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Ironton’s comeback falls short

Jim Walker



PAINTSVILLE, Ky. — On this night, defense proved to be a four-letter word.

The Ironton Fighting Tigers and Johnson Central Eagles combined for 723 yards of offense and 75 points in the first-ever meeting between the two schools.

The Class 4-A Eagles’ running game proved to be the deciding factor as they racked up 358 yards on the ground with Jordan Young running 17 times for 193 yards and two touchdowns in a 44-31 win on Friday.

Ironton (5-1) had 307 total yards with 122 coming on the ground. Quarterback Tanner Dutey had a big game as he hit 11 of 23 passes for 185 yards and three touchdowns — all to Aaron Stephens — and he also ran 10 times for 43 yards.

Stephens had seven catches for 110 yards.

The Fighting Tiger were hampered by injuries and fell behind 24-8 before rallying to take a 31-30 lead in the third quarter.

But the Eagles got two fourth quarter touchdowns and held on for the win.

“I can’t fault our effort. Our kids played hard and never quit. They held together and supported each other. I was proud of them,” said Ironton coach Mark Vass.

“Johnson Central has a nice team. They have those big linemen on both sides of the ball and a bunch of good running backs. It hurt not having (Adam) Webb and losing (Nick) Culbertson, but it didn’t matter. We tried everything and we couldn’t slow them down.”

The 6-foot-6, 315-pound Webb was out due to an injury and Culbertson — took his spot on offense to go with his defensive tackle job — went out early with an injury.

To make matters worse, standout running back Patrick Lewis suffered a deep thigh bruise on the first play of the game and finished the game at about half-speed.

“Injuries are no excuse. We moved the ball, but so did they. We didn’t execute in some key spots and they did and that was the difference. No one was really stopping the other guy,” said Vass.

The Eagles (5-1) went 77 yards in 12 plays to start the game to take an 8-0 lead. Josh Dillon ran 1-yard for the score and Zach Gound passed to Dalton Adkins on the conversion.

Ironton went nowhere on its first two possessions and Eagles managed another scoring drive that began in the first quarter and ended on an 18-yard run by Daymion Belcher with 9:25 left in the half.

Gound passed to Adkins for the conversion and a 16-0 lead.

Ironton came back with a 59-yard, six-play scoring drive. Dutey threw to Stephens who made a nice catch for a 10-yard reception. Lewis ran for the conversion and it was 16-8.

But Josh Gound returned the kickoff 75 yards to the Ironton 10 and three plays later Young scored from 11 yards out and it was 24-8.

The Fighting Tigers lived up to their nickname in the third quarter as they put three scores on the board.

A 12-play, 57-yard drive culminated on a 1-yard run by Trevor White to begin the second half. Dutey passed to Stephens for the conversion and it was 24-16.

Johnson Central was at its own 38 and elected to go for the first down, but a big hit by Mo Phillips left the Eagles a yard shy.

Two plays later, Dutey and Stephens hooked up on a 39-yard scoring strike. Dutey added the conversion run and the game was tied.

The Eagles got a 38-yard run by Young to the 1-yard line and Dillon scored on the next play. Brandon Wilson intercepted the conversion pass to keep the deficit at 30-24.

A 57-yard pass to Lewis got the ball to the Eagles’ 11. After a holding penalty, Dutey and Stephens did it again with an 18-yard scoring pass. Jalen Schweickart kicked the conversion and Ironton had its first lead at 31-30 with 34 seconds on the clock.

But on a third-and-4, Zach Gound hit Adkins with a well-timed pass and he raced to the end zone to complete the 58-yard play and the Eagles were up for good at 38-31.

Ironton marched to the Eagles’ 14, but a sack and an incomplete pass on fourth down stalled the drive.

Young got loose on a 58-yard run with 4:07 left and the Eagles were up 44-31.

Ironton 0 8 23 0 = 31

Johnson Central 8 16 6 14 = 44

First Quarter

JC — Josh Dillon 1 run (Dalton Adkins pass from Zach Gound) 5:55

Second Quarter

JC — Damion Belcher 18 run (Dalton Adkins pass from Zach Gound) 9:25

Irn — Aaron Stephens 10 pass from Tanner Dutey (Patrick Lewis run) 6:35

JC — Jordan Young 11 run (Zach Gound run) 4:53

Third Quarter

Irn — Trevor White 1 run (Aaron Stephens pass from Tanner Dutey) 7:30

Irn — Aaron Stephens 39 pass from Tanner Dutey (Dutey run) 4:44

JC — Josh Dillon 1 run (pass failed) 3:03

Irn — Aaron Stephens 18 pass from Tanner Dutey (Jalen Schweickart kick) 0:34

Fourth Quarter

JC — Dalton Adkins 58 pass from Zach Gound (Gound run) 11:12

JC — Jordan Young 58 run (run failed) 4:07

Team Statistics

Irn JC

First downs 17 15

Rushes-yards 31-122 53-358

Passing yards 185 58

Total yards 307 416

Cmp-Att-Int 11-24-1 1-1-0

Fumbles-lost 1- 2-1

Penalties-yards 2-24 3-35

Punts-average 1-43.0 0-00.0

Individual Leaders

RUSHING—Ironton: Tanner Dutey 10-43, Trevor White 9-39, Patrick Lewis 9-37, Tanner Schweickart 3-3; Johnson Central: Daymion Belcher 15-92, Josh Dillon 14-54, Jordan Young 17-193, Zach Gound 4-15, Dalton Adkins 1-8, team 2-minus 4.

PASSING—Ironton: Tanner Dutey 11-23-0 185, Tristan Cox 0-1-1; Johnson Central: Zach Gound 1-1-0 58.

RECEIVING—Ironton: Aaron Stephens 7-110, Patrick Lewis 3-60, Trevor White 1-15; Johnson Central: Dalton Adkins 1-58.