Head Coach Andy Hall will likely never forget his 100th career football win at Jackson High School (JHS) – a dramatic 21-20 overtime victory Friday night at Alumni Stadium against his alma mater, the Wheelersburg Pirates.

It came all so close to being Hall’s 34th loss at JHS.

To win, Hall and his team had to survive two late chances Wheelersburg had to win the game -- first at the end of regulation play and second on an extra-points run in overtime. The Ironmen also had to overcome a succession of frustrating, drive-killing holding penalties, the loss of their starting quarterback just before halftime, and two turnovers which set up both Pirate touchdowns in regulation play.

“Those 100 wins were all tough, but none were tougher than this one tonight,” Hall commented. “We had penalties and turnovers, but we kept answering the bell. At the end of the day, our offense was able to get the yards and were able to make the plays to get the win.”

The hard-fought win improved Jackson to 3-2 at the halfway point of the season and helped remove the bad taste of two close defeats to two excellent teams, Ironton and Western Brown, in two of the previous three weeks. The Pirates, meanwhile, fell to an un-Burg-like 2-3 on the season, but while playing a very tough pre-conference schedule. They left town knowing that they missed a golden opportunity to pull off a mild upset.

In the overtime period with the score knotted at 14, Burg won the coin toss and forced Jackson to go on offense first. On fourth down, needing a yard and a half for a first down, quarterback Jacob Winters faked a handoff and connected on a perfectly executed play-action pass to running back Cade Wolford who had run past a Burg defender. Sophomore placekicker Ethan Crabtree then booted the extra point -- he’s 17 for 17 on the season -- for what would prove to be the decisive point.

“We felt they would be keying on the inside run, as they had been selling out on the run all night long,” Hall explained. “We felt we could get Cade out there on the wheel [route].”

With the game on the line and trailing 21-14, Burg seemed to be in deep trouble on its overtime possession as it started with an illegal procedure penalty and a three-yard loss on a quarterback run. However, a pass interference penalty in the end zone bailed out the visitors and they scored three plays later on a 1-yard run by Ethan Glover to make it 21-20.

At this point Wheelersburg head coach Rob Woodward made a fateful decision -- he rolled the dice and went for two points although his placekicker, Braxton Sammons, is considered to be one of the best kickers in the state. Burg lined up in a running formation and put the ball in the hands of Glover, who had a nose for the end zone, having scored all three of his team’s touchdowns. It was a power play with Glover running off right tackle behind a lead back, but the play never had a chance as inside linebacker Jacob Winters met Glover in the backfield, throwing him for a slight loss -- and preserving Jackson’s tenuous victory.

Hall wasn’t surprised that Woodward chose to put it all on the line by passing up the high-percentage kick which would have tied the score and forced a second overtime period.

“I think I would have done the same thing,” Hall said when asked about Coach Woodward’s decision. “He knew he could win the game with a three-yard play.”

Burg actually also had two chances to win in the final minutes of regulation. On their best drive of the game midway through the fourth quarter, the Pirates advanced 45 yards on eight plays to the J-35-yard line, but the Pirate quarterback mishandled the snap and JHS linebacker Grant Mastin recovered the loose ball with 4:09 remaining. Jackson returned the favor when a lineman jumped the snap count after the Ironmen had lined up to go for a first down on fourth-down-and 1-yard-to-go play at the J-44. Instead, Jackson punted.

Burg was able to drive from the Burg-25 to the J-39 with just five seconds to play and Coach Woodward brought Sammons out for a monster 56-yard field-goal attempt. His boot was low and no good, but he was given a second chance when Jackson was called for offsides on the play. Sammons’ 51-yard field goal attempt hit the front of the crossbar, but bounced back into the end zone rather than going over the bar. The talented kicker missed winning the game by mere inches.

While both defenses played stoutly, forcing a combined total of 12 punts, both offenses did plenty to hurt themselves. Jackson defensive back Drew Bragg scored the first touchdown of the game on a 30-yard fumble return after a Wheelersburg runner simply dropped a pitch. Burg had another unforced fumble on its next possession, but JHS failed to score after a holding penalty wiped out Wolford’s run to the Burg-3.

The holding penalties would haunt the Ironmen all night as they were called seven times for that infraction and were flagged 10 times overall for a total of 104 yards. The holding calls cost the Ironmen a whopping 141 yards and nullified a long 53-yard pass from Winters to Wolford.

On the other hand, both of Burg’s touchdowns in regulation were the direct result of JHS turnovers -- a lost fumble at the J-16 and an interception which was returned to the J-1.

“The penalties and a couple of turnovers kept them in the game,” Hall stated. “We should have been ahead 28-7.”

Jackson also had to deal with the adversity of losing senior quarterback and captain Evan Spires late in the first half to what appeared to be a possibly serious knee injury. Spires had connected on six of seven passes for 84 yards, including a beautifully thrown 17-yard touchdown pass to sophomore running back Eli Broermann.

The Ironmen will begin Frontier Athletic Conference play next Friday at Hillsboro with the goal of taking back the title they lost to Chillicothe last season.