Ironton uses grit, clutch plays to beat Wheelersburg

Published 2:35 am Saturday, August 19, 2023

Ironton Fighting Tigers’ Shaun Terry takes off on an 84-yard touchdown run in a 17-14 win over Wheelersburg on Friday. (Jeremy Holtzapfel/


Ironton Fighting Tigers’ Zayne Williams (24) gets ready to run into the end zone and cap a 29-yard gallop in a 17-14 win over the Wheelersburg Pirates on Friday. (Jeremy Holtzapfel/

By Jim Walker

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Back in 1953, Notre Dame coach Frank Leahy said, “When the going gets tough, the tough get going.”

Things got tough for Ironton on Friday night so the Fighting Tigers got tough.

Real tough.

Ironton used a lot of grit and determination along with some key plays as they overcame a lot of mistakes in beating the Wheelersburg Pirates 17-14 in the season opener at Tanks Memorial Stadium.

Ironton had 11 penalties for 130 yards and lost two fumbles but got a couple of big offensive touchdown runs by Shaun “Mr. Electric” Terry and Zayne “The Train” Williams plus interceptions from Braden Schreck, Josh Johnson and Terry as well as the game-winning field goal by David Fields to down the rival Pirates.

“We talk about that. Whether we turn it over and we’ve got to extinguish the fire or if we create a turnover or we create a big explosive play so we create momentum for ourselves,” said Ironton coach Trevon Pendleton.

“We got a lot of guys who stepped up and played well. A lot of guys who played hard the entire time. We got to get in better shape and get some more guys involved, but overall I think our guys played well when it counted.”

The tough plays started early as Wheelersburg took the opening kickoff and used a couple of 15-yard penalties on Ironton to reach the 13-yard line. But Schreck picked off a Braydon Rucker pass at the one-yard line to halt the threat.

Four plays later, Terry took a handoff and bolted 84 yards for a touchdown and Field’s kick made it 7-0 at the 4:24 mark.

The Ironton defense forced a punt and Connor Estep boomed a 44-yard kick, but Terry returned the ball 36 yards to the Wheelersburg 38.

It took just 3 plays to score this time as Williams broke a couple of tackles and raced 29 yards for the score. Fields again added the kick and it was 14-0 with one minute left in the quarter.

But then came the second quarter and Ironton’s offense hit a roadblock  with more mistakes.

A fumble gave the Pirates the ball at the Ironton 28. A penalty and loss of 3 yards pushed the ball back to the 35, but a 26-yard pass from Rucker to Devon Lattimore got the ball to the  9 and after a 2-yard loss, the pair hooked up again on an 11-yard scoring pass.

Estep’s conversion made it 14-7 with 8:26 on the clock.

Another penalty and a 9-yard sack of Thacker forced Ironton to punt and Wheelersburg had the ball at the Ironton 41. This time Ironton got an interception by Terry in the end zone to stop the threat.

But Ironton hand another penalty that helped force a punt and the Pirates got the ball at the Ironton 48.

A 20-yard run by Lattimore with another penalty tacked on put the ball at the 9-yard line. Four plays later, Landon Hutchinson scored from a yard out and Estep’s kick tied the game with 35 seconds left in the half.

“We talk about first strike and scoring quick and we were able to capitalize on that. We wasn’t able to maintain that momentum. A lot of it was due to not being able to sustain offensive drives. That was in part getting behind the chains. You get behind the chains against a very good, disciplined defense  you’re going to struggle. You saw that with ourselves ,” said Pendleton.

“You saw that with Wheelersburg in the second half. We was able to force some negative plays on them and got them behind the chains a little bit and that shrinks their playbook a little bit and we was able to capitalize on those things, too.”

Ironton came out the second half and drove to the Pirates’ 14-yard line only to have a penalty and two incomplete passes set up a fourth down.

But Fields boomed a 31-yard field goal through the uprights and Ironton led 17-14 with 6:12 left in the quarter.

Although Ironton’s offense couldn’t sustain a drive the rest of the game except late, Wheelersburg was having trouble moving the ball against the Ironton defense.

Ironton did drive from the Wheelersburg 48 down to the 10-yard line. After a gain of 3, a couple of penalties and a sack turned the ball back to the Pirates at the 33 with 1:26 to play.

The Pirates were unable to capitalize and Rucker was sacked on a fourth-and-long play as Ironton took over the ball at the 31 and Thacker just took a knee as time ran out.

“Offensively, we’ve got to do a better job of unforced errors. Too many penalties. We didn’t have any delay of games and I thought we we managed the clock well. There at the end we took one (delay penalty) on purpose. Honestly, I wish we could have those last few calls at the end back, but you’re making calls in the heat of the moment,” said Pendleton.

“In crunch time, fourth and short they went hard count one time, third and short they went hard count one time and we didn’t jump either time. I thought our guys done a really good job of that.”

Ironton ran 44 times for 278 yards with Terry getting 96 yards on 4 carries, Thacker 58 yards on 18 tries and Williams 48 yards on 7 rushes. Thacker was 3-of-10 passing for 35 yards.

A lot of credit for the running game had to go to Isaac Fitzpatrick, Aiden Layne, Tatum Moore, Bowen Gossett, Grant Day, Noah Patterson and Connor Lowe who controlled the offensive line most of the game.

The Pirates had 140 yards on the ground and 61 passing for 201 total yards to Ironton’s 313. Creed Warren carried 11 times for 52 yards.

Next Saturday, Ironton will host the Gridiron Classic. Clarkson North of Canada plays Martinsburg, W.Va. at 1 p.m., DeMatha Catholic of Maryland faces Springfield in the second game and Ironton takes on Jackson in the final game.

Wheelersburg hosts Cincinnati McNicholas on Friday.

Wheelersburg 0 14 0 0 = 14

Ironton     14 0 3 0 = 17

First Quarter

Irn — Shaun Terry 84 run (David Fields kick) 4:24

Irn — Zayne Williams 29 run (David Fields kick) 1:00

Second Quarter

Wh — Devon Lattimore 11 pass from Braylon Rucker (Connor Estep kick) 8:26

Wh — Landon Hutchinson 1 run (Connor Estep kick) 0:35

Third Quarter

Irn — David Fields 31 field goal, 6:12



First downs 12 14

Rushes-yards 34-140 44-278

Passing yards 61 35

Total yards 201 313

Cmp-Att-Int 11-19-3 3-11-0

Fumbles-lost 1-1 2-2

Penalties-yards 5-45 11-130

Punts-average 5-35.6 3-38.7


Individual Leaders

RUSHING–Wheelersburg: Creed Warren 11-52, Braylon Rucker 8-14, Riley Cunningham 7-26, Kenyon Evans 1-minus 2, Landon Hutchinson 5-16, Devon Lattimore 1-20, Brayden Maxie 1-14; Ironton: Zayne Williams 7-48, Bailey Thacker 18-58, Shaun Terry 4-96, Gavin Hart 10-42, Braden Schreck 4-36, team 1-minus 2.

PASSING–Wheelersburg: Braylon Rucker 11-18-2 61 TD, Landon Hutchinson 0-1-1; Ironton: Bailey Thacker 3-10-0 35, Braden Schreck 0-1-0.

RECEIVING–Wheelersburg: Devon Lattimore 6-46 TD, Logan Adkins 2-13, Kenyon Evans 2-0; Ironton: Braden Schreck 2-21, Shaun Terry 1-14.