Ironton faces Portsmouth in heated rivalry

Published 12:00 am Thursday, October 14, 2004

From year to year, not much changes when Ironton plays Portsmouth. And that is even more true this season concerning Portsmouth.

The Fighting Tigers beat Portsmouth 24-12 last season, but Ironton has only three starters returning from that game while Portsmouth has a combined 12 veterans back on offense and defense.

Two other starters, Tyler Clifford and Mike Purdy, are out due to injuries.

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Experience could be a key factor when Ironton takes on the Trojans Friday night at Spartan Stadium.

Ironton comes into the game 7-0 and looking to lock up first place in Region 15 of Division IV in the postseason playoff ratings. Portsmouth, 5-2, needs a win to help gain a home game in the playoffs.

"Portsmouth is an aggressive team and they'll turn up the intensity level for us," Ironton coach Bob Lutz said. "They have an explosive offense with a lot of weapons. Defensively, they just come at you."The Trojans have size up front and plenty of experience on offense.

Chris Chabot (6-4, 230) is the center, Justin Skaggs (5-11, 192) and Randy Phipps (5-10, 170) at the guards, Kyle Irwin (5-10, 220) and Michael Hickman (6-3, 220) the tackles, and Andy Click (6-0, 190) the tight end.

All six are seniors with Chabot and Irwin returning starters.

Also back on offense is flanker Justin Nelson (5-9, 150), quarterback J.R. Glockner (5-11, 180) and tailback Andrew Newman (6-1,190). All three are seniors.

The fullback is senior Brad Higgins (5-11,190) with junior Steve Carr (5-11, 170) splitting the playing time. The split end is junior A.J. Johnson (5-10, 145).

Newman, who ran 40 times for a career-high 248 yards, leads the Trojans with 990 yards on 158 carries for a 6.3 average. He has scored 13 touchdowns.

"Newman has pretty good speed and he runs hard. He's improved over last season. He's a good back," Lutz said.

Glockner is 70 of 136 for 1,129 yards and 14 touchdowns. He has been intercepted five times.

Nelson is Glockner's favorite target with 39 receptions for 740 yards and nine scores. He caught six of Glockner's seven completions in a 48-23 win over Indianapolis Scecina on Saturday and is on the verge of becoming Portsmouth's first-ever 1,000-yard receiver.

"Glockner throws a good ball and Nelson has some speed. They're a pretty good tandem. No one has been able to slow them down all year," Lutz said.

Portsmouth relies on an attacking 4-4 defense that features seven returning starters.

Hickman and massive Dave Rammel (6-1, 320) are the tackles with Higgins and Phipps the ends. All but Rammel are returning starters.

All the linebackers remain intact from last season. Inside are senior Derek Wales (6-4, 210) and Skaggs with seniors Jeff Pendleton (5-9,180) and Nick Toppins (6-1, 195) on the outside.

The secondary has junior Clifton Alexander (5-11, 152) and Nelson at the corners and Newman is the safety.

"Portsmouth has always played us tough defensively. They try to take away the run and force you to throw the ball. But it's not so easy to throw because they put so much pressure on your quarterback," Lutz said.

Portsmouth coach Curt Clifford expects his team to be ready for the Fighting Tigers.

"Ironton is Ironton. What else is there to say," Clifford said.