Jackson Ironman and the New Lexington Panthers line up against each other on Sept. 28, 2019
Jackson Ironman and the New Lexington Panthers line up against each other on Sept. 28, 2019 (Evann Figueroa/WOUB)

Week 5 Power Rankings: FAC

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Not even the world-renowned Tour de France could create as close a peloton as the 2019 Frontier Athletic Conference football season. With one exception, any school can defeat any of the others on the field and add a valuable conference win to their total, because in the FAC only conference wins matter in the standings. Regardless how well your team has performed so far, the slate is wiped clean in the chase for the FAC championship. Let’s examine the state of all six teams and estimate their odds of a championship or OHSAA playoff berth:

Power Rankings

6. Chillicothe logoChillicothe Cavaliers (1-4)

The bigger they are, the harder they fall. The inaugural FAC champions and largest school by enrollment are down on their luck. The Cavaliers have lost both their starting and backup quarterbacks in a one-month span with no news on a return date for either. As a result, offensive production has grinded to a halt. While the defense has kept the Cavs in many games, it is a futile effort. An undersized line on both sides of the ball means Chillicothe gives up long, grinding drives on defense and sputters out drive after drive on offense.

Yet all hope is not lost for Chillicothe. Despite a disaster beginning, the standout aspect for the Cavaliers has always been its athletes. If Chillicothe can outperform the competition in a few games, the Cavs can easily make a surprise championship run. The team will look on this season as a failure already with playoffs out of the question, but a tough campaign with a young team will only benefit the first capital and its team’s new era under Doug Pryor.

Projected Record: 4-6

5. McClain LogoMcClain Tigers (2-3)

Greenfield, Ohio has been the site of football doom and gloom for a long time. Though McClain Field hasn’t seen a home win in years, there is a sense of optimism surrounding this team. The undisputed anchor of this team is state wrestler Dalton Mischal, who was questionable to play his senior year to focus on a wrestling career. His participation on the team has given the Tigers a boost of athleticism rarely seen in a small rural school. McClain can score, surviving a shootout against Zane Trace early in the season and dismantling their most recent foes in a blowout victory against Eastern Pike.

McClain could find themselves on the upswing this season. With Mischal acting as an ace up their sleeve, McClain could scratch and claw their way to a 5-5 record, their best finish in nearly a decade. Mischal is the key to everything to this team however, so if something happens to him the Tigers could end up in the basement again.

Projected Record: 3-7

4.Miami Trace Logo Miami Trace Panthers (3-2)

Coach Jerry Williams hinted at a culture change in Miami Trace before the start of this season. So far, the panthers appear to be living up to the promise of a tougher team capable of winning gritty football games. Offense seems to be the focus of the 2019 Panthers, putting up at least five touchdowns in every win.

Miami Trace’s problem, like many in the FAC, is that they have won against very weak teams; the Panther’s three victories combine for a record of 1-14. Against tougher teams on Trace’s level, the Panthers may struggle to pull together wins.

Projected Record: 4-6

3. Hillsboro logoHillsboro Indians (3-2)

If a hard-nosed, punch-you-in-the-mouth-and-apologize-later team is your favorite brand of football, the Hillsboro Indians should be your team to root for as they prepare to defend their share of the 2018 FAC championship. Strong defense has been the strength of the Indians, who are looking to compensate for the loss of several offensive weapons to graduation. Apart from their loss to Northeastern last week, Hillsboro has given up the least amount of points in the FAC.

Hillsboro is designed to wear you down and punish you with their strong running game. Against the smaller teams in the conference, the Indians should run away with it. Hillsboro’s size could be a weakness against a more agile, athletic squad who can run around or through them. Expect the Indians to defend their title to the last game.

Projected Record: 6-4

2. Washington C.H. LogoWashington Court House Blue Lions (3-2)

There is a reason I’m not a betting man. If I put money on the season, I would tell you that Washington Court House would be firmly in the basement after graduating so much talent last year. So far, the Blue Lions are proving me wrong. The defense has significantly improved from last year and the offense has regrouped to put together a decent resume of wins.

Washington is the only team to shut out an opponent, and they’ve done it twice. Their strength of schedule poses a problem, but confidence can go a long way in amateur sports, and a confident Blue Lions team may be the only one to threaten the team sitting at number one.

Projected Record: 7-3

1. Jackson logoJackson Ironmen (5-0)

Without reservation, Jackson is the class of the FAC in 2019. Sitting undefeated against the strongest schedule in the conference, the Ironmen have all but locked up a playoff berth if they continue their winning form. The offense has outscored opponents 173-75 with help from a rock-solid defense capable of reducing even the strongest offenses to a beat up, tired, run down shell of their typical selves.

Perhaps Jackson’s Achilles Heel is its slow first half starts. A trend of recent performances shows the Ironmen like to wear teams down in the first half and dump points on them in the second. If a team can crack the defensive barrier early and hold a lead into halftime, the pressure of being down may force mistakes; enough mistakes by a flustered Jackson may lead to an upset and ruin a golden football season. Regardless, Jackson will be in the playoffs, and after three years the FAC may finally see a playoff win thanks to the defending champs.

Projected Record: 10-0