NORTH JACKSON, Ohio (WKBN) – Despite last year’s 2-7 record, Jackson-Milton has finished five of their past nine seasons with a non-losing campaign. Quite an achievement for a program that experienced a 15-year period without a winning season (1998-2012).

Coach Nathan Brode begins his sixth season at the helm of the Blue Jay football program. Since Tony Vechiarella’s run from 1968 to 1982 ended, there have been just two coaches who have eclipsed the 20-win plateau (Chuck Sincel, 31; Mark Assion, 39). Brode has the opportunity to reach that mark this season.

“We expect our athletes to give their best effort that’ll hopefully translate to more wins this year. We need to improve in all facets of the game,” Brode said.

The Blue Jays are scheduled to return 19 letter winners from this past fall.

Senior Alex Schiavi completed 57.6% of his passes (38-66) a year ago while throwing for 372 yards (two TDs). Gavin White led the group of receivers with 16 catches and 217 yards (two TDs) while running for 185 yards on 17 carries (TD) to finish second on the team.

“We’ll look to [Alex and Gavin] to help lead our offense,” said coach Brode. “They’ve been doing a great job in the off-season working hard, staying active and being tremendous leaders.”

With the graduation of Eythan Evans (713 yards rushing), a group of running backs will look to take over his role in 2022. Look for Tanner Butler (52 yards rushing), Ezekiel Brock, Cayden Mitchell, Joey Zayas and sophomore Keegan White (63 yards rushing) to all compete for the starting tailback spot.

A positional group that appears to be a real strength of the offense is the front five as Brody Pugh, Mason Hughes, Zachary Armstrong and Aiden Dailey all are set to anchor the line this coming season.

Jackson-Milton welcomes back much of the defensive unit.

Seniors Owen McDevitt (46 tackles, two INTs), Ezekiel Brock (43 tackles), Gerald Ihrig (28 tackles), Gavin White (27 tackles) and Tanner Butler (24 tackles) lead the defensive unit into the new season.

“We hope to become stingier with allowing points and to become better tacklers,” Brode pointed out. “With another year under their belts with the terminology and playing time will be crucial for our team’s success.”

The Jays open the season at Leetonia in week one.

Jackson-Milton Blue Jays
Fast Facts
Head Coach: Nathan Brode, 6th season (19-29)
2021 Record: 2-7 (1-5), 7th place in MVAC Scarlet
Last 5 Years: 19-29 (39.6%)
Home Field: Jackson-Milton Community Stadium
League: Mahoning Valley Athletic Conference, Scarlet Tier
Base Offense: Spread/Pro Style
Base Defense: 3-4

Returning Starters
Offense: 8
Defense: 8

2021 Team Stats
Scoring Offense: 12.9 (54th in Area)
Scoring Defense: 28.6 (40th in Area)
Total Offense: 202.3
Rushing Offense: 132.3
Passing Offense: 70.0
Total Defense: 296.6

2021 Individual Leaders
Passing: Alex Schiavi – 372 yards, 57.6% (38-66), 2 TDs
Rushing: Eythan Evans – 713 yards, 5.8 avg, 6 TDs
Receiving: Gavin White – 217 yards, 13.6 avg, 2 TDs
Tackles: Jake Gross – 64
Quarterback Sacks: Jake Gross – 3
Interceptions: Owen McDevitt – 2

2021 Results
McDonald 28 Blue Jays 26
Springfield 55 Blue Jays 0
Waterloo 28 Blue Jays 15
Blue Jays 15 Sebring 12
Lowellville 41 Blue Jays 7
Western Reserve 26 Blue Jays 0
Windham 20 Blue Jays 14
Newton Falls Blue Jays 10
Blue Jays 29 Hilltop 12

2021 MVAC Scarlet Tier Standings
Springfield – 7-0 (13-2)
Western Reserve – 5-1 (5-6)
Lowellville – 4-2 (7-3)
McDonald – 3-2 (3-6)
Mineral Ridge – 2-4 (4-5)
Waterloo – 2-4 (3-7)
Jackson-Milton – 1-5 (2-7)
Sebring – 0-6 (1-8)

2022 Schedule
Aug. 18 – at Leetonia
Aug. 26 – Newton Falls
Sept. 2 – at Windham
Sept. 9 – at Western Reserve
Sept. 16 – Lowellville
Sept. 23 – Sebring
Sept. 30 – Mineral Ridge
Oct. 7 – at Waterloo
Oct. 14 – Springfield
Oct. 21 – at McDonald