Ironton prepares for return to Southeastern Ohio League

Published 12:00 am Monday, July 3, 2006

Here they come again.

After 22 seasons, the Ironton Fighting Tigers are returning to the Southeastern Ohio Athletic League.

Ironton left the SEOAL following the 1984-85 school year to join the newly-former Ohio-Kentucky Athletic Conference which featured six area schools: Ironton, Portsmouth, Ashland, Ky., Russell, Ky., Greenup County, Ky., and Boyd County, Ky.

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The new league produced bigger gates and shorter travel, but it collapsed after the 1992 season when Russell and Boyd County opted not to play Ironton in football as one of their non-district games.

Since then, Ironton has been playing an independent schedule that has produced new opponents on a regular basis to go with longtime rivals such as Portsmouth, Ashland and Wheelersburg.

But Ironton isn’t the only team joining the SEOAL. Portsmouth, Chillicothe and Zanesville will make a 10-team league as they join Athens, Gallipolis, Jackson, Logan, Marietta and Warren.

Marietta and Warren joined the SEOAL after Ironton left. River Valley was a member of the league on a short-term basis before switching to the Ohio Valley Conference.

Ironton previously was in the SEOAL from 1968-1984. The Fighting Tigers posted a 16-11-1 football record in the league under Bob Bruney and 82-3-1 from 1972-84 with Bob Lutz as the head coach.

The biggest concern for all teams, not just Ironton, is travel. The league covers more area than any league in the state.

“The travel isn’t much different than what we’re doing now,” former Ironton athletic director Terry Parker said in an interview several months ago. “League officials have thought through it and considered the immense travel.”

To help with the travel problems, divisions have been established with playoffs for the league title between division winners.

“The number one priority was to limit travel and have level competition,” Parker said. “This will give the kids a chance to be all-league. They haven’t had that opportunity.”

The SEOAL schedule has caused some teams to be dropped from the football schedule. Ironton will no longer player Belfry, Ky., Columbus DeSales or Portsmouth West. Ashland goes off the schedule this year — the teams will scrimmage — but returns next season.

Each team will play seven league games, four in its division and rotate the other three games with the other division. Some teams will play a four-year schedule and others a two-year series.

In basketball, a preview will be held at a centralized site. Teams will play opponents in their division twice and teams from the other division once. A playoff between division champions will be held at the end of the season.

The boys will play league games on Tuesdays and Fridays while girls play on Wednesdays and Saturdays.

Baseball, softball and volleyball will have teams play opponents in their division three times and conclude with a one-day playoff between the divisions.

Golf, tennis and track will have a one-day league meet to determine the champion.