By Dan Ramey
Follow @danrameyradio on Facebook, Instagram and twitter
The inaugural Frontier Athletic Conference Football Championship game was everything one expected it to be, a knock down battle between the young conference’s heavyweights.
For a second consecutive week, Chillicothe overcame a slow start for a 31-17 title win at Jackson. It’s the Cavs’ first conference championship since John Sines’ Cavaliers won the Ohio Capital Conference in 1990.
Jackson got the upper hand early as Blake McCoy burst through a hole and raced 85 yards on the game’s opening play to put the Ironmen ahead 7-0. Sadly, McCoy was injured a series later and was forced to leave the game. "We 've probably lost McCoy to an ACL tear" said Jackson's Andy Hall of his featured running back.
The Cavaliers fought poor field position on their first two possessions. Meanwhile, The Ironmen tacked on a second score with just over a minute left in the first quarter. Jared Icenhower reeled off a 41 yard run before being stopped at the Chillicothe 1 yard line. A play later, Caleb Storms punched in for a 14-0 lead.
With Jackson keying on the Cavs’ elusive QB Branden Maughmer, Connor Mathis broke loose on a 49 yard run to the Jackson 5 yard line. Mathis then got the Cavs on the scoreboard from 3 yards out.
On the next series, DeAndre Haubeil covered up a loose football at the CHS 13. Maughmer capped an 87 yard drive with a 19 yard pass to Zach Coats for the tying touchdown before the half.
"I guess we're better startin' off slow, I don't know what it is" said Maughmer of the Cavs falling behind. "It happened at Teays Valle, last week, and now, today. We come out stronger in the second half."
Maughmer finished the game with 191 yards rushing on 26 carries. As the Cavs have all season, they followed the feet of Maughmer to get into field goal range on the first possession of the second half as Matt Detty put up a 30 yard field goal for Chillicothe’s first lead at 17-14.
Jackson followed suit on a 24 yarder by Michael Benson following a 54 yard run by fullback Caleb Haller.
But the rest belonged to Maughmer and the Cavs.
Chillicothe drove inside the Ironmen 30 and Maughmer found J’Qwan Harris in the left corner of the end zone for a 24-17 margin. The knockout punch came with 2:32 remaining when Maughmer found a crease and cruised 40 yard for a 31-17 final.
The two clubs were fairly even in many categories statistically, both ran 52 offensive plays with Chillicothe gaining 382 yards to Jackson’s 347. 321 yards were on the ground for the Cavaliers to 307 for the Ironmen.
With the victory, Chillicothe (8-2/5-0) qualifies for the playoffs for a fourth consecutive season. The official parings will be released Sunday afternoon by the OHSAA. Projections have Chillicothe traveling to Cincinnati LaSalle (8-2). Despite the loss, Jackson also qualified for post season play and may face Independence next Friday.