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Ironton lets game slip through fingers

PORTSMOUTH – You’ve heard of the goose that laid the golden egg? How ’bout the team that laid a rotten egg?<!—->.

Tuesday, October 03, 2000

PORTSMOUTH – You’ve heard of the goose that laid the golden egg? How ’bout the team that laid a rotten egg?

As a matter of fact, it was more like a nest of eggs.

In a battle of unbeatens before a standing room only crowd at Spartan Stadium Friday night, the Ironton Fighting Tigers self-destructed in a 28-0 loss to the Division III No. 1-ranked Portsmouth Trojans.

Consider that Ironton (5-1) outgained the Trojans 242-to-202. Consider there was only a difference of two first downs. Consider that Portsmouth’s 1,000-yard rusher Jo Jo Parker was held to 31 yards through the first three quarters.

So how did Ironton lose 28-0? Consider five fumbles of which four were recovered by the Trojans including two inside the 10-yard line. Consider one fumble was returned 102 yards for a touchdown. Also consider a blocked punt to start the game that gave Portsmouth the ball at the Ironton 1-yard line.

All things considered, not a very good performance by the Fighting Tigers.

"Portsmouth is too good of a football team to turn the ball over that many times," Ironton coach Bob Lutz said. "We had opportunities to score and fumbled them away. We’ve got no one to blame but ourselves."

Ironton had the ball at its own 33 to start the game, but a sack of quarterback Drew Mains on a third-and-6 pushed the ball back to the 24 and set up a punting situation.

Portsmouth (6-0) blocked the punt and tackled punter Josh Sands at the 1-yard line. Zach Harris scored on the next play and Jason Fleming’s conversion kick made it 7-0 at the 9:42 mark.

The Trojans scored on their third series of the game thanks to a pair of big plays. Quarterback Josiah Young hit tight end Derek Thompson on a 30-yard pass to the Ironton 37, and Jeremy Hamrick ran for the touchdown on the next play and the lead was 14-0.

"We’ve got Hamrick stacked up in a pile, and then he bounces out and goes the distance," Lutz said. "Really, our defense didn’t play too bad other than a few plays."

Ironton responded with its own drive from the 44-yard line to the Portsmouth 27. But another sack cost Ironton 12 yards and forced another punt.

Portsmouth was forced to punt and Ironton came right back with a drive to the 36 only to have a fourth-and-7 pass fall incomplete.

After Portsmouth punted to start the second half, Ironton had the ball at its own 16. A 73-yard pass from Mains to Chris Frazer got the ball down to the Portsmouth 9-yard line.

But on the next play, Matt Kelly fumbled at the 2 trying to fight his way into the end zone and Antonio Malone picked up the ball and returned the ball 102 yards for the touchdown to make it 21-0.

"That was a 14-point turnaround," Lutz said. "Instead of being down 14-7 and having some momentum, we’re down 21-0. We moved the ball pretty good the second half, but we just kept turning it over."

Ironton looked like it had a break late in the quarter when a bad snap on a punt gave the Fighting Tigers the ball at the Portsmouth 39. But four downs produced nothing and the Trojans had the ball back.

The Trojans coughed up the ball two plays later and Ironton was back in business at the 37. This time the drive went tot he 9-yard line, but Maurice Murphy fumbled on second down and Portsmouth recovered at the 6.

Deflated, the Ironton defense watched as Portsmouth put together a sustained drive led by Parker who carried 10 times for 70 yards including the final yard for the touchdown with 3:03 to play.

Then came a fitting end as Ironton got to the Portsmouth 5-yard line courtesy of Tyler Scior’s 44-yard run and an 11-yard carry by Murphy. On second-and-goal at the 5, Ironton fumble the ball and Portsmouth recovered.

Scior led Ironton with 100 yards on nine carries. Mains was 5-of-10 passing for 87 yards.

Parker finished with 100 yards on 17 carries and Hamrick had 99 on 10 attempts.

Not only did Ironton lose the game, but senior fullback and leading rusher B. J. Kerns left early in the second half with a severe knee injury.

Kerns was to undergo an MRI on Saturday and may be lost for the season.