Russell’s execution top concern for Ironton

Published 3:01 am Friday, September 4, 2015

Jim Walker


Last year could have a major influence on this year.

The Russell Red Devils ran a new offense and defense last season under first-year coach and former Red Devil standout T.J. Maynard.

Ironton Fighting Tigers’ head coach Mark Vass said having a year to learn the new system last year is paying dividends this season.

“This is a good Russell team. They’re better than last year and they’re in their second year in their offense,” said Vass. “They have a better understanding of what they want to do and they execute better.”

Ironton will try to learn all they can about the Red Devils in practice this week in preparation for Friday’s 7:30 p.m. game at Tanks Memorial Stadium.

Russell was behind 12-7 at the half last week but stormed back to dominate in the second half beat Greenup County 19-13 as the Musketeers punched in a late score.

Ironton fell 14-6 to Wheelersburg in its opener.

Russell is led by junior running back Nick Conley (6-0, 190) who has been a starter since his freshman season. Conley ran for 1,193 yards last season and scored 15 touchdowns.

The triggerman of the offense is senior Jacob McKee (5-10, 162) who is a duel threat as a thrower and runner. Joining them in the backfield is junior Evan Ison (5-10, 170) and senior Spencer Cole (5-10, 172) will also be in the mix.

“Conley is bigger and he has pretty good speed and vision,” said Vass. “Their quarterback is left-handed and that can cause problems. He’s probably their best athlete. All their backs run hard.”

Receivers in the spread offense are senior split end Jacob Howard (5-7, 137) and junior Austin Brinkman (5-10, 173) and junior slot back Landon Brewer (6-1, 180).

Heading the offensive line is senior John Montanez (5-11, 285) at right guard who is the lone returning starter.

The center is senior Nate Gunning (5-11, 308), the left guard senior Daniel Mell (6-2, 233) and the tackles are junior Jacob Pierce (6-4, 215) on the right side and senior Connor Slone (5-9, 200) on the left side.

“They have good size inside and their tackles are smaller and quicker to fit their spread offense. They’re able to move better and protect to the outside,” said Vass.

The key for the Red Devils will be on the defensive side as they try to slow down Ironton’s offense that put up 36 points last season in a 36-9 win.

“They have size in the right places, they have experience and they have speed. They have a lot of balance,” said Vass.

Russell uses a 4-3 base on defense with senior Mitch Reddon (6-3, 315) at left tackle and Montanez on the right side. The ends are senior Nick Pennington (6-0, 205) and Pierce.

Slone is the middle linebacker and he is flanked by Ison and senior Jonah Smittle (6-1, 205).

The secondary has Cole and Conley at the corners with McKee and Brewer the safeties.

Ison is the punter and senior Kurtis Miller (5-9, 150) is the placekicker.