In a football game where the offenses ruled, turnovers and lost opportunities spelled doom for the Jackson Ironmen in a 33-28 loss at Western Brown on Friday night.

The Ironmen (2-2) committed four turnovers -- two fumbles and two interceptions -- all in Western Brown territory which proved to be the difference in a non-conference clash between two playoff-caliber teams. On the other hand, the host Broncos (3-1) and their high-powered scoring machine had no turnovers.

“The thing that killed us was the turnovers,” Jackson High School (JHS) head coach Andy Hall lamented. “We had two interceptions and two fumbles and three of the four times we were in the red zone. We stopped ourselves. We scored 28 points, but that’s not enough in a game like this.”

No, it’s certainly not enough when you’re trying to stop Western Brown’s truly elite passing offense piloted by a quarterback who reportedly leads the state in total offense through the first three games of the season. The Broncos’ 33 points was their lowest point total of the season.

Bronco quarterback Drew Novak is truly the real deal. He shredded Jackson’s proud defense for 479 total yards as he completed 29 of 42 passes for 411 yards while throwing for three touchdowns and having no interceptions. His designed quarterback runs and scrambling also accounted for 72 rushing yards on 20 carries with one touchdown.

Working from a deep shotgun position with a spread offense, Novak was accurate on all types of passes -- quick throws, options off reads and improvisations on the move or the few times he was pressured. And despite his lanky 6-6, 190-pound frame, he also proved to be a fearless runner who seemed adept at getting the yardage he needed to keep JHS defenders off balance and keep the chains moving.

The JHS defense entered the game having given up only one touchdown from scrimmage through the first three games and yielding only 30.7 passing yards per game. However, Novak and Co. showed they were more than up for the test as the talented quarterback was on target most of the night with his stable of sure-handed receivers almost always making the catch.

The Ironmen were not that far behind Western Brown in total yardage as they racked up 411 yards but scored one fewer touchdown and lost those precious possessions and scoring opportunities due to the turnovers. The Ironmen gained 282 yards in the air and 163 on the ground. However, JHS found the Western Brown run defense not as porous as it had been in previous games as their combined opponents were averaging 37 points a game while making hay on the ground.

All of Jackson’s touchdowns came on big plays. Split end Jacob Wood hauled in a 46-yard pass from Evan Spires to give the Ironmen a 7-0 lead on the game’s opening possession. Wide receivers Tristan Prater (52 yards) and Holden Blankenship (46 yards) both turned intermediate passes from Spires into long scoring plays with their speed and moves on runs after the catch. Jackson’s only run via the ground game came on a 44-yard gallop by speedy sophomore running back Cade Wolford. Sophomore placekicker Ethan Crabtree converted all four extra-point tries to remain perfect on the season (14 of 14).

After the two teams scored on each of their first two possessions, Western Brown finally gained the advantage in midway through the second quarter when Jackson lost a fumble at the Bronco 9-yard line. Western Brown then drove 91 yards for the go-ahead score, then blunted Jackson’s attempt to even the score with an interception in the end zone. The Broncos threatened to score again before the end of the half, but two penalties forced them to punt instead.

After recovering Jackson’s onside kick to start the second half, Novak led a scoring drive on the short field that gave his team a 27-14 lead with 8:48 to play in the third quarter.

The Ironmen rallied and took the lead by scoring the next two touchdowns to take a 28-27 lead with 6:16 to play. Sandwiched between those scores was another lost fumble in Bronco territory.

Once again, Novak and Co. answered with a 7-play 76-yard scoring drive which included two consecutive completions to sophomore wide receiver Isaiah Smith which advanced them to the Jackson 21-yard line very quickly. Several plays later when Novak scored from seven yards, the Broncos retook the lead. However, their try for a two-point conversion failed and they had to settle for a 33-28 lead.

With 4:02 still on the clock, it seemed as if the Ironmen had time to strike the final blow and win the game. A 26-yard kickoff return by Wood allowed them to start in a fairly good position at the Jackson 39-yard line. However, the drive sputtered after an initial first down and Spires’ long throw down the middle on a 4th-and-long call was intercepted.

While recognizing Western Brown and Novak as being a very special offense, Coach Hall also felt his Ironmen should have played much better on both offense and defense. On defense, he felt his team failed to pressure Novak and allowed the Bronco receivers to run free without successfully disrupting their routes. On offense, he felt the offensive line was not getting enough of a push to open up the running game consistently, but the major problem was the turnovers. He pledged the Ironmen and the coaching staff would be working hard in the next week’s practices to correct the mistakes and simply get better.

“We have to find our weaknesses and make them our strengths and I promise you, we will be doing that this coming week,” Hall declared. “We just have to play better.”

Another major challenge looms next Friday when the perennial region powerhouse, the Wheelersburg Pirates, come to Alumni Stadium for a 7 p.m. kickoff.