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The Chillicothe Cavaliers run onto the field as get set to play the Washington Court House on Oct. 5, 2019.
The Chillicothe Cavaliers run onto the field as get set to play the Washington Court House on Oct. 5, 2019. (Will Collins/WOUB)

End-of-Year Conference Recap: Frontier Athletic Conference

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After thirteen weeks, the Frontier Athletic Conference can conclude the 2019 season. Three years in, the FAC has awarded its first gold football to the undefeated Jackson Ironmen, and all hopes of a school making a run at a state championship fell into the lap of Jackson as its team prepared to challenge for its first regional championship in region 11. Now that all six member schools have played their last game of the 2010’s, let’s examine how each team performed in relation to their expectations going into the season:

Hillsboro defenders converge on a Western Brown player
McClain running back Matt Bliss rushes the ball during the Tigers game against the Blue Lions. Photo: Jackson Baehr.
Running back James McCane holds the ball after a play in the Blue Lions win against the McClain Tigers. Photo: Jackson Baehr
The Jackson Ironman team celebrates after a win against the Wheelersburg Pirates on Sept. 27, 2019. (Evann Figueroa/WOUB)
The Washington Court House Blue Lions and the Miami Trace Panthers huddle up before a play on a game during week 10 on November 1, 2019.
Chillicothe Cavalier running back Hunter Thomas hydrates on the sideline. PHOTO; Ryan Kincaid

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McClain Tigers(2-8, 0-5)

McClain Logo

Preseason Rank: 5
Final Rank: 6

Another promising opportunity to turn McClain’s football fortunes around has come and gone, as a Tigers team plagued by inconsistency and injuries to key starters went from a shot at a winning season to another bottom finish. Now that the season is over, Greenfield will say goodbye to senior captain (and state wrestler) Dalton Mischal, who led his team on both sides of the field until being cut down by injuries and forced to sit on the sideline for much of the second half of the season. His successor may be Matt Bliss, a junior running back who slotted into the starting lineup and put together a couple good performances carrying the rock for McClain. Greenfield will simply need to regroup and plan for a long-term buildup in hopes of having a payoff of winning teams in the future.

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Hillsboro Indians (4-6, 1-4)

Hillsboro logo

Preseason Rank: 4
Final Rank: 5

A step back was expected for the 2019 Indians; however, this season will go down as a disappointing one. Hillsboro graduated a ton of offensive talent from their championship winning team last season and it showed, their once unbeatable wishbone attack has been found out, as all but one team had an answer for the unit that just one year ago was within three yards of an undefeated season. The defense kept Hillsboro in most of their games, and that should translate to next year. The Indians will likely chalk this season up to a championship hangover, looking to once again summit the mountain in 2020.

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Miami Trace Panthers(5-5, 2-3)

Miami Trace Logo

Preseason Rank: 6
Final Rank: 4

Miami Trace came out of nowhere to make some early noise in the FAC championship race, appearing to be competition for Jackson. We heard about a culture change within the Panthers organization, and that appears to have paid off with a .500 season, a major improvement over the past few years. And the future looks bright, standout 1,000-yard halfback Jayden LeBeau is still an underclassman, ready to burst onto the scene as a junior next year. Though their strong start sputtered out at the end, expect Miami Trace to look like early contenders for the 2020 FAC championship.

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Chillicothe Cavaliers (4-6, 3-2)

Chillicothe logo

Preseason Rank: 2
Final Rank: 3

The Chillicothe team that started 1-6 is not the same team that won three of their last four. The team is young, full of athletic talent on both sides of the ball, and the players and new coaching staff has finally gelled. The Cavs’ offensive production has exploded from the beginning of the season and will look to get back to their expectations of postseason action next year. Quarterback Jayden Cain is expected to lead the Cavaliers next year, he got the starting job as a sophomore but got hurt in week one, ending his season early. Hunter Thomas may be the next GGPOY candidate for the FAC if he can match his excellent 2019 season next year. Thomas earned a team-high 772 total rushing yards in ten games for the Cavaliers. With a losing season, the OHSAA’s competitive balance system may send Chillicothe back down to division III, which may allow a smaller roster to compete for week eleven in 2020.

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Washington Court House Blue Lions (7-3, 4-1)

Washington C.H. Logo

Preseason Rank: 3
Final Rank: 2

What’s not to love about the Blue Lions? Once again Court House produced the best aerial offense of the FAC and got a quarterback/wideout tandem nominated to the GGPOY watchlist. The only goal that has so far been out of this team’s reach is the playoffs, once again just missing out on the postseason in D-IV. Eli Lynch graduates with the school record for all-time receiving yards, but Ethan Rogers-Wright still has one more year to crack the playoff puzzle that has so far stagnated Washington’s growth. Next season will be title or bust in Washington Court House.

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Jackson Ironmen (11-1, 5-0)

Jackson logo

Preseason Rank: 1
Final Rank: 1

It took an undefeated regular season for Jackson to finally win an outright FAC championship. POTY finalist Jayden Spires came away with the all-FAC rushing yards distinction and his ability to pierce defenses has allowed Jackson to run up the score on nearly every foe they’ve faced so far. While their time in the playoffs is over, they did earn the first postseason win of any FAC team since the conference’s inception. The Ironmen must say goodbye to a fantastic senior class that includes Spires, Jared Icenhower, and Brice Parks. But if you think this means regression for the Ironmen, then freshman quarterback Jacob Winters may throw a deep ball over your predictions, as Jackson has the most electric JV roster in the conference. The Apple City is on top of the hill, and they may stick around for several years.