Ready to rumble: Jackson-Milton, Mineral Ridge set for MVAC tilt

Correspondent file photo / Michael G. Taylor Jackson-Milton’s Cayden Mitchell (8) stiff arms Newton Falls’ Calden Short (2) before taking a catch in for a touchdown against Newton Falls earlier this season.

Mineral Ridge coach Brian Shaner mentioned that games like these are what make small-school high school football special.

The Rams and Jackson-Milton both enter tonight’s contest sitting at 5-1. Not only are the two teams conference rivals, but each are vying for a coveted home game in the first round of the playoffs.

All the makings of a great game are in the cards for the Blue Jays and Rams and it’s safe to say both squads are excited for the showdown.

“This was our best week of practice we’ve had all year, including the offseason,” Blue Jays coach Nathan Brode. “The intensity level has been there, our attendance has been perfect. While we’re there, our film study has been (great). We’ve watched the most film out of any week this week as a team collectively. Our kids are really excited for another ‘game of the week’ in terms of this has a lot of implications. This can really put us on the map.”

Normally, while game-planning, Shaner has one or two players to have his team really key in on. That doesn’t apply to Jackson-Milton however. Their versatility and skill makes them a top-to-bottom threat, especially on offense.

“They’re a complete team,” Shaner said. “Most times when you put on film, you say ‘You’ve got to stop this guy or this guy’ or something. They do a lot of things well and they do it together. They seem like they’re a very cohesive unit. They understand what’s being asked of them and they’re able to go from a five-wide spread that they ran a lot in week one, back to their traditional wing-T style of football without seeing too many blemishes in it.

“They’re getting coached up really hard. It seems like over there, they’re doing things the right way. I just think they’re just a good football team. They find a way to win games.”

Jackson-Milton is led by Alex Schiavi under center, who’s approaching 1,300 yards on the season. He also has 20 passing touchdowns this season. Aiden Stanke has been his top target, with seven touchdown receptions.

Rams quarterback Triston Valley has 666 passing yards this season on 69 completions and is averaging a touchdown pass per game. The Rams have had no issue putting up points this year, only scoring less than 30 once, but the defense is the real unit to watch for. Both Shaner and Brode are in agreement there.

“They’re as advertised,” Brode said. “They score a lot of points on offense and on defense, they’re very stingy. They’ve got some really good athletes on both sides of the ball.”

Looking over the Division VI, Region 21 standings, you’ll see why both teams are so excited for this one.

Mineral Ridge is projected to finish ninth in the region, with Jackson-Milton positioned at No. 12. A win is going to do wonders for each team as they try to get into the top eight.

Something else lurking in the back of the players’ minds, especially for Jackson-Milton, is the last time the teams met up. The 2021 meeting wound up being canceled, and in 2020, the Rams won big, stopping a then-undefeated Blue Jays team in a 45-0 Mineral Ridge win.

Expect a lot of excitement on both sidelines as this contest kicks off.

“It’s just one of those games that you’re really excited about coaching,” Shaner said. “Of course you get up for every game but when you can look your team in the eyes and say, ‘Hey guys, it’s 5-1 versus 5-1, who is showing up tomorrow?’ It’s just exciting. I think our league is looking at this differently because there’s different teams at the top and it’s just adding a lot of excitement to the game.

“I can’t wait to call the game tomorrow, I can’t wait to see how our boys show up and play and I can’t wait to see how Jackson-Milton attacks us and what kind of game we have going on tomorrow night.”

Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. at Jackson-Milton Community Stadium.


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