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Gaiters runs Zanesville by Ironton

Bryan Gaiters is known as a sprinter in track. He was more of a “distance” runner Friday night.

Every time the Ironton Fighting Tigers got close, Gaiters used his 4.4 sprinter’s speed to put distance between the Zanesville Blue Devils and Ironton.

With runs covering 75, 72, 37, and 40 yards, Gaiters rushed 25 times for 323 yards and five touchdowns as Zanesville pulled away late to beat Ironton 45-22 in a Southeastern Ohio Athletic League game.

“I don’t think I’ve ever been in a game with so many big plays,” said Ironton coach Bob Lutz. “Every time we got close, their guy (Gaiters) made a big play. He’s pretty good. He can scoot.”

Zanesville (7-2, 5-1 SEOAL) had 375 total yards with 364 coming on the ground. Ironton (5-4, 4-2) amassed 379 total yards but was victimized by two long interception returns for touchdowns along with a fake punt late in the game by Gaiters for a score.

“We played pretty good defense at times. We had people in the right place and just didn’t make the play,” said Lutz.

“I don’t know how many times we had them third and 7, third and 8, even once third and 15, and they got the first down. We’ve got to tackle better.”

The loss virtually ended Ironton’s hopes of sharing the league title and crippled their playoff hopes. The Fighting Tigers need a win at Logan next Friday to secure a playoff spot.

Gaiters had a 37-yard scoring run on the first series of the game and a 1-yard plunge at the 1:07 mark as Zanesville went up 12-0.

Ironton drove to the Blue Devils’ 28, but Kyle Gladden grabbed a pass that bounced off the hands of an Ironton’ receiver and returned it 76 yards for a touchdown and an 18-0 lead.

The Fighting Tigers got the ball back at their own 45 with 1:04 left in the half.

A 43-yard pass to Major Brice put the ball at the 2-yard line and two plays later Jon Schweickart passed 1-yard to Marc Carter for a touchdown with nine seconds left on the clock.

Schweickart’s kick made it 18-7 at the break.

Ironton grabbed the momentum when Gaiters fumbled a punt at the Zanesville 22. Tony Murphy ran 16 yards on the first play and, after a penalty, Schweickart went 8yards on fourth down for the score and it was 18-14.

But two plays after the ensuing kickoff, Gaiters bolted 75 yards and it was 25-14.

On the strength of a 48-yard pass from Schweickart to Carter, Ironton was knocking at the door again at the Zanesville 6. Murphy had back-to-back 3-yard runs for the touchdown and Corey Dyer’s conversion run had Ironton down 25-22 with 11:05 to play.

On the first play after the kickoff, Gaiters did it again with a 72-yard jaunt and it was 31-22.

Ironton moved into Zanesville territory again only to fumble the ball away. The Fighting Tigers forced the Blue Devils to punt, but Gaiters ran with the ball, leaped an Ironton player near the 10-yard line, and completed a 40-yard scoring run and a 39-22 lead.

Refusing to quit, Ironton marched right back to the Zanesville 15, but J.T. Bunting picked off a pass in the flats and ran it back 90 y ads for the final score.

Keith Wetzel led Ironton with 99 yards on 10 carries and Schweickart was 17 of 25 for 184 yards. Carter had five catches for 91 yards.