Passing provides spark in playoffs
As the quarterback for the Johnstown-Monroe High School football team, Tyler Thompson threw for more yards in the Johnnies' first two postseason games than he did in 10 regular-season games.
No, Thompson was not suffering from a sore right shoulder following a 42-7 victory over Ironton in a Division IV, Region 15 semifinal Nov. 9 at Athens.
"No, (it's) not (sore) at all," Thompson said after going 6-for-10 for 151 yards and two scores against second-seeded Ironton. "(The passing game) is just something the coach calls. We just have to execute and make it work. If we can't run, we can throw the ball. That helps to open up the run."
After completing 20 of 57 passes for 286 yards with two touchdowns and six interceptions in the first 10 games, Thompson completed 11 of 20 passes for 310 yards and four touchdowns in the first two postseason games.
"What can I say?" said coach Mike Carter, whose third-seeded team was 10-2 before playing top-seeded St. Clairsville in a regional final Nov. 16 at Zanesville. "The kids work on it at practice, that way we can execute the plays when we need to in games."
Bailey Duncan was the primary recipient of Thompson's passes against Ironton. The senior wingback had three receptions for 73 yards, including a 43-yard touchdown. In the first 11 games, Bailey had two catches for 23 yards and no touchdowns.
"We knew that play would be open all week," Duncan said of his score. "We knew the whip or the flag would be open, and when the defensive back went for the whip, we went with the flag."
Ironton, which finished 7-4, opened the game with a 12-play, 76-yard drive that ended with a 1-yard scoring run by senior quarterback Tanner Dutey.
The Johnnies answered with Thompson's scoring pass to Duncan on their first possession. On the ensuing kickoff, Daniel Mark Almendinger recovered an Ironton fumble at the Tigers' 27-yard line. That led to a 2-yard run by Thompson, the first of his three rushing touchdowns.
"We know that it's not one play, not one drive, not one quarter that makes up a game," Carter said. "When you face adversity, you have to step up another notch. Our kids didn't get rattled (by the early Ironton score), they just kept playing."
Johnstown fullback Adam Carter finished with 115 yards on seven carries, including a 15-yard touchdown. Sophomore tailback Cody Farley ran 22 times for 142 yards.
Senior Preston Hiles, who was born with a deformed right arm, also caught a 26-yard scoring pass for Johnstown with 11:41 to play for his first varsity touchdown.
"Coach looked at me and said, 'It's your time,'" Hiles said. "I knew what that meant and was ready for it."
The Johnnies had 422 total yards, including 271 on the ground. Ironton had 165 total yards, 132 rushing.
Dutey was 3-for-11 passing for 33 yards with one interception, but was 3-for-3 in the first quarter. The interception was Nick Sadinsky's seventh of the season. Garrett Holter and Logan Writesel had fumble recoveries.
The Region 15 winner plays in a state semifinal Friday, Nov. 23, against defending state champion Creston Norwayne or Brookfield at a site to be announced. Both teams entered the Region 13 final at 12-0.
Johnstown has never played Brookfield. The Johnnies lost to Norwayne 59-28 last season in a state semifinal.
"It feels great to keep playing because when you lose in the playoffs, that's it for high school football," said senior linebacker Corbin Grassman, who had 10 tackles against Ironton.
"When that happens, I'll never have a chance to play with these guys again. We want to keep it going as long as we can."