WHEELERSBURG, Ohio — The Pirates abruptly dismissed any rivalry tensions that might have appeared prior to the contest while quickly ending the Fighting Tigers hopes of staging an upset in round one of the postseason.
No. 1 seed Wheelersburg scored 24 unanswered points in the first half to knock out eight-seeded Ironton 38-7 in a Division V, Region 17 quarterfinal match Friday night at Ed Miller Stadium.
“It was a relaxed feel, this team as been a lose team all year,” Pirates coach Rob Woodward said. “As lose as I can ever remember a football team but they’re focused. They’ve just got a calm aggressiveness about them that when they come out to play, they execute. It’s really attributed to the work they’ve put in over a long period of time to get ready for the moment.”
The Pirate defense set the tone early in the game, forcing a turnover on downs and recovering a football on the first two Ironton possessions. Wheelersburg (11-0) limited the Fighting Tigers to 172 yards while creating two turnovers.
“It’s just big plays,” Woodward said. “Jake Darnell sets the tone of the game on fourth down with a big stick … Wyatt Henderson comes up and makes big plays. They recognize when the opportunity arises that they need to step up and make a play, and they make the plays that are needed.
“And then you’ve got the front six. Those two linebackers (Clint) Hatfield and (Xander) Carmichael, they are just outstanding. You’ve got (Jeremy) Cooper and Sammy Hall, Eli and Gabe Whitley, two twin brothers that are just a dominating force on the edge. They all just did a really good job against a great Ironton football team.”
Offensively, Kyle Davis and Company continued to perform like a well-oiled machine, racking up 350 yards. Davis, a first-year starter at quarterback, scored three touchdowns — two through the air and one on the ground.
All three of Davis’ touchdowns came in the opening 24 minutes. The senior quarterback scored the first touchdown of the game, a 10-yard run. In the second quarter, Davis hit Tanner Bivens twice, once from 50 yards out and the second touchdown came from 22 yards away.
“Coach (Thom) Kaskey, our offensive coordinator, does a great job of keeping teams off balance, whether it’s power run or a spread offense,” Woodward said. “We also have some shifty backs and Kyle (Davis) is doing a good job of throwing it down the field. Our coaches are really working well on that side with the different positions.”
Even though the second half was more of a formality, running back Dominic Reyes wasn’t about to let Ironton back in the contest as he scored two touchdowns in the final 24 minutes to erase all doubt.
Reyes kicked off the scoring with a 33-yard run on a 3rd-and-12 play. In the fourth quarter, after the Fighting Tigers scored their lone touchdown of the evening, Reyes reeled off a 66-yard kickoff return, which set Wheelersburg up with a 1st-and-goal from the Ironton 8-yard line. Reyes only needed one play to finish what he started.
Wheelersburg will plat West Lafayette Ridgewood (9-1) in the semifinals next Friday at a neutral site that as yet to be determined.
Reach Chris Slone at 740-353-3101, ext 1930, or on Twitter @crslone.
Wheelersburg — Davis 10 yd. run (Lewis kick), 7:10
Wheelersburg — Lewis 37 yd. field goal, 1:07
Wheelersburg — Bivens 50 yd. pass from Davis (Lewis kick), 8:14
Wheelersburg — Bivens 22 yd. pass from Davis (Lewis kick), 1:27
Wheelersburg — Reyes 33 yd. run (Lewis kick), 1:56
Ironton — Carey 33 yd. pass from Isaac (Neal kick), 6:27
Wheelersburg — Reyes 8 yd. run (Lewis kick), 6:09
Rushing — Ironton: Carrico 8-37, Young 10-30, Barker 8-26, Pleasant 5-16, McCallister 2-6, Issac 6-(-13); Wheelersburg: Reyes 4-50, Howard 9-29, Davis 15-22, Carmichael 1-13, Newsome 2-11.
Passing — Ironton: Isaac 3-9-35, Carey 1-2-25, Carrico 0-1; Wheelersburg: Davis 10-14-225.
Receiving — Ironton: Carey 2-46, Carrico 1-25, Barker 1-(-1); Wheelersburg: Darnell 5-93, Bivens 2-72, Howard 1-25, Holden 1-18, Doerr 1-17.
Ironton 6-5, Wheelersburg 11-0.