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Tigers pounce Purple Riders

If Friday night’s playoff game had been an election, the Ironton Fighting Tigers would have been a landslide winner.

Saturday, November 04, 2000

If Friday night’s playoff game had been an election, the Ironton Fighting Tigers would have been a landslide winner.

Ironton used a powerful running game and a smothering defense to spank the Martins Ferry Purple Riders 43-7 Friday in the Region 15 Division IV quarterfinals before a standing room only crowd at Tanks Memorial Stadium.

Ironton rushed 59 times for 330 yards and rolled up 456 total yards en route to its ninth win in 10 games this season.

The Fighting Tigers held the Purple Riders to just 32 net yards the first half – 4 on the ground – and only 115 for the game. Ironton had four interceptions.

Martins Ferry (7-4) never got its offense going until Ironton inserted its second team defense.

"We dominated the line of scrimmage and that was the difference," Ironton coach Bob Lutz said. "We were bigger, stronger, and more physical up front on both sides of the ball. If you’ve got that kind of an advantage, you’re going to see that kind of domination."

Maurice Murphy led Ironton with 99 yards rushing on nine carries and two touchdowns and he also caught a 39-yard touchdown pass.

"I thought I had a good game, but that was because of the offensive line," Murphy said. "The offensive line blocked well. The’s the key. Our line came through. They stepped it up."

Quarterback Drew Mains was 5-of-7 passing for 126 yards with Chris Frazer making two catches for 76 yards for the Fighting Tigers who had 24 first downs to just 10 for Martins Ferry.

"We just got whipped by a superior team," Martins Ferry coach Dave Bruney said. "They deserved to win the state championship last year.

"We made some mistakes and didn’t execute early, and when you don’t do that against a good team you’re going to get beat."

Despite the loss, Bruney was pleased with the Purple Riders season and third straight postseason playoff appearance.

"We’re so proud of our seniors. They’re the first group to make the playoffs three years in a row. We exceeded expectations of everyone considering we lost our quarterback the second game," Bruney said.

Junior tackle Chad Parker said Ironton was able to dominate because of its superior size and strength.

"They weren’t big up front and we made the right calls," Parker said. "Our physical size took over and we wore them down. Now we get to play next week."

Ironton will play Coshocton next Friday in the regional semifinals at a site to be determined. The Ohio High School Athletic Association will announce pairings and sites Sunday afternoon.

The game was scoreless in the first quarter although each team had a chance to score. Ironton then exploded for 30 points the second quarter.

Ironton fumbled the ball away at the Martins Ferry 46, and then Martins Ferry moved to the Ironton 12. But Erique Bacon intercepted a pass at the 5-yard line with 5:15 on the clock and Ironton was back in business.

The Fighting Tigers put together a 95-yard, 11-play drive highlighted by a 46-yard pass from Mains to Frazer to the Riders 37. Matt Kelly bulled over from a yard out and it was 7-0.

Martins Ferry went 3-and-out on its next possession and a 30-yard pass from Mains to Frazer got the ball to the 9 where Tyler Scior scored on the next play and it was 14-0.

Three plays later Mark Gleichauf batted a Mirich screen pass attempt into the air and Redgie Arden intercepted the ball as Ironton took over on the Purple Rider 10. Murphy scored on the next play and it was 21-0.

Another punt gave Ironton the ball at the Martins Ferry 49, but Ironton fumbled the ball away a few plays later at the 37.

Martins Ferry tried to go to the air again but this time Hugh Scott came up with the interception and his 11-yard return gave Ironton the ball at the Riders 42. Three plays later Mains hit Murphy on a 39-yard touchdown pass and it was 28-0 with 2::18 left in the half.

There was more bad news on the next series when a bad snap on a punt sailed over punter Chris Meeker’s head and into the end zone where he was tackled by Tyler Whaley for a safety and it was 30-0.

Ironton drove 71 yards in 12 plays – all on the ground – to start the second half with Murphy’s 6-yard run culminating the drive for a 37-0 lead.

"Our line dominated DeSales last week and came off the ball well," Ironton senior tackle Kyle Hankins said. "But this was a whole new season. The line played well tonight. We came off the ball well and I think we dominated tonight."

Martins Ferry avoided the shutout when Mirich hit Meeker on an 11-yard touchdown pass with 6:08 to play.

Ironton’s second team scored the final touchdown when Jimmy Hopper ran 6 yards with 1:46 to play.