PORTSMOUTH — The Trojans and Fighting Tigers were ready for a physical affair. And for the first 24 minutes of the game, both defenses reigned supreme as Portsmouth took a 7-3 lead into the locker room.
But in the second half, the physical rivalry turned into a track meet. Both teams combined to score 61 points in the final 24 minutes as Ironton pulled away from Portsmouth 43-20 at Trojan Coliseum.
The third quarter alone saw five combined touchdowns, three for the Fighting Tigers and two for the Trojans. However, despite scoring 14 points, Portsmouth (6-4) chewed up a total of 21 seconds as the Trojans capitalized on two kickoff returns.
Luke Purdy returned the first kick 84 yards after Ironton had taken a brief 9-7 lead. Parker’s 63-yard kickoff return came at the end of the third quarter when Portsmouth was trailing 23-13. However, despite the two touchdowns, the Trojans also turned the ball over twice when trying to receive pooch kicks, which were designed to keep the ball away from Purdy or Parker.
“We did some positive things on kickoff return with two touchdowns,” Duncan said. “But to start the game, they pooch it and we have a guy right there, we bobble it around and they recover it. Then later on, they didn’t want to kickoff to us again and it hits a guy right in the chest and they get the ball. Those were two turnovers on special teams that hurt us and allowed them to keep their offense on the field.”
The only downside to returning the kicks in the second half for Portsmouth was time of possession. The two quick scores combined with 431 yards of rushing from Ironton and the Trojans only ran five offensive plays in the second half until their last possession of the game.
“They got a couple big plays on us but we made them earn it,” Duncan said. “Hats off to Ironton and their guys, they were able to establish long drives and avoid mistakes. They avoided turnovers and they were able to milk the clock, and take it down and put the game away. Kuddos to them. That’s what they do and they did it well tonight.
“We just didn’t have our offense on the field enough in the second half to create any scoring opportunities and our defense was on the field to much.”
When the offense was on the field, Parker led the way with 121 yards on 19 attempts while scoring one rushing touchdown. Purdy ran for 60 yards and threw for another 59, including a 36-yard touchdown strike to Ryan Williams.
“They’ve been good for us all year making big plays and they continued to make big plays tonight,” Duncan said. “We just didn’t have enough touches to keep our offense on the field and allow them to make some more big plays.”
As part of Ironton’s 431 yards on the ground, Garrett Carrico led the Fighting Tigers with 217 yards on 25 attempts while crossing the goal line four times. Freshman Seth Fosson ran for 163 yards on 12 attempts and one score.
Portsmouth — Parker 5 yd run (Purdy kick), 6:06
Ironton — Neal 29 yd field goal, :1.3
Ironton —Fosson 7 yd run (Kick failed), 6:08
Portsmouth — Purdy 84 yd kick return (Conversion failed), 5:57
Ironton — Carrico 69 yd run (Neal kick), 5:36
Ironton — Carrico 3 yd run (Neal kick), :49.7
Portsmouth — Parker 63 yd kick return (Purdy kick), :39
Ironton —Carrico 1 yd run (Kick blocked), 10:21
Ironton — Duncan 3 yd run (Neal kick), 5:19
Ironton — Carrico 38 yd run (Neal kick), 3:42
Portsmouth — Williams 36 yd pass from Purdy (Conversion good), 2:10
Rushing — Ironton Carrico 25-217, Fosson 12-163, Duncan 13-65, Issacc 2-(-17); Portsmouth: Parker 19-121, Purdy 9-60, Pearsall 2-5.
Passing — Ironton: Issacc 2-7-43, Carrico 0-1; Portsmouth: Purdy 4-5-59.
Receiving — Ironton: Barrow 1-33, Garrico 1-10; Portsmouth: Williams 2-40, Wedebrook 1-16.
Ironton 7-3; Portsmouth 6-4