Fighting Tigers face unbeaten power Jackson
It will be power football at its best as the unbeaten Jackson Ironmen hosts the Ironton Fighting Tigers Friday.
Jackson has run past all eight opponents this season including a 27-0 win over the Wheelersburg Pirates, a team that beat Ironton 42-16 in week one.
The Ironmen are ranked No. 8 in the Associated Press poll and are sixth in Region 9 of Division III. They have trailed only once this season, 7-0 in the first quarter to Logan.
Ironton is 6-1 on the season.
“They’re a true power team, even more than Clearcreek,” said Ironton coach Mark Vass.
“They have some big, strong linemen and some big, strong backs. They’ll run it right at you, but they can still throw it. Their quarterback is underrated as a passer.”
The quarterback is junior Hunter Sexton (5-11, 202). He is 36 of 81 for 646 yards and five touchdowns and one interception. He has rushed 75 times for 467 yards and two scores.
Sexton is joined in the backfield by fullbacks Jake Crabtree (6-3, 25) and Ramon Potter (6-1, 218). The tailback is senior Derek Rafferty (6-0, 195) and the wingback is sophomore Johnny Farley (5-8, 151) or Billy Cooper (5-11, 198).
Rafferty leads the team with 693 yards on 83 carries with 12 TDs. Potter has 437 yards on 38 tries with seven scores, Farley 53 carries for 438 yards and six touchdowns, and Crabtree 39 attempts for 186 yards and four TDs.
Gabe Griffiths (6-0, 192) suffered a shoulder separation and returned just three games ago. He has 16 carries for 132 yards.
“They can all carry the mail. They have a lot of formations and you can’t key on one guy,” said Vass.
The offensive line is led by senior tight end Reagan Williams (6-3, 238), sophomore right tackle Codey Roseberry (6-1, 230) and senior left guard Austin Fairchild (5-10, 235).
The center is senior Connor Staten (5-9, 218), the right guard Tyler Humphreys (5-11, 232) and the left tackle junior Elijah Woolum (6-4, 280).
“It’s hard to say one lineman is better than the other. They’re pretty good across the front, but Williams is really good,” said Vass.
Senior Stephen Sloop (6-2, 186), junior Austin Leach (5-11, 159) and senior Cole Bachtel (6-1, 212) share the duties of split end and tight end.
Leach has 19 receptions for 350 yards and three touchdowns. Williams has seven grabs for 136 yards and a score.
Even though Jackson uses a power game on offense, the strength of the team might be its defense. The Ironmen have outscored their opponents 287 to 60.
In the win over Wheelersburg, Jackson had five stops on fourth down. Four were 5 yards or less, three were in the red zone and one was a goal line stand while leading 20-0 midway through the fourth quarter.
The Pirates were held to 113 yards rushing on 33 carries and quarterback Austin May was just 11 of 21 for 84 yards.
Jackson has a strong linebacking corps that features Sexton, Potter and junior Rhys Jones (5-8, 160).
“All of their linebackers are pretty good,” said Vass.
Up front Jackson had Cooper at nose guard, Roseberry and senior Cossie Rawlins (5-9, 200) are the tackles with Williams — a Stanford commitment — at one end with junior Tre Barger (6-0, 221) and Bachtel sharing the other end job.
The secondary has Rafferty and junior Austin Edwards (6-0, 173) at the corners and junior Collin Massie (5-11, 182) the free safety.
“They’re the real deal,” said Vass. “Their defense will be quite a challenge for us. They’re the best defense we’ve seen all year.”
Jackson’s kicking game is strong with Griffiths as the punter and Sheldon Moore the placekicker.