Fighting Tigers hit the road

Published 12:00 am Saturday, September 29, 2007

Expect the unexpected.

That’s what Ironton coach Bob Lutz may be facing this week when the Ironton Fighting Tigers travel to play the Marietta Tigers in a Southeastern Ohio Athletic League game.

Lutz knows what to expect from the Marietta Tigers, he just doesn’t know what to expect from his Fighting Tigers.

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“You’ve got a pretty good team at home and you’re making a long bus trip. You never know how you’re going to respond to that, especially with a young and inexperienced group like we have,” said Lutz.

Marietta is 3-2 on the season and tied for first in the SEOAL at 2-0. Ironton is also 3-2 and 2-0.

Marietta has wins over Class 3-A Parkersburg (W.Va.) South, 38-20, Warren 40-7, and Athens 41-11.

The two losses were 22-19 to Cambridge and 42-12 to New Philadelphia, teams that are No. 4 and No. 5, respectively, in the Region 11 of Division III in the computer rankings.

“They’re a Division II school so they play a lot of bigger schools. They’ve had a good schedule and held their own,” said Lutz.

Marietta likes to spread the field with the shotgun formation but uses a good balance between the pass and run.

“They mix it up on you and keep you off-balance,” said Lutz. “Their quarterback is a good athlete with a good arm and he’s a lefthander, so that’s a different look for our defense.

“They have a bunch of receivers who can run and catch the ball and their backs run pretty well. They’re better than most of the teams we’ve faced.”

The quarterback is 6-foot-3, 160-pound junior Cody Westbrook and his receiving corps is comprised of split ends Sean Munfield (5-11, 160), Cole Biehl (5-10, 150), and Zane Eschbaugh (6-0, 180), and flankers Johnny Groom (5-10, 150) and Billy Grizer (5-10, 155).

The running backs are led by veteran Mike Shields (5-8, 165), Anthony Tabler (5-11, 170) and Perry Wheeler (6-2, 160).

Up front are center Paul Mireles (6-1, 240), guards Tom Beringer (5-7, 215) and Murphy Mitchem (5-10, 250), and tackles Stratton Johnson (6-0, 225) and Lance Thompson (6-0, 235).

Mumfield, Mitchem, Mireles, Johnson, Groom, and Shields are all returning starters from last year when Marietta lost 28-20 in overtime at Ironton.

The defense is led by senior defensive end Ash Bloomingdale (5-11, 185) and junior linebacker Jared Ross (5-9, 165).

“They rely on their speed and quickness. They’re very athletic, especially in the secondary,” said Lutz. “They like to come after you and put pressure on your offense.”

The other end is Charlie Becker (6-3, 265), Dan Nicholson (5-8, 230) and Connar Hess (6-0, 240) split the nose guard duties, and the tackles are Beringer and Stratton.

Groom plays along side Ross at linebacker, Tabler and Biehl are the cornerbacks, and Munfield and Wheeler are the safeties.

The Fighting Tigers not only need a win to stay in the race for the SEOAL championship, but a win would boost their chances to qualify for the Division IV postseason playoffs.