Murphy’s Law

Published 10:06 pm Saturday, November 8, 2008

JACKSON — If Marv Albert had been on hand to do the voiceover, this could have been a classic blooper reel.

On a night when nothing seemed to go right, the Ironton Fighting Tigers fell 38-6 to the New Lexington Panthers in the Division IV Region 15 semifinals Friday at Jackson Alumni Stadium.

“Everything that could go wrong, went wrong,” said Ironton coach Bob Lutz. “We couldn’t have played any worse.”

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There were fumbles, penalties, missed assignments, dropped passes, and even some slipping and sliding.

The game started bad and only got worse.

Lukas Morris slipped in the rain fielding the opening kickoff and his knee touched at the 15-yard line. After a 5-yard moved the ball back to the 10, Chance Freeman was stopped for a 6-yard loss due to some missed blocks.

On the next play, quarterback Johnathon Schweickart was tackled in the end zone for a safety and it was 2-0.

Ironton forced a punt following the free kick but it rolled dead at the Ironton 2-yard line. Major Brice raced 23 yards for a first down, but the drive bogged down thanks to a holding penalty.

The Fighting Tigers forced another three-and-out, but a penalty on the play gave New Lexington a first down.

With new life and the ball at the 19, New Lexington scored four plays later on a 3-yard run by R.J. Starkey and it was 9-0 with 3:36 left in the quarter.

After getting a first down, another holding penalty affected Ironton’s drive and the Fighting Tigers had to punt.

A 23-yard run by quarterback Clint Cannon and a 26-yard scamper by Starkey got the Panthers down to the Ironton 21. Three plays later Starkey scored from 5 yards out and it was 16-0.

Three plays later, more disaster struck as Brett Wycinski intercepted a deflected pass at the Ironton 39.

Eight plays later Cannon scored on a 7-yard keeper and it was 23-0.

Starting at their own 10-yard line, Ironton went three-and-out and New Lexington had the ball at its own 46.

A 28-yard pass to Spencer Huffman to the Ironton 26 set up a 24-yard bubble screen to Wycinski for the touchdown. Ethan Preston blocked the conversion kick but it was 29-0.

“I never would have thought they would score 29 points in the first half in my wildest dreams,” said Lutz. “They were better than us in the open field.”

Ironton got a 68-yard kickoff return from Freeman to the Panthers’ 27 and eight plays later they scored on a 5-yard scoring pass to Michael Lamb.

The conversion kick was blocked and Ironton trailed 29-6 at the half.

Despite the score, Ironton came out with fire in its eyes to begin the second half.

The Panthers were held to minus one-yard on their first series and punted. Ironton used a 50-yard pass to Morris to reached the New Lexington 18.

But two plays lost four yards and two incomplete passes ended the threat.

With the aid of a sack by Lamb, New Lexington punted again only to have Ironton whistled for a penalty. The Fighting Tigers were called for hitting the longsnapper although it appeared the player was knocked into the center by a New Lexington play.

The Panthers got to the Ironton 27, but linebacker Brian Warner hit Cannon and forced a fumble. J.P. Taylor scooped up the ball and returned it to the New Lexington 25.

But again a golden opportunity was squandered as three passes fell incomplete and a fourth lost a yard.

“In the first half we we’re back up and couldn’t run anything. In the second half we had good field position and couldn’t punch it in,” said Lutz.

The two teams traded punts and then New Lexington put together a 77-yard, six-play scoring drive aided by a 15-yard penalty on Ironton.

Starkey carried for 22 yards to the 19 and then ran the rest of the way on the next play and with as 36-6 with 3:08 to play.

Ironton’s woes didn’t stop as they fielded the kickoff at the 11-yard line and couldn’t stay inbounds.

The Fighting Tigers got to the 36 on a 15-yard pass to Freeman, but a sack moved the ball back to the 22, penalty got the ball back on the 13, and Schweickart was called for intentional grounding in the end zone which is an automatic safety and it was now 38-6 with five seconds left.

The hard-running Freeman led Ironton (8-4) with 63 yards on nine carries. The Fighting Tigers had 156 total yards of offense.

New Lexington had 322 total yards with 225 coming on the ground. Starkey had 90 yards on 15 carries and Cannon 87 on 22 attempts.

The Panthers (11-1) play Martins Ferry next Friday for the regional title.