CANTON — Ironton is a rock, one of the great little football foundations in the USA.
But the South Range Raiders have been rock smashers all year, and on Friday rolled to a 53-27 conquest of Ironton in the OHSAA Division V state title game.
By the end of state championship weekend at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium, including the game that brought South Range its first Ohio football crown, the question will have been asked a million times.
"Did you ride the Ferris wheel?"
All one million times, it will have been a joke.
A Ferris wheel is indeed perched on a hill in the emerging Hall of Fame Village. But for one thing, nobody rides an outdoor wheel in the sky in December. For another, this one won't be turning until the Village - with its shops taking shape, and its hotel and water park not yet out of the ground - is further along.
It has taken several years for the Village to get over the hump. It is 33 years and counting, now, since the Ironton Fighting Tigers won their last state title.
South Range cracked the code in head coach Dan Yeagley's 28th year as head coach.
"We just played 48 minutes of hard-nosed football with a very special group, against a very good team," Yeagley said 20 minutes after the game. "It hasn't sunk in yet. I'm still a little gold from the (Gatorade) shower."
It is a golden weekend for the Canfield area. Yeagley got a huge kick out of a postgame shout from Mike Pavlansky, whose Canfield Cardinals were taking the field for the next game, the Division III finals won by the Cardinals. Virtual neighbor Warren JFK awaited Saturday's Division VII finals.
"A lot of this is about the Mahoning Valley and the kind of football played in Northeast Ohio," Yeagley said. "Iron sharpens iron.
"Some people think football is down. Football is not down. Football is alive."
Ironton head coach Trevon Pendleton took a deep breath in a media room where he was surrounded by three seniors who were part of a 15-1 season.
"I don't think think they realize what they've done," he said. "I don't think they will until they're older. In the big scheme of things, they got the job done."
It was a close fight at first, tied at 7-7 after Ironton's Lincoln Barnes caught a 66-yard touchdown pass from third-year starting QB Tayden Carpenter.
Impressive turnouts from both communities created a rich state championship atmosphere, spilling sound waves over the players from opposite grandstands.
South Range surged ahead 26-7 early in the second quarter behind 6-foot-2 senior quarterback Billy Skripac, 5-foot-7 senior receiver Shane Lindstrom, a fumble recovery and a blocked punt.
After that, there was much more to cheer about for South Range, making its first appearance in a state title game, than for Ironton, making its eighth.
Ironton couldn't stop Skripac (331 passing yards on 13 completions), Lindstrom (176 yards on six catches) or running back Blake Ewert (143 yards on 19 carries).
"It's a blur right, all kind of mushing together," Lindstrom said after the Raiders ripped off eight touchdowns.
"I knew I needed to make plays for our team," Skripac said. "We were playing a great team with three (NCAA) Division I commits. We believe in our team. I think we have the most physical Division V team in Ohio."
Canton is a fairly quick trip for South Range, about 40 miles. It is a trek for Ironton, 233 miles from Bob Lutz Field at Tanks Memorial Stadium to the splashy venue next to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Lutz became an Ironton legend while coaching the Fighting Tigers and before that Ironton St. Joseph to a then-state-record 381 wins from 1969-2011. Manchester's Jim France broke the record in 2017.
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Lutz jumped from St. Joseph to Ironton in 1972, the year the OHSAA launched a postseason football tournament, one for which his teams qualified 28 times.
The Fighting Tigers won state championships in 1979, when they beat St. Vincent-St. Mary 7-6 in the Rubber Bowl, and in 1989, when they edged Campbell Memorial 12-7 in Columbus.
They have been frustrated across 33 subsequent seasons.
In five trips to state finals, they fell 31-7 to Mentor Lake Catholic in 1992 in Massillon, 13-10 to Wauseon in 1993 in Massillon, 16-14 to Sandusky Perkins in 1999 in Massillon, 17-7 to Kirtland in 2019 in Canton, and 38-0 to Kirtland in 2020 in Massillon.
Both Ironton and South Range brought 15-0 records to Canton for Friday's 10:30 a.m. kickoff. By noon, it was clear South Range was the better team.
The Raiders led 32-14 at that point behind Skripac, who averaged 26 yards on nine first-half completions. Through three quarters, Lindstrom turned six short completions into 176 yards worth of catch-and-run.
Lindstrom's 65-yard catch-and-run in the third quarter made it 39-14.
Ironton attacked with two Division I commits, running back Jaquez Keyes (Wisconsin) and receiver Ty Perkins (Cincinnati), but South Range stacked the box against Keyes (27 rushing yards) and led 26-7 before giving up a 31-yard TD catch by Perkins.
Relentless South Range already had 342 yards of offense by halftime.
Ironton sprinkled in periodic "small victories," one after punting. Braden Shreck's boot eluded a return man and kept rolling and rolling. Three Fighting Tigers circled around the ball and waved at it as if it were a person, coaxing it inside the 10.
Mostly, South Range's performance was a "10."
Reach Steve at firstname.lastname@example.org
On Twitter: @sdoerschukREP
This article originally appeared on The Repository: South Range, Mahoning Valley football alive and well at OHSAA finals