Ironton must figure way to slow down Panthers

Published 2:21 am Thursday, September 29, 2016

Jim Walker

OK, it’s your turn.
The Ironton Fighting Tigers are the next team up on the schedule that will be trying to figure out how to slow down the Chesapeake Panthers big-play scoring machine.
Averaging nearly 47 points a game, the unbeaten Panthers (5-0, 2-0) have outscored opponents 233-to-55.
Ironton has struggled to score this season with just 87 points. Their two wins are 31-0 over Fairland and 41-0 over South Point, two winless teams.
Fighting Tigers’ head coach Mark Vass said the Panthers are a daunting challenge for his young team.
“This is one of the better offensive units we’ll see this season. Skill position-wise they are very solid. They have a lot of athletes who can create in space,” said Vass.
The Fighting Tigers have had to battle injuries and youth the entire season. Ironton finally got senior guard Levi Langdon back last week after missing four games with an injury but lost a couple more players including running back Andrew Scott.
Ironton began last week’s game with just 10 healthy players who were juniors or seniors. Three seniors are Langdon (6-4, 295), defensive tackle Larry Morris (6-5, 290) and two-way tackle Tyler Webb (6-6, 300).
“They’ve got size up front. They’re way bigger than we are. They mix and match up front,” said Chesapeake coach Andy Clark.
“It’s going to be a challenge. It’s going to be a tough task. We have to take care of the football. If we give it to them we may not see it back. They eat up clock and limit your offensive possessions. They’ll try to run and pound.”
Chesapeake outscored co-Ohio Valley Conference favorite Coal Grove 49-28 last week behind quarterback Casey McComas who ran for 135 yards and four touchdowns, threw for another score and returned a kickoff 80 yards for a TD.
“Ironton is similar to what we faced last week. The backfield is younger but they all run hard and block pretty well for each other. The quarterback (Jake Isaac) is solid and they have the (Eli) Willis kid to throw to,” said Clark.
On the season McComas (5-9, 155) has 486 yards on 37 carries with nine touchdowns
But McComas isn’t the only threat.
Running back Cecil Fletcher (6-0, 165) has qualified for the state track meet in each of the past two years and is averaging 16 yards a carry. He has 448 yards rushing on only 28 carries.
Fullback Will Scott (6-0, 175) averages 8.2 yards a carry with 408 yards on 50 attempts. The Panthers also have speedy Ty Wilcoxon (6-1, 190) who is an excellent blocker and running back J.W. Bartrum (5-8, 160).
Wilcoxon is the son of Brent Wilcoxon who was Ironton’s quarterback and defensive end on the 1979 state championship team.
McComas is 12-of-26 passing for 258 yards and four touchdowns. His main target is Austin Browning
The offensive line is led by senior Brendan Meadows (5-11, 215) along with junior guard Brevin Webb (6-1, 245). Also up front is senior center Avery Nichols (5-11, 210), junior guard Chad McComas (6-3, 225) and junior tackle Josh Rose (5-10, 240).
The ends are seniors Shamarr Morris (5-7, 165), Matthew Burns (6-2, 190) and Wes Malavenda (5-10, 155) and sophomore Austin Browning (6-0, 160).
“They were inexperienced at the start of the year but now they are five games in and getting better,” said Vass.
“One thing in their favor is the number of juniors and seniors they have playing. We’ve got quite a few sophomores and even a couple of freshmen playing.”
Ironton will have a size advantage against the Panthers’ defense but Chesapeake has used its speed and quickness to stop teams this season.
“They’re quick and athletic. They can cover up a lot of mistakes with their speed. The Scott kid does a nice job inside,” said Vass.
Chad McComas and Webb are the tackles with Meadows and junior Zach Wright (6-3, 195) the ends.
Malavenda and Scott are the inside linebackers with Morris and Bartrum on the outside. Fletcher and Wilcoxon are the corners and Casey McComas the free safety.
Dalton Nida handles the placekicking and Scott is the punter.
Kickoff is 7 p.m. at Tanks Memorial Stadium.

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