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Bad call in state finals haunts Ironton

The players, coaches, fans, media, and game officials will remember "The Call.

Monday, December 06, 1999

The players, coaches, fans, media, and game officials will remember "The Call." It was the critical fourth down play Saturday at the Division IV state championship game between the Ironton Fighting Tigers and Sandusky Perkins Pirates.

Ironton needed less than one-half yard to get a first down and the ball resting between its own 29 and 30-yard lines. Ironton was leading 14-10 with 46 seconds to play.

Coach Bob Lutz sent his punt team into the game but didn’t feel safe with the call. One of the regular ends was Jon Sites who was out of the game with an injury. A sophomore was the backup.

Lutz and assistant coach Mike Burcham didn’t want to take a safety because it was too far to the goal line and too many bad things could happen before reaching the end zone.

Standing at the receiving end for Perkins was dangerous return man Mel Burns who had several kickoff and punt returns for touchdowns.

Lutz elected to roll the dice and go for the first down that would seal the victory and state championship since Perkins was out of time outs.

"I figure Michael Henry can get a half- yard against anybody," said Lutz.

Fullback Michael Henry, a 6-foot, 220-pound senior with outstanding strength, got the ball and right off right tackle. Perkins linebacker Alan Speer, a 6-foot, 205-pounder, was standing on the other side of the 30 when Henry slammed into him. Henry drove Speer back a step, then two other Pirate defenders came to his aid and shoved him sideways.

Henry landed on the 30-yard line although he forward progress was at least two feet past the 30-yard line.

The official on the side in front of the Ironton bench ran out to spot the ball and moved the it back behind the 30 and marked it a couple of inches short of the first down.

Perkins took over on downs and two plays later quarterback Brent Adams hit Burt Jarrett on a fade route that he caught falling down for the game-winning touchdown with 29 seconds to play.

The play enabled Perkins to win the state championship 16-14.

"I was across the line, but they (the officials) moved the ball back. I knew where I had to be at. I knew I was across (the 30)," said Henry.

The Ironton fullback was right. A tape replay by Sam Heighton who films the games for Ironton gave proof to the facts describing the play. It wasn’t even close.

"We all knew (Henry) did. It was a tough one though," said Harmon.

Lutz took the blame for the loss and for the call.

"My kids played their hearts out. They didn’t lose the championship, their dumb ass coach lost it," said Lutz after the game.

However, of all his options, Lutz took the safest choice and the play worked, except in the eyes of the official.

It marks yet the third time a bad call had a dramatic bearing on the state championship game, and each time Ironton has been on the wrong end of the call.

In 1982, Junie Depriest caught a conversion pass in the end zone that would have tied the game, but he was pushed forward after the catch and the official ruled he was not in the end zone.

Ironton lost 14-12 to Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary’s.

The most recent call was in the 1993 state title game at Massillon.

Wauseon missed a long field goal as time ran out, but the officials rule Ironton roughed the kicker despite no one touching the placekicker.

The Wauseon kicker admitted after the game he just fell down hoping to get a call and it worked.

Instead of an overtime, the penalty moved the ball 15 yards closer to the goal line and the kicker converted to give Wauseon a 13-10 win and the state title.

"We played hard and we deserved to win. The breaks and the calls just went against us," Ironton quarterback Jimmy Peyton said.

The OHSAA phone number is 1-614-267-2502, the fax 1-614-267-1677, and the e-mail for Henry Zaborniak, head of officials, is hzaborniak@ohsaa.org and Commissioner Clair Muscaro is cmuscaro@ohsaa.org