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Ironton must stop Riders running

Ironton Fighting Tigers’ fullback Desmond Young (32) follows the blocking of guard Zach Miller (55) as he gains yardage against the Raceland defense last Friday. Ironton hosts Martins Ferry at 7 p.m. Saturday in the Region 17 Division V quarterfinals. (Kent Sanborn of Southern Ohio Sports Photos)

Ironton Fighting Tigers’ fullback Desmond Young (32) follows the blocking of guard Zach Miller (55) as he gains yardage against the Raceland defense last Friday. Ironton hosts Martins Ferry at 7 p.m. Saturday in the Region 17 Division V quarterfinals. (Kent Sanborn of Southern Ohio Sports Photos)

Jim Walker

jim.walker@irontontribune.com

 

Martins Ferry is called the Purple Riders, and they plan to ride into and on Tanks Memorial Stadium’s Bob Lutz Field Saturday night.

The Purple Riders will match running games with the Ironton Fighting Tigers when the two teams meet at 7 p.m. Saturday in the Division V Region 17 quarterfinals.

Martins Ferry (9-1) is led by Arjay Burress — a 5-foot-11, 195-pound junior — who has 1,796 yards on 207 carries for an 8.5 average. He has scored 27 touchdowns rushing and one receiving.

“They use a lot of formations, but in the end they usually run the ball,” said Ironton head coach Mark Vass.

“Burress is a real good back with real good speed. He runs out of the I-formation, the wishbone and the wildcat. He’s the guy you have to stop, but he’s not the only guy they have. They have some other good backs, a couple good receivers and their quarterback doesn’t throw much, but he has a big-time arm.”

The big-armed quarterback is junior James Edwards (6-0, 165) who is 72 of 114 on the season for 1,002 yards and 11 touchdowns. He has thrown six interceptions.

The top receivers are seniors Jake Barritt (5-8, 160) and Jack Fitch (6-0, 162) and junior tight end Matt Barbour (6-1, 232).

Barritt has 31 catches for 288 yards and two touchdowns, Fitch 16 receptions for 367 yards and five score and Barbour 10 grabs for 163 yards and three TDs.

“You can’t stack the line of scrimmage because they can hurt you with the pass. They’re pretty balanced,” said Vass.

Also in the backfield is senior fullback Bruce Burger (5-11, 205) who has 622 yards on 85 carries and four touchdowns. Fitch has 16 carries for 206 yards while senior Bryce Coleman (5-6, 175) has 165 yards on 21 attempts with a score.

The offensive line has four returning starters and is comprised of center Jonathan Bodkin (5-8, 242), guards Cody Beavers (6-2, 235) and Mark Douglas (5-10, 222) and tackles Nick Bain (6-1, 255) and Brian Sadosky (6-4, 232).

All five are seniors.

The Purple Riders only loss was 21-14 to unbeaten St. Clairsville. They have outscored their opposition 331 to 108. Ironton (7-2) has outscored its opponents 288 to 195.

Defensively, Martins Ferry will probably give Ironton a 5-2 look but mix it up as has been the case with all of their opponents this season.

“Their defensive line is pretty solid and they have good size,” said Vass. “They have some speed in the secondary and their linebackers are pretty good. Like I said, they’re a good, solid team. We’ll have to play really well.”

Douglas is the nose guard, Bodkin and Barbour the tackles while Beavers and Burress are the ends.

Burger and Coleman are the linebackers with senior T.J. Jacob (6-0, 183) and Barritt the corners and junior Andrew Hython (6-0, 170) and Fitch the safeties.

Martins Ferry is making its 13th state playoff appearance. They are 8-12 all-time and were state semifinalists in 2004.

Ironton qualified for the 31st time since the playoffs began in 1972. The Fighting Tigers have a 44-28 playoff record with two state titles, six runners-up and 11 semifinal appearances.