Fighting Tigers let DeSales off the hook, 17-14

Published 12:00 am Saturday, October 30, 2004

COLUMBUS - It was like an old fisherman sitting around telling his grandson about the one that got away.

About eight minutes stood between the Ironton Fighting Tigers and a major upset of the DeSales Stallions. But two big breaks enabled the Stallions to rally past Ironton and escape with a 17-14 win Friday night.

The loss was the first for Ironton, which finished the regular season 9-1 and first in the Region 15 Division IV computer ratings. The Fighting Tigers are expected to host Westfall Friday in the first round of the playoffs.

Email newsletter signup

"Last year we came up here and got embarrassed. We didn't want to let that happen again and we didn't. Give our guys credit for their effort," Ironton coach Bob Lutz said.

"But we didn't come here for a moral victory. We came to win and we should have won. We made some big plays, but we had some key mistakes at the wrong time. We basically beat ourselves."

Trailing 14-11, DeSales blocked a punt with 8:11 to go in the fourth quarter and took over at the Ironton 38. Three plays later, quarterback Matt Mangini hit Heath Killilea with a short pass and Killilea cutback across the field and scored to complete a 36-yard play and the comeback.

The conversion kick was blocked but the Stallions now led 17-14 with 6:08 to play.

"We talked at halftime and right before the punt about not letting them block the kick and then we let someone slide through," Lutz said.

But Ironton came right back.

A 36-yard run by Darius Lewis moved the ball to the Stallions 42. After two no gains and an incomplete pass, Josh Adkins hit Marcus Williams over the middle with a pass. Williams made a leaping catch but was hit as he came down and fumbled the ball with DeSales recovering at the 20-yard line.

"Marcus made a great catch. He was off-balance and the guy hit his helmet on the ball. It wasn't his fault. No one could have held onto the ball in that situation," said Ironton center Ryan Walker.

Williams had four receptions for 104 yards.

The defense forced another punt and Ironton got the ball at its own 46. On third-and-16, Adkins found Williams going down the sidelines for a 48-yard play to the DeSales 28.

After two passes went incomplete, Chris Rotella climbed over Williams shoulder to pick off a pass at the 20-yard line with 49 seconds to play and DeSales ran out the clock to end the game.

Ironton took a 14-3 halftime lead.

DeSales was forced to punt after its first series and Ironton took over at its own 38.

Lewis had a 19-yard run and Jared Murphy ran 18 as Ironton found itself at the DeSales 10 just six plays into the drive. An offsides penalty moved the ball to the 5-yard line and Murphy scored on the next play. Stamper's conversion put Ironton up 7-0.

DeSales (6-4) drove to the Ironton 11-yard line but was forced to settle for a 27-yard field goal by A.J. Principe and it was 7-3.

It was Ironton's turn again and the Fighting Tigers drove to the 15-yard line before the drive was stopped when Chris Thomas came up with an interception at the 9-yard line,

Another DeSales punt gave Ironton the ball at its own 46. Adkins hit Williams for 11 yards and then connected with Shane Kerns behind the DeSales' secondary for a 43-yard scoring play. Stamper's kick put the lead at 14-3 with 2:55 left in the half.

Ironton fumbled at its own 30 late in the half, but the defense limited DeSales to 1 yard in four plays as the half ended.

DeSales began a scoring drive on its second possession in the third quarter at the 48.

Thomas had a big 28-yard to the Ironton 21 and a pass interference on Ironton when two DeSales players collided put the ball at the 9-yard line.

An 8-yard run by Thomas put the pressure on Ironton which held DeSales cored for two plays. Mangini then ran a bootleg for a touchdown on fourth-and-inches with 1:45 left in the quarter.

Mangini 's conversion pass was tipped but landed in

the hands of Joey Rodenfels for the conversion and it was 14-11.

"We let (Thomas) break out of there once when we had him pinned for a short gain, and the blocked punt and fumble hurt," said Lutz. "But we had other mistakes that hurt."

Ironton racked up 265 total yards. Lewis ran 9 times for 62 yards with Murphy getting 46 on 10 tries. Adkins was 6 of 13 for 148 yards.

Thomas finished with 127 yards on 21 carries as DeSales had 171 yards rushing and 229 total yards.

DeSales improved to 6-4 and qualified for the Division III playoffs with the win.