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Fighting Tigers host top-ranked Tomcats

Ironton Fighting Tigers’ fullback Seth Fosson (44) picks up yardage during last week’s game against Fairland. Ironton hosts Ashland on Friday. (Kent Sanborn of Southern Ohio Sports Photos)

Jim Walker
jim.walker@irontontribune.com

You might want to come early.
A large crowd is expected for Friday’s 7:30 p.m. kickoff at Tanks Memorial Stadium and with good reason.
The Ashland Tomcats — ranked No. 1 in Kentucky’s Class 4A — visits Ironton to play the Fighting Tigers in a big rivalry game.
Ashland is 4-0 with wins over Harlan County 49-6, Raceland 21-14, George Washington (W.Va.) 50-28 and Russell 41-0.
Ironton is 2-1 after beating Fairland 41-23 last week. The Fighting Tigers lost their opener 28-6 at defending Div. V state champion Wheelersburg and then bounced back to win 16-7 at Russell.
The Fighting Tigers’ defense rose to the challenge against Fairland and quarterback Joel Lambiotte last week, but Ashland senior Braxton Ratliff (6-foot, 185 pounds) is another duel threat and he is the best quarterback Ironton will face this season.
Ratliff is 35-of-60 passing for 760 yards and eight touchdowns. He has been interception twice — both against Raceland.
Ratliff has also rushed 32 times for 363 yards and four scores.
Joining Ratliff in the backfield are sophomore Keontae Pittman (6-0, 170) and junior Blake Hester (5-10, 160). Pittman has 35 carries for 348 yards and four touchdowns while Hester has 111 yards on 29 attempts with five touchdowns.
The Tomcats leading receiver is senior Cade Brandt (6-3, 170) with eight catches for 373 yards and four scores, but he was injured against George Washington and is not expected to play.
Junior Andy Layne (5-10, 170) has picked up the slack with nine catches for 209 yards and two TDs. Hester has added 11 grabs for 91 yards and a score. Pittman and senior tight end Russell Rogers (5-11, 210) are also targets in the spread offense.
While Ashland relies on a quick-strike style offense, Ironton counters with a strong running game led by sophomore Reid Carrico (6-2, 205) with 399 yards on 57 carries for a 7.0 yards per carry. He has three touchdowns.
Junior Seth Fosson (6-1, 225) also averages 7 yards a carry with 91yards on 13 attempts and a score.
Junior quarterback Gage Salyers (6-1, 185) has rushed 26 times for 121 yards and a 4.7 average. He scored four touchdowns in last week’s win over Fairland.
Salyers is 14-of-37 passing for 139 yards and a touchdown with two interceptions.
Backup fullback Cameron Deere had five attempts for 23 yards or a 4.6 average.
Ironton leads the series 45-34-3 but Ashland has won the last three meetings and six of the last nine.