Big send-off for Ironton as they head to Canton to play for state title
Ironton is a town rich in football tradition. That tradition and pride was on full display Thursday as the Ironton Fighting Tigers departed for Canton, Ohio.
The team will be playing for a state championship Saturday against the Kirtland Hornets, a team that is used to playing in state title games.
This is the first trip to a state title game for Ironton in 20 years. The last time the team won a state championship was 1989.
The town sent the team off in a big way. Members of the community lined the streets with signs, donned in their orange and black, while drivers honked their horns as the team drove through town.
Thursday morning started off with a pep assembly at Ironton High School. Then the players and coaches walked the halls of Ironton Elementary/Middle School while students gave them high-fives and chanted, 'Let's Go Tigers!'
"There is a lot of tradition, so it's obviously going to mean a lot to everyone," said Jordan Grizzle, a wide-receiver and outside linebacker for the team. "It's definitely more than a game. This town loves it, we love it. We haven't been there in a long time, and we put so much hard work into this. I think we have earned it, we just have to go and lay it all on the line."
"Just seeing the community behind us and everyone coming out and just wishing us good luck when we leave, that means everything to the team and to the coaching staff," said Gage Salyers, the team's quarterback and free safety.
The Tigers head into Saturday's game with a record of 13-1, while the Hornets are 14-0. The coaches and players say they realize what they are up against, but say they believe the can come away with the win.
"No one has outworked us," said Trevon Pendleton, Ironton's head coach. "If it comes down to effort and toughness, our kids are going to come home with it we know that. No one has outworked us and no one has prepared harder than us."
"There's a state championship on the line, so that's the motivation," Salyers said. "We are just sticking to what we have been doing this whole playoff run, just playing with a great effort and great attitude. I think we will come out on top."
There are about 15 seniors on the team. Each of them will tell you that every play and game has prepared them for the biggest game of all, although it will be emotional knowing it is their last.
"I think we are well prepared," Grizzle said. "Our experience is there and we are ready to win."
"They are good and we are good, so it will be a heavyweight fight Saturday night," Salyers said.
The team will have two practices before they take the field in Canton Saturday.
The Division V state championship game will start at 8 p.m. Saturday at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium.
WSAZ will be covering the game. Check WSAZ.com and the WSAZ App for the latest updates.