Adam Carter took the handoff and did something unexpected.
He ran for a touchdown.
The junior fullback for the Johnstown-Monroe High School football team, who usually throws blocks for tailback Ross Franklin, jump-started the Johnnies’ 34-7 win over Ironton in a Division IV, Region 15 semifinal on Saturday, Nov. 12, at Hamilton Township.
Carter burst through the line and raced 56 yards for a score on the third play from scrimmage, setting the tone for the game.
“That was one of our bread-and-butter plays where (quarterback) Matt (Smith) has multiple options that he can do with the ball,” said Carter, who finished with two carries for 58 yards. “I was determined to make it all of the way. I was jacked up. ... We were all jacked up after that.”
The Johnnies (12-0) advanced to their first regional final to play Coshocton (10-2), which defeated St. Clairsville 47-21 in the other Region 15 semifinal. The game will be played Saturday, Nov. 19, at a site to be determined.
The Tigers (7-5) fell behind 14-0 when Tyler Thompson returned a punt 80 yards for a touchdown with 8 minutes, 5 seconds left in the first quarter.
“They had the two big plays the first two times they had the ball,” Ironton coach Bob Lutz said. “They have a big back who weighs 200 pounds and can run over you as well as having good speed.”
That back is Franklin, who rushed for 248 yards and three touchdowns on 23 carries. The 6-foot, 203-pounder had 120 yards on eight carries in the first half.
“I definitely have confidence in our line and fullback to open things up,” said Franklin, who has rushed for 2,825 yards this season with 43 touchdowns on 264 carries. “They opened the holes and we were able to get through them.”
The Johnnies relied on the run, with all 343 of their yards coming on the ground. But it was their defense that made the game-changing play.
The Tigers drove for more than five minutes to open the second half, reaching the Johnstown 7-yard line. Ironton’s Trevor White was stopped for no gain on fourth-and-7 with 6:48 left in the third quarter as Johnstown kept its 21-7 lead intact.
“We might have been a little undersized compared to their offensive line, but we knew we had to make plays,” Johnnies senior defensive lineman Joey Dismuke said. “The crowd was really loud and we fed off of that.”
Lutz said the fourth-down stop was the turning point for his team, especially when the Johnnies answered with a 93-yard scoring drive capped by Franklin’s 13-yard run with 32 seconds left in the third.
“We couldn’t get it in to open the second half and they went on two long scoring drives,” Lutz said. “They’re undefeated and they’re a good club. They’re 12-0 and they played like it.”
Ironton rushed for 150 yards on 51 carries and senior quarterback Tyler Kratzenberg was 6-for-11 passing for 83 yards. White had 51 yards and a touchdown on 15 carries.
“We had a tremendous effort from Ross, our defense ... everyone,” Johnstown coach Mike Carter said. “This is huge for the kids, the school and the community. ... And we get to come back next week.”
IRONTON 0 7 0 0 -- 7
JOHNSTOWN 14 7 6 7 -- 34
J--Carter 56 run (C. Benton kick)
J--Thompson 80 punt return (C. Benton kick)
I--White 1 run (Sisler kick)
J--Franklin 39 run (C. Benton kick)
J--Franklin 13 run (kick failed)
J--Franklin 10 run (C. Benton kick)