Panthers face must-win as they travel to Ironton
Published 12:33 am Thursday, September 27, 2018
The talk around the water cooler this week will have fans saying, “This is a must-win game” for the Chesapeake Panthers.
Actually, every game is a must-win game for every team in the Ohio Valley Conference.
The Ironton Fighting Tigers host the Chesapeake Panthers on Friday and both teams need to win.
Ironton is 3-2 and tied with Gallipolis for first place in the OVC at 2-0. Chesapeake is also 3-2 and 1-1 in the league.
Besides league implications, throw in the fact that Ironton is currently seventh in the Division V Region 19 computer ratings and Chesapeake is right behind in eighth place.
The main “must-win” reason is a loss is crippling at any time during the season, especially this year in a very balanced conference race.
“Every conference game is big. Going to Ironton is big. They’ve got a good team and they’re going to play hard,” said Panthers’ coach Andy Clark.
“You have to play each game one at a time. Our young kids are getting game experience and we’re starting to gain some confidence.”
Chesapeake upset defending champion Coal Grove 35-28 last week. Ironton breezed past winless South Point 62-13.
“Their backfield is big and they run hard. They aren’t as big up front but they’re effective,” said Clark.
“They have a pretty good linebacking corps. The defensive line has Fosson and three or four others who rotate. They’re a pretty talented team.”
Ironton had its best offensive output of the season last week with 513 total yards.
Reid Carrico continues to lead Ironton with 545 yards rushing on 87 carries for a 6.3 average and he has seven touchdowns — one on a blocked punt.
Quarterback Gage Salyers has rushed 56 times for 282 yards and is 25-of-58 passing for 304 yards and four touchdowns. Last week, he ran for 118 yards and a touchdown while hitting 10-of-15 passes for 146 yards and three touchdowns.
Fullback Seth Fosson had 29 attempts for 207 yards — a 7.1 yards per carry average — and three touchdowns.
The top receivers are Brycen Thomas with six catches for 85 yards and a TD, Carrico five grabs for 65 yards and a score, and Jordan Grizzle four receptions for 51 yards.
With the loss of leading rusher Logan Walsh, the Panthers’ offense has been by committee.
Senior quarterback Austin Browning has 46 carries for 192 yards and three touchdowns while completing 9-of-29 passes for 194 yards with an interception.
Kamren Harless had 30 carries for 280 yards and four TDs, Will Todd 31 rushes for 242 yards and a score, and Carson Nida 21 tries for 148 yards and two touchdowns.
The leading receiver is Tylan Hutchison with seven receptions for 128 yards.
“We moved Nida to fullback and he’s adjusting. Todd has been improving each week,” said Clark. “We didn’t throw a ton last week, but we got in situations where we picked up first downs on third and long.”
Friday’s kickoff is 7 p.m. preceded by homecoming ceremonies.