Zanesville’s Strong Line Play Moves Blue Devils Past Jackson

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With two defenses that allowed less than 10 points per game all season, people expected the Division 3, Region 9 championship to be decided by a field-position battle.

Zanesville changed that.

No. 4 Jackson turned the ball over four times and failed to force a single turnover as No. 3 Zanesville made big plays when needed and defeated the Ironmen 38-21.

With less than three minutes in the first half, Hunter Sexton launched a pass downfield. The ball bounced off the receiver’s hands and found Braxton Snyder. Snyder returned the interception approximately 30 yards to midfield.

A leader for the Ironmen on both sides of the ball, Sexton only turned the ball over once, but it came at a costly time as Zanesville kicked a field goal on the ensuing drive as time expired in the first half.

Even more uncharacteristic for the Ironmen was Johnny Farley’s unforced errors. The usually sure-handed Farley fumbled the ball twice.

The Blue Devils continuously changed pace and made big plays when things began to go Jackson’s way.

On a third and 11 from Zanesville’s own 14, Derek Grandstaff completed a pass to Ben Kaufman, who was about 10 yards downfield. Kaufman weaved through the defense all the way to the Jackson 16 yard-line. He turned a 10-to-15-yard first down into a 68-yard game changer.

Leo Crosby broke several tackles on the next play and stumbled into the end zone, giving the Blue Devils a 21-7 lead.

The Ironmen defense struggled to contain Crosby all night, who reached the end zone four times.

Though much of Crosby’s success came from quick cuts and broken tackles, a lot of credit is due to Zanesville’s offensive line. The Blue Devils’ offensive line, which averages a height of six foot, three inches and a weight of 281 pounds won the battle in the trenches.

Aside from Crosby, the Ironmen held their own on defense. They stuffed running backs at the line often, containing a dual-threat Grandstaff.

But the big plays proved costly because the Ironmen offense failed to respond.

Jackson’s balanced rushing attack carried the team through the regular season, but couldn’t get past the Blue Devils front lines Friday night.

Zanesville stacked the box, but when the Ironmen tried to bounce it outside, they couldn’t get around the defensive backs.

The Ironmen couldn’t put together a long drive or make enough big plays to match Zanesville’s explosiveness.

Jackson’s historic season comes to an end. For the first time, the Ironmen won two playoff games in a season. Zanesville advances to the final four.