Note: This sports recap appears in the Wednesday, Nov. 20 newspaper on Page B1.
ASHVILLE — When it comes to the playoffs, there’s truly no margin for error and the smallest of mistakes have costly consequences.
For the first time all season, Jackson found itself trailing by two possessions at halftime. But some costly penalties at huge moments led to its season’s demise in a 38-13 loss to Jonathan Alder in a Division III regional semifinal on Friday.
“We knew Jonathan Alder was ranked No. 2 in the state for a reason,” Jackson coach Andy Hall said. “They have a ton of great athletes, they’re big and extremely physical up front. Our formula for success all season has been to control the line of scrimmage on both ends, and we didn’t do that on both ends.”
Jackson was outgained 371-183 on the evening, including begin outrushed by a 190-100 margin.
However, the biggest difference was in time of possession in which Jonathan Alder successfully controlled the ball for 32:23, compared to just 15:37 for the Ironmen.
“Our defense just couldn’t get off the field,” Hall said. “We’d have Alder in third down situations but either they’d convert or we’d have some mistakes that kept the drive going from them. It was all about timing, and if you give a good team like Alder opportunities, they’ll take advantage.”
Despite getting the ball first, Jackson went three-and-out, and Jonathan Adler took full advantage.
After driving down the field and picking a couple critical third downs, the Pioneers found the endzone after Garret Proxmire broke three tackles and scored from 14 yards out for a 7-0 lead.
However, Jackson answered right back. Jacob Winters took over under center for the drive, and connected with Treylan Davis on a 45-yard strike for the touchdown. The point after was missed for a 7-6 game.
“Great throw and a great catch by both guys,” Hall said. “It was wanted we needed to jumpstart our offense, but we couldn’t sustain the momentum we were slowly building.”
Penalties hurt the Ironmen on the next possession. Despite the Pioneers driving down and reaching the five-yard line, they faced 4th-and-5.
The Ironmen were flagged for pass inference and the Pioneers scored on the next play as J.T. Keith hits Jackson Izzard for the three-yard touchdown pass, making the score 14-6.
Jackson attempted to answer back, but a false start on 3rd down changed all momentum and forced a punt.
The Pioneers chewed up the remaining 4:20 and capped the drive with a 30-yard field goal by Dylan Moore for a 17-6 lead at halftime, the biggest deficit the Ironmen has faced all season.
“We only had four offensive possessions in the first half, and we’re used to having the ball four times just in the first quarter,” Hall said. “We’re a ball control, grind-it-out offense. But when we don’t have the ball like we’re used to, it made things tough to get into a rhythm.”
Jackson had their chance to climb back as it got Alder to fourth down. Alder committed a false start, but the Ironmen jumped offsides. The Pioneers went with a fake punt and converted to keep the drive alive.
Proxmire capitalized and scored from 12 yards out, his second of the game. Then Keith connected with Izzard on the next drive on a nine-yard touchdown pass to cap 24 unanswered points for the Pioneers that effectively took the wind out of the Ironmen’s sails.
“That fake punt completely changed all momentum,” Hall said. “Alder is a battled tested team. In eight of their 11 games, they trailed at halftime so they were used to adversity. We hadn’t trailed all season until Centennial last week. We were used to having a lead, and that’s nothing against the kids because they handled their business all season. But we just ran into a better football team.”
Proxmire scored his third touchdown of the night and Jared Icenhower scored a rushing touchdown to cap the night, and ultimately Jackson’s season.
Although the season didn’t end as hoped, there’s still a lot for the Ironmen to be proud from beating Wheelersburg and going 10-0 for the seventh time in school history to winning a home playoff game.
For the 15 seniors on the team, it ends its Ironmen career with an overall 33-12 record that includes never missing the playoffs, winning the conference championship and earning a white letter jacket.
“Those kids are model athletes, great leaders and even better students,” Hall said. “It’s impossible to win all of the games we did without great seniors leadership, and hopefully the younger kids saw how they modeled themselves. They’ve put in so much hard work to take the program to a new level. Hopefully they’ll look back over time and realized what they accomplished and how special it truly was.”