Note: This sports preview appears in the Wednesday, Dec. 4 newspaper on Page B1.
JACKSON — The last time Jackson had a season as fruitful as it did last year, head coach Max Morrow was suiting up in an Ironmen uniform.
That was back in 2003 when they won a sectional title. 15 years later as the head coach, he led his alma mater to another sectional title and a district final appearance.
Now this year with a number of returning players, it’s very possible the Ironmen could be the favorites to win a Division II district title, which would the first in school history.
“Last year made us hungry. Getting to (Ohio University’s) Convocation (Center) for the first time in 15 seasons really put a spark into these guys,” Morrow said. “I could feel it as we went into spring ball, offseason workouts and team camps. Now they got a taste of what its like to play on a bigger stage, and they want that feeling back.”
However, that was last year, and Morrow has been preaching to his team the importance of remaining grounded and focusing one game at a time.
The Ironmen have a tough go right out of the gates as they replace seven players from last year’s team, most notably 1,000 point scorer Cooper Donaldson.
“This is my fifth year as head coach, but my first year without having Cooper in the starting lineup,” Morrow said. “It’s a little strange not having him, but we also lost three other very important seniors as well as some guys who decided not to play this season so it’ll be an adjustment.”
However, Jackson’s backcourt duo of Caleb Wallis and Caden Donaldson are back for their senior years.
Griffin Brown is also back alongside junior Braxton Hammond. Both guys are expected to have major roles after finishing the season in strong ways.
“Those four guys are our leaders as voted on by the players and us coaches,” Morrow said. “It says a lot that they were the only four guys who earned a vote. Those guys have done through the battles and understand what it takes to have success on the court. We’ll lean on those guys a lot to guide us throughout the season.”
Junior Landon Erwin alongside sophomores Drew Bragg and Evan Spires, who will be back within the month after suffering an injury during football are expected to have major impacts for the Ironmen.
Also watch for junior Holden Blankenship and freshman Jacob Winters to contribute heavily this season.
“We preach about doing the little things right and playing your role with relentless effort,” Morrow said. “It doesn’t matter how many points you score, but it matters if you come in and take a charge, dive for loose balls, get a steal or knock down a big shot. If we have those things on a nightly basis, I think we can be a really tough team.”
Understanding what its goals and potential could be this season, Jackson set itself up with a tougher schedule to benefit itself come February.
Outside of playing Chillicothe twice, the Ironmen have non-league opponents such as North Adams, Wheelersburg, Waverly and Unioto.
Make no mistake about it though, Jackson believes it has a chance to win the Frontier Athletic Conference and make another run at a district championship this season.
“The FAC runs through Chillicothe, and they’re the favorites with the amount of talent they have returning this year,” Morrow said. “We had 17 wins last season, we want to reach that mark and exceed that. We want back-to-back sectional titles for the first time in school history and get back to the Convo. We want more hardware this season and we’re going to work hard everyday until we accomplish what we know we’re capable of doing.”
Jackson opened up their season at home against North Adams. It enters FAC action on Tuesday at home against McClain.