Ironton ‘Ds’ it up

Published 12:57 am Sunday, September 14, 2008

On a night when the offense wasn’t clicking, the defense was sticking.

The Ironton Fighting Tigers turned up the heat on defense as they beat the rival Ashland (Ky.) Tomcats 18-6 on a muggy night at Tanks Memorial Stadium.

Despite three turnovers and a couple of botched scoring opportunities, Ironton beat the Tomcats for the 17th straight time in this series that dates more than 100 years.

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“We just played ugly on offense. We had too many mistakes,” said defensive back and running back Major Brice. “Our defense was great. We really got after them.”

The defense held the Ashland running game to 110 yards and only five passing. The stingy defense was needed to overcome a lost fumble at the Ashland five-yard line and a dropped touchdown pass.

Ironton coach Bob Lutz, who is 28-4 lifetime against Ashland, was pleased with the defense was only shook his head in frustration with the offense.

“We blocked the wrong guy. We ran the wrong hole. The biggest thing was taking care of the ball. We wasted too many (scoring) opportunities,” said Ironton coach Bob Lutz. “We didn’t seem to play with much emotion.”

Ironton (3-1) wasted little time getting on the scoreboard. One the Fighting Tigers third play, quarterback Johnathon Schweickart hit Lukas Morris with a long pass for a 49-yard touchdown play and it was 6-0.

Chance Freeman picked off a Drew Royalty pass and ran it back 20 yards to the Ashland 25. A 19-yard run by fullback Keith Wetzel got the ball down to the 5-yard line, but Ironton fumbled the snap and Ashland recovered at the 6-yard line.

Ironton fumbled the snap five times and lost two.

“I don’t know about the fumbles. We haven’t fumbled a snap all year, even in practice. It was really humid. (Ashland) said they had trouble with the moisture on the ball,” said Lutz.

A drive that began on the final play of the first quarter spilled over into the second quarter and totaled eight overall, the final a 9-yard pass from Schweickart to Morris at the 9:07 mark that pushed Ironton’s lead to 12-0.

“If you can get (Morris) the ball he can run with it,” said Lutz. “He’s like (Michael) Lamb. We finally got (Lamb) the ball late.”

Tyler Walker of Ashland recovered a fumbled Ironton snap at the 12-yard line and fullback Josh Alber scored on the next play to slice the lead in half at 12-6. The conversion kick was blocked.

But the Tomcats (1-2) never threatened the rest of the game.

“I don’t think this is a great Ironton team, but it’s a good Ironton team. I think they are much better than last season,” said Ashland coach Leon Hart.

“Our kids played physical and weren’t intimidated by them, but Ironton’s defensive front was very good all night long.”

Ironton got an insurance score with 8:59 to play on a 2-yard run by Freeman capping a 52-yard, 10-play drive. A 26-yard pass to Lamb keyed the march.

The Fighting Tigers finished with 244 total yards. Wetzel ran for 65 yards and Freeman 64. Schweickart threw for 84 yards even with a couple of dropped passes.

Ironton will face its toughest test of the season with a visit next Friday to Logan, the preseason favorites to win the Southeastern Ohio Athletic League.

“We played great on defense, but we’ve got to get better. Logan is going to be better than (Ashland),” said nose guard Tony Murphy.