THE HUDDLE: Ironton, Ashland limp into rivalry

Published 12:00 am Friday, September 14, 2007

This is not how they remembered this rivalry.

Two years ago, Ironton held on to beat the Ashland (Ky.) Tomcats 27-26 on a missed field goal to end the game.

The longtime rivals only scrimmaged last year, but the rivalry resumes at Putnam Stadium Friday night with an unusual situation.

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Both teams come into the game 0-2. Ironton hasn’t been 0-2 since 1972 when Bob Lutz took over as the Ironton coach, and Ashland hasn’t started 0-2 since 1996.

In 1996, Ironton had its only losing season under Lutz at 3-7, but one of the wins was 21-6 against Ashland in the season opener.

Lutz did not coach last season but returned this year and is looking at a major rebuilding job. The Fighting Tigers lost all but two starters and have the most inexperienced lineup in the past 35 years.

Ashland is in a similar position, but not quite as difficult. The Tomcats have five seniors, five juniors and a sophomore on offense. The defense started just three seniors, five juniors, two sophomores and a freshman.

“We can’t worry too much about how things are going with Ashland. We’ve got enough to worry about with ourselves,” said Lutz.

“We know they’re struggling, but so are we. One of us is going to be happy on Friday, I just hope it’s us. But they’ve got two awful good backs. If we don’t stop them, things won’t be too happy on our sidelines.”

Leading the Tomcats are running back turned quarterback Matt Thomas, a 6-foot-1, 175-pound senior, and sophomore running back Rashard Carter (5-9, 165).

“Thomas is an athlete and he makes things happen. He’s a threat running or throwing,” said Lutz. “Carter has a lot of speed and quickness. He’s a threat to go the distance any time he touches the ball.”

In a 34-21 loss to Pikeville last week, Thomas ran for 102 yards including a 79-yard scoring run. He was 6-of-11 passing for 73 yards.

However, sophomore Drew Royalty played some at quarterback in the second half with Thomas moving to running back.

Carter ran for 228 yards in a 23-20 season-opening loss to Raceland and had 55 yards on 13 attempts against Pikeville.

Ashland finished with 232 total yards last week, but only 82 in the first half.

A key play offensively for the Tomcats is senior tight end Ryan Bonner (6-5, 231) who is utilized as a blocker and pass receiver.

Stacey Bester (6-3, 260) is the center, Josh Salisbury (6-0, 245) and Cody Fitchpatrick are the guards, and Justin Pennington (6-3, 280) and Devin Hale (6-1,215) the tackles.

The flankers are Adam Johnson (5-11, 165) and Corey Sparks (5-9, 170). Daniel McDavid (6-1, 180) is the slot.

“They’ve got good size up front and some skilled players. They’ve moved the ball in both their games,” said Lutz.

The Tomcats use a 4-4 defensive alignment led by Bonner at defensive end and Kyle Poplin (6-0, 165) and Josh Alber (5-8, 180) at the inside linebacker spots.

Salisbury and T.R. Hush (6-6, 175) share a tackle slot along side Evan Holbrook (5-10, 1210). The other end will be freshman Joe Mautz (5-9, 194) or Aaron Moore (6-2, 200).

The outside linebackers are Tyler Slone (5-11,160) and Dominic Demartino (5-10, 165), Thomas and McDavid are the corners, and Josh Miller (5-10, 160) is the safety.

“They’re not real big on defense, but they get a lot of penetration and they get to the football,” said Lutz.