Harvest Prep at Ironton: Warriors bracing for matchup with Fighting Tigers

Jarrod Ulrey
ThisWeek group
Harvest Prep’s Jaylen Jennings outruns the Columbus Academy defense during the Warriors' 20-17 win Oct. 24.

Harvest Prep is making its seventh consecutive playoff appearance, and this year marks the fifth time that the Warriors have reached at least a regional semifinal during that stretch.

For coach Milan Smith, what stands out about his team’s latest matchup in that round is the opponent. 

Harvest Prep, which has moved up from Division VII to Division V and is seeded fifth in Region 19, will travel more than two hours to face top-seeded Ironton in a regional semifinal Saturday, Oct. 31.

The winner will face second-seeded West Lafayette Ridgewood or third-seeded Wheelersburg on Nov. 7 for the regional title.

“You always want to win and you’re doing so much to win that sometimes you’ve just got to find a new way of motivating,” Smith said. “Players get comfortable and complacent and it becomes increasingly more difficult to motivate kids, especially the kids that have been there, done that. Finding a way to keep winning is always a thrill.

“Ironton is Ironton. They’ve got a kid going to Ohio State and they’re very well-coached, disciplined, exactly what you’d think of when you think of Ironton. They’re one of the best-coached groups we’ll face in a long time and they’re talented. We look forward to it. The motivation for us is that we’re playing Ironton.”

The recruit by the Buckeyes whom Smith was referring to is senior Reid Carrico, a 6-foot-3, 225-pounder who is expected to play inside linebacker at the next level.

For the Fighting Tigers, he also is a standout running back who rushed eight times for 117 yards and two touchdowns and added a receiving touchdown in a 42-0 victory over eighth-seeded Johnstown on Oct. 24. 

Carrico has 1,179 yards and 19 touchdowns on 98 carries for the season.

He is complemented by sophomore quarterback Tayden Carpenter, who was 6-for-11 passing for 111 yards with two touchdowns against the Johnnies and has thrown for 19 scores.

The Tigers, who lost 17-7 to Kirtland in last year’s Division V state title game and have won 21 of their last 23 overall, haven’t beaten any opponent by fewer than 22 points while compiling an 8-0 record.

Ironton, which limited Johnstown to (minus)-16 yards rushing, will try to stop a Harvest Prep rushing attack that produced more than 300 yards while improving to 7-1 with a 20-17 victory Oct. 24 at fourth-seeded Columbus Academy.

That avenged a 20-10 loss to the Vikings on Sept. 4.

Junior running back Jaylen Jennings rushed for 228 yards and two touchdowns and has rushed for 18 touchdowns and more than 1,300 yards on the season.

Sophomore quarterback Aden Rogers completed four of seven passes for 104 yards.

Those performances helped the Warriors overcome five turnovers. 

“We possessed the ball a lot,” Smith said. “The second half we dominated the line of scrimmage and I thought that was important. We got to running the ball downhill, and when we get to doing that we’re just difficult to beat. When we don’t turn the ball over, we’re pretty tough. When we turn it over, we’re not that good.”

julrey@thisweeknews.com

@UlreyThisWeek

HARVEST PREP at IRONTON

•When: 7 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 31

•Last meeting: First meeting

•Harvest Prep (7-1) to date: Defeated Buckeye Valley 56-25; lost to Columbus Academy 20-10; def. Grandview 64-13; def. Ready 18-15; def. Bexley 46-20; def. Whitehall 52-14; def. Piketon 41-8; def. Columbus Academy 20-17

•Ironton (8-0) to date: Def. Portsmouth 50-9; def. Gallipolis Gallia Academy 55-7; def. Coal Grove 71-0; def. Ironton Rock Hill 41-0; def. Chesapeake 58-10; def. Cincinnati Sycamore 33-11; def. New Lexington 49-3; def. Johnstown 42-0

•Top Warriors: Josiah Carroll (DB/QB/K), Jalen Davis (WR/DL), Phillip Gibson-Perry (RB/LB), Rashaun Goines (WR/DB), Jaylen Jennings (RB), Terrence Kee (QB/LB), Patrick Moore Graves (OL/LS), Manny Mullens (TE/DL) and Aden Rogers (QB)

•Top Fighting Tigers: Tayden Carpenter (QB/LB), Reid Carrico (RB/LB), Trevor Carter (RB), Cameron Deere (LB), Ashton Duncan (WR/LB), Trent Hacker (WR/DB) and Kyle Howell (WR/DB)