The Jackson Ironmen continued their impressive offensive rampage through the Frontier Athletic Conference (FAC) with a 62-27 rout of the host Washington Court House Blue Lions last Friday night.

With the lopsided win, the Ironmen improved to 6-2 overall and stayed unbeaten and tied for first place in the FAC with a 3-0 mark and stayed on course for a possible conference championship and a high seed in the post-season playoffs.  The talented, but mistake-prone Blue Lions fell to 3-4 overall and 1-1 in the conference.

The Ironmen have overwhelmed FAC defenses in all three wins while averaging 53.3 points per game and triggering a running-clock situation in all three games.

Court House appeared to be more talented than Jackson’s first two FAC victims (Hillsboro and Greenfield), but the Blue Lions couldn’t keep the Ironmen from lighting up the scoreboard and completely lost any chance to win by getting off to a slow start. The committed a series of  major mistakes that greased the skids for the rout, including two lost fumbles, two interceptions and two blocked punts. The Ironmen had built a 41-7 lead early in the third quarter before the hosts started to play their best football of the evening.

Twice, Jackson gained possession at the Court House 1-yard line, once after a blocked punt and another time after a high snap over the quarterback’s head.

Court House’s defensive line, led by 220-pound senior defensive end Rishaun Burns, actually stuffed and contained Jackson’s dangerous running game for the most part, but had no answer for Jackson’s big-play passing game, which was fueled by junior quarterback Jacob Winters, his talented receiver corps, and head coach Andy Hall’s play-calling.

When slinging the ball from deep in the pocket, the results could be described as both long and lethal.  The 215-pound junior connected on 10 of 13 passes for 194 yards with four touchdowns and one interception as he displayed arm strength, accuracy and touch.  The completion percentage was especially noteworthy considering that Winters was often throwing deep and intermediate passes rather than short dinks. Seven different receivers had catches with Cade Wolford (24 yards), Brodie Butcher (10 yards), Drew Bragg (19 yards) and Holden Blankenship (35 yards) all having TD receptions.

“We were able to make connections in our passing game,” Hall commented.  “They were geared to stop our running game, but Jacob Winters just had a great game.  They were in man coverage and we put in some new wrinkles because of it and they worked.” Tactically, the plays created big opportunities and Winters and the receivers executed, making the Blue Lions pay dearly and completely negated Court House’s stout defense against the run.

Although Court House slowed down sophomore running backs Cade Wolford and Eli Broermann, Winters had some success on keeper plays as he gained 96 yards on 11 carries.  His 61-yard gallop on Jackson’s first possession set up Jackson’s first touchdown, just a little more than two  minutes into the game. However, Broermann scored on two short-yardage runs and also had three receptions.  Wolford had a TD catch as well as an interception.

Freshman running back Nolan Johnson turned heads again in the fourth quarter by scoring on runs of 48 and 35 yards en route to gaining 92 yards on four carries.

The Ironmen finished with 431 total yards, 220 in the air and 211 on the ground.

Bragg earned Jason Gillum Insurance Player of the Game honors for an outstanding all-around performance which included a fumble recovery, a blocked punt, a touchdown catch and a 26-yard completion on a fake punt.  Hall also praised the senior outside linebacker for successfully stepping up and taking over the on-field defensive play-calling role after fellow senior outside linebacker Evan Spires suffered a season-ending knee injury.

As for other big plays contributing to the victory, Blankenship had an interception and Xander Ervin blocked a punt.

Hall also continues to sing the praises of placekicker Ethan Crabtree who added to his successful sophomore season by converting all seven extra-point kicks and also booting field goals of 35 and 24 yards.  Crabtree is now a perfect 38 of 38 on extra points and has also nailed three of four field-goal attempts.

“He’s going to be special,” Hall said of his slender kicker.  “When he gets stronger, I think he will be one of the best we’ve ever had here.”

Court House finished with 311 total yards, but the Jackson defense held the Blue Lions to only 94 yards in the decisive first half while helping to cause the hosts’ four turnovers.  The Ironmen played with star senior linebacker Grant Mastin, who was held out due to a major contusion on one of his arms.  “He brings our energy on defense,” Hall observed.

The Ironmen face a showdown game at Miami Trace next Friday, which may decide the 2021 FAC title.  The Panthers are also 6-2 overall and 3-0 in the conference with two games left to play.  The winner will be alone in first place heading into the final regular-season game in which the Ironmen will face defending champ Chillicothe while Miami Trace and Washington Court House square off for bragging rights in Fayette County.

Beyond the FAC title chase, the Ironmen also have their eye on the playoffs and have played themselves into a great position and are currently ranked second in Division III, Region 11 in the unofficial but highly reliable Joe Eitel rankings. The Ohio High School Athletic Association has doubled the field to 16 teams in each region with the top eight teams qualifying for a first-round home game.