Jonathan Alder receiver Jackson Izzard (5) eludes a tackle during last week’s game against Jackson. Izzard has caught 55 passes for 14 touchdowns this season. (Photo submitted)
Like many high school football teams, the Jonathan Alder Pioneers like to establish their running game as a primary way to move the ball toward the end zone.
The Pioneers have had great success on the ground this season, but aren’t afraid to go to the aerial attack when needed.
There’s a good reason for that as Jackson Izzard has become a big target for quarterback JT Keith.
Izzard has compiled impressive numbers for a JA squad that will face Columbus Bishop Hartley this evening for the Division III Region 11 title.
The contest will kick off at 7 p.m. at Hilliard Darby High School.
Izzard, who recently was named to the Central District’s first team, has latched onto 55 receptions, good for 832 yards and 14 touchdowns.
A junior, Izzard has possibly made one of the biggest improvements for a local offensive gridiron player in quite a number of years.
“I didn’t play much on offense last year,” said Izzard, who also plays in the JA defensive secondary. “I was mostly on defense and I think I may have caught one or two passes a year ago.”
Izzard felt he would have more opportunities to get in on the offensive act this year and set about earning a spot on that unit.
“JT and I worked out a lot over the summer,” said Izzard. “I’d run routes and catch passes from him whenever we could work.”
The off-season chores have paid off as Izzard earned a pair of individual honors.
“I was hoping I’d earn first-team in both the Central Buckeye Conference and the Central District,” he said. “I was able to do both.”
Izzard also went into the regular season hoping the Pioneers would go unbeaten.
They accomplished that with a 10-0 slate.
“I thought we’d be pretty good during the preseason,” he said. “Once we got started, I knew we’d be pretty good.
“Actually, I think we’re better than I originally thought.”
Izzard said his best pass routes are the fade and comeback.
“I can get by a lot of defensive backs and I think that makes me hard to guard,” he said. “JT also throws passes that are easy for me to catch.”
“Jackson has molded himself into a great high school football player,” said Alder head coach Brett Glass.
While the Pioneers’ passing game has put up some impressive numbers this fall, Izzard said the key to the team’s success has not been one-dimensional.
“We’re very balanced,” he said. “We run the ball well and our offense starts with that.
“However, we can throw it and keep opposing defenses off-balance.”
While Izzard and the 12-0 Pioneers have accomplished several goals this season, there is still one more out there.
“I’d really like us to win a state championship,” he said.
In order to stay on track for a state crown, the No. 2 Pioneers must get past a very talented top-ranked Bishop Hartley (11-1) squad tonight.
Although all of Pioneer Nation hopes the good times continue to role, Izzard may have a little extra incentive for beating the Hawks.
As a key member of last winter’s Jonathan Alder varsity boys basketball squad, Izzard saw the season end with a one-point loss to Hartley in the Division II district semifinal contest that was played at Olentangy Orange High School.
“We owe Hartley for that,” he said. “We definitely want to beat them.”
Just what will the Pioneers need to do in order to continue on to next week’s state semifinals?
“We have to make plays and fly to the football,” said Izzard. “Everyone is going to have to play their best game.”
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