THE PLAINS, Ohio — For the moment, the days of three yards and a cloud of dust seem to have disappeared for the Johnstown-Monroe High School football team.
The Johnnies used a pinpoint passing game to open up the running game in a 42-7 victory over Ironton in a Division IV, Region 15 semifinal Nov. 9 at Athens High School.
A broad smile crept across the face of Johnstown coach Mike Carter when asked about the new-found passing attack.
“What can I say?” Carter said. “The kids work on it at practice, that way we can execute the plays when we need to in games.”
Johnstown advanced to play top-seeded St. Clairsville in the regional final Nov. 16 at a site to be announced. The Red Devils won 59-27 over Piketon on Nov. 9.
The third-seeded Johnnies improved to 10-2.
After completing 20 of 57 passes for 286 yards with two touchdowns and six interceptions in the first 10 games, Johnstown quarterback Tyler Thompson has completed 11 of 20 passes for 310 yards and four touchdowns in two postseason games.
“(The passing game) is just something the coach calls. We just have to execute and make it work,” said Thompson, who was 6-for-10 for 151 yards and two scores against second-seeded Ironton. “If we can’t run, we can throw the ball. That helps to open up the run.”
Bailey Duncan was the primary recipient of Thompson’s passes. 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 (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 pass to Duncan on their first possession. On the ensuing kickoff, Mark David 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.
Johnstown fullback Adam Carter finished with 115 yards on seven carries with a 15-yard touchdown. Cody Farley ran 21 times for 102 yards.
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 155 total yards, 132 rushing. Trevor White led the Tigers with 61 yards rushing on 12 carries. Dutey was 3-for-11 passing with one interception. That came on Nick Sadinsky’s seventh pickoff of the season.
I -- Dutey 1 run (Schweickart kick)
J -- Duncan 43 pass from Thompson (Benton kick)
J -- Thompson 2 run (Benton kick)
J -- Thompson 4 run (Benton kick)
J -- Thompson 5 run (Benton kick)
J -- Carter 15 run (Benton kick)
J -- Hiles 26 pass from Thompson (Benton kick)