Ironton punishes Mustangs

Published 12:23 am Sunday, November 2, 2008

Ironton is known for its smash-mouth football. Friday night the Westfall Mustangs got to know it up close and personal.

All three Ironton running backs ran for more than 100 yards and the Fighting Tigers rushed 61 times for 440 yards as they pounded out a 41-31 win over Westfall in the Region 15 Division IV playoff quarterfinals.

“We beat them physically. We punished them,” said Ironton coach Bob Lutz. “We have a big offensive line, we have ends that will block, and backs who run hard.”

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Junior fullback Keith Wetzel carried 29 times for 156 yards and scored five touchdowns. Wetzel was surprised at the number of rushing attempts.

“It didn’t feel like it,” said Wetzel. “The line blocked well, we got positive yardage on almost every play, and we executed very well.”

Senior halfback Chance Freeman ran 18 times for 154 yards and a touchdown while senior halfback Major Brice had 10 attempts for 106 yards.

Lutz said Ironton’s offensive line of ends Michael Lamb, Lukas Morris and Jon Monnig, tackles Sam Cramblit and Geoff White, guards Tony Murphy and Robbie Webb, and center Taylor Barker overpowered the Westfall defensive line that stacked eight and nine men up tight.

“That’s where the game is at any level,” Lutz said of the offensive line.

Cramblit said the offense played well as Ironton won its fifth straight game.

“We adjusted well. We blocked well,” said Cramblit. “Our running game has improved during our winning streak. Every week we get better.”

The win puts Ironton (8-3) into the regional semifinals next Friday against New Lexington at a site to determined, probably Jackson or even Ohio University.

Westfall (8-3) appeared to have taken charged by going up 28-14 in the second quarter. But Ironton closed within 28-21 at the half and allowed the Mustangs only a field goal in the second half.

Westfall gained 301 total yards in the first half, but Ironton held the high-powered offense to 158 yards in the second half and helped create three turnovers including two interceptions.

(Westfall) played mistake-free the first half and we turned the ball over once,” said Lutz. “We played a little tighter, we tackled a little better, and we got a little more pressure in the second half. We just played better.”

After the opening kickoff, Westfall went 65 yards in nine plays capped by Ben Cline’s 5-yard scoring run. Cameron Puckett kicked the point after.

Ironton came right back with a 77-yard, nine-play drive that ended on Wetzel’s first TD run covering 3 yards. Johnathon Schweickart kicked the conversion and the game was tied.

Westfall took its turn and used back-to-back 31-yard passes to Cline and Matt Near to get into the red zone. Cain hit Tyler Cobb with a 2-yard touchdown pass and it was 14-7.

Back to Ironton.

The Fighting Tigers began a drive at their own 15 that spilled into the second quarter and lasted 13 plays with Wetzel running 2 yards for the score and it was 14-14.

It took only three plays for Westfall to regain the lead as Cain hit Cline going down the sideline for a 78-yard touchdown pass and a 21-14 lead with 9:10 on the clock.

Cline had eight catches for 224 yards.

“Their quarterback is good and their skilled people are good. They’re quick and they could run,” said Lutz.

But Ironton didn’t answer this time. Instead, the Fighting Tigers fumbled on first down and Westfall’s Tyler Smith recovered at the Ironton 23.

Four plays later Cain ran left and leaped into the end zone to make it 28-14.

The two teams traded punts — the only punts in the game — and then Ironton put together a pivotal 52-yard, nine-play drive that culminated on Wetzel’s 2-yard run with 2:07 left in the half.

“To me, that was the big one. We stayed in the game and gave ourselves a chance,” said Lutz.

Ironton took the second half kickoff and drove right at the Westfall defense. Nine plays later Wetzel ran 5 yards and the game was tied 28-28.

The Fighting Tigers ran 30 plays in the second half, all on the ground.

The Mustangs began a drive of their own at the 17-yard line that included a 38-yard pass to Cline. But Cain was flushed out by Lamb and sacked by White to set up a third-and-goal at the 14. After an incomplete pass, Puckett kicked a 31-yard field goal and it was 31-28.

Ironton answered with a 69-yard, six-play drive that resulted in a 38-yard touchdown run by Freeman to give the Fighting Tigers their first lead of the game at 34-31 with just 59 seconds on the clock.

Ethan Preston intercepted Cain on the last play of the third quarter to give Ironton the ball at the Westfall 24, but the Fighting Tigers fumbled the ball back to the Mustangs two plays later.

With the help of a flea-flicker pass from Cline to Chris Smith covering 51 yards, Westfall got to the Ironton 8. Cain rna to the 3-yard line but fumbled the ball into the end zone when J.P. Taylor recovered with 8:10 to play.

A personal foul on Westfall moved the ball to the 35 and Ironton marched through the Mustangs defense again with Wetzel scoring on a 7-yard run nine plays later and it was 41-31.

Westfall tried to put together a quick drive, but Freeman intercepted Cain with 2:46 left to seal the win.