City excited about state title bid

Published 12:00 am Friday, December 3, 1999

It’s spreading through the school like wildfire – and win or lose, Ironton Fighting Tiger spirit is here to stay.

Friday, December 03, 1999

It’s spreading through the school like wildfire – and win or lose, Ironton Fighting Tiger spirit is here to stay.

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"How awesome does it get for these kids, you know?" principal Larry Stall said, grinning broadly and sporting a solid-orange tie. "This is as special as it gets for this team."

They did it in 1979, and again in 1989, so the unspoken thought among students, faculty and community members is finishing the tradition. But, Stall said he has a slightly different perspective.

"I believe it’s more like a continuation of the tradition of bringing home another state championship for the community," he said, adding that the 10 seniors on the varsity football squad get visibly emotional when talking about the possibility. "I think that’s what they really want to do for these two coaches, give them the 1999 championship title."

The community is as appreciative and excited as the students and players, Ironton Mayor Bob Cleary said.

"It’s been real exciting for the whole city, being able to watch the Fighting Tigers get so far," Cleary said. "And, regardless of the outcome of this game, they are champions for the way they have played all year. We just hope for the best come game time."

An air of excitement lingered in the high school gym in the early hours of today’s school day.

Freshman student and cheerleader Amanda Elswick, her face painted with tiger paws and school spirit, said she is ready to go to Massillon and cheer the team on from the stands.

"I’m pretty excited about all of this," she said. "It’s good to see our players have something like this, and, coming from a small town like Ironton, it’s nice to have something to look forward to. I definitely have confidence in them."

For freshman football player Daniel Murphy, Tiger football is a family affair he hopes to have the opportunity to continue next year.

With two brothers, Andre Murphy and Maurice Murphy, on this year’s undefeated Fighting Tigers team, and a third brother, Bryant Carter, who helped bring home the 1979 state title, Murphy said he couldn’t possibly look forward to the game more.

"I’m glad they are doing something like this for their community and for themselves," Murphy said. "This is big. It’s like a tradition now, with 1979 and 1989, and, we hope, 1999, too."

If the tradition continues tonight, it will be an inspiration to all the members of the freshman team who eagerly await their turn next year, freshman J.T. Holt said.

"If we win, next year, we could be playing on a team that is coming from a state championship," he said. "That will definitely be a motivation to try and do it again."

A senior and cheerleader, Heather Boggs came to school today with her Fighting Tiger pride prominently displayed.

"I’m excited," Miss Boggs said. "It’s my last year, and I think we can do it. I have faith in our boys. I think we can do it."

But to win, the undefeated football team needs to go into the game against Sandusky Perkins with more than just their skills.

They need the support of the student body, and the entire Ironton community, Miss Boggs said.

"So far everyone is doing a really good job," she said. "Everyone’s getting involved. As long as they continue to put out the orange and black and go to the game, they’ll let the Tigers know they’re behind them whether they win or lose."

The community is involved, and the work it took the team to get to this point is on everyone’s mind, Ironton resident Jim Weber said.

"I think what sometimes gets overlooked is the effort this took," Weber said. "These coaches and players work hard, through two-a-days (practices) and through school. They work hard most of the year to get here. Everyone needs to get behind this team."

To truly support the team, however, more is needed than just attending the game, said Jessica Gillum, a sophomore.

"They need to be loud," Miss Gillum said. "They should cheer with the cheerleaders and not just if they are winning. If they are losing, be loud, cheer, scream and stay on your feet."

Although only a freshman, David Bensinger still knows what school spirit is. He plans on going to Massillon tomorrow to see his classmates in action.

"I say we’ll win," Bensinger said. "The team’s pretty pumped up. And it pumps them up to see all their students cheering for them. I think Coach (Bob) Lutz can get them pretty pumped up without us there. But it’s better with the community’s support."

And even if not able to make the drive to see the game Saturday, showing support at can still make a difference, said Josh Osborne, a ninth-grader.

"I’m not going, but I will be rooting for them at home," Osborne said. "It’s great – the first time in 10 years. And rooting for your team shows spirit and pride. It shows respect for the team, the coaches and for the school."

But, win or lose, the team is a source of pride for the school and the community, freshman Jaime Blevins pointed out.

"They don’t have anything to put their heads down about if they don’t win," Blevins said. "They didn’t think they’d make it this far, and look where we are now. I do hope we win; it will show everyone what Ironton is all about."