Jackson foootball getting close, but little mistakes still costly
JACKSON TWP. Never mind the cliche of football being a game of inches; the Jackson Polar Bears know it better as a game of fine print.
The smallest details and aspects of the game have been at the forefront for Jackson this season and for a team finding its identity while battling a rugged Federal League schedule in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic and its effects, whether or not they execute those details is the difference between winning and losing.
That reality was on display in Week 5 as a tough, determined effort to upend undefeated Perry fell one point short in a 14-13 loss.
"They know ... it's just a matter of being able to play consistently in those areas of the game," Jackson head coach Tim Budd said. "We blew pass protection on a route that was wide open, we missed an extra point, missed a tackle on a long run ... we made too many little mistakes to beat a good team like that."
There were positives in the game, namely holding a potent Perry offense to just 14 points. Additionally, the running game continued to progress with Brenden Craig and got a boost from the passing game thanks to a touchdown catch by Johnny Kulich.
Still, consistency along the offensive line is a work in progress for the Polar Bears.
"We struggled on offense and we've played a different line combo every week," Budd said. "But Johnny Kulich had a big game Perry, Brenden Craig ran well and we need to get D.J. Harris the ball more downfield."
Pivoting from the Perry game and turning toward the next game won't be easy, but then again, neither is that next game.
Enter Hoover and the traditional Week 10 rivalry game for Jackson.
Preparing for Hoover isn't easy, Budd noted, especially on the offensive side of the ball.
"It's tough because their offensive schemes are very well done, but you also have to prepare for (quarterback) Connor Ashby's ad lib offense. It feels like a video game sometimes where he's going left and then right, but he finds a way to get the ball down the field."
On the field, it's close to a normal Jackson-Hoover game. Beyond that, though, it will be anything but a typical week leading up to the game.
The pandemic has put a damper on some of the normal rivalry week festivities and the crowd at the game won't be anywhere close to its typical size.
Beyond that, it will be taking place in the sixth week of a shortened season in which all teams in Ohio will participate in the playoffs. Teams can play more regular-season games after they're eliminated from the postseason as long as those games are played before mid-November.
In other words, it's a weird season and a weird rivalry week. Just don't expect Budd and his staff to expect anything less than the normal level of readiness and intensity from their players.
"They should be (excited) or we're going to get killed," Budd said. "It doesn't matter when it is or where it is contested ... it's a big game for our team, our school and our community."
The circumstances surrounding the game may exclude many of the elements that help create that big-game feel for the contest, but once the ball is kicked off on Friday night, Jackson-Hoover is still Jackson-Hoover, even in a most unusual season.