JA’s Cade Keaton (40) tackles a Bishop Hartley ball carrier Friday evening. The Pioneers went 12-1 for the season. (Photo submitted)
Although there is disappointment among Jonathan Alder High School football fans, those supporters will be able to look back on the 2019 campaign with pride.
One of the Pioneers’ best seasons in a number of years came to an end on Friday with a loss to Columbus Bishop Hartley in the Division III-Region 11 championship game at Hilliard Darby High School.
Although JA won’t be in the running for a state title, Pioneer Nation will long remember the season for a few reasons:
-Alder went through the regular season unbeaten and advanced to the regional title contest for the first time in eight years;
-The Pioneers won the Central Buckeye Conference Kenton Trail Division championship;
-They also avenged losses to Springfield Shawnee and Bellefontaine, opponents that kept them out of the playoffs and from winning a CBC title in 2018.
Pioneer head coach Brett Glass felt his squad would be good this year going into the preseason … maybe not just how good.
“It’s always hard to judge over the summer,” said Glass. “I’m not sure I expected us to win our first 12 games, but I knew we’d be good because we had a lot of seniors and a really good quarterback.”
Glass said he saw how well the squad came together during preseason practices.
“We had really good chemistry and we came together very well,” he said. “We had some ups and downs this season and we handled them well.
“We didn’t have any down time as we won our first 12 games, but there were several (games) during which we had to rally in order to win,” said Glass.
The Alder coaching staff knew it had solid skill position players returning for the 2019 campaign.
That confidence was rewarded with stat numbers those players put up this fall.
Tailback Garret Proxmire rushed for more than 1,500 yards, quarterback JT Keith threw for 30 touchdowns and receivers Jackson Izzard and Jacob Fenik both caught more than 50 passes.
If there was one concern, it was along the offensive line.
JA lost key linemen Caleb Howell, Jose Duarte and Michael Boggs.
“We knew we’d have to replace three starters on our offensive line,” said Glass.
Those spots were soon taken over by Brayden Blain, Andrew McGlaughlin and Alex Schrock.
“The offensive line is a big part of what we do,” said Glass. “Those three guys stepped up and did great jobs.
“We didn’t have a lot of depth on our offensive line, so we were lucky we stayed healthy this year.
“Chris (offensive line coach Clapham) did a great job of coaching up our new starters and we didn’t miss a beat.
“Our offensive linemen proved themselves Week 1 of the season when Garret gained more than 200 yards against Philo.”
Glass said he was also pleased with the advancements on defense made by sophomore starters Logan Shafley (who moved from linebacker to nose guard), linebacker Chase Maynard and defensive back Jonathan Keith.
The Pioneer boss said the 2019 season has just added to the program’s already-strong legacy.
“We already had a great foundation going into the season,” said Glass. “By no means was the cupboard bare.
“We hadn’t played in the regional championship game since 2011 and we took Hartley down to the wire on Friday,” he said. “This team has just added to our foundation.”
The Pioneers will lose key seniors such as Proxmire, Fenik, two-way lineman Connor Morgan, defensive back Cade Keaton and defensive back-receiver-punter Dawson Detweiler.
As always, however, the Pioneers will have a “next man up” philosophy.
“We will have to replace Garret in the backfield, but we have guys like Will Heisler, Cam Smith and Blake Seum who will be possibilities,” said Glass.
The key aerial combination of Keith and Izzard will return for their senior seasons, while a number of sophomores who played vital roles this year will return with an added year of experience under their belts.
“We know we have good players coming back,” said Glass, who reached his 50th victory in his sixth season this fall. “Once our summer work begins, it will just be a matter of figuring out where everybody is going to fit.”
Jonathan Alder tailback Garret Proxmire (22) prepares to collide with a Bishop Hartley defender Friday evening. The Pioneers finished the 2019 season with a 12-1 record and a regional runner-up trophy. (Photo submitted)
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