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Cavs offense to test Ironton defense

The whole season might be determined at the halfway mark.

It’s only the fifth game of the season and second in the Southeastern Ohio Athletic League, but the Ironton Fighting Tigers trip to Chillicothe could go a long way to determining the league champion.

“A lot of people are saying this is the game to decide the league,” Ironton coach Merril Triplett Jr. said. “I wouldn’t say that. There’s still a lot of football to play. But I’d rather be 2-0 and 1-1.”

Ironton and the Cavaliers are 3-1 coming into the game and 1-0 in the league. The Fighting Tigers bounced Jackson 48-20 last week while Chillicothe outlasted one of the league favorites, Gallipolis, 38-33.

Chillicothe opened the season with what was a surprising win at the time as the Cavaliers beat Columbus Brookhaven 14-5.

The Cavaliers beat league foe Logan 31-21 although the game will not be counted in the SEOAL standings since they are not in the 7-game rotation.

But then Chillicothe suffered its first loss at Columbus Big Walnut, 28-7.

Although the defense has been victimized at times, the offense has been in high gear led by sophomore quarterback Caleb Knights.

The 6-foot, 163-pound Knights has been a passing machine. He has completed 85 of 112 passes on the season — that’s a sizzling 76 percent — for 1,221 yards and 10 touchdowns with just one interception.

“It will be a test for our defense,” Triplett said. “We have to contain their quarterback and keep them from making big plays. They’re a team that makes big plays.

“Their quarterback is quick and throws the ball well and he throws the ball hard. Hes another quick quarterback. That’s all we’ve seen.”

His primary target in the spread offense is senior Chris Givens, a 6-2, 191-pound senior who has great speed and leaping ability. He has given a verbal commitment to Miami, Ohio.

Givens has caught 24 passes for 567 yards and six touchdowns. He had four receptions for 107 yards and two scores in the win over Gallipolis.

The top running back is Clay Beeler (6-1, 217) who has rushed 54 times for 226 yards. He is also a receiving threat.

“They have Division I receivers who are fast and they’re going to stretch the defense and see if you can cover them,” Triplett said. “They have a big fullback who runs hard.”

Knights will spread the ball around. The second leading receiver is Steven Mallow (6-0, 202) with five catches for 98 yards.

The 4-3 defense is led by Beeler at middle linebacker along with running mates Kent Johnson (5-9, 179) ad Ron smith (6-1, 178) on the outside.

The defensive tackles are Ansel Benson (6-0, 268) and Mike Newman (6-3, 246) while the ends are Corbin Tanner (6-3, 227) and Nathan Woodworth (6-3, 174).

“They run to the football. We’ll have to play well to beat them,” Triplett said.

Givens and Isaac Steele (5-10, 170) are the cornerbacks and Stuart Beverly (6-1, 154) and Jordan Benson (6-2, 184) the safeties.

Chillicothe leads the series 13-12-4. The last meeting between the teams was 1994-95. Ironton won 12-7 at home and then lost at Chillicothe 18-14.