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Another big hurdle

Ironton’s tough stretch of games is stretching a little further.

Heading into the season, the Fighting Tigers knew they had Ashland, Logan and Chillicothe back-to-back-to-back. Now the Jackson Ironmen have joined the list.

Jackson surprised most fans and critics with a 6-0 start this season under first-year head coach Andy Hall. The unbeaten start has the Ironmen sitting atop the Southeastern Ohio Athletic League standings.

Jackson is 3-0 in the SEOAL while Ironton is 4-2 overall and 2-1 in the league. Logan (6-0, 1-0) and Warren (6-0, 1-0) are the other unbeaten league teams. Jackson is fifth in the Division III Region 12 computer playoff ratings and ranked 14th in the AP poll.

“They’re playing well and they always play us tough up there,” said Ironton coach Bob Lutz. “A lot of people didn’t think they would be unbeaten at this point in the season, but if you watch them play you can understand why they are.”

A trip to Jackson in 2005 ended as a 17-7 loss. Two years ago Ironton came from behind to tie the game and then won 20-14 in overtime, the 600th victory for the school’s football program.

A key addition that has helped the Jackson offense is senior quarterback Kruize Wandling (6-0, 180) who transferred after starting for Gallipolis last season. Wandling is 43-of-68 for 646 yards and six touchdowns and two interceptions.

The running backs in the pro-set offense has Drew Ervin (6-0, 185) at halfback and Klay Arthur (6-0, 195) at fullback. Also in the mix is tailback Derek Meredith who has 163 yards on 38 tries.

Ervin had rushed 64 times for 425 yards and eight TDs while Arthur had 351 yards on 68 attempts.

Arthur and Meredith missed the Marietta game with sprained ankles but are expected to play against Ironton.

The tight end is Tyler Jeffers (5-11, 230) with Kip Winchester (6-1,170) the flanker and Britton Johnson (6-2, 180) and Ty McNelly (5-11, 160) sharing the split end job. Winchester had 18 receptions on the season.

“Their quarterback is a nice player,” said Lutz. “He runs well and he has a nice arm. He not only throws the ball well, he throws the ball well on the run.

“(Ervin) can run or catch the ball well and their fullback is a tough kid. He plays hard on both sides of the ball.”

The center is Ryan Klingaman (6-1, 205), Tyler Gillum (6-1, 220) and Jimmy Brushart (6-0, 205) are the guards, and Aaron Landrum (6-0, 305) and Coleman Kearns (6-0, 255) are the tackles.

“This is one of the better lines we’ll see. They come off the ball well and they have some quickness. Our defense has to play well up front,” said Lutz.

Jackson utilizes a 4-4 defensive front and has a lot of stunts and blitzes that has limited teams to only 126 yards per game on the ground. Lutz is concerned about the effect it will have on Ironton’s offensive line.

“They come at you from everywhere. If you get in a guessing game, you’re not going to win. This is going to be a challenge for our offensive line,” said Lutz.

O.J. Barr (5-9, 160) and Frankie Mapes (6-1, 240) are the tackles with Nathaniel Haller (6-0, 215) and Dillon Bentley (6-3, 215) the ends.

The inside linebackers are Patrick Harrison (5-9, 160) and Klingaman with Eric Landrum (6-0, 190) and Jeffers on the outside.

The secondary is comprised of Tyler Williams (5-10, 165) and Winchester at the corners and Garrett Ewing (5-9, 170) at free safety.

“They’re not that big on defense, but they’re quick and aggressive and they move to the ball well,” said Lutz. “You can’t be back on your heels on offensive or they’ll blow right past you. We have to be aggressive.”

Kickoff is 7:30 p.m.