Fighting Tigers defense faces toughest test

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, November 29, 2005

The Ironton Fighting Tigers have taken 12 tests this season. But those &#8220tests” will make Saturday's game seem more like a medical school final exam.

Ironton faces its toughest test of the season when the Fighting Tigers run head-on into the high-powered offense of the Bellaire Big Reds at 7 p.m. in the Division IV Region 15 championship game at Ohio University's Peden Stadium.

Coach Bob Lutz is hoping that last week's defensive effort against the offensive-minded Westfall Mustangs will help prepare Ironton for the Big Reds and the Prince of Bellaire, quarterback Nate Davis.

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&#8220We played good defense and made plays when we had to against Westfall, but Davis is the best quarterback we've seen all season. We'll have more than we can handle with him,” Lutz said.

Last week, Ironton had four interceptions, two quarterback sacks and three knockdowns in the 21-7 win over Westfall.

All four Ironton defensive backs - Chad Miller, Eric Layne, Vernon Wilson and Dominic Murphy - had an interception. Brandon Walker had two sacks and one knockdown while John Pemberton and Andy Colegrove also knocked down a pass.

&#8220We played pretty good defense, but we'll have to play a lot better against Bellaire. We know they have a really good quarterback. We saw him two years ago,” Walker said.

In the regional semifinals two years ago, Bellaire beat Ironton 20-14 in overtime on an 18-yard pass by Davis to Ryan Padgett in the extra period. In that game Davis was 12 of 32 for 183 yards.

Davis was 12 of 31 for 147 yards last week in the 35-14 win over Columbus Hartley. Davis has now thrown for more than 7,000 yards in his career.

The winner of Saturday's game will advance to the state semifinals at a site to be determined. Based on geographics, Ironton would probably play the winner of the Germantown Valley View and Lemon-Monroe game.

If Bellaire wins, the Big Reds would probably play the winner of the Youngstown Mooney and Canton Catholic game.