Holden Blankenship (copy)

Jackson’s Holden Blankenship returns as just one of two returning players with starting experience for the Ironmen this season as they aim to defend their FAC crown.

JACKSON — Over the past three seasons, Jackson has taken its basketball program from middle of the pack to the top of the mountain.

Winning seasons alongside conference and sectional titles, it’s the run it has been waiting a long time to have.

However, this year will truly test out if the Ironmen’s standards can remain as high as they’ve set.

“This is just the hand we’ve been dealt this year,” Jackson coach Max Morrow said. “It’s unfortunate, especially for the kids who were ready to have big seasons, but we’re lucky to have a group that works hard and is ready to step up and uphold our expectations.”

Though they have some choppy waters to navigate through this season, they have returning starters Holden Blankenship and Tristan Prater to guide them along the way.

Although in the past they have experience, their roles will increase exponentially on both sides of the ball.

“Those guys have a lot of responsibility to shoulder this year. They were great starters for us last season, but now they have to be more than just starters,” Morrow said. “We’re going to depend on them to handle a lot more scoring. Last season, we didn’t run many sets for them since we had some great scoring options. Now it’s their turn to step into those spots.”

While the starting experience is low, they also have Nate Woodard coming into the rotation after logging heavy minutes off the bench.

Jacob Winters returns for his junior year after missing all of last season with an injury and Evan Jarvis, who was the leading scorer on the JV team last season moves up to see varsity action this year.

Trent Evans returns to the program, while guys like Boston Campbell, Koen Davis, Zander Ervin, Dylan DeLong and Hayden Reynolds are expected to have a big role in coming off the bench for the Ironmen this season.

“Trent and Jacob both coming back this year gives us some really good size underneath, which is a huge plus,” Morrow said. “But, this lineup is going to be completely different this year. We had 12 guys who dressed, gave us good minutes, great production and experience. We’re a lot younger and there’s going to be a learning curve, but

Looking at the landscape of the FAC, the league appears to be very much open though McClain appears to be the favor with every player back from last season.

Washington is somewhat still rebuilding, Hillsboro lost nine seniors, Miami Trace lost a pair of starters and has a new coach as did Chillicothe.

Until the dust is settled, Jackson is still reigning atop the FAC throne, but know it’ll get every team’s best shot to knock off the champs.

“Experience or no experience, we want to repeat as conference champions. Winning the conference and a sectional last season was something special and we want that feeling again,” Morrow said. “Guys will have different roles, we as coaches have different things to figure out, but we’re going to give it everything we have and see how things shake out.”

Jackson opens its season in FAC action on Friday at Washington.

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