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Tigers bite not enough to sink Pirates

The Ironton Fighting Tigers amazing run through the Division IV playoffs came to a heartbreaking end Saturday with a 16-14 loss to the Sandusky Perkins Pirates in the final seconds.

Saturday, December 04, 1999

The Ironton Fighting Tigers amazing run through the Division IV playoffs came to a heartbreaking end Saturday with a 16-14 loss to the Sandusky Perkins Pirates in the final seconds.

Virtually unranked and unnoticed when the playoffs began, Ironton played giant killer through the first four rounds.

When fullback Michael Henry scored on a three-yard run early in the fourth quarter to give Ironton a 14-10 lead and the defense choked off a Perkins threat at the 10-yard line with 2:18 to play, it looked as though the Cinderella story would have a happy ending.

But somebody let Stephen King write the closing paragraph.

Ironton got a first down to the 20-yard line on a 10-yard run by Henry. Henry then carried three times for nine-plus yards setting up a first down.

Ironton coach Bob Lutz started to punt the ball away, but remembering an earlier punt that was partially blocked, elected to go for the first down and drive the final nail in the Sandusky coffin.

Henry was called on again, but was stopped inches short and Perkins took over at the Ironton 30 with 41 seconds to play.

The first down pass was batted away by Hugh Scott. But on second down Perkins quarterback Brent Adams hit Burt Jarrett in the left corner of the end zone for the go-ahead touchdown.

The conversion kick failed and the Pirates led 16-14.

"The game was ours. I felt that Michael Henry could get a half yard against anybody," said Lutz. "The guy (Adams) threw a perfect ball, which he’s going to do in that situation.

"I’m not going to sugarcoat it, we probably should have kicked it away and not taken the chance."

Before the second-guessing began, Ironton’s Jason Harmon returned the kickoff near midfield.

However, quarterback Jimmy Peyton was sacked for a four yard loss, then spiked the ball to stop the clock. His final desperation pass to Harmon fell incomplete as time ran out.

Perkins, 15-0, won its first state championship on its first trip to the finals. Ironton, 10-4, finished runners-up for the sixth time in eight trips. The Fighting Tigers won state titles in 1979 and 1989.

Perkins took a 3-0 lead on the game’s opening drive when Jeremy Scally kicked a 22-yard field goal. The Pirates marched from their own 19-yard line to the Ironton 5 in 15 plays. Two key passes covering 16 and 15 yards helped keep the drive alive.

"We took it to them and the defense played tough and the linemen played tough," Harmon said. "They hit a couple of long passes and our defense kind of backed off. We still played pretty tough and stopped the drive, but penalties hurt us and we let them make big plays."

Perkins extended its lead to 10-0 on a 25-yard run by Brandon Schnittker with 9:08 left in the first half. The 90-yard, 9-play drive used a key 15-yard run by Jeremy Blakely to give Perkins a first down at the Ironton 38. Three plays later Schnittker scored and Scally added the point after.

Ironton got back in the game before halftime thanks to two key pass plays. Harmon hit Jon Sites with a 24-yard halfback pass to the Perkins 16. Peyton then threw 16 yards to Harmon in the end zone for the touchdown with 1:06 left in the half. Clark Cooper kicked the conversion and it was 10-7.

Scally tried a 35-yard field goal on the last play of the half that fell short and to the left.

Neither team scored in the third quarter although Perkins threatened following an Ironton fumble.

The Pirates recovered the loose ball at the Ironton 35 and used eight plays to get to the Ironton three-yard line.

Jonathan Souter scored on a sweep on fourth down but a holding penalty put the ball back at the 13. Scally tried a 24-yard field goal that was wide left with 5:02 left on the clock.

Ironton then marched 80 yards in 11 plays culminating with Henry’s 3-yard touchdown run. Cooper’s conversion kick made it 14-10.

The key play in the Fighting Tigers drive was a 40-yard pass from Peyton to Brad Williams that got the ball to the Perkins 28.

Perkins answered with a drive that began at its own 22 and reached the Ironton 10. But fourth down pass by Adams under pressure by Henry sailed out of the end zone.

That set up the heartbreaking finish.