Fighting Tigers win thriller in overtime, 28-20

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, April 3, 2007

The Ironton Fighting Tigers know their left from their right, and they know what direction to run: Right at you.

With Marietta trying to stack its defense on Ironton’s right side, the Fighting Tigers ran left. Not only that, they ran right at the Marietta defense 58 times for 291 yards as they beat the visiting Tigers 28-20 in overtime Friday night.

Ironton was missing fullback Tony Murphy with an ankle injury and Craig Stamper filled the void. Halfback Branden Sites had a bad shoulder and gave way to Donald Malone to do the lead blocking, which he did well.

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But with leading rusher Chad Miller unable to play, halfback Dominic Murphy accepted the bulk of the offense on his shoulders as he carried 29 times for 190 yards and score two touchdowns including the game-winner in overtime.

“I knew I was going to be the main guy on offense. I had to step up, especially after getting smashed last week,” Dominic Murphy said.

“Being a senior, I’m not going to let us not make the playoffs. If we lost tonight, we knew we probably wouldn’t make the playoffs.”

Murphy and Stamper, who ran 16 times for 63 yards before suffering an ankle injury, followed the blocking of John Pemberton, Josh Dyer and Andy Colegrove on the right side.

When Marietta overloaded the right side, the two runners went left behind Bruce Roach, Wes Runyon and T.J. Keith.

“Our offensive line did an unbelievable job,” Ironton coach Merril Triplett Jr. said. “They overloaded the right side and I think at one time we ran the same play over and over eight times to the left side.”

Ironton (4-2, 2-1) got the ball first in overtime and Murphy gained 9 yards in two plays. Quarterback Drew Kuehne then ran 1-yard for the first down to the 10.

On the next play, Murphy went left on a sweep to score. With Stamper, the team’s placekicker, injured, Triplett went for the two-point conversion and Murphy scored to put the lead at 28-20.

“I was tired a little bit, but I knew I had to do that for my team. I had to score. We had to win,” Murphy said.

“Dominic is a great player. He had the hot hand,” Triplett said. “Donald Malone did a great job, and Andy Colegrove blocked two men (on the touchdown run). He blew them out.”

Marietta (2-4, 2-1) was called for an unsportsmanlike penalty on the touchdown and started its series at the 35 instead of the 20-yard line.

After getting a first down to the 24, quarterback Michael Groom was tackles for a 2-yard line.

On the next play, Groom overthrew his receiver and Bub Johnson came away with the interception to seal the Ironton win.

The Fighting Tigers took a 7-0 lead in the first quarter with a 75-yad, 17-play drive that ate up 8:21 off the clock. Kuehne hit Marc Carter with a 15-yard scoring pass and Stamper kicked the conversion.

Ironton had a drive to the 5-yard line, but an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty pushed the ball back to the 28 and two plays later Cory Kreichbaum intercepted in the end zone.

“The main thing we wanted to do was control the ball,” Pemberton said. “We had a hard week of practice. We went nitty gritty.

With just 3:32 left in the half, Marietta began a scoring drive aided by a 60-yard pass to Justin Estes.

Groom ran the final 2 yards with 1:30 left and the game was tied 7-7.

Marietta recovered an onsides kickoff at the Ironton 35 to start the second half. After a 5-yard penalty, Groom and Sean Munfield hooked up on a touchdown pass. The conversion kick failed and it was 13-7.

Ironton then fumbled the ensuing kickoff at the 33, but Marietta’s offense bogged down. A fourth-and-20 pass fell incomplete and Ironton had the ball near midfield.

The Fighting Tigers proceeded to march the 57 yards in 12 plays with Kuehne running 4 yards for the tying score. Stamper’s kick made it 14-13.

A 75-yard, 9-play drive that began in the third quarter and spilled over into the fourth quarter culminated with Murphy running 1-yard. Unable to kick the conversion, Kuehne was tackled trying to pass and it was 20-13.

Marietta then drove 83 yards in 14 plays with Estes slipping into the end zone from 2 yards out. Estes kicked the conversion to tie the game and force the overtime.