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Ironton loses heartbreaker in closing seconds

Ironton Fighting Tigers’ running back Reid Carrico scores the go-ahead touchdown with just over three minutes to play in Friday’s OVC showdown against the Gallipolis Blue Devils. Ironton couldn’t hold the lead as Gallipolis scored with 24 seconds to play and won 36-33 in a battle for first place. (Kent Sanborn of Southern Ohio Sports Photos)

Jim Walker
jim.walker@irontontribune.com

The game was billed as a classic shootout.
It was.
The Gallipolis Blue Devils scored with 24 seconds left as they escaped the Ironton Fighting Tigers 36-33 in a battle for first place in the Ohio Valley Conference on Friday at Tanks Memorial Stadium.
Gallipolis is now 8-1 overall and 6-0 in the OVC with only winless South Point left next week.
Ironton is 6-3 and 5-1 in the league. The Fighting Tigers play at rival Portsmouth next Friday.
The loss was disappointing to say the least, but Ironton coach Trevon Pendleton told his team to learn from the loss and pick themselves back up and move forward.
“Step one we missed out on, but all our other goals are still ahead of us,” said I Pendleton.
“Our message to the kids was we can fold or fight and I know we have a lot of guys who will fight. I’m so proud of the effort they gave. I think the kids will play with great effort (next week) and make a nice playoff run.”
Gallipolis struck quickly to start the game.
James Armstrong ran 43 yards on the first play of the game to the Ironton 19 and four plays later Lane Pullins went 3 yards for the touchdown and a 6-0 lead with 10:17 on the clock.
The Blue Devils held Ironton on fourth down at their 41 and then got to the Ironton 24 where the Fighting Tigers held on downs thanks to a big hit by Reid Carrico.
After and exchange of punts, Ironton got its offense going with a 64-yard, 14-play drive capped by Seth Fosson’s 3-yard touchdown run.
Michael Mahlmeister kicked the conversion for a 7-6 lead with 6:55 left in the half.
Gallipolis went 3-and-out and Ironton went on a 61-yard, 9-play march to score as Fosson powered his way into the end zone for a 13-6 lead at the 2:11 mark.
The Blue Devils moved the ball to midfield but fumbled and Cameron Deere jumped on the ball.
It took eight plays for Ironton to complete their mission as a 30-yard pass from Gage Salyers to Ethan Duncan started the drive and a 4-yard run by Carrico ended it to push the lead to 20-6.
A good kickoff return with a 15-yard Ironton penalty gave Gallipolis the ball at the Ironton 48.
Quarterback Justin McClelland hit a pair of passed to the 12-yard line and Andrew Toler kicked a 29-yard field goal as time elapsed.
Ironton got a big play to start the second half as Salyers found a wide-open Brycen Thomas for a 55-yard catch-and-run play and the lead was 26-9 with 9:23 on the third quarter clock.
The two teams traded fumbles and then Gallipolis scored on the first play from scrimmage on a 40-yard pass from McClelland to Cory Call at the 6:41 mark and it was 26-15.
Ironton went 3-and-out and then the Blue Devils drove 67 yards in eight plays capped by Armstrong’s 10-yard run and the lead was cut to 26-21 at the 1:55 on the clock.
Gallipolis drove to the Ironton 37 only to be held on downs. But Ironton fumbled the ball back to the Blue Devils who recovered at the Fighting Tigers’ 42.
Jacob Campbell did most of the work with six carries for 31 yards but it was a McClelland 5-yard toss for Cade Roberts with 5:19 to play that gave Gallipolis its first lead since the start of the game.
McClelland threw to Call for the conversion and it was 29-26.
But Carrico took over with a 47-yard kickoff return to the Gallipolis 42 and he ran the ball three times for 33 yards including a 21-yard run for the touchdown with 3:32 to play.
Mahlmeister added the conversion for a 33-29 lead.
Gallipolis made the ending exciting as McClelland hit five passes to get the ball to the 19 and Campbell’s 3-yard run for a first down to the Ironton 15.
McClelland then flipped the ball to Campbell who threw the ball back to McClelland and hit Call in the end zone who outjumped the defensive back for the touchdown with just 24 second to play.
With the help of a roughing the pass the passer and a 10-yard pass to Jordan Grizzle, Ironton got to the 45-yard line, but an attempted hook-and-ladder pass with eight seconds left failed as the game ended.
Ironton finished with 349 total yards including 222 on the ground. Salyers and 17 times for 98 yards and Carrico had 25 rushes for 100 yards. Fosson ran six times for 27 yards and two touchdowns.
Salyers also hit 8-of -13 passes for 124 yards with Thomas catched three passes for 71 yards and a touchdown.
McClelland was 19-of-29 for 211 yards and had several dropped passes. He also ran 14 times for 72 yards.
Armstrong ran six times for 74 yards and Campbell had 14 carries for 45 yards as the Blue Devils ran for 209 yards to give them 420 total yards.
Call had seven catches for 113 yards.
Gallipolis 6 3 12 15 = 36
Ironton 0 20 6 7 = 33
First Quarter
Ga — Lane Pullins 3 run (run failed) 10:17
Second Quarter
Irn — Seth Fosson 3 run (Michael Mahlmeister kick) 6:55
Irn — Seth Fosson 3 run (kick failed) 2:11
Irn — Reid Carrico 4 run (Michael Mahlmeister kick) 0:23
Ga — Andrew Toler 29 field goal 0:00
Third Quarter
Irn — Brycen Thomas 55 pass from Gage Salyers (kick failed) 9:23
Ga — Cory Call 40 pass from Justin McClelland (pass failed) 6:41
Ga — James Armstrong 10 run (pass fail) 1:55
Fourth Quarter
Ga — Cade Roberts 5 pass from Justin McClelland (Cory Call pass from McClelland) 5:19
Irn — Reid Carrico 21 run (Michael Mahlmeister kick) 3:323
Ga — Cory Call 15 pass from Justin McClelland (Andrew Toler kick) 0:24
——
Ga Irn
First downs 22 16
Rushes-yards 38-209 48-225
Passing yards 211 124
Total yards 420 349
Cmp-Att-Int 19-29-0 8-13-0
Fumbles-lost 2-2 2-1
Penalties-yards 4-35 5-40
Punts-average 2-35.0 3-31.3
——
Individual Leaders
RUSHING — Gallipolis: Justin McClelland 14-72, James Armstrong 6-74, Jacob Campbell 14-45, Lane Pullins 4-18; Ironton: Gage Salyers 17-98, Reid Carrico 25-100, Seth Fosson 6-27.
PASSING — Gallipolis: Justin McClelland 19-29-0 211; Ironton: Gage Salyers 8-13-0 124.
RECEIVING — Gallipolis: Cory Call 7-113, James Armstrong 7-52, Cade Roberts 3-35, Lane Pullins 1-9, Jacob Campbell 1-2; Ironton: Brycen Thomas 3-71, Ethan Duncan 1-30, Jordan Grizzle 1-10, Reid Carrico 2-8, Ayden Barnes 1-5.