VINCENT - When undefeated and defending Southeastern Ohio Athletic League champion Jackson visits Warren at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, the underdog Warriors will probably have to play like pitbulls, who haven't been fed in a week.
The Ironmen (4-0), who beat the royal blue and white 42-7 last year, are that good.
"Jackson is extremely talented," said second-year Warren head football coach Andy Schob. "They are consistantly in the playoffs and in the league championship hunt every year.
"We will have to play a great football game to win, but we are excited for the opportunity and atmosphere for this game. We have challenged our players. Do you want to be good or great?"
Warren, 3-1 overall and 1-0 in the SEOAL), was overwhelming in its 51-21 triumph over visiting Portsmouth last Friday night. Everything was clicking for the Warriors, who led 37-21 at halftime.
"Our kids played at another level the entire game in all phases," Schob said.
On offense, Josh Mays provided the spark, rushing for a career-high 156 yards on 23 carries and one touchdown run of 26 yards. The 5-foot-8, 185-pound senior also had four receptions for 38 yards.
"Josh Mays had a great game," Schob said.
Quarterback Dylan Leffingwell also contributed, scoring on three short TD runs of 9, 2 and 3 yards. The 6-2, 210-pound junior also completed 11 of 21 passes for 168 yards and one touchdown of 52 yards to Jeremy Fivecoait.
Fivecoait finished with four receptions for 88 yards.
Jeremy Hastie added two catches for 32 yards.
Defensively, Warren played out its mind, sacking the Portsmouth signal caller six times and forcing eight Trojan turnovers, two of which were returned for first-quarter touchdowns. Warrior linebacker Austin Henthorn was credited with three sacks.
"Austin played with an intensity and passion that was contagious," Schob said. "Our defense set the tone by flying to the football and was in Portsmouth's backfield all night."
The winless Trojans (0-4) were scoreless in the second half.
Ever the ball hawks, Mays and Hastie finished with three and two interceptions, respectively, in the defensive secondary. And, sophomore Jake Scott returned a fumble recovery for a score.
"Jeremy (Hastie) continues to be a spark plug on offense, defense and special teams," Schob said.
Meanwhile, over at Logan last Friday night, Jackson was taking care of business, drilling the Chiefs, 49-32. After LHS staked itself to a 7-0 advantage, the visiting Ironmen proceeded to score five unanswered touchdowns to take a 35-13 lead at halftime.
Jackson's ground game was simply overpowering as two of its backs rushed for over 100 yards. Drew Irvin, a 6-foot, 225-pound senior, led the assault with 157 yards on 20 carries. Austin Osborne, a 5-11, 201-pound senior, chipped in with 132 yards on 15 attempts.
JHS was also effective in the air as Osborne completed seven of 11 throws for 84 yards and three touchdowns, two to Ty McNelly, 5-10, 176-pound senior.
"Jackson has four of the better players in the league," Schob said. "Drew Ervin is a returning 1,000-yard rusher and great player on both sides of the ball.
"Austin Osborne is a transfer from Wellston and is playing QB. He is very athletic and a threat to run or pass.
"Tyson McNelly is a dynamic WR that can run any route well and can go the the distance any time."
Another Ironmen player who the Warriors will have to keep an eye on will be 5-11, 210-pound junior Morgan Landrum.
"Landrum is somtimes overlooked because of the abilities of the other three players, but he is a big, strong RB that makes you pay when you focus too much on them," Schob said.
As for basic keys in the game, Warren could be a handful for Jackson if it plays like it did last Friday night in Vincent or at Marietta earlier in the season. The Warriors, though, know that they will have to limit the turnovers, especially the interceptions, to be successful against the Ironmen.
On the flipside, Jackson lost two of four fumbles to Logan, and its special teams play is suspect - and that has to be a concern for the Ironmen coaching staff. But, if JHS rushes the football like it did against Logan, it could be a long Saturday night for the Warriors.
No ifs, ands or buts, Warren has to contain the run to make this a game.