Ironton ground game faces pass-happy Westfall

Published 4:08 am Wednesday, October 29, 2008

With the ball in quarterback D.J. Cain’s hands, the Westfall Mustangs have generated more than 37 points a game.

Ah, the trick is not to let him get his hands on the ball.

The Ironton Fighting Tigers will need to make Cain disappear Friday night as they host the Mustangs in the Division IV Region 15 quarterfinals at Tanks Memorial Stadium.

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Cain started for two seasons at Columbus Harvest Prep but has been the Mustangs starter the past two years.

The problem with Cain is two-fold. Cain can throw the ball and Cain can run the ball. On the season, he is 80-for-167 for 1,586 yards and 19 touchdowns with six interceptions. He has rushed 142 times for 869 yards and nine scores.

“Their quarterback is a good athlete and he puts pressure on your defense because you have to respect him as a runner and passer,” said Ironton coach Bob Lutz. “The other big thing is they have two other backs who run pretty hard. It’s not a one-man show.”

Westfall’s running game also has two other runners. Ben Cline has 67 attempts for 483 yards and eight TDs while Tyler Cobb had 59 tries for 328 yards and seven scores.

Cline leads the team in receptions with 30 for 755 yards and nine touchdowns. Bryant Gibson had19 catches for 386 yards and three scores.

But Cain is the stick that stirs the Westfall offense and, obviously, if you stop one, he hurts you with the other. So the only way to prevent the senior quarterback from doing duel damage is to control the football.

And that is what Ironton likes to do best.

Ironton’s backfield trio of Chance Freeman, Major Brice and Keith Wetzel has combined for nearly 1,800 yards on the ground.

“We’d like to keep the ball out of their hands,” said Lutz. “But the big key is not to turn the ball over and finish our drives.”

Freeman has 882 yards on 123 attempts for 7.2 yards per carry average with 13 touchdowns. Brice has 462 yards on 52 carries for an 8.9 average and five TDs while Wetzel has logged the pigskin 89 times for 427 yards (4.9 ypc) and eight scores.

As a team, Ironton has 2,530 yards and 6.0 yards per carry average. But this team can do more than just run.

When teams try to stack the line of scrimmage, quarterback Johnathon Schweickart has completed nearly 54 percent of his passes — 55 of 102 — for 1,025 yards and 10 touchdowns. He has been intercepted just three times compared to eight last season.

The two main targets are tight end Michael Lamb with 22 receptions for 456 yards and two scores and Lukas Morris with 20 catches for 442 yards and six TDs.

Schweickart also does all the kicking, averaging 38.4 yards per punt and converting 26-of-31 extra points plus 3-for-3 on field goals.