LONDON, Ohio Ironton's football team lost three fumbles and had 129 yards of penalties on Saturday.
Things ultimately worked out. The Fighting Tigers advanced to their second straight Division V championship game because they squeaked past Roger Bacon, 22-19, in the semifinals at Bowlus Field.
“I think I had about 30 heart attacks there,” Ironton coach Trevon Pendleton said. “Obviously, not everything was perfect, not everything went our way, but our boys kept battling and fighting; that's a great thing to see.”
Ironton star running back Reid Carrico was a nitroglycerin tablet in cleats – he ran 30 times for 206 yards and two touchdowns – but the Fighting Tigers will meet Kirtland for the title at 2 p.m. next Saturday at Fortress Obetz because he caught Tayden Carpenter's 23-yard scoring pass with 8:01 left in the game.
“We're blessed to even be able to play in this game,” Carrico said. “I'm glad I'm gonna be going out, well, hopefully, going out a state champion. I'm not gonna jump and say I'm gonna win it.”
The Fighting Tigers atoned for the mistakes on offense because the defense intercepted two Logan Huber passes, got a sack from Cameron Deere and interceptions from Landen Wilson and Kyle Howell.
Roger Bacon (10-1) benefitted from Carrico's first-quarter personal foul when he horse-collared the Spartans' Corey Kiner. It didn't hurt Ironton (11-0) much because Dylan Rolfert's 35-yard field goal attempt sailed wide right.
Carrico's longest run – a 78-yard sojourn, gave the Fighting Tigers a 6-0 lead.
Wilson's interception came when Carpenter deflected a pass intended for Roger Bacon's Kyle Guyer. Four plays later, Carrico went in from a yard out.
A facemask grab during Kiner's four-yard run put the ball at the Ironton 20, and Huber found Ryan Hallau for the score on the next snap.
Carrico's lost fumble on Ironton's next possession let Roger Bacon tie the game at 13-all when Huber found Jake Tschida for a 31-yard touchdown pass with 5:43 left before halftime.
Kiner, who's headed for LSU, finished with 22 carries for 98 yards. He broke the tie with a three-yard score with 6:40 left in the third stanza.
The scoring ended when a shotgun snap sailed over Huber's head; he recovered the ball in the end zone for the safety.
You could also make a case for giving linebacker Ashton Duncan some sort of championship belt for two defensive plays that stopped Roger Bacon's final drive.
On a third-and-7 on Ironton's 39-yard line, he sacked Huber for a nine-yard loss.
“Man, that was crazy,” Duncan said. “They just came out to block me; I got off the block … He was going to throw it and then stopped for a second; I went back there and got the play done.
After a pass interference call on Fighting Tigers and an illegal procedure call against the Spartans made it fourth-and-six on the 40, Duncan dropped Kiner for a four-yard loss.
Pendleton had a confession: he'd hoped Kirtland would be the finals foe because the Hornets beat Ironton, 17-7, last year.
“Yes,” Pendleton said. “Absolutely.”
IRONTON 6 7 0 9 – 22
ROGER BACON 0 13 6 0 – 19
I-Reid Carrico 78 run (kick blocked) 6:59
I-Carrico 1 run (Jimmy Mahlmeister kick), 10:27
RB-Ryan Hallau 20 pass from Logan Huber (Dylan Rolfert kick), 6:40
RB-Jake Tschida 31 pass from Huber (kick failed), 5:43
RB-Corey Kiner 3 run (kick failed), 3:37
I-Carrico 23 pass from Tayden Carpenter (Mahlmeister kick), 8:01
I-Safety, ball snapped into end zone, 6:30
First downs 11 7
Rushes-yards 46-271 31-87
Passes 6-15-0 INT 6-16-2 INT
Passing yards 54 87
Punting 4-36.8 4-38.5
Fumbles-lost 4-3 0-0
Penalties-yards 12-129 7-57
Ironton rushing: Carrico 30-206, Carter 3-10, West 1-4, Deere 3-35, Howell 2-15, Carpenter 7-1.
Roger Bacon rushing: Kiner 22-98, Hudepohl 3-7, Kyle Guyer 1-(minus-2), Huber 4-(minus-15).
Ironton passing: Carpenter 6-15-54.
Roger Bacon passing: Huber 6-16-87.
Ironton receiving: Barnes 1-5, Hacker 1-4, Howell 1-7, Carrico 3-38.