Ironton hosts Wheelersburg in pivotal opener
What a way to get it all started.
Two of the premier area football programs will again meet in the season opener on Friday as the Ironton Fighting Tigers host the Wheelersburg Pirates at Tanks Memorial Stadium.
Both teams reached the Region 17 Division V playoffs last season and are filling holes in their lineups.
The Pirates were 11-2 last year and won both the regular season and playoff meeting between the two teams.
But they’ll have a new man at the helm as senior Kyle Davis takes over at quarterback for the graduated Austin May.
But Davis was a receiver last season and the backup quarterback.
A key returnee is running back and receiver Chasen Burk. Also heading the offensive line is senior Sam Hall (6-4, 285).
“They lost some good players, but they have some good players back,” said Ironton coach Mark Vass. “But they have a good program, so they have players they can plug in those holes they have to replace. A lot of their kids got playing time even if they didn’t start.”
Vass said his biggest concern is playing the first game against a quality team.
“We’re both in the same situation. You’re still not sure who can do what or how the young guys will react who haven’t been under fire in a varsity game,” said Vass.
Wheelersburg has found plenty of replacements on the offensive line. The Pirates will average 278 pounds per man from tackle to tackle.
Besides Hall, Colin Ahad (6-2, 295) is the right tackle, Hall the right guard, Lyden Collins (6-1, 265) the center, Eli Whitley (6-0, 225) the left guard and Brady Newsome (6-2, 320) the left tackle.
Also expected to play some tackle with Newsome is Varen Melvin (5-11, 290).
The tight end is Clint Hatfield (6-1, 195) with Xander Carmichael (6-2, 200) to share the duties.
“Their backs aren’t overly big, but they are athletic and have good speed. When you put them with that big offensive line, they’re pretty effective,” said Vass.
Most of the offensive starters flip over to defense led by the linebacking corps of Carmichael, Hatfield and Jake Darnell (6-0, 175).
Davis, Burk, Jordan Howard and Wyatt Henderson make up a solid secondary.
All Ohio Valley Conference games will begin at 7 p.m. this season.
Ironton’s non-league games are at 7:30 p.m.
Coal Grove will play Marion Pleasant at 7:30 p.m., but all other games are at 7 p.m.
Rock Hill will play at River Valley at 7:30 p.m. The rest of their games are 7 p.m.
Chesapeake, Fairland and Portsmouth will play all their games — league and non-league — at 7 p.m.