John Landis begins his 4th season as starter along the offensive line
NORTH JACKSON, Ohio (WKBN) – With a full off-season at his disposal, coach Nathan Brode saw plenty of improvement from his club last season. Even with beginning the year 0-4, the Blue Jays opened the season with a 3-point loss to 6-4 Southington (10-7) and an 11-point setback to 5-5 Newton Falls (33-22). The Jays have finished 3 of their last 4 campaigns with a winning record in league play. With their top ground gainer returning and plenty of experience on defense, Jackson-Milton will attempt to reach the playoffs for the third time in the last five years.
Jackson-Milton Blue Jays
Head Coach: Nathan Brode, 3rd season (6-14)
2018 record (MVAC): 4-6 (4-3), 4th place
Five Key Points
1.Offense improved with their total offensive numbers from 164.5 yards in 2017 to 265.7 in 2018.
2.During their last playoff season of 2016, Jays scored 30 or more 4 times. Over the last two seasons, they’ve been able to manage 4 30-point plus game.
3.Blue Jay defense allowed their opponents to average 30-points or more per season 5 of 8 years between 2007 to 2014. Over the last four years, Jackson-Milton has not permitted foes to average 28-points per year.
4.Jackson-Milton has had just 3 winning seasons over the last 21 years. However, those 3 seasons happened since 2013 (2013, 2015, 2016).
5.Blue Jays return their entire offensive line for their second consecutive year
Returning Starters: 8
Scoring Offense: 17.4 (37th in Area)
Rushing Offense: 207.3
Passing Offense: 58.4
Total Offense: 265.7
…Junior Sean Lengyel rushed for 750 yards on 74 carries (10.1 avg) and scored 7 times. Lengyel became the first Blue Jay underclassman to rush for that amount of yardage since Joey Burnside did so in 2014 as a junior (1006 yards). The improvement in rushing the football put the Jays as having a team which averaged 207.3 yards on the ground compared to 70.3 yards the year prior. Jackson-Milton’s other 500-yard rusher – Jimmy Harper (551 yards) – and quarterback Dyllen Gibbs (511 passing yards, 3 TDs) have both since graduated which will leave a void in the offensive system.
Senior Michael Liberato completed 4 of 9 passing for 27 yards (TD) and also gained 174 yards on the ground on 25 totes a year ago. “Michael really took command of the offense last year,” said Brode. “as he helped by getting people in line where they needed to be. We look to him to remain under center in 2019.” All-League receiver Bryce Davis has graduated as well. He caught a team-high 18 passes for 224 yards (3 TDs). Liberato hauled in 6 tosses for 71 yards. Senior Ryan Staton was second on the team in receptions (9) and yards receiving (146).
The Blue Jays return their entire offensive line for a second straight year. Four-year starter John Landis will anchor the play up front as senior center Harrison Lay will man the center spot. Shane Davis, Joey Keller and junior Logan Pugh are all in line to start along the line. Coach Brode points out, “Sustaining drives and moving the chains,” will be the key to having offensive success. “We must also limit turnovers and penalties.”
Returning Starters: 8
Scoring Defense: 24.7 (T-31st in Area)
Total Defense: 248.5
…”We must create turnovers on defense and our ability to get off the field on third down,” says Brode. “Limiting the ‘big play’ will be our focus. Jackson-Milton returns their top four tacklers. Junior DB Sean Lengyel led the team in tackles (72) and finished second in interceptions (2). Senior lineman John Landis collected 71 defensive stops a year ago. Harrison Lay will be back at defensive tackle. Ryan Staton and Frankie Prozy had 69 and 64 tackles respectively. Shane Davis will also man one of the linebacker positions this fall as well. Michael Liberato, a senior, led the unit in interceptions (along with Jimmy Harper and Dyllen Gibbs) with 3. Bryce Davis (40 tackles), Will Hawksley (2 sacks), Harper (50 tackles) and Gibbs (59 tackles) have all since graduated.
A year ago, the Blue Jay defense forced 17 turnovers (12 INTs, 5 FRs). Can they force even more in 2019?
Aug. 30 – Southington
Sept. 6 – at Newton Falls
Sept. 13 – Windham
Sept. 20 – Western Reserve
Sept. 27 – at Mineral Ridge
Oct. 4 – at Springfield
Oct. 11 – at Lowellville
Oct. 18 – McDonald
Oct. 25 – Waterloo
Nov. 1 – at Sebring