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Ironton in key game at Ashland

Ironton Fighting Tigers’ defensive tackle Cody Rowe (65) sacks Russell quarterback Austin Church during a recent game. Ironton plays at Ashland on Friday. (Kent Sanborn of Southern Ohio Sports Photos)

Jim Walker
jim.walker@irontontribune.com

The Ironton Fighting Tigers might need eyes in the back of their head.
Ironton coach Mark Vass said the Ashland Tomcats’ offense comes at defenses from all directions in many different ways.
“They like to run inside, they run speeds, the quarterback will keep the ball, they throw long and short passes and they will run a hurry-up offense. They try to keep your defense back on its heels,” said Vass.
Ironton (1-2) will be trying to snap a three-game losing streak to Ashland (2-2) in this annual rivalry series. Ashland took last year’s game 27-3 as they won at Ironton for the first time since 1990.
Winning at Ashland has been a problem lately. Ironton has lost its last four games at Ashland.
“This is a rivalry game and that’s big to our kids, but it’s an important game for us if we want to make the playoffs. Ashland’s a good team and we’ll have to play well and not make any mistakes,” said Vass.
The triggerman in the offense is junior quarterback Braxton Ratliff (6-0, 178) who is 39-of-78 on the season for 561 yards and four touchdowns. He also has four interceptions. He has rushed 60 times for 131 yards.
The slotback is senior Aroq Colburn (6-1, 183) who has 237 yards rushing on 33 carries and has caught 13 passes for 158 yards. Sophomore running back Blake Hester (5-10,1 55) has 44 attempts for 189 yards.
“Ratliff has a good arm, he’s accurate and he’s a good runner,” said Vass. “Colburn and Hester are both good players who are athletic and have good speed.
The top receiver is junior Isaac Caines (6-1, 175) with eight receptions for 242 yards and three touchdowns.
The tight end is junior Ryan Bryant (6-4, 240) and the other wide receiver is senior Cameron Conley (5-11, 170).
The offensive line has sophomore John Stone (6-3, 261) at center, seniors Cooper Jordan (6-3, 224) and Rece Ryan (6-3, 220) at the guards while junior Markus Maynard (6-0, 205) and sophomore Gary Swiney (6-3, 210) are the tackles.
The defense has a 4-3 look with senior Cameron Gillum (5-11, 168) and junior Caleb Skaggs (5-11, 175) the ends and senior Willie Cline (5-8, 175) and sophomore Junior Jones (6-0, 230).
The middle linebacker is senior Marcus Daniels (5-9, 202) with senior Vance Krueger (5-10, 1620 and junior Drew Fannin (5-11, 170) on the outside.
The secondary has Caines and Hester at the corners with Colburn and sophomore Bryce Carley (5-11, 175) at the safeties.
Junior Caleb Jackson (6-1, 160) is the placekicker and Ratliff does the punting.
Kickoff is 7:30 p.m.