Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

Local Sports

September 19, 2013

Ashland-Ironton could be a classic

Tomcats, Tigers walking similar paths

ASHLAND — Heading into the season, their stories were nearly identical.

A stable of seniors gone, a virtual overhaul of starters and the same grinder of a schedule lying ahead were preseason plot points.

A few weeks later, Ashland and Ironton are bookmarked on the same page as they set for a clash at Putnam Stadium on Friday night at 7:30.

The common denominators: two wins apiece, standout defensive efforts in the rear-view mirror and plenty of new players factoring into their improvement.

“We’re in a similar boat,” said Ironton coach Mark Vass. “The programs lost a lot, but there are new players in and both teams have talent.”

A good portion of that talent has surfaced on the defensive side. Both Ironton and Ashland won low-scoring affairs last Friday — Ironton beat Amanda-Clearcreek 14-7; Ashland downed Russell, 7-6.

The Tomcats limited Russell to just 3.5 yards per carry, pleasing defensive-minded coach Tony Love.

“My hope is that our kids are starting to get a feel for defense and how we’re supposed to be playing,” Love said.

The one-point victory marked the second such win this season, as Ashland’s first win was a 35-34 decision over Raceland.

“As a defensive guy, I think I’d rather have the 7-6,” said Love with a laugh. “(Former Ashland coach) Leon Hart told me, ‘Make sure you appreciate every win you get.’”

As the page turns to another rivalry game, Love isn’t quite sure what to expect.

“I don’t know if it’ll come down to a defensive battle, but it could,” Love said. “Ironton’s always so good at running the ball. You just have to commit so many guys to stopping their run, and even when you do that, they’re very patient. They keep pounding it and they produce.”

Pounding and production were on full display in Ironton’s most recent triumph. The Fighting Tigers overcame a 7-0 halftime deficit with the huge help of a 19-play, 97-yard touchdown drive that dropped 8:33 off the clock in the third quarter.

Four plays after that, a blocked punt set up a go-ahead TD in the fourth.

“Our kids responded well in the second half,” Vass said. “Our line did a good job of controlling the line of scrimmage. We grinded it out, it wasn’t easy yardage.”

Ironton’s offensive line is anchored by sizable senior Adam Webb (6-foot-6, 315 pounds) and junior Isaac Sherman (6-5, 290).

Fullback Desmond Young led Ironton with 71 yards on 20 carries. Quarterback Tristan Cox provided the scores.

Cox supplied the turning point in Ironton’s 35-14 win over Russell on Friday, Sept. 6, with a 60-yard interception return.

According to Vass, a collective effort across the board has helped them wipe a lopsided season-opening loss to Wheelersburg from their memory banks.

“The No. 1 thing has been attitude,” Vass said. “These kids work hard and want to be good. It’s a good, coachable group.”

Spelling potential bad news for Ashland are Ironton’s defensive numbers spanning the past two games. It’s allowed just 210 yards in that stint.

The Tomcats (2-2) are suffering from a slight offensive slump, scoring just seven points over the past six quarters.

Sophomore running back Quinton Baker averages 8.6 yards per rush. Quarterback Hunter Prince has 216 rushing yards — 141 of those came against Raceland.

“Baker is a gifted kid,” Vass said. “He’s one of the better running backs we’ll see all year, but he’s not the only one they’ve got.”

Baker scared the daylights out of Love this past Friday. A hard hit sidelined the playmaker for a short time.

“He took a shot over there,” Love recalled. “I was really concerned — I just happened to be standing right where it happened — and I thought, oh my goodness, this is not good. But things weren’t as bad as they appeared ...

“... We put him back in there and saw him glide and burst.”

Senior James Queen is back to full health after a concussion. Sophomore linebacker Drew O’Bryan returned for the Russell game after missing time with a leg injury.

“He looked like he was full speed out there,” Love commented on O’Bryan. “He made some big plays, but there were a lot of guys around him that enabled him to do that.”

Ironton won the meeting last season, but Ashland has taken two in a row at Putnam Stadium.

Text Only
Local Sports
  • MARK MAYNARD: Looking for those who inspire

    Inspirtation, they say, comes from within. It is defined as an inspiring or animating action or influence.

    July 22, 2014

  • 0722KYPGA_152.jpg Jones tops Gillum in playoff at Eagle Trace

    Ashland senior golfer Logan Jones didn't shoot his average Monday.
    He didn't mind.
    His three-over par 75 and one-hole playoff win over Elliott County junior Ryan Gillum gave him the Boys Open division title in the Kentucky PGA Junior Tour stop at Morehead State University's Eagle Trace Golf Course.

    July 21, 2014 6 Photos

  • 102213_329a.jpg Raceland tabs Clark as new girls basketball coach

    Jason Clark has a reputation of being — to use his word — “passionate” on the Raceland volleyball sideline.
    He plans to bring that same approach as the Lady Rams’ new basketball coach.

    July 21, 2014 1 Photo

  • 0305region2_389.jpg Pass the Mayo: East sophomore PG, Lady Raiders preparing for winter run

    East Carter sophomore point guard Kristen Mayo has played basketball for as long as she can remember.

    July 18, 2014 2 Photos

  • 0718spinda.jpg Steelers super fan Spinda to be recognized in Florida

    Shawn Spinda doesn’t have to use speech to profess his passion for the Pittsburgh Steelers.
    All it takes is a quick glance for a person to get the picture.
    But to absorb the whole picture, you’ll need to clear your schedule.
    Spinda is one of several fanatics who will be recognized at the Sports Fans Conference in Orlando, Florida, which is set for Aug. 28-Sept. 1 at the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort. He is a “What a Fan” NFL Fan of the Year nominee.

    July 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • 0703rfLL0204.jpg Little League State Baseball: Ready to run

    Morehead 11- and 12-year-old All-Star baseball manager Toby Gardner collectively likened his team to a racehorse.

    July 16, 2014 1 Photo

  • 0717prokick1.jpg Prokicker.com camp Eleven Ashland Tomcat football players were part of the Ray Guy Prokicker.com camp at Huntington High. The high-profile camps are put on all over the country. Rick Sang, an Ashland native who befriended Guy 20 years ago, is the camp's founder.

    July 16, 2014

  • 0716fbpractice0105.jpg Four-down territory: Making summer football practice pit stops

    The popular Monday night catchphrase filled my room on Tuesday morning as my new alarm sounded off at 7 a.m.

    July 16, 2014 5 Photos

  • 0716softball.jpg KHSAA pushes presence of masks

    Fairview’s Sydney Ekers and Lewis County’s Kelsey Rizzo didn’t wear masks to play softball until after they were struck in the face by line drives.
    The Kentucky High School Athletic Association has made a recommendation that it hopes will reduce such instances.

    July 16, 2014 1 Photo

  • LOCAL SPORTS BRIEFS: Ellis on 'leave' for Fairview volleyball

    Lauren Ellis is stepping aside as Fairview’s volleyball coach for this fall in order to complete coursework on her master’s degree, she said Tuesday.

    July 16, 2014