WHEELERSBURG, Ohio— The Wheelersburg Pirates pulled away from the Ironton Fighting Tigers in the second half en route to a 42-16 victory Friday night.
Senior quarterback Austin May — who started his first game under center after replacing record-breaking signal caller Eddie Miller III, who graduated at the end of last season — dominated the Ironton defense with his arm and his legs.
May finished the game going 6-for-9 through the air for 183 yards and four touchdown passes. On the ground, May ran the ball nine times for 84 yards and an additional score.
After the contest, May was excited about his play but ecstatic about the performance of the offense. However, he knows the Pirates have to continue to improve and work on their shortcomings as the season progresses
“It’s kind of surreal being senior year and everything,” May said. “We all played great. Everyone did. We all played great. The receivers caught the ball. The running backs ran hard. Everything went well done but we are going to have to be a little pessimistic. We are going to have to look at the negatives and we are going to have to make them better.”
Those negative moments might be hard to find as Wheelersburg (1-0) kept Ironton (0-1) off balance throughout the majority of the contest.
As a team, the Pirates gained 221 yards on the ground on 37 rushing attempts and three touchdowns. Aside from May’s two rushing scores, Jordan Howard finished the night with 44 yards on seven attempts while finding the endzone.
Going into the contest, Wheelersburg coach Rob Woodward planned on featuring a balanced attack. However, due to the roster turnover at the end of last season, the Pirate coaching staff wasn’t sure if those plans were going to come to fruition.
” … We knew we had a lot of good players in spot, but we were waiting for them to find their identity and the confidence in their play,” Woodward said.
“We run the ball so well that teams work to stop our run and that opens up the pass. We are just really working hard to not pigeonhole ourselves into just running or passing the ball, we want to take what the defense gives us. I think our coaching staff did a tremendous job of taking what the defense gave us tonight.”
Defensively, Wheelersburg got off to a slow start, allowing Ironton to take the opening kick off and put seven points on the board. In the second quarter, the Fighting Tigers added another nine points but were shut out in the second half. Woodward attributes the success of his defensive unit to the kids making plays, not any type of half-time adjustments.
“Our kids just rose to the challenge,” Woodward said. ” … (On the first drive) we gave our defense bad field position but we had them at a third and long. Our players knew the play but we just didn’t make the play. So, we gave them that big play and they go in and score. Then there was another screen pass where we had the play sniffed out, but they capitalized on it.”
The Pirates did struggle to contain the Ironton rushing attack as the Fighting Tigers finished the game with 171 yards on 45 attempts. Ironton quarterback Tristian Cox led the way with 66 yards on 13 carries, two resulting in touchdowns. DeAngelo Palladino carried the ball 16 times for 50 yards while Tanner Price only ran five times but picked up 45 yards.
“I think we were a little shaky their to start the season but they rose to the challenge and they stepped it up, and they played lights-out football for us out there tonight,” Woodward said.
Wheelersburg won’t have long to celebrate the opening victory over its rival, as the Pirates travel to Oak Hill next Friday.
Chris Slone can be reached at 353-3101, ext 1930, or on Twitter @crslone.
Ironton — TD, T. Cox 11 yd run (Kelley kick) (10:00, 4-53)
Wheelersburg — TD, J. Spradlin 5 yd pass from A. May (Lewis kick) (6:00, 9-66)
Ironton — L. Kelley 29 yd field goal (8:50, 12-40)
Wheelersburg — T. Jenkins 57 yd pass from A. May (Lewis kick) (8:18, 2-66)
Ironton — Cox 1 yd run (blocked kick) (4:56, 9-65)
Wheelersburg — A. May 2 yd run (Lewis kick) (:21, 6-70)
Wheelersburg — J. Howard 20 yd run (Lewis kick) (9:29, 7-52)
Wheelersburg — C. Burk 54 yd pass from A. May (Lewis kick) (:14, 5-65)
Wheelersburg —C. Burk 20 yd pass from A. May (Lewis kick) (6:04, 3-30)
Passing — Ironton: T. Cox 3-10 42; Wheelersburg: A. May 6-9 183.
Rushing — Ironton: T. Cox 13-66, D. Palladino 16-50, T. Price 5-45, D. Young 5-7, I. Brickey-Scott 3-3, J. Issac 1-2, J. Bodmer 2-(-2) ; Wheelersburg: A. May 9-84, J. Howard 7-44, J. Hutchinson 7-42, M. McAllister 8-25, C. Burk 2-8, D. Lewis 1-7, T. Doerr 1-6, T. Bivens 2-5.
Receiving —Ironton: D. Palladino 2-34, L. Campbell 1-8; Wheelersburg: T. Jenkins 1-57, C. Burk 1-54, J. Howard 2-46, J. Spradlin 1-5.
Ironton 0-1; Wheelersburg 1-0