Blue Devils have plenty of weapons

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, September 7, 1999

It’s not the United States military version of Star Wars, but there are plenty of weapons lining up for Friday night.

Tuesday, September 07, 1999

It’s not the United States military version of Star Wars, but there are plenty of weapons lining up for Friday night. Galllipolis isn’t 2-0 by luck. The Blue Devils have an array of offensive weapons to throw at the Ironton Fighting Tigers defense when the two teams meet at Gallipolis.

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"They’ve got excellent skilled people at every position. They’ve got a lot of speed and quickness," Ironton coach Bob Lutz said.

Pulling the trigger on the Gallipolis offense is quarterback Jeremy Payton. A three-year starter, the 6-foot-1, 195-pound senior completed 9 of 14 passes for 121 yards and three touchdowns while running for another score in last week’s 42-8 win over Coal Grove.

"Payton’s not only a good quarterback who can throw and run, but he’s got a lot of experience and he’s got some people who can catch the ball. That’s going to make it awful tough on our secondary," said Lutz.

Payton’s targets are speedster Heath Rothgeb (6-0, 160) at split end and athletic Jeff Mullins (6-3, 220) at tight end. The wingback is Alex Saunders (6-0, 220) who is the son of head coach Brent Saunders.

Making the passing game even more deadly is the running game. Last week the Blue Devils rushed for 203 yards with senior T. R. Rogers (5-11, 170) getting 58 yards on nine carries and junior fullback Ike Simmons (6-3, 185) had 55 more on eight tries.

Rogers was a member of the Gallipolis 4×100 meter relay team that qualified for the state meet last spring.

"Their backs aren’t real big, but they both have speed and quickness. When Rogers turns the corner, he’s tough to catch," Lutz said.

The backs may be small, but they’ll have no problem hiding behind the offensive line. Kyle Forgey (6-1, 275) is the center, the guards are Jared Bryan (6-0,190) and Aaron Burnett (5-8, 230), and the tackles T. J. Frasher (6-2, 245) and J. T. Spencer-Howell (6-1, 200).

Bryan was the team’s most valuable player last season as a junior.

The offense isn’t the only concern for the Fighting Tigers. Lutz said the Blue Devils defense doesn’t have a lot of size, but their speed and quickness have permitted only one score against the first team.

Bryan is the main force on defense, but he gets plenty of help from Saunders as his running mate at linebacker.

The defensive front has Simmons and Clayton Wood (6-4, 200) at the ends, Henry Sloan (5-10, 170) and Ryan Butcher (6-0, 200) sharing one tackle spot and Spencer-Howell on the other side, with Nick Reed (5-6, 155) at nose guard.

"They’re not big, but they’re awful quick. They create a lot of havoc for your blocking assignments," Lutz said.

Another area of strength for the Blue Devils is the kicking game which is handled by Payton as well as his quarterback duties. Payton averages between 35 to 40 yards punting, kicks off to the 5-yard line, and is accurate with a strong leg on his placekicking.

Ironton won last year’s game 40-0, but beat the Blue Devils only 15-14 two years ago at Gallipolis.

"We’ve never played well up there, even back when we were in the SEOAL," said Lutz. "And this is a much better team than we played last year. They have 17 or 18 lettermen who started at least one way. They have a lot of experience."