Ironton must avoid turnovers against rival Ashland
Putnam Stadium has been a “House of Horrors” for the Ironton Fighting Tigers.
Ironton leads its series with the Ashland Tomcats 44-30-3 including a 27-17 win last season at home.
However, Ironton had won 17 in a row in the series before the Tomcats won 26-12 at home in 2009. Ashland made it two in a row at home with a 28-6 win in 2011.
Turnovers were the difference in both games. Ironton lost four fumbles two years ago and they lost three fumbles, missed a short field goal, dropped a touchdown pass and an interception in the 26-12 loss.
That kind of play creates a concern for second-year Ironton head coach Mark Vass, especially since it is the young Fighting Tigers’ first road game of the season.
“Ashland always has a good team and they play well at home like most teams. When you’re in a game with a good team — or any team for that matter — you can’t afford to turn the ball over and expect to win,” said Vass who won his first Ashland game 27-17 last season.
“We have a young team and we’ve been prone to mistakes and that worries me even more when you consider the problems we’ve had the last two games over there.”
Ironton (2-1) will have enough problems with Ashland’s offense led by speedy sophomore Quinton Baker.
The 5-foot-9, 180-pounder had 85 yards on 13 carries in last week’s 7-6 win over rival Russell. Quarterback Hunter Prince (6-2, 175) ran 10 times for 78 yards.
Baker had 208 yards on 24 carries in a 35-14 loss to George Washington, W.Va. The game was tied 14-14 at the half, but the Patriots ran off 21 unanswered points in the second half.
In a 35-34 come-from-behind win over Raceland in overtime, Baker was limited to 67 yards but Prince had 141 yards. Fullback Josh Vaughn (5-9, 205) had 76 yards in the win.
“Obviously, you have to be concerned about Baker. He’s a nice player and he can hurt you in a split second,” said Vass. “But you can’t forget about their other guys because they’re pretty good and they can hurt you as well.”
The Tomcats opened the season with a 37-26 loss at defending Class AA state champion Newport Catholic. Baker ran 13 times for 236 yards including touchdown runs of 80 and 46 yards.
The other halfbacks who double as wide receivers are seniors Jordan Kennedy (6-2, 190) and Miles McGranahan (6-3, 185). The tight end is junior Tucker Schweickart (6-1, 200).
Also in the mix are senior James Queen (5-7, 160) and junior Tyler Sutton (5-9, 180).
Up front the Tomcats have senior Andrew Burgess (5-10, 230) at center, senior Chris Kitchen (5-10, 215) at one guard and either senior Austin Moore (6-0, 245) or senior Luke Johnson (6-0, 260) on the other side.
The tackles are seniors Trey Thompson (6-1, 240) and Tyson Baker (6-2, 200).
“They have a lot of seniors and we have a lot of young, inexperienced guys up front and that’s a concern,” said Vass.
The Tomcats’ defense has had trouble against the run most of the season, but last week they allowed Russell just 183 yards rushing and a mere one yard passing.
“They’re getting better. They have a couple of nice linebackers and they get after you up front. The secondary pretty much shut Russell down. It’ll be a challenge,” said Vass.
The ends are senior Tyler Rose (6-1, 205) and Thompson with sophomore Jaxson Pruitt (6-1, 215) in the mix. Moore and Johnson are the tackles with senior Dylan Patrick (6-0, 205) the backup.
The inside linebackers are sophomore Drew O’Bryan (6-3, 210) and junior Robbie Moore (6-1, 190). The outside backers are senior Cody Conley (5-11, 180) and senior Ross Thompson (5-9, 170).
In the secondary, the cornerbacks are junior Shawn Gilliam (6-2, 175) and McGranahan with the free safety Queen or sophomore Dylan Blevins (5-10, 175).