IRONTON — On a night the Ironton Tanks were honored at the memorial stadium bearing their name, the Ironton Fighting Tigers played like a pro football team.
Ironton (3-0) recovered from a slow start to defeat Fairland 49-7 Friday in the Ohio Valley Conference opener for both teams.
Fairland stunned Ironton on the first play of the game, as Gavin Hunt beat two defenders and Max Ward hit him in stride with an 82-yard touchdown pass. Emma Marshall's extra point gave the Dragons a 7-0 lead.
"They gave us a new set that we hadn't seen before," Ironton coach Trevon Pendleton said. "They caught us being over-aggressive. It served as a wake-up call, so it wound up being a good thing."
For two possessions, Fairland's defense was equally impressive. The Tigers ran six plays for minus-11 yards.
Then the game turned. The Dragons went to the air again, but Gage Salyers intercepted at the Fairland 30 and returned it to the 2. On the next play, Reid Carrico scored and Avery Book's extra point tied it 7-7 with 6:03 left in the first quarter.
"I wasn't worried at all after (Fairland's touchdown)," Pendleton said. "We told our guys to pin their ears back and be aggressive and if they make mistakes, make them at 100 mph."
Ironton's defense, helped by an 18-yard loss on a missed snap, made a stop to set up a 78-yard Salyers-to-Carrico touchdown pass to give the Tigers a lead they never relinquished.
Ironton won the battle for field position, taking advantage of two more Dragons fumbles and a 12-yard punt. The short kick gave the Tigers possession at their own 47. Five plays later, Seth Fosson plunged in from the 2 to make it 21-7.
The Tigers went to the pass to boost the lead to 28-7, as Salyers found Collin Freeman alone in the end zone for a 25-yard TD pass 3:29 before halftime.
Nate Cochran's fumble recovery at the Fairland 28 set up Ironton's next touchdown, a 16-yard skirting of left end by Salyers.
The Tigers opened the third quarter with an eight-play, 61-yard drive that ended with a 2-yard touchdown run by Junior Jones. Izsac Unger kicked the point after and it was 42-7.
Trevor Carter's 54-yard touchdown jaunt with 1:39 remaining set the score.
The Tigers outgained the Dragons 361-179.
"We cleaned up some things," Pendleton said of his team's offensive approach. "We has been doing some things that really didn't suit our team and we changed that."
The Tanks, who played from 1919 through 1930 before merging with the Portsmouth Spartans, now the Detroit Lions, were remembered before the game and at halftime. Former Ohio State and Detroit Lions defensive back William White was on hand for the game and conducted the coin toss.
FAIRLAND 7 0 0 0 - 7
IRONTON 14 21 7 7 - 42
F - Hunt 82 pass from Ward (Marshall kick)
I - Carrico 2 run (Book kick)
I - Carrico 78 pass from Salyers (Book kick)
I - Fosson 2 run (Book kick)
I - Freeman 25 pass from Salyers (Book kick)
I - Salyers 16 run (Book kick)
I - Jones 2 run (Unger kick)
I - Carter 54 run (Unger kick)
First downs 8 10
Rushes-yards 22-34 29-214
Passes 8-16-1 6-15-0
Passing yards 145 137
Total yards 179 361
Fumble-lost 5-1 1-1
Penalties-yards 5-29 4-40
Punts 5-31.2 2-46.5
Fairland Stitt 11-58, Williams 1-1, Brumfield 2-3, Taylor 2-2, Craft 2-2, Ward 2-(minus-5), team 2-(minus-25); Ironton Salyers 4-23, Carrico 8-68, Brownstead 2-(minus-2), Fosson 4-21, Deere 3-27, Jones 2-3, Browning 3-20, Carter 1-54, Howell 2-7.
Fairland: Ward 8-15-0, 145 yards; Schmidt 0-1-1; Ironton: Salyers 6-12-0, 137 yards.
Fairland: Hunt 3-95, West2-22, Stitt 1-4, Williams 1-8, Schmidt 1-15; Ironton: Carrico 3-82, Freeman 1-25, Grizzle 1-11, Howell 1-19.