JACKSON — An inability to consistently move the football on Saturday brought the season to a close for Amanda-Clearcreek in a 31-7 regional semifinal loss to Ironton at Alumni Stadium.
The top-seeded Fighting Tigers shut down the Aces’ offense outside of senior quarterback Peyton Madison, who rushed for 132 yards and passed for another 60 of their 201 yards of total offense.
“There were some things we were trying to key on, but it never felt like we could get back-to-back first downs without maybe a tackle for loss to put us behind the chains or a penalty or just something crazy,” Amanda-Clearcreek coach Steve Daulton said.
An interception by Kyle Howell ended the first possession of the game and gave the Fighting Tigers a short field on the A-C 42 yard line. It was the first of four turnovers on the evening for the Aces.
Gage Salyers capped a seven-play drive by finding Kyle Howell on a crossing route that went 19 yards for a touchdown to give Ironton a 7-0 lead.
The Fighting Tigers elected to onside kick, but recovered before the ball traveled 10 yards, giving the fourth-seeded Aces the football on the Ironton 44.
Madison cashed in the field position three plays later when he eluded several Ironton tacklers on a 33-yard touchdown run to tie the score at 7-7, following the extra point by Jonathan Weaver.
Ironton regained the lead for good on the first play of the second quarter — a nine-yard touchdown pass from Salyers to Ohio State verbal commitment Reid Carrico.
After the Aces went three-and-out, they received a golden opportunity when they recovered an Ironton fumble. With a personal foul tacked on, the Aces took over on the Ironton 37.
Amanda-Clearcreek (9-3), however, fumbled on the very next play, with Ironton (11-1) taking possession right back.
“You can’t win this time of year turning the ball over,” Daulton said. “Fortunately, they were putting it on the deck, as well, and there were couple of times we should have jumped on them, but they were able to recover. Those were some big-time opportunities and we didn’t take advantage of it. We forced one on their side of the 50 and turn right around and give it right back to them.
“Against a team like that where they chew up the clock as well as they do, and your possessions become limited and you are able to get an opportunity, you have to take advantage. It’s not a game-changer, but to be able to have that opportunity, you can’t give that right back up.”
The Fighting Tigers then marched 70 yards down field, capped by a four-yard keeper by Salyers to take a 21-7 lead.
Ironton added 10 points to its lead in the third quarter on a 40-yard field goal by Avery Book and a one-yard touchdown plunge by Junior Jones.
The Fighting Tigers outgained the Aces 376-201, featuring a running game that consumed 325 yards.
“We didn’t fill gaps like we needed to, and we played with high pad level and it doesn’t matter who you are, it’s a game of leverage,” Daulton said. “Then you are going against a team that comes off the ball and embraces that style of play, and we’re supposed to be the same way. They did it better than we did and it’s not even an argument, it’s a plain fact.”
Salyers covered 122 yards on 20 carries and also threw for an additional 51 yards and three total touchdowns. Carrico added 85 yards rushing on 17 carries and also caught two passes for 32 yards and a score.
The Fighting Tigers were far from perfect in the win, fumbling six times and losing three, along with committing 110 yards worth of penalties.
Ironton advances to take on second-seeded Ridgewood (12-0) in the Division V, Region 19 championship game at Nelsonville-York.
Amanda-Clearcreek closes its most successful season in a decade, which included a share of its first Mid-State League Buckeye Division championship since 2011 and its first postseason victory since 2009 last week in a 41-10 rout of Columbus Academy.
“Our senior class, it’s 100 percent credit to them,” Daulton said. “They did it and they led the way and they ran the locker room. Day in and day out, practices they enforced the details that we try to require as coaches, and they policed the team. It’s 100 percent credit to those 10 seniors and the type of young men they are now and the type of men that they will become.”