Ironton, Ashland meet in rivalry
HUNTINGTON — The Ironton Fighting Tigers will get a better feel for how much they have improved in 2018 in a 7:30 p.m. Friday home game against rival Ashland (4-0) in Tanks Memorial Stadium.
Ironton was 1-2 when it went to Putnam Stadium last year and Ashland handed the Fighting Tigers a 35-0 defeat on the way to a Kentucky Class 4A quarterfinals appearance. Ironton never recovered from the defeat and finished the 2017 campaign with a 4-6 record including Ohio Valley Conference losses to Fairland and Coal Grove.
The Fighting Tigers are 2-1 this season after winning at Fairland last week, 41-23. Their only loss was to 2017 Ohio Division V champion Wheelersburg (28-6) in the first game of the season. Since then, Ironton also has a victory at Russell (16-7).
Ironton feels differently about where this team is entering Week 4.
“This whole week we related to how we got beat (by Fairland) and we’re all pretty mad about last year,” Ironton quarterback Gage Salyers said following last week’s game. “It’s not our biggest win because we got a lot more to go.”
First-year Ironton head coach Trevon Pendleton said the penalties the Fighting Tigers picked up against the Fairland Dragons are an indication the team still has a long way to go before it can be said it has righted the ship.
“Definitely not. We’re still not where we want to be,” Pendleton said. “We’re still making a lot of mental mistakes and hurting ourselves. We’re getting ourselves behind the chains with penalties. We’re really not playing the type of football we want to be playing right now.”
Ironton was flagged 13 times for 109 yards against Fairland including four personal fouls.
Pendleton blamed the infractions as “the product of learning a new system,” but Ashland will be more than happy to take advantage of the field position and automatic first down opportunities Ironton would give it.
Next to Wheelersburg, and a game against defending OVC champion Coal Grove, Ashland is one of the toughest if not the toughest game Ironton will have all year
Ashland, ranked No. 1 in Kenlantucky Class 4A, has beaten Harjan County (49-6), Raceland (21-14), West Virginia opponent George Washington (50-28) and last week against Russell (41-0) behind quarterback Braxton Ratliff and running back Keonte Pittman. Ratliff passed for 128 yards and two TDs last season against Ironton while completing 13-of-17 attempts. Ratliff put up similar numbers two weeks ago against George Washington.
In addition to the two quarterbacks, the rivalry game will feature two of the area’s top two running backs in Pittman and Ironton’s Reid Carrico who is second in the OVC in rushing this season with 434 yards on 57 carries.
Both Salyers and Pendleton said they feel the Fighting Tigers will be ready to go Friday.
“I think we’re in good shape, but Ashland is a good team,” Salyers said. “I think it’ll be a dog fight.”
Friday’s game is the 83rd meeting between the schools with Ironton holding a 45-34-3 advantage, but the Tomcats won the last three and six of the last nine.
“Ashland is a game you can get up for in a matter of a day,” Pendleton said. “Our kids are going to be ready to play and be excited to play, so I’m looking forward to it.”
ASHLAND (4-0) AT IRONTON (2-1)
WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Friday
WHERE: Tanks Memorial Stadium
RADIO: WIRO 1230-AM, WTCR 1420-AM, WVBV 97.1-FM