Fighting Tigers facing playoff-bound Buckeyes

Published 11:51 pm Thursday, October 16, 2008

It’s a non-league game, but the magnitude far exceeds a conference title.

Plenty of playoff points and favorable positioning are at stake when the Ironton Fighting Tigers travel to play the Nelsonville-York Buckeyes Friday night at Dave Boston Sr. Stadium.

Nelsonville-York (7-1) is leading Region 19 of Division V and needs a win over Ironton to secure not only a home game, but the Buckeyes could lock up first place in the region’s final ratings.

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Ironton (5-3) is in the same situation. Beating the Buckeyes would give Ironton enough points to lock up a home game in the first round of the playoffs. A win in the final two games could give Ironton a first place finish in Region 15 of Division IV.

“It’s right there in front of us. If we win, we get a home game. If we lose, we might have to travel. We just have to do things right and hold onto the ball and see what happens,” said Ironton coach Bob Lutz.

The Buckeyes own a 30-28 win over Meigs who remains in contention for the Division IV playoffs in Region 15. Meigs owns wins this season over Coal Grove and Fairland.

N-Y is a run-oriented team that features senior running back Derek Arnold.

Arnold, a 5-foot-10, 182-pound junior, ran for 254 yards and three touchdowns to lead a Buckeyes’ 43-7 rout of Belpre two weeks ago.

Running the offense is senior quarterback Michael Barrick (5-11, 190). His receiving corps is comprised of Mark Campbell (5-10, 140), tight end Conner Bunting (6-2, 165) and split ends Josh Dickerson (5-10, 160) and Chance Fox (5-9, 150).

“Arnold is a good back. He has good speed, good balance, and he runs hard. I like their quarterback, too. He’s a good athlete and he has an accurate arm,” said Lutz.

Up front Todd Dennis (5-11, 182) is the center, Josh Lyon (5-8, 210) and Nick Hunter (5-10, 195) are the guards, and Chris Hunter (5-11, 235) and Randy Dennis (6-3, 225) the tackles.

N-Y has eight offensive and seven defensive starters returning.

“They’re not that big up front, but they come off the ball and they all move well,” said Lutz.

The Buckeyes’ defense likes to create turnovers and set up the offense.

Todd Dennis is the nose guard, Randy Dennis and Lyon the tackles, and Thomas Williams (6-0, 170) and Austin MacDonald (6-1, 185) are the ends.

Scott Cunningham (5-11, 185) and Arnold share the middle linebacker position. The outside backers are Patrick Norway (5-11, 175) and Isaiah Andrews (5-7, 152).

The secondary has Zach Hook (5-10, 164) and Fox at the corners with Dickerson the safety.

Last week, Fox returned an interception for a touchdown in the closing seconds as the Buckeyes beat rival Athens 22-14.

“Their secondary is quick and athletic. They can get right up on you to cover,” said Lutz. “Their linemen put pressure on you and their linebackers look to fill the holes.”