LAKE MILTON, Ohio (WKBN) – It took the Jackson-Milton Blue Jay football program well over 60 years to make its first state playoff appearance, but in 2016, the seventh-seeded Jays (7-3) are enjoying a return trip to the post-season.
Last year, the Jays lost to Division VII state runner-up Mogadore, 63-20, and fittingly, they get to repeat their trip to Mogadore again this Saturday night.
“I think we were going into this season feeling a little bit like people were not thinking that highly of Jackson-Milton,” Blue Jays Coach Mark Assion remarked. “We had a great group of kids that graduated, and I think this group of seniors took it personal. That stepped to the forefront and came out like gangbusters.”
One of those seniors is receiver Noah Laster. Laster has provided the Blue Jays with big-play opportunities with punt and kickoff returns, along with solid defensive play.
“Athletically he (Laster) is beyond a shadow of a doubt the most gifted kid on the team,” Assion said. “Noah has wonderful parents; he’s got a good background. He always plays at an intensity level that is appropriate for the game of football. Arguable, he might be too nice of a kid. He has tremendous capabilities with the ball in his hands.”
Assion also praised the unselfish play of junior Nick Scarl, saying, “Our defense has been led arguably by Nick Scarl. He played a lot as a sophomore last year and this year as a junior he has over 140 tackles. He is an absolute war daddy. Coaches in the league know who number 51 is.”
“I was thrilled when coach Adorni (Mogadore) texted me on Saturday morning saying it looks like we are probably going to be playing each other. So I called him and we laid out the scenarios. So I told him if it’s meant to be, than so be it. To be quite honest, I thought last Friday night we were going two and half hours across the state to play Norwalk St. Paul or Monoeville,” Assion said of the final computer seeds.
The second-seeded Wildcats finished the season with a 8-2 mark, having lost their last game of the season with Rootstown 21-14. The Wildcats, unlike the Blue Jays, have enjoyed 30 OHSAA playoff appearances sporting a 56-26 record in the post-season.
“It’s an honor and privilege to be in the playoffs, absolutely,” Assion said. “We were really happy last year just to qualify and I don’t see that happiness with this group. I get the impression that they are not satisfied with just getting there. Our practices have been more intense, our (game film) studies have been rigorous.”
That team was extremely dominate,” Assion said of Mogadore’s 2015 team. “We ran into an absolute buzz killer. Coach Adorni and his staff has his men coached up so well, and we know they are going to be tough. They are probably saying the same thing we are saying, it’s not the same Mogadore team like were not the same Jackson-Milton team.”
“Again, we’re not happy, we’re not satisfied. Do we relish the opportunity to play Mogadore? Probably not. Who does? Who wants to go in and play them? But were not backing down, were not shying away from this challenge. The kids are going after it. I’m really proud of them,” Assion added.