Redmen look to keep ball from Ironton

Published 12:00 am Thursday, October 30, 2003

Rock Hill Redmen head coach Bob McCollister wants to be greedy. You see, he doesn't want to share the football.

McCollister said time of possession could be a key factor as the Redmen play the Ironton Fighting Tigers at 7 p.m. Saturday at Tanks Memorial Stadium in the Region 15 Division IV postseason playoffs.

"You have to control the ball against Ironton and you can't turn it over. You can't give them more and more chances or they'll just keep scoring," McCollister said.

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Rock Hill (7-3) will look to utilize all its offensive weapons to keep Ironton from reaching its 32 points per game average.

Tailback James Russell and quarterback Steven Daily have each accounted for 1,000 yards.

Russell enters the game with 208 carries for 1,021 yards and nine touchdowns to pace the Rock Hill ground game. Daily has completed 63 of 139 passes for 1,002 yards and eight touchdowns.

Fullback Dan Mullins has 64 attempts for 414 yards and a 6.5 yards per carry average.

Roger Joseph is the leading receiver with 28 catches for 495 yards and four TDs.

"We have to have good balance," McCollister said. "We can't be one dimensional. We have to keep them off-balance."

Ironton head coach Bob Lutz said Rock Hill's offensive balance presents quite a challenge for a defense that has allowed just 86 points all season.

"Their tailback has good speed and knows how to knife through a defense, but he still has the speed to get outside," Lutz said. "Their quarterback has a good arm and some people who can catch the ball. They make it hard to focus on any single guy."

Ironton, 9-1, utilizes a plethora of running backs in its offense.

Fullback Jarod Murphy has 163 carries for 944 yards and 17 touchdowns. Derique Bacon, who sat out last week with an ankle injury, has 56 attempts for 481 yards and an 8.6 yards per carry average. He has five TDs.

Marcus Williams has 82 rushes for 478 yards (5.8 ypc) including 124 last week. Marland Turner has added 143 yards on 27 tries for a 5.3 average.

Quarterback Josh Sands hasn't had to throw very often, but he has completed 50 percent of his attempts. Sands is 30 of 60 for 539 yards - 18 yards per completion - and six touchdowns.

Nick Collins leads all receivers with 16 receptions for 349 yards and five scores.

McCollister doesn't see much difference in this Ironton team than others of the past.

"They're a fairly typical defense from coach Lutz. You don't see a lot of 5-2 defenses. They play normal 50 stunts and do them right," McCollister said.

"They're sound and they come off the ball. They're going to make you beat them. They aren't going to give you anything."

Lutz said Rock Hill's size is similar to other teams Ironton has played such as Pickerington North, DeSales and Belfry.

"Their inside three on defense has real good size. Watching them on film, No. 42 (Matt McFann) looks pretty good. Their linebackers and ends have good size, so it's tough to run against them," Lutz said.

The only previous meeting between the two teams was in the 1995 playoffs. Ironton won 21-0 at Portsmouth.

"When you reach the playoffs, it's a whole new season. If a team is in the playoffs, they've earned the right to be there. Everyone at this level is pretty good and you'd better play well and not turn the ball over," Lutz said.

Saturday's winner advances to the second round to meet the winner of the Bellaire and Westfall game.