year in a row.
Ironton, in ending the regular campaign at 9-1 and sweeping through the OVC at a perfect 6-0, also secured the top seed for the upcoming Division V Region 19 state playoffs —something it has also done for the third straight year.
Oh, and the Fighting Tigers are indeed the two-time defending Division V state runners-up.
And, it’s possible they could see the Trojans again in over a week’s time —as Portsmouth, the ninth-seeded squad in the Region 19 playoffs, plays at eighth-seeded Zane Trace in the opening round (Saturday night at 7 p.m.).
Ironton, as the top Region 19 seed, sees 16th-seeded Wellston on Saturday night —a rematch from a 56-6 Fighting Tigers’ blowout of two years ago, when Wellston was then an eight-seed.
With the expansion of the OHSAA state playoffs to 16 teams per region this year, and no bye weeks with that, the top eight squads secure first-round home games.
The Trojans, had they won on Friday night, would have hosted in the opening round —and would have evened the all-time series against Ironton at 61-61-7.
But, by the damaging lost fumble on the Trojans’ final first-half drive, it made for an entirely different second half.
“Obviously, that was a big play in the game,” said PHS coach Bruce Kalb. “We had so much going our way the first half, and to finish it off there with a touchdown would have been huge. But we talked about how we can’t afford ANY mistakes like that. Turnovers, especially in the red zone, are real game-changers and momentum-changers. Then Ironton comes out in the second half, they have momentum off that turnover, and their physicality got to us and they capitalized on our empty possessions. You can’t have any missed opportunities against teams like this.”
Just how empty were Portsmouth’s possessions in the second half?
The Trojans punted four times —following drives of five and six plays, sandwiched around a pair of three-and-outs.
Also mixed in, with Roe taking a backfield beating and limping off the field before the third quarter concluded, the Fighting Tigers intercepted his backup Tyler Duncan.
Roe, who did not play in the entire fourth period, finished with 125 passing yards and one interception on 11-of-17 passing —as the Trojans indeed scored a season-low in points, with the Tigers allowing only a 54-yard touchdown toss from Roe to Donavan Carr on Portsmouth’s first play.
Portsmouth, previously at Fairland on a rain-and-mud mired natural-grass surface, scored just two touchdowns for 14 points against the Dragons.
Offensively, before Friday, the Trojans had wasted very few possessions this season, scoring 329 total points — and at least two offensive touchdowns in each game.
But, that was before facing Ironton’s iron wall of a defensive unit —especially against the run.
In fact, the Fighting Tigers’ defense has surrendered more than three touchdowns in one game just twice in three years —last season’s state championship tilt against Kirtland, and against Division I powerhouse Cincinnati Moeller in their only loss this fall.
“They have a very good defense, and are just so physical with you, from up front to their linebackers to all the way in the back end. We’re a little banged up from tonight,” said Kalb. “That’s the big thing, their physicality against us.”
That Fighting Tiger defense held down the proverbial fort for the first half —as the offense and head coach Trevon Pendleton attempted to adjust on the fly following Carpenter’s injury.
The hosts punted following five plays on their opening possession, then moved 10 plays from their own 20 to the Trojan 39 on their second —but turned the ball over on downs.
Meanwhile, Portsmouth took advantage in going up 9-0 — with Roe’s deep downfield connection to Carr for the touchdown, and Zach Roth’s 27-yard field goal only 55 seconds into the second quarter.
However, after Ironton went three-and-out after a two-minute possession on its next series —the Fighting Tigers turned Roe’s interception into their first score.
From the Trojan 46, they drove eight plays in three minutes and 33 seconds —scoring at the five-minute mark and making it 9-7 with the first of four Matt Sheridan extra-point kicks.
Landon Wilson, with obvious changes in Ironton’s lineup, was the biggest beneficiary —as he scored the first three Fighting Tigers’ touchdowns of four, three, and finally two yards.
His second score, a full quarter of play following his first, made it 14-9 to give Ironton the lead —as his third and final extended the advantage to 20-9.
Following Wilson’s third TD, backup quarterback Jon Wylie —one of five Fighting Tigers to officially attempt a pass on Friday night — converted a two-point pass to tight end Ashton Duncan.
That made it 22-9, but two minutes and five seconds later —with 34 seconds left in the third —Wylie, who already went deep to Ty Perkins for 53 yards on the previous possession, played pitch-and-catch with Perkins for 28 yards to make it a 20-point lead (29-9).
Wylie, who played well in Carpenter’s injury absence earlier in the season for four games, was 4-of-8 for 106 yards —and rushed nine times for 47.
Wilson was the Fighting Tigers’ leading ground-gainer —with 87 yards and his hat trick of touchdowns on a dozen attempts.
“Honestly, we were just trying to make it through the first half, with our defensive hanging in there and getting that big turnover for us, but Jon (Wylie) came in and just did a great job. He gives us another threat with running the ball as well as throwing it, and we have a good group of running backs we can and will have to rely on,” praised Pendleton. “But of course I can’t say enough about our defense, and what they did tonight and have done all year.”
Ironton also overcame 12 penalties for 112 yards, by rushing 40 times for 229 — but more importantly doing the job defensively.
The Trojans were two yards shy of 200 total —as Roe and Duncan combined to throw for 170 on 19-of-28.
Reade Pendleton (76 yards) caught eight passes, while Dariyonne Bryant (34 yards) had a half-dozen receptions.
Although, if you’re a Trojan fan —one will wonder what would have happened had Portsmouth picked up that precious first-half yard.
But, Kalb said the second half was a completely different story.
“It just came down to them capitalizing on our mistakes and their physicality,” said the coach. “We may have another shot at them in two weeks who knows, but right now, we need to take the mistakes we made in this loss and learn from them.”
* * *
Portsmouth 6 3 0 0 —9
Ironton 0 7 22 7 —36
P — Donavan Carr, 54-yard pass from Drew Roe (kick blocked), 8:19, 1st (6-0 P)
P — Zach Roth, 27-yard field goal, 11:05, 2nd (9-0 P)
I — Landon Wilson, 4-yard run (Matt Sheridan kick), 5:01, 2nd (9-7 P)
I— Landon Wilson, 3-yard run (Matt Sheridan kick), 5:04, 3rd (14-9 I)
I — Landon Wilson, 2-yard run (Ashton Duncan pass from Jon Wylie), 2:39, 3rd (22-9 I)
I — Ty Perkins, 28-yard pass from Jon Wylie (Matt Sheridan kick), :34, 3rd (29-9 I)
I — Amar Howard, 17-yard run (Matt Sheridan kick), 2:32, 4th (36-9 I)
First downs 11 19
Scrimmage plays 46 54
Rushes-yards 18-28 40-229
Passing yards 170 131
Total yards198 360
Cmp-Att-Int. 19-28-2 8-14-0
Fumbles-lost 1-1 1-0
Penalties-yards 6-48 12-112
Punts-Ave 4-32.25 2-36
RUSHING —Portsmouth: Drew Roe 11-40, Reade Pendleton 2-3, Amare Johnson 2-2, Beau Hammond 1-(-3), Team 1-(-5), Tyler Duncan 1-(-9); Ironton: Landon Wilson 12-87 3TD, Jon Wylie 9-47, Jaquez Keyes 10-45, Amar Howard 5-39 TD, Aaron Masters 2-32, Tayden Carpenter 1-(-4), Team 1-(-17)
PASSING — Portsmouth: Drew Roe 11-17-1-125 TD, Tyler Duncan 8-11-1-45; Ironton: Jon Wylie 4-8-0-106 TD, Tayden Carpenter 3-3-0-16, Landon Wilson 1-1-0-9, Aaron Masters 0-1-0-0, Matt Sheridan 0-1-0-0
RECEIVING— Portsmouth: Reade Pendleton 8-76, Dariyonne Bryant 6-34, Donavan Carr 1-54 TD, Jayden Duncan 3-5, Beau Hammond 1-1; Ironton: Ty Perkins 2-81 TD, Aaron Masters 4-26, Angelo Washington 1-15, Jon Wylie 1-9
Reach Paul Boggs at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1926, by email at [email protected], or on Twitter @paulboggssports © 2021 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved