Ironton’s Mr. Big Play came through again.
Senior halfback Patrick Lewis never seems to run out of heroic exploits. Just ask Wheelersburg, Russell, Gallipolis, and now Ashland.
Just like the past three weeks, the hard-working runner with breakaway speed did his thing.
Lewis bolted for three long scoring runs Friday night to send the Fighting Tigers past Ashland, 27-17, in a battle of unbeatens at jam-packed Tanks Memorial Stadium.
“He did it again,” said first-year Ironton head coach Mark Vass. “That’s four games in a row. Patrick is stepping up when we need him. He’s a talented kid who plays hard. He has that toughness.”
Twice, Lewis broke loose to erase Ashland leads. The second time, he popped through a stacked line and raced 70 yards to the end zone to put the Tigers ahead for a good at 13-10 with 11 minutes remaining.
The game-changing play ignited Ironton’s 20-point fourth quarter, producing a 17-point lead with just under two minutes remaining.
Lewis, a 5-foot-10, 175-pounder, finished with 266 yards rushing on only 15 carries. He called it a team effort.
“The offensive line gets all the credit,” he said. “Without them, I wouldn’t go anywhere. And our running backs are blocking hard.”
After Lewis put his team in front early in the fourth quarter, Ashland threatened with a quick drive to the Tigers’ 25-yard line.
However, Ironton’s Trevor White and Mo Phillips sacked Tomcat quarterback Aaron Elam on consecutive plays and Ashland turned the ball over on downs at the 22.
Four plays later, Lewis took a handoff, bounced outside and sped 62 yards for a score.
“He has great acceleration,” Ashland coach Leon Hart. “He’s a tough kid, and just battles. He’s finally getting his opportunity to do things.”
Ashland (4-1) beat Ironton 28-6 last season, but Lewis left an impression on the Tomcats coach.
“There was no question in our mind last year that this kid was special,” Hart said. “He proved me right tonight.”
Down 20-10 after Lewis’ third long-distance TD of the night, Ashland made a final bid to pull out a win. Three first downs took the Tomcats to Ironton’s 19, but Tanner Dutey made an interception and returned it 74 yards to put the game out of reach.
“It’s a big win,” Lewis said. “I think this was the most important game of the season so far. It’s been 22 years since Ashland beat us at home.”
Lewis made sure it didn’t happen this time. His big night started with an amazing 53-yard run in the second quarter to erase Ashland’s 3-0 lead.
Dutey took a high snap, barely got off a pitch to Lewis who immediately had three defenders in his path. Lewis quickly reversed field to the opposite sideline, picked up blocking and then cut all the way back across the field on his way to the end zone.
“I knew I had to take a chance,” Lewis said.
Ashland, ranked fourth in Class 4A, finished with 20 first downs and 359 yards but couldn’t make them count.
“If we make plays when we had the chance, we would have won the game,” Hart said. “Ironton made them, we didn’t.”
The Tomcats were whistled for five penalties during a first-half drive that ended with a fourth-down incompletion in the end zone.
Freshman running back Quinton Baker led Ashland with 134 yards rushing, including a 3-yard TD in the third quarter.
“Coach Hart and I were talking,” Vass said. “He was bragging on Patrick, and I was bragging about Baker. Unfortunately, ours is a senior and theirs is a freshman.”
ROCKY STANLEY can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (606) 326-2671.
Ironton’s Mr. Big Play came through again.
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