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Fighting Tigers look to end another series losing streak at Ashland

Ironton Fighting Tigers’ center Rocky White (63) and tackle Riley Boggs (70) block against Fairland Dragons’ defensive lineman Jordan Wellman (54) and linebacker Bryan Defore (24) during last Friday’s game. Ironton visits Ashland, Ky., this Friday. (Kent Sanborn/Southern Ohio Sports Photos)

Jim Walker

Can the Ironton Fighting Tigers break another losing streak?
Ironton ended an 8-game losing streak to Wheelersburg with a 30-6 rout in the season opener. Now the Fighting Tigers would like to end a four-game Ashland Tomcats winning streak that includes seven wins in the last 10 meetings when the two teams meet on Friday at Putnam Stadium.
Ironton comes into the game 3-0 while Ashland is 3-1 and ranked fifth in the Kentucky Class 3A poll. This will be Ironton’s first road game of the season.
Last season Ashland came into the game ranked No. 1 in Class 4A and won 14-7.
However, the Tomcats lost week 10 to Johnson Central 47-24. They also lost to Johnson Central in the playoffs 50-14.
This season, Ironton enters the game ranked No. 2 in the Ohio High School football poll in Division V.
The Tomcats have dropped to Class 3A this season and gone is quarterback Braxton Ratliff who finished his career as the program’s all-time leading yardage leader.
There is no Quinton Baker in the backfield or Drew O’Bryan on the defensive side as in previous years, but the Tomcats’ cupboard is far from bare.
Taking over the helm is 5-foot-8, 165-pound junior Jake Gregg who is small in size but has some big numbers. Gregg is 30-of-46 passing for 411 yards and three touchdowns.
The key offensive weapons are senior running back Blake Hester (5-11, 175) and junior Keontae Pittman (6-0, 180).
Hester leads the team with 576 yards on 82 carries and he has scored nine rushing touchdowns. He also had an interception return for a score last week in a 34-33 overtime loss at Wheelersburg.
Pittman had 361 yards on 61 attempts and has scored six touchdowns.
Junior J.T. Garrett (5-11, 175) is the top receiver with six receptions for 96 yards. Hester is next with five catches for 62 yards and Pittman has three grabs for 46 yards.
A big key for Ashland is a veteran group of linemen.
Senior John Stone (6-3. 270) moves from center to tackle and is flanked on the other side by senior. Gary Swiney (6-4, 250). The guards are senior Cameron Marushi (5-11, 265) and senior Dane Wardle (6-4, 280) with senior Matthew Rayburn (6-0, 245) and junior Jackson Foutch (6-2, 215) sharing the center duties.
Besides Garrett, the receiving corps has junior Paul Humphrey (5-8, 160), junior Jack Alley (6-1, 175), senior Andy Layne (5-10, 170), junior Cameron Wilson (5-11, 150) and senior Colten Pinson (6-0, 155).
The defense is led by linebackers senior Steele Workman (5-9, 195) and junior Caleb Tackett (5-9, 170).
Other linebackers who will rotate are junior Triston Rayburn (5-10, 220), sophomore Eric Billips (5-9 175), junior Gage Layman (5-9, 170), senior Lucas Daniels (5-10, 170) and Garrett.
The defensive line will utilize Stone, Marushi, Kolby Coburn, Jack Latherow and Garrett.
The secondary has Hester, Alley, Layne and junior Hunter Gillum (5-10, 175).
Kickoff is 7:30 p.m.