PREVIEW: Jackson Ironmen Poised for Playoff Push in 2014

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Editor's Note: Over the next two weeks our reporters will be bringing you team previews for each team in the SEOAL, TVC-Ohio, TVC-Hocking, and our West Virginia teams. We go to the SEOAL, where with only five teams in the conference, the competition is always tough. 

With 20 returning starters from the 2013 season, the Jackson Ironmen are sitting in great position to not only capture the SEOAL title in 2014 but make a deep playoff run as well.

The experienced and physical Ironmen enter the season with a chip on their shoulder after missing the playoffs last year, finishing with a 6-4 overall record. Part of those 20 returning starters are two captains from last year’s squad, tailback Gabe Griffiths and linebacker Reagan Williams–who recently committed to play football for Stanford University next year.

“We’re really going to have an experienced team and everybody is clicking because we have that familiarity with each other,” Williams said.

While Williams anchors the Ironmen’s defensive unit, senior quarterback Hunter Sexton returns to lead a high-powered Jackson offense that welcomes back its entire backfield and receiver corps.

Veteran head coach Andy Hall stressed the importance of improving the Ironmen’s aerial attack—which struggled mightily in 2013—to add to the Ironmen’s punishing rushing attack led by Griffiths.

“I think we’re going to be a very physical football team and I think we’ll be more balanced.” Hall said. “To get over the hump, to win a conference championship, to get to the playoffs and do great things in the playoffs we have to be more balanced than we were last year and that starts with throwing the ball better.”

To the fright of the rest of the SEOAL, Jackson has just as much power as it does experience. Physicality will be a staple for this year’s Ironmen who have the biggest starting lineup in the league.

“We definitely have the power aspect,” Williams said. “We’re going to be able to throw a little bit more and spread teams out a little bit more but we’re still going to be centered on power.”

Power and experience, however, are not the only two things this team has going for it.

The camaraderie that the Ironmen have developed after being together for so long is undeniable and can be seen with every drill and every snap of the ball. Most of the starters from last year’s team are entering their senior year and the one goal that they have for their team is clear—win the SEOAL.

“We’re basically brothers in the locker room,” Sexton said. “We fight like brothers, we love each other like brothers, and everybody has one another’s back. We want to end our last year by winning the conference and make a run in the playoffs.”

Five tough non-conference games to start the season will test the Ironmen’s strength before conference play begins in early October. Hall believes his team’s performances in those games will reveal what kind of team Jackson really has.

The test will begin on the road in week one with a battle against bitter rival Wellston. Only seven miles separates the two teams, but the gap between the two schools couldn’t be any bigger.

“It’s Wellston,” Sexton said, “You have to be intense and there’s going to be a lot of people [there]. Nobody here likes Wellston. They’re our number one rival and it’s the first game every year so every one is pumped up and ready to go.”

'Gridiron Glory' returns on Friday, Aug. 22 at 11:30 p.m. on WOUB. You can follow the show on Twitter @gridironglory, like the Gridiron Glory page on Facebook, and follow along on Instagram @woubsports. You can also join the conversation throughout the season by using the hashtag #gridglory.