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Ironton prepares for defending champs

Ironton Fighting Tigers’ defensive lineman Laron Beach (right) brings down Jackson running back Drew Irvin (7) during last week’s game. Ironton plays at Hartley on Friday, their third straight unbeaten opponent. (The Ironton Tribune / Tony Shotsky of Southern Ohio Sports Photos)

By JIM WALKER

Tribune Sports Editor

The defending state champions look very defending.

The Columbus Bishop Hartley Hawks won the Division IV state championship last season behind a strong running game, good defense and a running back named Noah Key.

In their effort to defend that title, Hartley is 6-0, ranked second in the Associated Press poll, boasts a strong running game, a good defense and a running back named Ja’Waun Woodley.

“Not much has changed with them,” Ironton coach Bob Lutz said about the Hawks. “They have two good running backs, some good linemen and plenty of speed at the wingback and receiver positions.

“Defensively they’re solid and they have three really good linebackers. And they’ve got a good placekicker. They’re a good football team.”

Ironton (4-3) knows Hartley well. The two teams played twice last season. Ironton won at home 37-16 — Hartley had four turnovers — and then lost 26-20 in the regional finals of the playoffs when the Fighting Tigers had two turnovers.

Woodley is a 5-foot-10, 220-pound junior who moves tailback after starting at wingback last year. Senior Jarrod Zang (5-10, 215) returns at fullback.

Key ran for 2,000 yards as the exclusive back last season, but this year Woodley and Zang are sharing the carries. Woodley has 662 yards on 83 carries and seven touchdowns while Zang has 500 yards on 73 attempts and six TDs.

“Both their backs have good size and run hard. But the other backs have really good speed, so they can hurt you inside or out,” said Lutz.

Slotbacks Alonzo Saxton (5-11, 175) and Marcellus Calhoun (5-11, 175) have more than 500 yards between them. Calhoun has 374 on 74 tries and Saxton 188 on just 12 rushes. Calhoun has 12 touchdowns.

Sophomore Jared Brandewie (6-3, 185) takes over at quarterback. He is 13 of 32 for 245 yards and four scores.

Five different players have catches with junior tight end Jacob Matuska (6-4, 240) leading the group with five grabs for 106 yards and three touchdowns.

Across the front the Hawks have Max Steele (5-10, 220) at center, Napoleon Bell (6-0, 220) and Austin Kirkbinde (5-10, 175) at the guards and Tyler Schaffer (6-0, 225) and Eric Selegue (5-8, 205) the tackles. The flanker is Matt Simpson (5-11, 165).

Woodley, Zang and Bell lead the defense as the inside linebackers. The outside backers are Matuska and Nick King (5-11, 215).

Selegue is the nose guard, Kalil Morris (6-1, 220) the right tackle while Steele and Schaffer share the other tackle spot.

“They’re not that big up front, but they’re quick and active and they’ve got a good group of linebackers behind them to clean everything up,” said Lutz.

The secondary has Simpson and Trevonn Brown (6-1,175) at the corners with either Albert Davis (5-9, 180) or Patrick Randall (5-9, 175) the free safety.

Brent Wahle is the kicker and has a strong, accurate leg.