Note: This sports story appears in the Wednesday, Aug. 7 newspaper on Page B1.
JACKSON — It’s been a while since Jackson boys soccer has been in such a reloaded position, but that’s where it finds itself.
Last time the Ironmen were on the soccer pitch, they suffered a stunning 2-1 loss to Circleville in a Division II district semifinal.
“Last year was the best season we’ve had season since 2005,” Jackson coach Lee Lord said. “We were a really young team but they grew up pretty quick. Considering our losses were to Circleville, twice to Chillicothe and South Webster, who made a regional semifinal, it was a great run.
“That Circleville loss still sits with these guys because they felt they should have won that game, but they feel that the district could be theirs this year.”
Although Jackson is setting a high standard for itself this season, it has every reason to considering that 10 starters are back this season. And it starts defensively in the goal as goalkeeper Ty Broermann returns for his junior campaign.
“For any soccer team to be successful, you have to have a good keeper and we’re lucky to have that in Ty,” Lord said. “If he goes down, we’re in trouble because that’s a position we’re not very deep at. But when he’s out there, very few guys are better than him.”
The back line is led by Austin Van Allen alongside Isaac Kuhn, Hayden Brown, Courtland Bellar. Mason Howell and Taylor Frazier, who Lord says will fill in a lot of gaps due to their versatility, will see a lot of time as well as Colt McManis and Matt LeFever.
Colin Ghearing, Joe Crabtree and Noah Collins return to the midfield and aim to find Trent Wolford and Ryan Holloway on the wings to set up Nolan Haislop at striker, who led the Ironmen in goals last season with 13.
“Nolan gave us a lot of solid performances last season for just being a freshman,” Lord said. “He’s a great striker who works hard to improve his game. We’ll look for him to be a little more aggressive striking, hopefully we can get him up to 17-18 goals this season.”
With the number of returning starters and bench players at their disposal, Jackson has the making on paper of potentially winning the Frontier Athletic Conference.
But it has to get by Chillicothe, who hasn’t lost a conference game since the formation of the FAC.
“Chillicothe always has a great program and they reload every year,” Lord said. “They’re going to be the benchmark because they’re a huge Division I school. But it doesn’t mean we’re not capable of knocking them off.
“We just can’t be complacent, and I think that’s our biggest challenge. I believe we could not work hard and still win 10 games based on talent, but that’s not enough. It all comes down to the kids and how hard they work to get better. We as coaches and push them, but if they don’t want it then we’re not going anywhere.”
Winning the FAC and dethroning Chillicothe is one thing, but getting through to district play and winning a district title is another.
And it’s not any easier this year with Marietta, Athens, Warren, Circleville, Alexander, Miami Trace, and Fairfield Union all battling inside Division II district action.
But Lord believes that this could be Jackson’s year.
“I believe that we have as good of a chance as anybody to win the league and make it through to districts,” Lord said. “We have that team chemistry set that some teams are still working to build. I think that puts us ahead of schedule. Winning a district championship is always a goal and I think we have the right group to do that this year.”
Jackson opens the season on Aug. 27 at home against Miami Trace.