Tri-Valley quarterback Aidan Fritter (left) is tackled by Jackson defensive tackle Ty Jones during a Region 11 playoff game in Division II on Friday night at Alumni Stadium. (Photo By Red Thompson, Jr.)
Tri-Valley quarterback Aidan Fritter (left) is tackled by Jackson defensive tackle Ty Jones during a Region 11 playoff game in Division II on Friday night at Alumni Stadium. (Photo By Red Thompson, Jr.)

JACKSON – Turnovers proved costly for Jackson, which lost to Tri-Valley 14-12 Friday night in a Division III playoff clash in Region 11 at Alumni Stadium.

Consequently, the Ironmen were unable to rebound from its 30-27 double-overtime loss to Chillicothe two weeks ago.

Jackson entered the night averaging 44 points per game over the last six weeks but was limited to just 12 points against the Scotties.

“We said during the pregame that this was a 50-50 toss-up game,” said Jackson head coach Andy Hall. “Both teams had firepower on offense, and both defenses got to the ball well, as the stats showed tonight. There wasn’t a lot of offense for either team. There were big plays that led to scoring drives for both teams, but it was a slugfest. We knew going in what it was going to be like this – two good teams with playoff traditions.

“We have never faced each other before, but I was excited about this matchup tonight. I was pleased with how our kids never gave up in the second half. Unfortunately, we came out on the short end, which happens in playoff football.”

With the loss, the Ironmen’s season ends with a 5-2 overall record. Tri-Valley (7-1) advances to next week’s matchup against Bishop Hartley, which defeated Western Brown, 65-14, on Friday.

Evan Spires got the start at quarterback for Jackson in place of Jason Winters, who sat out with an injured elbow and hamstring. Spires completed 17 of 28 passes for 172 yards and one touchdown.

The bulk of those passing yards went to the receiving tandem of Nate McManaway, Holden Blankenship, Wolford, and Tristan Prater.

McManaway had four catches for 38 yards, while Blankenship had two catches for 38 yards to lead all receivers. Wolford was not far off the pace with three receptions for 35 yards and a touchdown, and Prater had five catches for 32 yards for Jackson.

Drew Bragg finished with two receptions for 22 yards, and Treylan Davis had a catch for seven yards.

Despite throwing three interceptions in the loss, Spires’ stats were exceptional most of the night against Tri-Valley’s defense.

“Evan battled, and he had to throw the ball a lot in the second half,” said Hall.

Tri-Valley’s Aidan Fritter threw for 65 yards, completing 5 of 9 passes, and was intercepted once, coming on the Scotties’ initial drive of the game. He also lost a fumble, which led to the Ironmen’s first score in the third quarter.

Jackson’s offense struggled in the first half, turning the ball over on its first three possessions.

Spires threw his first interception on the game’s opening drive after the Ironmen got into Tri-Valley territory at the 33-yard line.

Jackson then turned the ball over on downs on fourth-and-3 after Wolford was stopped for no gain at the Tri-Valley 44-yard line.

That proved to be the turning point, as Fritter led the Scotties on a 12-play drive, covering 56 yards. He converted two third-down conversions – the first on an 11-yard pass to Jalen Goins-Chandler – and the second on an 18-yard completion to Goins-Chandler to give the Scotties a first-and-goal at the Jackson 4-yard line. Two-plays later, the drive was capped with a two-yard touchdown run by Fritter for a 7-0 lead.

The Ironmen drove to the Tri-Valley 15 on its next drive but was turned away when Hunter Webb was stripped of the ball, and Blake Sands recovered the fumble, allowing the Scotties to maintain a seven-point lead at the half.

“It didn’t start off well for us to begin the game. We had the ball in their territory three different times, and we turned the ball over,” Hall said. “We played hard on defense, and if you look at the stats, it felt like we were dominating the game, but we trailed 7-0 at halftime.”

Tri-Valley’s running game proved to be the bright spot offensively in the first half, as Fritter totaled 36 yards in the half. He finished with 55 rushing yards for the game to lead the Scotties.

The Scotties drove 54-yards, including 31 of those yards on a pass from Fritter to Luke Hill, coming on the first play of their opening drive in the second half. Then they converted on a fourth-and-5 play from the Jackson 18 on a nine-yard pass from Fritter to Dalton Hazen. Two-plays later, Sands capped the seven-play drive with a seven-yard touchdown run to take a 14-0 lead.

Spires appeared to be in rhythm with his receivers on the Ironmen ensuing drive, completing 4 of 6 passes for 39 yards to the Scotties 24-yard line. Nevertheless, Alex Williams put his mark on the game with an interception at the Tri-Valley 8-yard line to end an 11-play drive for the Ironmen.

Still not out of the game, Jackson got its first break when McManaway recovered a fumble at the Scotties’ 21-yard line, and three plays later, Wolford scored on a seven-yard touchdown run on the final play of the third quarter. The conversion attempt failed, and the Ironmen trailed 14-6.

The Ironmen were not done, though, as Winters recovered a fumble at the Tri-Valley 32-yard line.

From there, Spires capped a six-play drive with a 17-yard touchdown pass to Wolford with 9:06 remaining in the fourth quarter. However, the Ironmen trailed 14-12 after Holden Blankenship couldn’t hold on to Spires’ two-point conversion pass.

In the second half, the story was the Ironmen’s defense, as they limited Tri-Valley to just 63 yards of total offense and forced two turnovers in the half.

“At halftime, we made adjustments on both sides of the ball, and we told our kids to keep playing hard and find a way to get back into this game,” said Hall. “If we played in the first half like we played the second half, I think it is a 28-7 game, and we win.

“As hard as we played in the second half on both sides of the ball was incredible. Even in defeat, you can remember that you fought and gave yourself a chance to win, and that is what we did tonight against a good football team.”

On their final drive, the Ironmen appeared to be in an excellent position to take the lead and win the game. Jackson drove 39-yards to the Tri-Valley 28 before Fritter came up with an interception off a tipped ball to secure the Scotties’ win with 19.5 seconds remaining.

The Ironmen have an experienced nucleus returning next season; however, it was the final game for eight Jackson seniors, including Isaac Kuhn, Brandon Webb, Landon Erwin, Macon Perrill, McManaway, Davis, Blake Cross, and Aden Strawser.

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TEAM STATISTICS

                                           TV                   J

First Downs                                             10                            15

Scrimmage Plays                                     46                            58           

Rushing (No.-Yds.)                                 36-120                     30-86

Passing (Cmp.-Att.-Int.)                          5-10-1                     17-28-3

Passing Yards                                         65                            172

Total Yards                                              185                          258

Fumbles (No.-Lost)                                 3-2                           1-1

Turnovers                                                3                              4

Penalties (No.-Yards)                              1-5                           3-25

Punts (No.-Avg.)                                     3-30.3                      1-31.0

INDIVIDUAL LEADERS

RUSHING – Tri-Valley: Aidan Fritter 16-55 (1 TD), Blake Sands 11-38 (1 TD), Jordan Pantaleo 7-25, Jalen-Goins-Chandler 2-2 ; Jackson: Hunter Webb 7-31, Cade Wolford 7-26 (1 TD), Evan Spires 13-18, Tristan Prater 1-7, Drew Bragg 1-2, Holden Blankenship 1-2

PASSING – Tri Valley: Aidan Fritter 5 of 9 of 65 Yds, 0 TDs and 1 INT, Cullen Van Rooyen 0 of 1 for 0 Yds, 0 TDs, 0 INTs; Jackson: Evan Spires 17 of 28 for 172 Yds, 1 TD, and 3 INTs

RECEIVING – Tri-Valley: Luke Hill 1-31, Jalen Goins-Chandler 2-29, Dalton Hazen 1-9, Jordan Pantaleo 1-(-4); Jackson: Nate McManaway 4-38, Holden Blankenship 2-38, Cade Wolford 3-35 (1 TD), Tristan Prater 5-32, Drew Bragg 2-22, Treylan Davis 1-7.

INTERCEPTION RETURNS – Tri-Valley: Beau Priest 1-0, Alex Williams 1-0, Aidan Fritter 1-20; Jackson: Cade Wolford 1-0.

KICKOFF RETURNS – Tri-Valley: Blake Sands 2-21, Jalen Goins-Chandler 1-14; Jackson: Caleb McGraw 1-6, Landon Erwin 1-2, Jacob Wood 1-0