Fighting Tigers’ offense must find way to crack Red Devils’ defense

Published 1:36 am Thursday, September 1, 2016

Jim Walker


One thing Ironton coach Mark Vass didn’t want to see out of Russell this week was a strong defense.

Well, cover your eyes.

The Fighting Tigers’ head football coach is concerned about his offense’s productivity after getting only six points in last week’s loss to Wheelersburg.

Meanwhile, the Russell Red Devils held Greenup County to just 26 total yards including minus-6 yards rushing.

Greenup’s only touchdown was the result of a bad snap on a Russell punt that was recovered at the Red Devils’ 6-yard line.

“They pose a challenge for our offense,” said Vass. “We had trouble offensively last week and Russell’s best attribute is its defense. They played well defensively in their scrimmage against Wheelersburg and they pretty much shut down Greenup’s offense last week.”

The defense has junior Austin Braden (5-9, 225) at nose guard, senior Alex Adams (6-0, 240) at one tackle and either senior Aaron Hill (6-0, 230) and junior Eli Gilliland (6-1, 220) at the other tackle.

The ends are junior Chazz Whitt (6-1, 190) and senior Ryan Stump (6-1, 200) with juniors Maxx Blackburn (5-9, 170) and Grant Bates (6-1, 190) the outside linebacker and senior Blake Thompson (5-11, 205) in the middle.

The secondary has juniors Nathan Brinkman (5-10, 160) and Drey Boehm (6-0, 170) the corners with senior Nick Conley (6-0, 210) the safety.

Russell won the annual “Backyard Brawl” against Greenup with a late touchdown.

The Red Devils scored the winning touchdown on a 23-yard pass from Austin Smith to Landon Brewer wide-open in the middle of the field behind the Greenup secondary for the game-tying touchdown with 5:39 to play. Sam Ewing kicked the conversion.

Russell also had the ball at the Greenup 15 and 17 in the first half after fumble recoveries but didn’t score.

“Their offense is pretty solid. They had a lot of first game mistakes,” said Vass. “(Nick) Conley is a four-year starter and he’s a good running back. He runs hard and he can catch the ball.

“But they have a lot of good athletes. The quarterback played some against us last year. He seemed to get better as the game went along last week. They’re a good team.”

Ironton (0-1) will not only try to bounce back from last week’s loss but erase the memories of last year’s 18-14 loss to Russell, the first time the Fighting Tigers have lost to the Red Devils since 1977.

Ironton’s defense will have to step up against the Russell offense.

The Red Devils return senior left tackle Jacob Pierce (6-4, 240) who is their top lineman. The center is Adams, the guards Gilliland and Hill and the right tackle junior Tucker Brown (6-1, 220).

Besides the junior Smith (6-3, 195) at quarterback and Conley at running back, the Red Devils also have Blackburn at running back Boehm and junior Jaeden Layne (6-1, 170) at the wide receivers and Stump and Brewer (6-2, 195) sharing the tight end/slot back duties.

Ironton leads the series 26-4-1.

Friday’s kickoff is 7:30 p.m.