Ironton “running” over the competition; Tigers have eye on regional title

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Ironton ran for 445 yards in its regional quarterfinal win over Williamsport Westfall. (Photo by Jim Rinaldi)

Legendary head coach Bob Lutz and the tradition-rich Ironton football
program is up to its old postseason habits again. The Tigers and their
ground game are literally running over opponents. Ironton heads
to Jackson’s Holzer Field Friday to face New Lexington in the Division-IV, Region 15 regional
semifinals. Kickoff is slated for 7:30 p.m.


Legendary head coach Bob Lutz and the tradition-rich Ironton football program is up to its old postseason habits again. The Tigers and their ground game are literally running over opponents. After 445 rushing yards in their Week 11 win over Williamsport Westfall, the Tigers head to Jackson High School’s Holzer Field Friday night to face Bill Nutt’s New Lexington Panthers in the Division-IV, Region 15 regional semifinals. Kickoff is slated for 7:30 p.m.

Running back Keith Wetzel carried a huge load in the first round win. Wetzel, a 5-7, 200-pound back, ran 29 times for 156 yards. The junior also scored five touchdowns. Two other Tigers joined Wetzel over the century mark as Chance Freeman (5-11, 180, Sr.) ran for 144 yards and a score, and speedster Major Brice (5-9, 180, Sr.) ran for 121 yards.

The ironic thing about the Ironton offense, which averages 32.8 point per game, is it has the ability to be balanced. Quarterback Jon Schweickart (6-0, 195, Sr.) has thrown for over 1,000 yards this season. Schweickart has 10 touchdowns and only three interceptions while completing 54-percent of his passes. However, when the big boys up front – Geoff White (6-2, 270, Sr.), Robbie Webb (6-3, 240, So.), Sam Cramblit (6-0, 280, Jr.), Taylor Barker (6-0, 285, Jr) and Tony Murphy (5-11, 270, Sr.) – get it going like they did Friday night, there is really no reason for the Tigers to go to the air.

Schweickart is also a strength in the Ironton special teams. He was 6-for-7 in PAT attempts in Week 11, while consistently sending long, high kickoffs and punts to help the Tigers win field position.

“Big, physical, very well coached and very patient offensively and defensively,” said Westfall head coach Scott Keller when asked what impressed him the most about Ironton. “They are absolutely huge up front. They run the ball very well and might be the best tackling team we played.”

If there is a concern going into Week 12, it could be on the defensive side of the ball.

The Tigers, who give up just 16 points per game – a number that climbs to 25 point per game in their three losses, gave up 31 points to Westfall Friday night. The talented Westfall offense deserves some of that credit as Westfall quarterback D.J. Cain threw for 385 yards. To the Tigers credit, they did keep Westfall out of the end zone in the second half, including two goal line stops. The Ironton defense also had two second half takeaways.

Another thing that works in Ironton’s favor is the fact that they are battle tested. Ironton (8-3) has lost to Logan, Chillicothe and Wheelersburg – all teams that hosted and won in the first round of their respective divisions.

New Lexington advanced to Week 11 with a 42-14 win over Pomeroy Meigs. In the other Region 15 semifinal, top-seeded Martins Ferry (10-1) will play No. 4 seed Belmont Union Local (10-1) at Steubenville Reno Field at Harding Stadium. The winners will play for a regional championship in Week 13.

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