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Ironton falls 38-0 to Kirtland in Division 5 state title game


Ironton Fighting Tigers’ Ashton Duncan (left) and Cameron Deere (right) combine to bring down Kirtland running back Mason Sullivan during Saturday’s Division 5 state championship game in Massillon. Ironton fell 38-0. (Kent Sanborn of SouthernOhioSportsPhotos.com)

Jim Walker
jim.walker@irontontribune.com

MASSILLON — The rematch had the same results. And then some.
The Ironton Fighting Tigers lost 17-7 to the Kirtland Hornets in last season’s Division 5 state championship and was looking for revenge Saturday in a rematch of the 2019 title game.
But things didn’t materialize as Ironton had envisioned as Kirtland won its third straight state championship with a resounding 38-0 win.
The game was just 10-0 at halftime as both teams played strong defensively. But turnovers, penalties and a continued strong defense by Kirtland proved too much for the Fighting Tigers to overcome.
Ironton finished the season 11-1 and with a second straight state runner-up, the 10th in the program’s history.
“We didn’t execute or take advantage of our opportunities,” said Ironton coach Trevon Pendleton. “Kirtland wasn’t so much as quick as they are so disciplined.”
Kirtland took a 3-0 lead with 1:32 left in the first quarter on a 30-yard field goal by Mario Rodin that capped a 57-yard, 13-play drive that stalled at the Ironton 13.
Ironton got the ball to open the game but went three-and-out. However, Kyle Howell boomed a 57-yard punt to 4-yard line.
Kirtland was unable to move the ball and punted on its own three-and-out. Ironton had the ball back at the Kirtland 38 but a fourth-and-one save Reid Carrico slip in the backfield and lose a yard.
Kirtland then went on its scoring drive.
In the second quarter, Ironton had a drive stall and then Kirtland was faced with a fourth-and-one at the Ironton 45 and got a 3-yard gain by Mason Sullivan on a second effort.
The Hornets’ Liam Powers later hit Joey Grazia who made a one-handed grab at the 11-yard line that was ruled out of bounds.
However, the OHSAA has video review in the state finals and after a review the call was reversed and Grazia was credited with a catch.
“He made an unbelievable one-handed catch. We see that every day in practice. He’s an unbelievable athlete and one of the best defensive backs I’ve ever coached,” said Kirtland coach Phillip “Tiger” LaVerde.
The catch was chosen as Saturday’s No.1 play of the day by ESPN.
Kirtland then got a 1-yard quarterback sneak from Powers to cap the drive and Rodin’s conversion kick made it 10-0 with 3:34 left in the half.
Lady Luck wasn’t on Ironton’s side. The second half kickoff nearly died deep in Kirtland territory, but instead just barely rolled out of bounds giving Kirtland the ball at the 35-yard line.
Mason Sullivan then ran 32 yards run to the Ironton 33-yard line. Sullivan then broke a couple of tackles and scored on a 17-yard run with 9:09 on the clock. Rodin’s kick pushed the lead to 17-0.
“Mason had that run to make it 17-0. I think he put his hand down about five times and that was an incredibly athletic run. The guys up front do a great job, but he does a lot on his own,” said LaVerde.
Ironton fumbled the ball on its first possession of the half and Kirtland’s Nick Schwartz recovered at midfield with 8:25 left in the quarter.
On the ensuing play, Mason Sullivan threw a pass to his brother Gage Sullivan who was wide open and the catch-and-run covered 50 yards for a touchdown and suddenly it was 24-0 with 8:17 on the third quarter clock.
Ironton began to implode with a pair of penalties on its next series and then a shanked punt that traveled just 27 yards.
Ironton had two more penalties including a personal foul after a Mason Sullivan run to the Fighting Tigers’ 9-yard line.
Sullivan was stopped for a 3-yard loss to the 8, but Anthony DeMarco ran up the middle on the next play and it was 31-0 with 4:55 left in the quarter.
Now with a running clock, things still got worse on Ironton’s next possession as the Fighting Tigers fumbled the snap and Kirtland recovered at the Ironton 39.
In the third quarter, Ironton ran just six plays and lost two fumbles.
Kirtland put the icing on the cake two plays into the fourth quarter and Powers hit Danny Davidson with a swing pass in the flats that he turned into an 18-yard touchdown pass and Rodin’s kick pushed the lead to 38-0 with 11:46 left to play.
Ironton’s next possession end on an interception by DeMarco when intended receiver Trent Hacker slipped and fell.
The 38 points by Ironton tied the most the defense had allowed in a state title game. The 1973 team was beating by Cleveland Benedictine 38-13.
The Fighting Tigers were held to just 58 total yards for the game — the fourth lowest total in a state championship game. They had 45 nets yards rushing and a mere 13 yards passing.
“I don’t know if they could have played much better. We played our best in all three phases (of the game). We missed a couple of open guys play action early, but that catch by Grazia and then that score and 10-0 (lead) and then coming out the second half that first drive and get to 17 and then they fumbled and we scored right away (to make it) 24-0, that was a big momentum switch,” said LaVerde.
Last season, Kirtland held Ironton to 48 net yards rushing on 28 attempts. Ironton did have 205 yards passing as Gage Salyers was 7-of-18. Kirtland ran 46 times for 123 yards and was 5-of-7 passing for 121 yards.
Kirtland extend its current winning streak to 41 games and finished the season 11-0.
LaVerde said seeing this team win a third straight title and sixth during his 15-year reign at Kirtland was exciting.
“These kids work so hard. People don’t understand the amount of time they put in. It’s really cool to watch them achieve this against a very, very, very good football team,” said LaVerde.
Ironton 0 0 0 0 = 0
Kirtland 3 7 21 7 = 38
First Quarter
Krt – Mario Rodin 30 field goal 1:32
Second Quarter
Krt – Liam Powers 1 run (Mario Rodin kick) 3:34
Third Quarter
Krt – Mason Sullivan 17 run (Mario Rodin kick) 9:09
Krt – Gage Sullivan 50 pass from Mason Sullivan (Mario Rodin kick) 8:17
Krt – Anthony DeMarco 8 run (Mario Rodin kick) 4:55
Fourth Quarter
Krt – Danny Davidson 18 pass from Liam Powers (Mario Rodin kick) 11:46
——
Irn Krt
First downs 3 25
Rushes-yards 20-45 55-264
Passing yards 13 144
Total yards 58 408
Cmp-Att-Int 3-8-1 10-15-0
Fumbles-lost 3-2 1-1
Penalties-yards 7-40 1-15
Punts-average 4-42.5 1-40.0
Time of Possession 16:03 31:57
——
Individual Leaders
RUSHING —Ironton: Reid Carrico 11-35, Cameron Deere 11-35, Trevor Carter 1-5, Trent Hacker 1-4, Tayden Carpenter 4-5; Kirtland: Mason Sullivan 19-129, Anthony DeMarco 17-83, Liam Powers 11-35, Nick Schwartz 4-15, Mason Rus 3-11, Joey Grazia 1-5.
PASSING — Ironton: Tayden Carpenter 3-8-1 13; Kirtland: Liam Powers 9-14-0 94 TD, Mason Sullivan 1-1-0 50 TD.
RECEIVING — Ironton: Kyle Howell 2-15, Reid Carrico 1-minus 2; Kirtland: Joey Grazia 5-51, Gage Sullivan 3-71 TD, Danny Davidson 1-18 TD, Anthony DeMarco 1-4.