Fighting Tigers #8216;pass#8217; key test
IRONTON — With Chillicothe poised to shut down the Ironton running game, Ironton coach Bob Lutz threw a few wrinkles at the Cavaliers defense.
And a few passes, too.
Ironton’s offense the last two weeks has been predominantly 6-foot, 265-pound junior fullback Tony Murphy and his punishing running style.
But with eight and nine players stacked in the box, Ironton used a more wide-open offense instead of its T-formation en route to a 34-9 win over Chillicothe.
“We spread out our three best receivers who can run pretty well. They can catch the ball and they’re tough to cover,” said Lutz. “Our quarterback did a good job getting them the ball and our offensive line did a pretty decent job of giving him time to throw.”
Quarterback Jon Schweickart was 8 of 12 passing for 125 yards, all in the first half.
In the second half, Ironton went back to pounding the ball as Murphy gained 41 of his 71 yards and the Fighting Tigers ran for 102 of their 143 yards. Murphy also scored four touchdowns on the night.
“There wasn’t any secret what we were going to do in the second half. We still planned to run the ball,” said Lutz.
One major key for Ironton coming into the game was to contain Cavaliers’ quarterback Caleb Knights who threw for more than 300 yards in a 48-14 win last year.
Knights was 13 of 21 for 149 yards — mostly on dump passes and screens — and was intercepted once.
The running game was limited to 79 yards with Knights netting 35 yards on 13 carries.
“The only play they hurt us with was a few screens. Other than that we did a pretty good job,” said Lutz. “We’re getting better. We’re not there yet, but we’re starting to get there.”
It was Ironton’s third straight win after two losses and left them tied for first place in the Southeastern Ohio Athletic League at 2-0.
“We did a better job of getting in the right place. This was probably our best defensive game so far,” said senior linebacker Wes Runyon.
Ironton began its first scoring drive at the end of the first quarter and covered 83 yards in nine plays. The drive culminated on a 1-yard run by Murphy with 8:55 left in the half.
The Fighting Tigers went 75 yards in eight plays on their next possession to score. A 40-yard pass from Schweickart to Marc Carter keyed the drive and Murphy ran 4 yards to score.
A 32-yard screen pass from Caleb Knights to fullback Zach Ray got the Cavaliers to the Ironton 46 and led to a 37-yard field goal by Drew Basil as time expired.
Chillicothe punted early in the second half from the 48. The ball hit at the 20, took a high hop and Carter grabbed the ball, started to run right, cut back to his left and raced down the sideline 85 yards for the touchdown to make it 21-3 with 8:09 on the clock.
The Cavaliers then put together their only real drive of the game as they went 76 yards in 16 plays that included a 2-yard run by Ray on a fourth-and-2 at the Ironton 10-yard line.
“We had a feeling he was going to break out and make some big plays,” said Lutz. “We were finally able to get him in the open field where he could do some damage.”
Knights was tackled for a 7-yard loss by Murphy, but a screen to Donta Thompson went for 14 yards and Ray scored on the next play.
The conversion play failed as the snap to Knights bounced and he was tackled for a loss.
Ironton put the game on ice with an 87-yard, 14-play march. Murphy ran 10 yards for the score.
Carter picked off a Knights’ pass on the next play and two 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalties put the ball at the Cavaliers’ 13. Murphy scored three plays later.
Carter finished with four receptions for 57 yards and Chance Freeman had 50 yards on two catches.
Ironton visits Marietta this week and travels to Gallipolis the following week.