High school football kicked off in southern Ohio on Friday night, exactly how Wheelersburg coach Rob Woodward thinks it always should — with his Pirates taking on their rivals to the south, Ironton.
“I love this game to open up every year. You have two storied progams in southeast Ohio. I’m a product of southeast Ohio,” the coach said. “Whether we are playing at Wheelersburg or at Ironton you know you are going to see two good, hard-hitting teams. But, boy, does it make me smile when the score is a lot for the Pirates and not so much for the Tigers.”
This year, Woodward’s grin stretched from ear to ear as his Pirates rolled Ironton, 49-12, inside Tanks Memorial Stadium. The Wheelersburg victory ended a four-year run by Ironton in the series.
The sixth-year head coach was especially happy for his seniors, who were experiencing their first taste of victory over the Tigers.
“This is one of my favorite (wins) just because this senior group deserved this,” he said. “They have worked their brains off. In 2011, we came down here and they were sophomores and eight of them played in that game, but they made (Ironton) earn everything they got that year. In the end, it was a lopsided score that year, but it set the tone for those guys on how hard they wanted to work.”
The two years of hard work paid dividends in a hurry on Friday, as the Pirates offense came out clicking on all cylinders.
After receiving the opening kickoff, Wheelersburg quickly marched down the field for its first score of the season, a six-yard pass from Eddie Miller to Dylan Miller.
Ironton (0-1), however, struggled mightily to get anything going on the offensive side of the ball. The Tigers fumbled deep inside their own territory on their first two possessions.
Wheelersburg (1-0) quickly capitalized on both occasions. The first time needing just two plays as Eddie Miller found Cam Parsley for a 20-yard score. The second time Miller took care of things himself with a two-yard run, making it 21-0 Wheelersburg not even eight minutes into the first quarter.
Miller, an All-State quarterback a year ago, finished the night 11 of 16 for 215 yards and four touchdowns through the air to go along with two scores and 36 yards on the ground.
Ironton coach Mark Vass, who is having to replace 19 seniors from last year’s team, said the first few minutes of the game could not have gone much worse for his team.
“(Wheelersburg) is a good team, but that was a perfect storm there in the first half,” he said. “We couldn’t do anything right. We had a fumble on about every possession. Obviously, they were ready and we weren’t.”
Ironton’s lone bright spot came on the kickoff after Miller’s two-yard run. After bobbling the kick, Jake Long picked it up and scampered down the sidelines for a 95-yard touchdown, cutting the lead to 21-6.
What momentum the big play generated was quickly lost, however. On the first play of the ensuing drive, Eddie Miller once again hooked up with Dylan Miller for a touchdown, this time a 72-yard bomb down the sideline.
Dylan Miller finished with five catches for 119 yards and two scores.
The Wheelersburg defense held Ironton to just 152 total yards.