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Fighting Tigers fall to Pirates in season opener

Ironton Fighting Tigers’ linebacker Tanner Wilson (32) brings down Wheelersburg Pirates’ quarterback Trent Salyers during Saturday’s season opener. Ironton fell 48-3. (Kent Sanborn of Southern Ohio Sports Photos)

Jim Walker

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the worser of times.
With apologies to Charles Dickens and Webster’s dictionary, things started pretty well for the Ironton Fighting Tigers in their season opener on Saturday against the Wheelersburg Pirates.
Then things got worse and by the second half it was even worse as Ironton fell 48-3.
“I thought we played hard and we hung in there for a while,” said Ironton coach Mark Vass. “(Wheelersburg’s) a good football team we played, no doubt about it.”
Ironton managed just 54 total yards including a net 9 yards rushing. The Fighting Tigers were 6-of-15 passing for 45 yards and two interceptions.
“We had trouble blocking them up front. We didn’t run real well and couldn’t protect real well. They were getting after us pretty good. Our quarterback was under pressure all night. Defensively we gave up just too many big plays.”
Wheelersburg had 435 total yards with quarterback Trent Salyers hitting 14-of-22 passes for 279 yards and five touchdowns.
The Pirates had two receivers over 100 yards as 6-foot-6 Tanner Holden had five catches for 159 yards and four touchdowns while Cole Lowery had six receptions for 104 yards and a score.
“We had trouble matching up with Holden on the outside. We were there assignment-wise, they were just making good plays, good throws. They just outplayed us across the board.”
Ironton trailed just 7-3 with 4:43 left in the first quarter after Izack Unger booted a 32-yard field goal.
But the Trent Salyers hit Holden with a swing pass that he turned into a 49-yard touchdown play and the led was 14-3 just before the end of the quarter.
Next came an interception by the Pirates on the second play of the second quarter and they were back in business at the Ironton 45.
Salyers hit Lowery for a 14-yard scoring play on third-and-12 and it was 21-3.
Another interception three plays later gave the Pirates the ball at the 45 again.
A 22-yard run by Mack Dyer set up a 7-yard scoring run by Evan Horsley and it was 28-3 with 6:53 left in the half.
Ironton halted a Wheelersburg threat with 4:28 left in the half. The Pirates were at the Ironton 37 but on third down Garrett Carrico intercepted a Salyers’ pass in the end zone.
The Pirates went on a 63-yard, 9-play scoring drive to start the second half was Salyers and Holden teamed up on a 22-yard screen pass and it was 35-3.
A 29-yard punt return by Makya Matthews had the Pirates at the Ironton 26 and a Salyers to Holden 13-yard scoring pass pushed the lead to 41-3.
Wheelersburg recovered an onside kickoff at the 48 but was unable to move the ball.
Ironton had the ball at the 48 but fumbled two plays later and the Pirates recovered at their own 48.
Wheelersburg’s final scored came on a 5-yard run by Dyer against the Ironton backups with 2:33 to play.
Ironton hosts Russell on Friday.
Wheelersburg    14    14    13    7    =    48
Ironton       3    0    0    0    =    3
First Quarter
Wh — Tanner Holden 60 pass from Trent Salyers (Jalen Miller kick) 8:22
Irn — Izack Unger 32 field goal 4:43
Wh — Tanner Holden 49 pass from Trent Salyers (Jalen Miller kick) 0:28
Second Quarter
Wh — Cole Lowery 14 pass from Trent Salyers (Jalen Miller kick) 9:30
Wh — Evan Horsley 7 run (Jalen Mille kick) 6:53
Third Quarter
Wh — Tanner Holden 22 pass from Trent Salyers (Jalen Mill kick) 8:24
Wh — Tanner Holden 13 pass from Trent Salyers (kick failed) 3:41
Fourth Quarter
Wh — Mack Dyer 5 run (Jalen Miller kick) 2:33
Wh    Irn
First downs    17    4
Rushes-yards    28-156    30-9
Passing yards    279    45
Total yards    435    54
Cmp-Att-Int    14-22-1    6-15-2
Fumbles-lost    1-0    2-1
Penalties-yards    5-67    1-10
Punts-average    3-30.3    6-33.5
Individual Leaders
RUSHING —Wheelersburg: Cole Lowery 4-23, Dominic Reyes 7-29, Mack Dyer 5-36, Trent Salyers 5-17, Xander Carmichael 2-5, Makya Matthews 1-8, Josh Henderson 2-15, Evan Horsley 2-21, Eli Ruby 1-2; Ironton: Tanner Wilson 6-5, Garrett Carrico 8-12, Seth Fosson 2-7, Justin McSorely 1-2, Ryan Payne 1-1, Alex Cox 1-0, Reid Carrico 3-minus 6, Gage Salyers 7-minus 9, team 1-minus 3.
PASSING — Wheelersburg: Trent Salyers 14-22-1 277; Ironton: Gage Salyers 6-15-2 45.
RECEIVING — Wheelersburg: Tanner Holden 5-159, Cole Lowery 6-104, Bryson Keeney 1-5, Cameron Howard 1-8, Dominic Reyes 1-3; Ironton: Jordan Grizzle 2-15, Brycen Thomas 2-13, Jaxson Pleasant 1-4, Reid Carrico 1-13.