Jonathan Alder’s Jackson Izzard (5) prepares to bring down a London ball carrier. The Pioneers will host Thornville Sheridan in the opening round of the Division III state playoffs. (Photo submitted)
For a football program with a long legacy of state playoff appearances, the 2018 campaign was a bitter pill to swallow.
The Jonathan Alder Pioneers had an uncharacteristically difficult season as they finished with a 6-4 record and missed the Division IV state playoffs.
That nasty taste, however, has been washed away with this season’s 10-0 mark during the regular campaign and a berth in the upcoming D-III post-season.
The Pioneers finished No. 2 in Region 11 of the division and as such, will host No. 7 Thornville Sheridan (8-2) at 7 p.m. on Friday.
The Generals’ losses this fall have come against 10-0 Licking Valley (21-7) during the opening week of the season and to 7-3 Tri-Valley (38-21) on Oct. 11.
Alder head coach Brett Glass said it’s once again a good feeling to be preparing for a Week 11 opponent.
“Our goals every year are to win a conference championship and make the state playoffs,” he said. “We didn’t do either last year, but we’ve accomplished both this season and now it’s back to one-game seasons.”
The current campaign has been special for another reason in that the Pioneers have played home games on the new turf field at Volunteer Stadium.
“It’s great that we’re going to be able to play a home game on our new turf,” said Glass. “I’m happy for the guys that we earned a home game for the opening round and I think it’s going to be a great atmosphere on Friday night.
“We know our fans will be out to support us and from what I’ve heard, Thornville Sheridan also travels very well.”
The Pioneers began their football playoff legacy back in 1992 under then-head coach Paul Jenne, who previously had been an assistant coach at Marysville High School.
JA earned two post-season berths during Jenne’s tenure.
Starting with the 2001 campaign, the Pioneers earned trips to the playoffs for 10 consecutive seasons under head coaches Barry Blackstone and Steve Coate, and finished as Division IV state runners-up to Youngstown Cardinal Mooney in 2006.
“Ohio is one of the best states for high school football in the country,” said Glass, who served as the team’s defensive coordinator before taking over as head coach in 2014. He also played for the Pioneers.
“It’s a huge honor to compete in the playoffs.”
Glass, who has taken JA to playoff appearances in 2015, 2016 and 2017, has never been one to use the word “revenge” when it comes to the Pioneers surpassing what they were prevented from doing during any previous season.
There is another word, however, that he is willing to use.
“I think this season has been a little bit of validation for us over what we did in 2018,” he said. “It’s not a matter of revenge … this year’s seniors just set their minds on a couple of things (the CBC championship and playoffs) and went out and accomplished them.”
The Pioneers concluded the regular season with an emotional, last-second victory over London a week ago on Dylan Moore’s field goal.
With such a victory that gave JA the outright Central Buckeye Conference Kenton Trail Division championship, does Glass worry about a letdown against Thornville Sheridan?
“Not really,” he said. “Our guys are going to be ready to go.
“We know we’re playing a quality opponent in Thornville Sheridan and the guys realize what’s at stake in this game.”
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