Intense and physical — two words that describe the scene likely to take place at Ed Miller Stadium Friday night.
As fans are expected to flood the stadium located in Wheelersburg, Ohio, the Jackson Ironmen and the Pirates are scheduled to renew a rivalry that has been as intense as anything the southern Ohio sports area has produced over the last handful of years.
Pirates coach Rob Wooward realizes this game is more than just a matchup between two schools, it’s a contest between two like-minded communities.
“Jackson has always been a football town, a town that really rallies around their team,” Woodward said. “In 2011, they had a great record, and they’ve continued to build great teams and continue to play great football. We’re much the same, so when you bring those two communities together, it really makes for a great atmosphere and a great game. Both of us have been able to break into the playoffs — them in Division III, us in Division V — so that makes for a great test early in the season for both ball clubs.”
Woodward compared Jackson to the rivalry Wheelersburg (4-0) has annually with the Ironton Fighting Tigers.
“Here in southern Ohio, they are definitely a little bigger program. They are a program that brings a great mentality of football with them, much like an Ironton,” Woodward said. “Ironton hasn’t won as many games over recent years but they are going to put out a playoff-caliber team and they are going to play physical. Jackson is also one of those top teams in the southern Ohio area that does that. Having them on our schedule, this is one of the best ways for us to get our guys ready in a regular season game. It’s in close proximity and they always play great football.”
In order for the Pirates to keep their undefeated mark alive, Wheelersburg will have to account for several playmakers who have spent the last few years in the Jackson (3-1) program.
The first name key for Wheelersburg is containing Johnny Farley.
“He’s an outstanding runner, very quick,” Woodward said. “He’s a kid we’ve seen since his sophomore year.
“Farley does an outstanding job. He’s a great player. The last two weeks, he’s put together outstanding performances. Last week, he had over 200 yards and they’re not typically a team that hands it to one individual. They’re always trying to spread it around, much like ourselves.”
Woodward also said Blake McCoy is another threat, especially when he lines up in the slot but noted he also runs the ball with efficiency.
Another playmaker is Cooper Donaldson who is a big receiver who has the ability to attack the ball in the air.
As far as the Pirates, the team is healthy heading into the week 5 matchup, which Woodward attributed to the strength and conditioning program.
“We are very healthy,” Woodward said. “I think it’s attributed to the work the guys have done in the weight room during the season. It’s been a big push for us. They continue to maintain a good strength and conditioning level. Going into week 5, midway through the season, and our guys are strong and healthy right now.”
As far as the keys to the game, the Pirates have to limit turnovers and play physical.
“This is going to be a game of taking care of the football,” Woodward said. “We cannot put the ball on the ground, which is something we did last week uncharacteristically. We put it on the ground four times. We’ve got to make sure we take care of the football. Then it just comes down to physical play. There’s going to be a lot of emotion. I think you’re going to see a lot of big hits throughout this game on both sides of the ball. We’ve got to make sure we’re the ones delivering the physical play as much as we can.”
The game is scheduled to kickoff at 7 p.m.
Reach Chris Slone at 740-353-3101, ext