Scarl headlines Jackson-Milton’s defensive group which welcomes back 8 starters

Jackson-Milton opens play against Southington at home.

Jackson Milton Blue Jays High School Football

2017 Jackson-Milton Football Preview
Head Coach: Nathan Brode, 1st season
Last Season: 7-4 (3-2), 3rd place ITCL Blue
Division: VII

Last 10 Years
Overall Winning Percentage: 33.3% (34-68)
Playoff Appearances: 2
Playoff Record: 0-2
League Championships: None
League Record: 16-50

More:High School Football previews from other teams

2016 Results
Mogadore 55 Blue Jays 6*
Blue Jays 30 Mineral Ridge 7
Blue Jays 26 Lowellville 0
Western Reserve 53 Blue Jays 0
Blue Jays 28 Sebring 14
McDonald 35 Blue Jays 7
Blue Jays 29 Newbury 26
Blue Jays 40 Leetonia 10
Blue Jays 50 Windham 29
Newton Falls 21 Blue Jays 0
Blue Jays 35 Southington 0

2016 Team Stats
Scoring Offense: 22.7 (35th in Area)
Total Offense: 295.7
Rushing Offense: 152.8
Passing Offense: 142.9
Scoring Defense: 22.1 (26th in Area)
Total Defense: 283.9
…Over the last 2 seasons, the Blue Jay defense has allowed an average of 21.7 points and has recorded 8 games (of 22) where the opposition scored 10-points or less.

New League: Mahoning Valley Athletic Conference
Mineral Ridge
Western Reserve

The Good News
Returning Starters: Offense – 7; Defense – 8
Former coach Mark Assion likes what he saw early on from his group, “They’ve shown a willingness to learn and sacrifice for the greater good of the team.” Coach Assion was replaced in late-July by Nathan Brode – who served as an assistant for the past five years. Senior defenders Nick Scarl and Taylor Kleinknecht highlight a solid group of upperclassmen. Scarl, the Jays’ weakside linebacker, led the team in tackles (144), quarterback sacks (7) and fumble recoveries (3) last year. Kleinknecht was the corner who team’s avoided. He finished the year with 3 picks. Senior John French started 7 games a year ago at outside linebacker. He’ll be asked to compete not only on the outside but also along the defensive line at an end position. French will also see action on offense playing tight end at wideout.

Junior Jimmy Harper averaged 13.1 yards per carry a year ago on 33 rushes (431 yards, 5 TDs) as he was the leading rusher from the running back position. He’ll be running behind Second-Team All-ITCL selection Austin Mercer – who returns for his senior season – John Landis, Kent Gross and Scarl. The quarterback position has been handed down to Jeremy Fitzpatrick to Mike Assion to Jonathon Voland and all have been able to thrive in coach Assion’s offense by throwing for over 1,000-yards. Could we see another signal caller go for over 1,000-yards this season? That would be the sixth consecutive year that a Blue Jay has done so.

2017 Schedule
Aug. 25 – Southington, 7
Sept. 1 – at Newton Falls, 7
Sept. 8 – Windham, 7
Sept. 15 – at Springfield, 7
Sept. 22 – at Sebring, 7
Sept. 29 – McDonald, 7
Oct. 6 – Waterloo, 7
Oct. 13 – at Lowellville, 7
Oct. 20 – at Mineral Ridge, 7
Oct. 27 – Western Reserve, 7

The Bad News
Assion comments, “We have inexperience at the skill spots.” From last year’s team, Jackson-Milton lost both their starting quarterback and leading rusher (Jonathon Voland) but also their top playmaker (Noah Laster) to graduation. In Voland’s first season as the Blue Jay signal caller, he completed 51.7% of his tosses (92-178) for 1572 yards and 11 scores. Voland became Jackson-Milton’s first quarterback to lead the team in rushing (451 yards) since Brennan Morrison did so in 2010 (1008 yards). Laster caught 98 passes over the last two seasons for an average of 14.4 yards per catch (11 TDs). Also, gone from last year was the team’s second leading receiver – Nick Vergallito (38 catches, 272 yards). In 2016, the Jays were unable to win the turnover battle as they finished with a -3 figure (25/22) compared to a +7 in 2015 (26/19).

Key Number
The Blue Jays hadn’t had back-to-back winning seasons since 1994-95 (1991-95) until last season (2015-16). Jackson-Milton has now advanced to week eleven in each of the past two years, something which hadn’t been done at the school ever before.

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