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Jackson boys soccer team rolling along with changes

Andy Harris
Suburbanite correspondent
Garrett Hattery (center) of Jackson is mobbed by teammates after he scored a goal during their game at Jackson on Tuesday, Sept. 1, 2020.

JACKSON TWP. With a little bit of adaptability and flexibility, the Jackson Polar Bears have built a winning start to the varsity boys soccer season.

As one of the perennial top teams in Federal League boys soccer, their 5-2-1 start is nothing new. What is new this fall is the need to roll with the schedule changes that the COVID-19 pandemic brings along as it impacts so many parts of daily life.

With an adjusted offseason and preseason as allowed by state, local and school district guidelines, veteran head coach Michael Biros and his team have tried to get into normal midseason form without their typical preseason slate.

"We're pushing to get closer to where we want to be after missing a lot of our usual summer training and activities," Biros said. "But everyone is in the same boat and you're working on things on the fly... you see some good things and other parts of the game that still need work."

The schedule itself has taken a couple of COVID-related left turns. A scheduled Labor Day game against Solon was canceled due to county health guidelines that prevent the Comets from starting their season.

In their place, Jackson scheduled a game against St. Ignatius.

More recently, GlenOak's team was quarantined and had its season paused because of a COVID case at the school. That led to the postponement of Jackson's game against the Golden Eagles.

Through eight games, a nine-person senior class had done as expected and led the way for Jackson.

Garrett Hattery, Evan Wilson and Troy Atkinson have driven the offense and anchored the front half of the formation.

"We're expecting them to carry the load offensively ... a lot of them are two- or three-year varsity players," Biros said.

The defense is a bit younger, but still a relatively experienced unit. With junior Sam Cipriano back on goal after starting as a sophomore, the defense has been solid so far, including playing well in a 1-0 loss to another local power, Medina.

That loss was a tough one to take, but also a good sign of where the Polar Bears stand against elite competition.

They've started 2-0 in league play and capturing yet another league title is among the goals for the fall.

"Absolutely, I think our league keeps improving every and that certainly makes it tougher every year," Biros said of the quest for a Federal League title.

An early win over Hoover, in addition to being a key league win, has been a momentum creator for Jackson.

"It certainly sets your attention early to be very competitive," Biros said. "We're working through the normal summer grind of finding identity and seeing who's going to fit where."

Biros credited his players with handling the demands of following COVID protocols and guidelines well throughout the season and doing what's asked of them to be able to continue playing.

Although instances such as GlenOak's team having to pause its season are always possible, the mantra for Jackson is to follow protocols and expect to play unless told otherwise.

"Without a doubt, our kids have handled themselves really well throughout this time. As a group, we were able to get together much earlier than normal this offseason even though we were apart (socially distanced)," Biros said. "We've talked about protocols we need to follow and we've told our guys that the reality is fully expecting to play and preparing as a team. We tell them that everything is fine until it's not and to be ready to compete."

The approach has worked so far and although the entire situation isn't in their control, the Polar Bears are focused on taking care of the aspects that are in their control and expecting to continue their successful start to the season as far as they can take it.