Note: This sports preview appears in the Wednesday, Aug. 7 newspaper on Page B1.
JACKSON — Luckily for Jackson girls’ soccer, the program didn’t have to look very far for its new coach.
The program tabbed Jon Groff, who coached boys and girls middle school soccer for the last three years to take over the reigns of the girls high school soccer program for the departing Chris Skarratt.
“It’s been a pretty easy transition for myself and I think for the girls as well,” Groff said. “All of the freshman, sophomores and juniors played for me in middle school, so they knew what to expect. Getting to know the seniors was the only thing I needed to do, and it’s been great. I’m pretty fortunate to step into such a great situation.”
Because of the seamless transition, Groff immediately went to work putting his small little touches on the program. He takes over for a team that has experience a ton of success over the past number of years. Jackson had won four straight sectional championships, but ended that streak with last season’s 2-0 loss to Warren in a Division II sectional semifinal.
But one shorten season doesn’t mean Jackson is going away. If anything, it only created more hunger inside of it to get back to district play. And with only losing three seniors in Kyle Laug, Kylee Castle and Maddie Haislop, Groff believes he has the group to make a run with Emma Wiley and Brynlee Vermillion leading the charge.
“Brynlee was our leading scorer last year and she’ll be featured up top again,” Groff said. “Emma is our vocal leader in the center midfield. She’s the one who leads and get everyone in position. Those two are our captains and clear-cut leaders.”
Over the past couple of years, Jackson has battled for the top crown in the Frontier Athletic Conference with Chillicothe only to come up short.
Groff knows that taking down the top dog in the conference won’t be easy, but after seeing what he saw during the Zane Trace shootout last month defensively, he likes what he sees.
“We played in five games and gave us just seven goals in the Zane Trace shootout, which was a great site to see considering our defense will be mostly freshman and sophomores,” Groff said. “As for Chillicothe, they’re really good at passing and controlling the midfield, and the tempo of the game for that matter. It comes down to our defense and how well they communicate. It’ll be important for us to leak out and get some transition goals since we have a lot of speed up top. This is probably the deepest group Jackson has had in a number of years so we have a lot of versatility we can use.”
The FAC crown isn’t the only crown Jackson believes it capture this year, although getting a Division II district title won’t be easy.
Unioto is still strong much like Fairfield Union. And with Chillicothe dropping back down to D-II and Wheelersburg moving up to D-II, the task of winning the district crown has become that much harder.
However, Jackson isn’t afraid to put up a fight and hopefully be the soul survivor in a tough district.
“We have scrimmages against Fairfield Union, North Adams and Wheelersburg to help give us an idea of what we’ll see in Division II,” Groff said. “We also have a pretty tough schedule with Circleville, Unioto, Logan and Athens on top of playing Chillicothe twice. Seeing all of these teams allows us to see where to need to improve and adjust along the way.
“I believe I have the team to make a deep run.”
Jackson begins its season on Aug. 27 at home in FAC action against Miami Trace.