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Ironton must contain Alder’s speed

Ironton Fighting Tigers’ senior Pierce Reeves hauls in a pass during last week’s win over Gallipolis. (Tribune photo by Kent Sanborn of Southern Ohio Sports Photos)

The Ironton Fighting Tigers’ defense seems to have turned the corner. Now, if they can keep the Alder Pioneers from doing the same.

Ironton’s defense will be put to the test by the perimeter games of the Jonathan Alder Pioneers when the teams meet at 8 p.m. Friday at Tanks Memorial Stadium.

Leading the way for Alder is 6-foot-1, 180-pound senior quarterback Graham Johnston and 5-10,175-pound senior tailback Austin Dehart who use their speed to put pressure on the opposing defenses.

“The quarterback is a good athlete. Not only can he run and throw, he’s a strong runner as well,” said Ironton coach Bob Lutz. “Dehart runs hard and he has good speed, too. Their speed at the skilled positions is as good as we’ve seen.”

In a 24-0 win over Thomas Worthington, Dehart ran for 105 yards and two touchdowns. Nick Smith added a 51-yard field goal. Johnston ran for 132 yards and two touchdowns in a 30-21 win over Marysville.

Next came a 28-27 loss to state ranked Clinton-Massie when the Pioneers missed the potential game-tying extra point kick. Johnston was 12-of-21 passing for 199 yards and two TDs, Derritt Potts returned a kickoff 91 yards for a score, and Josh Holland returned a fumble for a touchdown.

In a 56-0 rout of Miami Trace, Johnston ran for one score and threw for two while Dehart had 107 yards and a TD.

Last week in a 56-12 romp of London, Johnston ran for 150 yards and four touchdowns and was 4-of-9 passing for 80 yards and a score. Dehart ran 19 times for 114 yards and a touchdown.

“One of the big things we have to do is play well up front. They’ve got some size and they’re pretty balanced running and throwing the ball,” said Lutz. “They’ve got a good program. They’re used to playing in big games.”

The Pioneers (4-1) do have some size, especially at the guards.

Alex Disbennett (6-2, 250) is the center, Max Pollom (6-6, 325) and Corey Boyer (6-2, 295) are the guards, while Trey Rudolph (6-3, 210) and Brandon Purdum (6-3, 250) are the tackles.

The split ends in the spread offense are J.C. Artrip (6-1, 180) and Alex Randall (5-5, 150) while Cameron Megger (5-11, 150) and Wesley Fauver (5-8, 160) share the flanker job.

But the defense is just as talented for Alder, the 2006 Div. IV state runners-up who have made nine straight playoff appearances.

“They’re not as big on defense, but they’re quick and aggressive. They’ve got a good group of linebackers who can run to the ball,” said Lutz.

The tackles are Donald Thomas (6-1, 245) and Zac Snively (6-1, 240) with the end duties shared by Sam Koenig (5-11, 185), Shae Cook (5-11, 180), Jacob Leach (5-11, 185) and Purdum.

The linebacking corps is comprised of Josh Holland (5-10, 175) and Nick Squires (5-9, 165) on the outside and Tyler Parker (5-11, 205) and Nick Wrightsel (6-1, 210) on the inside.

Jake Zornes (6-0, 160) and Fauver are the corners and D.J. McCray (5-10, 170) the safety.