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Big Plays, Big Win

WHEELERSBURG — Big, bigger, biggest.

In big games, teams must make big plays to get a big win. The Ironton Fighting Tigers came up big on several occasions Friday night as they beat the Wheelersburg Pirates 12-7 in the season opener.

Wheelersburg’s defense tried to jam the line of scrimmage with eight and nine defenders against Ironton’s power running game. But Ironton broke the plane twice as Tyler Hager ran 51 yards for a touchdown and then Tres Wilks had a bigger run of 72 yards for the other score.

With the balance of the game still in doubt, the Pirates drove into Ironton territory with a chance to get the win. But Skylar Fields came up with the biggest play as he sacked Pirates’ quarterback Alex Shears on a fourth down play that virtually sealed the Ironton win.

“It came down to who made the play at the end of the ball game,” said Ironton coach Bob Lutz. “Two years ago it was the exact same thing and they threw a jump ball in the end zone and won.”

The Pirates took the opening kickoff and drove to the Ironton 21 only to have Brian Warner stop Shears on a fourth down play.

After trading punts, Hager bolted 51 yards through the teeth of the Pirates’ defense and it was 6-0 with just 46 seconds on the clock.

The next big play came on the third play of the third quarter when Wilks burst up the middle and outran the Pirates into the end zone for a 12-0 lead.

Wheelersburg answered with an 11-play, 67-yard drive capped by Shears’ 1-yard run. Dylan Lewis kicked the extra point and it was 12-7.

Ironton got to the Pirates’ 27 but the drive stalled and Shears had an interception on a fourth down play.

Wheelersburg fumbled three plays later and Dakota Taylor pounced on the ball at the 28 for Ironton. But two penalties helped stall the drive and the Pirates had one more chance with 6:31 to go.

A 24-yard pass to Tommy Graf got the drive started and six plays later the Pirates were at the Ironton 31.

An off-side penalty backed the ball up 5 yards to create a fourth-and-9. Shears set up to pass but Fields came virtually untouched on a blitz and sacked him for an 8-yard loss with 2:31 to go. It was Fields’ second sack of the game.

“We were in pass coverage with a three-man front and we blitzed with Fields who is normally a defensive end,” said Lutz. “He came clean and made the play.

“I pretty much thought they’d try to go down a seam, but we had linebackers there.”

Warner then carried three times for a first down as Ironton ran out the clock.

The Fighting Tigers came into the game with eight starters or backups not dressed and lost Hager the entire second half.

“We got through all right. It was a typical Ironton-Wheelersburg game. Any way I can get a ‘W’ today, I’ll take it,” said Lutz.

Ironton had 216 yards — all on the ground — with Wilks getting 84 yards on eight carries, Hager 60 on three attempts and Warner 58 on 14 tries.

“We’ve got two guys who can go, but that fullback (Warner) is a load, too,” said Lutz.

Brandon Schankweiler had 88 yards on 21 carries for the Pirates who ran for 165 yards and threw for 72. Tommy Graf added 58 yards on nine rushes.

Ironton 6 0 6 0 = 12

Wheelersburg 0 0 7 0 = 7

First Quarter

Irn — Tyler Hager 51 run (pass failed) 0:46

Third Quarter

Irn — Tres Wilks 72 run (run failed) 10:40

Wh — Alex Shears 1 run (Dylan Lewis kick) 5:46

Irn Wh

First downs 5 12

Rushes-yards 31-216 43-165

Passing yards 0 72

Total yards 216 237

Cmp-Att-Int 0-2-1 4-7-0

Fumbles-lost 0-0 2-1

Punts-average 3-44.7 4-38.0

Penalties-yards 5-35 10-70

Individual Leaders

RUSHING-Ironton: Brian Warner 14-58, Tres Wilks 8-84, Tyler Hager 3-60, Tommy Waginger 5-12, Brandon Leach 1-2; Wheelersburg: Brandon Schankweiler 21-88, Tommy Graf 9-58, Chase Workman 3-7, Alex Shears 9-7, Brett Hood 1-5.

PASSING-Ironton: Tommy Waginger 0-2-1; Wheelersburg: Alex Shears 4-7-0 72.

RECEIVING-Ironton: None; Wheelersburg: Brandon Schankweiler 2-26, Tommy Graf 1-24, Dakota Luster 1-22.

MISSED FIELD GOALS: None.