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Ironton, Gallipolis meet Friday for Ohio Valley Conference title

Ironton Fighting Tigers’ wide receiver Ayden Barnes (2) is brought down by Coal Grove Hornets’ defensive back Jaylen McKenzie after an 18-yard reception during last Friday’s game. Ironton hosts Gallipolis this Friday in a battle for first place in the Ohio Valley Conference. (Photo Courtesy of Tim Gearhart)

Jim Walker

Forget the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral. The real showdown this week is at Tanks Memorial Stadium.
The two unbeaten Ohio Valley Conference teams will meet in a 7 p.m. shootout on Friday to decide first place in the league as the Ironton Fighting Tigers host the Gallipolis Blue Devils.
“They’re very well coached. They do a lot of things right. They’ll play very disciplined. They’re not going to beat themselves. Their kids are playing hard and doing a lot of good things,” Ironton coach Trevon Pendleton said of the Blue Devils.
The two preseason favorites to win the conference enter the game 5-0 in the league. Ironton is 6-2 overall and Gallipolis 7-1.
Although each team still has one OVC game remaining, Gallipolis plays winless South Point while Ironton visits rival Portsmouth.
The Blue Devils only loss was 15-9 to Division III Jackson. Ironton’s two losses were to one-loss Wheelersburg (28-6) and unbeaten Ashland, Ky. (14-7).
Gallipolis has a more veteran-laden lineup as well as more overall size.
The quarterback is senior Justin McClelland (6-1, 205) heads the backfield along with seniors Jacob Campbell (5-11, 225) and Lane “Boo” Pullins (5-11, 195) and junior Cade Roberts (5-10, 215) at running back.
The receiving corps is comprised of senior Cory Call (6-2, 170), sophomore James Armstrong (5-11, 175) and sophomore Michael Beasy (5-10, 160).
The Blue Devils’ offensive line has senior Colton Russell (5-11, 280) at center, juniors Mason Angel (6-0, 270) and Cole Rose (6-0, 225) at the guards, with sophomore Riley Starnes (6-4, 290) and senior Logan Rose (5-11, 215) at the tackles.
Defensively, Gallipolis has a strong linebacking corps comprised of senior Trentin Waller (5-10, 190), Roberts, Campbell and Pullins.
The secondary has Call, Armstrong, junior Ryan Donovsky (6-0, 170) and senior Cole Davis (5-11, 165).
The defensive line rotates several players that include Starnes, Angel and sophomores C.J. Northrup (5-9, 165), Yashua Peakes (6-3, 290) and Coen Duncan (6-0, 185) along with freshman Brayden Easton (6-1, 180).
Both teams rely heavily on their running games.
McClelland is a dual threat. He is 63-of-107 passing for 865 yards and seven touchdowns with only one interception. He has rushed 123 times for 664 yards.
Pullins leads the Blue Devils with 722 yards rushing on 126 carries.
Campbell has 70 rushes for 490 yards and 16 touchdowns.
Armstrong has 21 receptions for 374 yards and 4 TDs.
Roberts has 19 catches for 257 yards while Call has 17 for 171 yards.
Ironton is led by sophomore Reid Carrico with 141 carries for 990 yards. He leads the team with 11 touchdowns including one by receiving and one on a blocked punt.
Carrico also has seven receptions for 113 yards.
Junior fullback Seth Fosson has 50 rushing attempts for 396 yards and nine touchdowns.
Quarterback Gage Salyers has carried 76 times for 371 yards and seven TDs. He is 46-of-96 passing for 710 yards and seven touchdowns. He has thrown four interceptions.
The top receiver is senior Brycen Thomas with 12 catches for 12 receptions for 240 yards and three touchdowns. Jordan Grizzle had nine catches for 152 yards and a TD.
Ironton leads the series by a lopsided 45-14-1 total, but Gallipolis won last season 38-20 against an injury-riddle Fighting Tigers’ team.
The last time the Blue Devils won at Ironton was 14-7 in 2006, marking the first time since 1965 they won on the road in the series.
However, Ironton has won the last four meetings at Tanks Memorial Stadium.