Friday the 13th showdown haunts Ironton
Missed opportunities, inopportune penalties, and just bad luck were too much to overcome as the Fighting Tigers lost 25-7 to the Portsmouth Trojans in a battle of unbeatens.
"We had our chances, but we didn't make the plays and Portsmouth did (make the plays)," Ironton coach Bob Lutz said. "I thought we were prepared to play, but evidently we weren't. Portsmouth did a better job and I tip my hat to them."
Portsmouth (4-0) took the opening kickoff and drove 69 yards in 11 plays
to take an early 7-0 lead. Jeremiah Bolden, who had 52 yards on the drive, went the final 3 yards for the touchdown and Jeremy Mathis kicked the extra point.
Ironton (3-1) came right back with its own drive to the Portsmouth 33, but a quarterback sack and incomplete pass forced a punt that was downed at the 8-yard line.
The Trojans then went almost the length of the field and scored with the help of Lady Luck.
Facing 4th-and-9 at its own 14, Portsmouth quarterback Craig Felts dropped back and lofted up a desperation pass into the end zone. Two Ironton defenders went up and tipped the ball, but the football fell into the hands of the Trojans Justin Nelson for a touchdown.
The conversion kick failed and it was 13-0 with 7:46 left in the half.
"Instead of knocking the ball down, we bat the ball and that's no good. We didn't play that very well," Lutz said.
Portsmouth coach Curt Clifford knew the play was a fluke, but he said it was about time his team caught a break.
"That was pure luck. Our guy went up and got the ball. It was a 'Hail Mary.' It was the first one in 26 years of coaching that has been good for me," Clifford said.
Undaunted, Ironton pounded away on its next possession with an 83-yard drive that included a holding penalty. But a pass on 4th-and-6 at the 8-yard line was incomplete.
"The second quarter was a big turning point. They get a fluke score and then we don't convert when we had the chance. Instead of being down 13-0 at the half, we could have been up 7-6," said Lutz.
Things got worse before they got better for the Fighting Tigers. A fumble on the second half kickoff was recovered by Portsmouth at the Ironton 29.
A holding penalty pushed the ball back to the 40 and Portsmouth was facing third-and-18. Safety Josh Sands broke up on a pass going for and interception on to have a Trojan receiver coming across the field run into him. Ironton was called for pass interference and Portsmouth got an automatic first down.
Seven plays later, Felts hit Scott Arms with a 4-yard touchdown pass on fourth down and it was 19-0. The Trojans converted 3-of-4 fourth down plays in the game. The only non-conversion was late in the game when Felts took a knee.
Despite the deficit, Ironton marched 69 yards -- all on the ground -- in 14 plays with Jeff Pleasant running the final 6 yards for the score on the first play of the fourth quarter. A. J. Lutz kicked the extra point and it was 19-7.
After the ensuring kickoff, Portsmouth was facing another third down play. Felts' pass was almost intercepted by Ben Murphy to set up what appeared to be fourth down at the Trojan 30. But a roughing the passer call gave Portsmouth a first down at the Ironton 46. Two plays later Bolden went 51 yards for the clinching touchdown with 8:53 to play.
Bolden finished with 174 yards on 28 carries as Portsmouth had 231 rushing yards and 92 through the air.
Ironton rushed for 194 yards with Sands picking up 103 yards on 15 carries.
Clifford said the Trojans veteran offensive line was the difference against Ironton's inexperienced defensive front.
"When you play Ironton, you've got to beat them at the line of scrimmage. I think we had the upper hand there tonight," Clifford said.
Prt -- Jeremiah Bolden 3 run (Jeremy Mathis kick) 7:11
Prt -- Justin Nelson 14 pass from Craig Felts (kick failed) 7:46
Prt -- Scott Arms 4 pass from Jeremy Mathis (run failed) 6:34
Irn -- Jeff Pleasant 6 run (A. J. Lutz kick) 11:53
Prt -- Jeremiah Bolden 51 run (pass failed) 8:12
RUSHING -- Ironton: Josh Sands 15-103, Matt White 12-49, Jeff Pleasant 3-13, Daniel Murphy 1-7, Andrew Harvey 4-4, Chris Collins 2-8. Portsmouth: Jeremiah Bolden 28-174, Jeremy Mathis 11-55, Craig Felts 4-0, Andrew Newman 1-2.
PASSING -- Ironton: Andrew Harvey 1-5-1
12. Portsmouth: Craig Felts 6-11-0
RECEIVING -- Ironton: Josh Sands 1-12. Portsmouth: Billy Payne 2-57, Michael Purdy 1-9, Justin Nelson 2-22, Scott Arms 1-4. Jim Walker/The Ironton Tribune