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Ironton falls to Kirtland in Division 5 state title game, 17-7

Ironton Fighting Tigers’ defenders’ Jordan Grizzle (29), Gunnar Crawford (36) and Cameron Deere combined to make the stop of Kirtland Hornets’ running back Mason Sullivan (1) during Saturday’s Division 5 state championship game. Ironton lost a 17-7 heartbreaker. (Kent Sanborn/SouthernOhioSportsPhotos.com)

Jim Walker

CANTON — It was the final game of the 2019 season, but it wasn’t the way the Ironton Fighting Tigers wanted it to end.
In a hard-hitting game on Saturday night at Tom Benson’s Hall of Fame Stadium, the Kirtland Hornets were able to survive the slugfest with a 17-7 win over Ironton to capture the Division 5 state championship
For Ironton, it was a case of missed opportunities that determined the tightly contested game, failing twice in two scoring opportunities.
“You’re talking about two very disciplined teams. They were able to convert a couple of big pass plays and that was the difference in the game,” said Ironton coach Trevon Pendleton.
“We knew a game like this was going to be a battle, we just had to figure out a way to get it done. Unfortunately, tonight we wasn’t. I feel for these seniors,”
Ironton (13-2) was trailing 10-0 with time running out in the half when quarterback Gage Salyers found Jordan Grizzle behind the defense for a 60-yard gain to the Kirtland 2-yard line.
But Reid Carrico got one yard and then Salyers was stopped short of the goal line. A replay review showed that Salyers was stopped shy of the goal line.
It took Kirtland just two plays to get on the scoreboard.
After forcing a three-and-out to start the game, Kirtland went against its character as quarterback Liam Powers hit Gage Sullivan on a 47-yard pass to the Ironton 27. Running back Mason Sullivan broke a couple of tackles on the next play and ran 27 yards up the middle for the touchdown and Mario Rodin’s conversion kick made it 7-0 with 10:19 on the first quarter clock.
Ironton came back on the next series and out together a drive led by Salyers who hit Trent Hacker on a 9-yard pass for a first down and then ran for another first down
But a sack by Mike Rus put Ironton in a second and 16 and a third down pass was incomplete as the Hornets put more pressure on Salyers.
After a second Ironton punt, the Fighting Tigers’ defense made two big plays as Seth Fosson got a tackle for a 1-yard loss and linebacker Cameron Deere had a big sack for an 8-yard loss to set up a third-and-19 play.
Gage Sullivan then made a one-handed leaping catch for a first down to the 29. Mason Sullivan then converted a fourth-and-1play for a first down to the Ironton 41.
Anthony DeMarco tipped a passed to himself and caught the ball for 29 yards to the 11-yard line
The Hornets fumbled a handoff on the final play of the quarter but Brayden Adkins recovered at the 12.
The Ironton defense held and forced Rodin to kick a 21-yard field goal and it was 10-0 with 10:24 on the clock.
Ironton came right back as Salyers hit Kyle Howell for 18 yards to the Kirtland 49 and then a pass interference call moved the ball 15 more yards to the 34.
Carrico took a pitch on an option left and ran 9 yards and then went 4 yards for the first down. Carrico ran for a yard but then Mike Alfieri for a 12-yard loss.
Salyers scrambled for 4 yards setting up fourth down and Avery Book’s 44-yard field goal was short with 5:09 left in the half.
Kirtland was forced to punt and Ironton got the ball at its own 44. A penalty on the Hornets moved the ball 15 yards to the 41.
A 9-yard run by Carrico left Ironton with a fourth-and-1 but the Kirtland defense strung the play out and stopped Carrico short of the first down with 1:53 on the clock.
Kirtland got the ball to start the second half and used an 18-yard run by Gage Sullivan to the Ironton 42. A flea-flicker pass from Joey Grazia to quarterback Liam Powers for 7 yards and a first down kept the drive alive.
Gage Sullivan then made a nice 18-yard catch among two Ironton defenders for the touchdown with 7:33 on the third quarter clock. Rodin kicked the conversion and it was 17-0.
The Fighting Tigers came back with a drive that saw Carrico run for 4 yards, Salyers throw to Howell twice for 4 and 5 yards and run twice for 7 yards.
But the drive stalled when a fourth-and-9 pass went incomplete give the ball back to Kirtland at their own 45.
Kirtland was forced to punt and Ironton had the ball at the 23.
Salyers and Grizzle teamed up for the second time and the catch and run covered 77 yards for the touchdown with 1:02 left in the third quarter. Book’s conversion cut the deficit to 17-7.
The pass play is the longest touchdown pass in Division 5 championship game history.
Kirtland ate 8:22 off the clock on its next drive and an Alfieri punt rolled dead at the 8-yard line.
Ironton was looking for a big play and got it when Salyers made a nice throw to Carrico on the wheel rout for 32 yards to the 42.
Three straight incompletions set up a fourth-and-10 with 6:10 to play. Trailing by 10 points with Kirtland’s ability to run the ball and eat clock, Ironton attempted a slant pass over the middle to Howell that was well-defended and the Hornets took over possession with 6:10 left.
Ironton’s defense forced a Kirtland into a fourth-and-2 play but Mason Sullivan took a pitch and cut up inside for 6 yards and a first down.
An offside penalty on Ironton left Kirtland with a third-and-4 at the Ironton 17 and Powers kept the ball for a first down to the 8.
From there, Kirtland just took a knee on three straight plays to end the game.
The state championship was the second straight for Kirtland who won the Division 6 title last season. It was the fifth overall for the program, all under coach Tiger LaVerde.
Kirtland (15-0) owns the longest current winning streak in Ohio with 30 straight.
For Ironton, it was the program’s seventh runner-up — the most in state history — to go with state titles in 1979 and 1989.
Although it was a disappointing end, Pendleton said the players — especially the seniors — still had success beyond the wins and losses.
“I’m just so proud of them. This senior class doesn’t realize it. They’ve changed the course of Ironton Fighting Tiger football forever in a positive way. They brought it back to where it needs to be and it’s going to continue to be here because of the leadership and character that they’ve instilled in the younger guys,” said Pendleton.
Kirtland 7 3 7 0 = 17
Ironton 0 0 7 0 = 7
First Quarter
Krt — Mason Sullivan 27 run (Mario Rodin kick) 10:19
Second Quarter
Krt — Mario Rodin 21 field goal 10:24
Third Quarter
Krt — Gage Sullivan 18 pass from Liam Powers (Mario Rodin kick) 7:33
Irn — Jordan Grizzle 77 pass from Gage Salyers (Avery Book kick) 1:02
Krt Irn
First downs 14 11
Rushes-yards 46-123 28-48
Passing yards 121 205
Total yards 244 253
Cmp-Att-Int 5-7-0 7-18-0
Fumbles-lost 2-0 1-0
Penalties-yards 4-35 2-10
Punts-average 4-36.8 2-39.5
Individual Leaders
RUSHING — Kirtland: Mason Sullivan 23-101 TD, Gage Sullivan 3-23, Luke Gardner 3-9, Liam Powers 10-3, Anthony DeMarco 2-3; Ironton: Reid Carrico 12-40, Gage Salyers 12-5, Cameron Deere 1-3, Seth Fosson 2-3, Jordan Grizzle 1-minus 3.
PASSING — Kirtland: Liam Powers 4-5-0 114 TD, Joey Grazia 1-1-0 7, Mason Sullivan 0-1-0; Ironton: Gage Salyers 7-18-0 205 TD.
RECEIVING — Kirtland: Gage Sullivan 3-85 TD, Anthony DeMarco 1-29, Liam Powers 1-7; Ironton: Jordan Grizzle 2-137 TD, Kyle Howell 3-27, Reid Carrico 1-32, Trent Hacker 1-9.
TACKLES — Kirtland: Joey Grazia 6 (5 solo), Louie Loncar 6 (4 solo), Anthony DeMarco 5 (4 solo), Mike Alfieri 4 (3 solo); Ironton: Reid Carrico 10 (5 solo), Cameron Deere 8 (5 solo), Seth Fosson 6 (5 solo), Junior Jones 6 (3 solo), Gage Salyers 5 (3 solo), Dalton Crabtree 5 (4 solo).
SACKS — Kirtland: Mike Alfieri 1, Mike Rus 1; Ironton: Seth Fosson, Cameron Deere.
TACKLES FOR LOSS — Kirtland: Mike Alfieri 1, Mike Rus 1, Tommy Drazelic 1; Ironton: Seth Fosson 2, Reid Carrico 1.5, Cameron Deere 1, Junior Jones 0.5, Dalton Crabtree 0.5, Trent Hacker 0.5.