The Jackson Ironmen football team improved to 2-0 last Friday with a 31-7 win over visiting Fairfield Union.
The Ironmen are expecting a physical contest tonight when they travel to Gallipolis to take on their former SEOAL rival in the first meeting between the schools in two years.
Gallia Academy (1-1), which had been a charter member of the SEOAL since its inception in 1925, left to join the Ohio Valley Conference after the 2015-16 school year.
In its final league meeting during the final week of the 2015 season, Jackson defeated the Blue Devils 64-20 and finished the regular season with a 9-1 record.
However, the Blue Devils hold a 49-43-7 edge in the overall series against Jackson.
This season, the Blue Devils are off to a 1-1 start after defeating county-rival River Valley 49-7 last week, following a 14-8 loss against Meigs in the season opener.
"This is Gallipolis and Jackson," said Jackson head coach Andy Hall. "With this being their home-opener, we expect a great crowd on both sides. I think our communities are the biggest rivalry in the old SEOAL. Jackson and Wellston are rivals because we are seven miles apart. Gallipolis and Jackson are rivals because in 100 years, the series is close.
"There have been heartbreaking losses over the years on both sides. Both schools have great tradition and this rivalry has been nip-and-tuck for many years so it's nice to have them back on the schedule and renew the rivalry."
In last week's win over River Valley, the Blue Devils had two 100-yard rushers, led by Jacob Campbell who had five rushing touchdowns and 189 yards on 15 carries.
Gallia Academy finished with 489 total offensive yards, as Boo Pullins also added a rushing touchdown in the win over River Valley and 103 rushing yards.
"They are county rivals. It's kind of like us and Wellston and River Valley has beat them the last couple years. I know that doesn't set well with Gallipolis fans, but they (Gallia Academy) are a better team," said Hall. "Coach (Alex) Penrod does a real good job. Offensively, he likes to throw the ball but these last two weeks, he has found a new running game. He still gives you all that spread stuff and the illusion of the throwing the ball, but he does that to set up the running game.
"He and I have talked offensive strategies for years. He's talked to me about the power running game and unbalanced formations and I've talked to him about the passing game and singling things in. Both of us have taken ideas from each other. When I look at their running game, it looks a lot like ours."
The Ironmen (2-0) also feel confident in their ability to run the football on offense and it is easy to see why.
Consistency has been the key in the running game for the Ironmen through two games, led by senior tailback Blake McCoy who rushed 19 times for a career-high 204 yards and two touchdowns in Jackson's 31-7 win over Fairfield Union last week.
Thus far, McCoy has averaged 8.7 yards per carry on his 39 touches and three rushing touchdowns this season.
Also, Reid Evans had a pair of touchdowns and 91 rushing yards on four carries in the win over Fairfield Union.
As a team, the Ironmen have rushed for over 300 yards in back-to-back games and although, they have attempted only 11 passes for the season, Coach Hall said he has confidence in his young sophomore quarterback Jared Icenhower.
"Being up 10-7 at halftime, we were pretty fortunate," said Hall. "In the second half, we went from trying to go inside to running more outside type of schemes and getting out on the perimeter and throwing the ball outside, which really helped us open up everything and allowed us to take control of the game.
"Our offense evolves week-in and week-out as we become more familiar with what we want to do. We want to attach things to it as we move through the season."
The keys this week for Jackson again begins up front with the offensive line, according to Hall.
"We want to be able to run the football first. We have four running backs and they all can do damage," he said. "Then there are our wide-outs in Reid Evans and Payton Speakman. They are our deep threats and we need to do a better job of getting them the ball in space.
"As our young quarterback, who has had two good weeks and is developing, we are going to ask more from him as the season progresses."
Another key for the Ironmen this season has been on special teams as senior Michael Benson, Jackson's stud kicker and punter can easily change the course of a game.
He was the secret weapon in last week's win over Fairfield Union, as he scored seven points on four extra-point kicks and a 22-yard field goal. He also had one punt for 58 yards and didn't allow a kick or punt return.
"He's a weapon for us," said Hall. "They got the ball on their 20-yard line each possession. When you have to go 80-yards every possession, it's hard for high school football teams to do that. He's kicking it out of the end zone and if he doesn't, our coverage team is doing a great job of getting down there and keeping them inside the 20 or 25 yard line, which is a huge benefit for us.
"It helps our defense get started and offensively, knowing if we get inside the 30-yard line, we should be able to score points whether it's a touchdown or a field goal. He just does a great job."
Defensively, the Ironmen have surrendered only one touchdown in eight quarters and are holding their opponents to just a 173.5 yard average in total offense.
The game between the Ironmen and Gallia Academy will kick off a 7 p.m. at Memorial Field and can be heard live on 96.7, WKOV-FM with Dan Morrow, Pete Wilson and Jim Reynolds calling the action.