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Fighting Tigers must shuffle new deck of cards against Pirates

Ironton Fighting Tigers’ running back Tanner Price (26) follows the lead block of quarterback Jake Isaac (7) during last week’s scrimmage against Coal Grove. Ironton opens the season at Wheelersburg on Friday. (Kent Sanborn of Southern Ohio Sports Photos)

Ironton Fighting Tigers’ running back Tanner Price (26) follows the lead block of quarterback Jake Isaac (7) during last week’s scrimmage against Coal Grove. Ironton opens the season at Wheelersburg on Friday. (Kent Sanborn of Southern Ohio Sports Photos)

Jim Walker

jim.walker@irontontribune.com

 

Instead of Texas Hold ‘Em, it’ll be Five Card Draw.

The Wheelersburg Pirates are switching their offensive attack this season, but Ironton third-year coach Mark Vass doesn’t see a lot of difference.

“They may run a different offense, but they still have a lot of their linemen back and they still have some really good skilled players,” said Vass. “Regardless of how they line up, they’re still a good team.”

Gone is read-option spread offense in favor of a two-back, option style offense that is operated by run-oriented quarterback Austin May (6-0, 160).

Although May takes over for the graduated Eddie Miller III, he did start at wide receiver last year and has been a quarterback in previous seasons.

Behind May will be a committee of running backs that includes Cole Cunningham (5-10, 175), Jacob Hutchinson (5-10,2 00), Micah Alister (5-9, 160), Chasen Burk (6-1, 170) and slotback Jordan Howard (5-9, 175).

All of the backs are seniors except Howard and Burk who are juniors.

“They are all good athletes and they can all run,” said Vass.

While all of the backfield is relatively new, the key for the Pirates will be up front when four interior linemen return from an 11-2 team that beat Ironton in the season opener last year 49-12.

Sam Hall (6-3, 270) is the center and he is flanked by Wyatt Mingus (6-0, 180) at left guard and Gareth Bussa (6-2, 275) at right guard. The tackles are Chase Chambliss (6-2, 260) and Mitchell Warner (6-2, 235). All are returning starters except Mingus.

Senior P.J. Greeno (6-1, 310) could also see time at tackle.

The wide receivers are seniors Jacob Spradlin (6-1, 170) and Tyler Jenkins (5-8, 140).

The Pirates’ defense returns six players including Andrew Conn (6-1, 185) at end, Hall at nose guard, Warner and Hutchinson at the linebackers, and Burk and May at the corners.

“We had trouble moving the ball on them last year and they have most of their defense back,” said Vass. “They have some new starters, but they have a lot of seniors and that is a plus.”

Mingus is the other end along with Austin Ervin (6-4, 180). The tackles are Ian Salyers (5-10, 200) on the strong side and Cunningham on the weak side.

Junior Kyle Davis (5-11, 175) is the safety.