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Ironton-Burg key matchup

Ironton, 6-3 last season and a Division IV qualifier, hosts Wheelersburg, 11-2 and the Div.

Thursday, August 26, 1999

Ironton, 6-3 last season and a Division IV qualifier, hosts Wheelersburg, 11-2 and the Div. V state semifinalist, Friday night at Tanks Memorial Stadium. Both teams are expected to be in the Div. IV playoff hunt against this season.

Wheelersburg first-year head coach Mike Schmidt is expecting another classic battle.

"It’s a fantastic rivalry. We got a call from (someone) in Columbus and they have it listed as one of the top five games in the state this season," said Schmidt.

The Fighting Tigers showed the biggest improvement of any team last season from start to finish, but they lost a 21-0 stunner in the opener.

"Ironton has a tremendous team coming back. It’ll be a tough game," said Schmidt.

The Pirates relied on quarterback Mike Leesburg and the running of Rick Estep and Luke Emnett to win last season. Leesburg and Estep are gone, but Emnett ran for a 1,000 yards his junior year and quarterback Andy Gill hesn’t missed a beat taking over the quarterback spot.

"Gill is very athletic. He runs well and he throws the ball real well. He’s the key guy we can’t let beat us," said Ironton coach Bob Lutz.

"Leesburg always made big plays. Gill isn’t as big, but he does the same things for them this year that Leesburg did last year. But we can’t just concentrate on Gill. (Jason) Schmidt is a real good athlete. He can run, but they mainly like to put him in the slot of split out and throw to him. Herny can be a bruising force if he can hit the hole."

Ironton and Wheelersburg are both in Religion 11 of Division IV. The two teams could conceivably meet again in the postseason .

"This is one of the toughest regions in the state," said Schmidt.