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Clutch plays give Ironton key win

Ironton Fighting Tigers’ defensive back Patrick Lewis (22) makes a big play as he knocks down a pass to help preserve a 28-20 win over Simon Kenton. (The Ironton Tribune / Tony Shotsky of Southern Ohio Sports Photos)

By JIM WALKER

Tribune Sports Editor

This time the clutch plays went to Ironton.

After three straight losses to unbeaten teams, the Ironton Fighting Tigers made plenty of key plays as they beat the Simon Kenton Pioneers 28-20 on Friday at Tanks Memorial Stadium.

Whether a big run or key block on offense or a pass deflection or interception on defense, Ironton found a way to make the plays.

“We’ve lost some games because we didn’t play a big play and the other team did, but tonight we made the plays,” said Ironton coach Bob Lutz. “We’ve had some tough losses and that works on your confidence. I thought we got some of that confidence back tonight.”

Tyler Hager ran for 79 yards and two touchdowns, but his 32-yard interception return for a score just before the half may have been the biggest turning point of the game.

“That put us up by seven at the half and gave us some momentum,” said Lutz.

Simon Kenton quarterback Brenen Kuntz was 15 of 29 for 208 yards for the game, but he was just 8 of 16 for 51 yards in the second half.

“He’s a good quarterback with a good arm and he’s and a pretty good athlete. He’s probably the best quarterback we’ve seen. We got some pressure on him in the second half and that made the difference,” said Lutz.

Ironton defensive back Patrick Lewis turned in a clutch play when he knocked away a third down pass early in the fourth quarter as Kuntz was throwing deep for Tyler Wilke.

The duo had teamed up for a 78-yard scoring pass play to start the second quarter that had tied the game.

The Pioneers (2-7) also had the ball with five minutes left and Nick Culbertson knocked down a pass at the line of scrimmage and two plays later Tyler Kratzenberg had blanket coverage on Jacob Huesman on a fourth down play.

Ironton (5-4) drove 85 yards in 15 plays on its first possession of the game with Hager scoring on a 5-yard run. Steve Sisler — out the past three weeks with a bad back — booted the extra point for a 7-0 lead.

The 78-yard Kuntz to Wilke TD pass made it 7-7 and Simon Kenton then went 69 yards in 10 plays as Trey Pinkelton ran the final 9 yards to put the Pioneers up 13-7 with 2:29 left in the half.

Ironton went to the air and Kratzenberg hit Michael Lawless and Trevor White on back-to-back passes that covered 33 yards and Hager ran 19 more yards to the 25. White caught a pass to the 7 and two plays later White scored on a 3-yard run.

“Tanner Schweickart made a heck of a block on the play,” said Lutz.

Sisler’s kick made it 14-13 with 31 seconds left, but Ironton wasn’t done. On the next play, Hager got his interception and it was 20-13 at the break.

The Fighting Tigers took the second half kickoff and marched 67 yards in 10 plays with Hager rambling 15 yards for the score. He also ran for the conversion and it was 28-13.

The Pioneers drove to the Ironton 15 but were stopped on downs. Aaron Stevens had a key play when he tipped a third down pass that fell incomplete.

Simon Kenton came back with a 69-yard drive in just seven plays — all on the ground — with Kuntz going the final yard with 9:51 left.

Ironton fumbled the ensuing kickoff but the defense forced a 3-and-out.