Fighting Tigers limp into opener

Published 12:00 am Monday, August 29, 2005

If injuries are part of the game, then nearly 30 percent of Ironton's game is at a disadvantage.

Not only are there just four offensive and five defensive starters returning, two of them are hurt and another one is among the walking wounded as the Fighting Tigers prepare for a difficult season opener Friday against the Wheelersburg Pirates.

Senior running backs Darius Lewis and Eric Layne are both questionable for the opener at Tanks Memorial Stadium and two-way end Andy Colegrove is doubtful.

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"You just have to go with what you've got," Ironton coach Bob Lutz said. "We're preparing to play the game without them. If they don't play, I'm pretty sure (the team is) still going to play the game as scheduled."

Regardless of the injuries, Wheelersburg will be a tough first game for the inexperienced Fighting Tigers. The Pirates size and experience up front plus a plethora of skilled players have Lutz concerned.

"They were 11-2 last year and they've got most of their guys back," Lutz said. "They lost their quarterback, but they've got two pretty good ones.

"(John Storey) is a a good athlete and he has a good arm. The other kid (Dustin Cook) is only a sophomore, but he runs real well and he's a nice athlete. They lost a couple of good skilled kids, but there isn't much of a drop off in the ones they've got back."

Wheelersburg coach Tony Lewis knows it is a difficult opener, but he is taking a positive approach.

"It's something our kids look forward to," Lewis said. "We, as a staff, will find out physically how we'll match up with teams on our schedule because we'll be tested by Ironton as much or more so than any other team on our schedule."

Lewis is hoping to parlay his line's experience and Ironton's inexperience into a win and snap a five-game losing streak to the Fighting Tigers.

"The game is going to be won up front. Whichever team can control the game up front has the best chance to win," Lewis said. "They've done a better job in the past few years. We have to find out if we can match up with them."

If Darius Lewis is unable to play for Ironton, Dominic Murphy will fill his void on offense. Branden Sites would take the spot vacated by Eric Layne.

Regardless of who is in the Ironton backfield, coach Lewis expects the Fighting Tiger running backs to be another key element along with turnovers.

"This game comes down to execution. They've done a much better job in the past three years than we have. We've had nine turnovers and I don't think they've had any. Taking care of the football is the big key for us," coach Lewis said.

"They're backs are the premier part of their team and they do a good job blocking for each other. That's another area of strength they have."