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Ironton faces improved Highland in rematch

Ironton Fighting Tigers’ defensive linemen Brad Spoljaric (74) and Robbie Webb (76) bring down a Coshocton running back. Ironton plays Sparta Highland Friday in the Division IV Region 15 semifinals. (The Ironton Tribune / Tony Shotsky of Southern Ohio Sports Photos)

Last year the Ironton Fighting Tigers beat the Sparta Highland Fighting Scots 36-0 in the first round of the Division IV Region 15 playoffs.

The two key words in Ironton coach Bob Lutz’s vocabulary are “last year.”

Lutz sees a whole different match up this Friday when Ironton (9-2) faces Highland (9-2) in the Division IV Region 15 semifinals at Logan.

“This isn’t our team form last year playing their team from last year,” said Lutz. “They’re better than they were last year. Last year we handled them up front but their linemen are better this time around.”

Awards announced Tuesday gave a hint about the Scots improved team.

Senior tight end Matt Stooksbury (6-4, 225) and senior center Jason Beltz (6-1, 221) anchor the offensive line. Both were named first team all-district in the Central region.

Also named to the first team was senior Jimmy Baldwin (6-0, 186) at defensive end. Baldwin also plays split end on offense while Beltz plays defensive tackle.

Senior running back Artie McAndrew (5-8, 155) was named to the second team offense and senior safety Colby Randall (6-0, 158) second team defense.

Senior middle linebacker Clay Chipps (6-0, 186) and senior Ethan Zuber (6-6, 231) were special mention while sophomore quarterback Josh Gahm (6-0, 184), senior middle linebacker Hayden Mailey (5-8, 173) and senior tackle Dustin Eichorn (6-1, 268) were honorable mention.

Last year the Scots ran mostly from the T-formation, but this season prefer the pro formation and variations.

“McAndrew is a good back. He has good speed and he runs well,” said Lutz. “Their quarterback throws the ball pretty well and they’ve got some people who can catch it. They’re more diversified than last year.”

With a senior-dominated defense, Lutz said the Scots allow only 12 points a game. Last week they held Portsmouth West to 7 points and forced six fumbles. West entered the game averaging 35 points a game.

“They’re better defensively. They’re quick and aggressive. They run to the ball well,” said Lutz. “Their nose guard (Eichorn) is big and strong in the middle. We’ll have to come off the ball and stay with our blocks.”

Friday’s kickoff is 7:30 p.m.