The Ironmen kept one streak alive last week beating rival Wellston for the 18th straight game, but want another one to end on Friday as Jackson travels to Waverly for their annual week two tilt.
JACKSON — Jackson High School head football coach Shane Wolford said his “birthday is coming up in a couple of weeks.”
His Ironmen defeating host Waverly, and snapping a four-game losing streak to the Tigers in the process, would indeed be an early birthday present.
“That would be a heckuva of a gift, wouldn’t it?” said Wolford.
The Ironmen kept one streak alive on Saturday night, but want another one to end on Friday as Jackson travels to Waverly for their annual week two tilt.
Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m at Raidiger Field in Waverly.
With the Ironmen’s 41-14 win at Wellston on Saturday, Jackson extended its winning streak over the archrival Rockets to a dubious 18 games.
However, in Wolford’s four-year tenure as the Ironmen boss, Jackson has lost every meeting with Waverly, including two two years ago which included the 26-20 overtime heartbreaker in the Division III, Region 12 playoffs.
The first two regular-season meetings were also close, with Waverly upstaging the Ironmen 17-16 in 2005 before rallying for a 28-21 triumph two years ago.
Only last year’s 42-7 outcome was one-sided.
Waverly has won at least 10 games in each of the past two seasons, and are back-to-back participants in the state playoffs.
The Tigers did graduate 21 seniors, though, including the Division IV Southeast District Offensive Co-Player of the Year in quarterback Trevor Walls.
Walls, a first-team all-Ohio signal-caller and Waverly’s all-time leading passer, is now a redshirt freshman at New Mexico State.
Also graduated are receivers Casey Williams and Mason Good; linemen Dalton Scott, Myles Deacon and Ian Colegrove; and tight end/linebacker Ramone Conley.
In all, the Tigers graduated seven starters on both sides of the ball.
Wolford explained that Jackson’s 16 seniors should be plenty motivated to tame the Tigers.
“If they’re not motivated, shame on them. We’ve been beaten by them four times in the last three years,” he said. “The first three tries, we were right in the game. Someway, we have to get over that hump. We need to make a big play or do something that is going to help us win the game.”
The Ironmen made those big plays against Wellston, especially in the second half.
Jackson scored twice with long plays for touchdowns, including a 73-yard strike from quarterback Tyler Boggs to tight end Brandon Trace.
The Ironmen also succeeded with their patented midline option attack, as the Jackson ground game accounted for 364 of the team’s nearly 500 yards of total offense.
Three backs — quarterback Josh Brown, fullback Klay Arthur and tailback Cody Huff — had at least eight carries and 76 yards apiece.
“This is a typical Jackson football team,” Waverly coach Rusty Wright told The Pike County News-Watchman. “They look like a college squad and they have lots of experience. They have 18 to 19 returning lettermen and they’re going to line up and run the football with Cody Huff.”
Boggs also threw for 130, including another 28-yarder to Trace.
“After watching the film, we were pretty pleased with what we were able to do,” said Wolford of the Wellston win. “Our offensive line did a pretty good job. In the second half, they were able to open several holes and we started running the quarterback counter play a little more. That was very successful, too.”
But the Ironmen must do an even better job of playing keep-away from the Tigers this week.
Jackson’s run-oriented offense is predicated on ball control and clock-consuming drives, featuring the midline option and moderate-to-hefty rushes between the tackles.
Defending the run will be important for the Tigers, which saw the Piketon Redstreaks rush for 434 yards and seven touchdowns last Friday.
“We have to get better defensively. We need to swarm to the ball this week,” said Wright. “We saw some hesitations with our young defenders. They would start to make a tackle and then they would let someone else do it. We have seven new defensive starters.”
Against the Tigers, and other teams with athletes such as Derek Roback, the Ironmen’s best defense may be their offense.
“That’s what our plan is going to be. We’re going to line up and run the football at them,” said Wolford. “Hopefully, we can get three or four yards a crack and keep the clock winding. If they don’t have the ball, they can’t score.”
When Waverly does have the ball, all eyes will be on Roback — the 6-3, 210-pound junior quarterback.
Roback, who was first-team all-district as a wide receiver last year, takes over for Walls under center, and will have the ball in his hands on every Waverly snap.
He was the first name mentioned when Wolford was asked about Waverly.
“The Roback kid is the best player in the area in my mind,” he said after the Wellston win. “I don’t think you can stop the kid, you can only hope to contain him a little bit.”
The Ironmen did not do that last season.
Jackson turned the ball over five times, providing the Tigers more opportunities and enabling Roback to rack up 132 yards and two touchdowns on five receptions.
In the Tigers’ tremendous 54-53 comeback win over county rival Piketon, Roback easily led the way.
In fact, he amassed a team-high 98 rushing yards on 16 carries, threw for 422 yards and six touchdowns on 27-of-47 attempts, and added an 85-yard punt return for a touchdown which pulled the Tigers to within a point.
The punt return occurred with less than a minute to go.
Roback then connected with Kevin Malone for the two-point conversion, giving Waverly the victory.
“It’s a lot of the same, with the exception that Roback can run the football a little better than Trevor Walls,” said Wolford. “Last year, they were looking to pass most of the time. This year, they try to get Roback out of the pocket and roll him out because he is pretty dangerous with his legs. We have to find ways that we can contain him.”
Thus, don’t expect the Ironmen to just sit in their base 4-4 defense.
“We’re going to throw a lot of different combinations at them, we’re not just going to sit in one defense this week,” said Wolford. “We’ll probably put a spy on him in certain situations, but our front four is going to have to have a good game as far as containing him. Our defensive ends have to keep him in the pocket, because if you let him get outside, he’s going to cause trouble. Several times, Piketon was able to get pressure on him, but he was able to elude the defenders and run down the field for several yards. Somehow, you have to put the pads on him.”
Although, Roback does have some weapons.
Against the Redstreaks, at least six Tiger receivers caught at least two passes for 32 yards.
Shane Price caught 10 of those and Malone four, as each eclipsed the century mark in receiving.
“They run just about every pass pattern and combination that you can think of. Our defensive backs and linebackers have to do a good job this week,” said Wolford. “We’re hoping that we can throw their timing off on some of their routes.”
If they can, then the Ironmen stand a good chance at throwing the recent monkey — or Tigers — off their backs.
Other streaks at stake
The four-game winning streak which Waverly holds on the Ironmen is not the only mark on the line on Friday night.
Jackson, with a win on Friday, will have captured a half-dozen in a row, dating back to the seventh week of last season.
The Tigers have also been victorious in their last 16 home games, including the playoff wins over Jackson and Union Local last year.
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Julie Billings, sports editor of The Pike County News-Watchman, contributed to this story.