Benjamin Jackson etched his name into the record books with several amazing accomplishments during his senior season at West Greene.
The Herald-Standard Touchdown Club was included.
In addition to becoming Greene County’s all-time leading rusher and setting the WPIAL single-season rushing record and regular-season touchdown mark, Jackson also soared to new heights in repeating as TD Club champion.
Jackson was the first area running back to go over 200 points in the contest earlier in the season and his final touchdown in West Greene’s 24-7 loss to Sto-Rox in the WPIAL Class A semifinals pushed him over the 300-point mark.
How impressive was his record 302-point total? He smashed the previous TD Club mark held by Beth-Center’s Anthony Welsh — the only three-time champion — by 116 points. There are past TD Club winners who didn’t reach 116 points, yet that, amazingly, was Jackson’s margin over the previous record holder.
In his final game, Jackson moved past the 7,000-yard milestone for his career (7,105) and became the first WPIAL runner to top 3,000 yards in a season (3,079).
Jackson even excelled against the district’s elite defenses, not only denting Sto-Rox with 156 yards on 31 carries but also WPIAL champion Clairton for 155 yards on 19 attempts. That’s a rushing average of 6.2 yards per carry against the top two teams in Class A.
Overall, he averaged over 15 yards a carry for the 2019 season.
“Sometimes when I walk off the field I don’t realize what he’s done,” Pioneers coach Brian Hanson said. “You lose sight of it during the game. I mean, a play that should be a five or six-yard run turns into a 55 to 75-yard touchdown run.”
Jackson, backfield mate Kolin Walker and West Greene’s offensive line made quick work of opposing defenses most of the season, literally.
“This is the strangest smash-mouth team I’ve ever coached because we didn’t really get a chance to grind people,” Hanson said. “I bet most teams had a much higher time of possession than us because we’d break so many long runs. That’s a tribute to Ben and our O-line. I always said if the O-line could get Ben to the linebacker level we can probably compete with anybody. We haven’t seen anybody who’s bigger and faster at that position in 1A.”
Jackson even impressed Clairton head coach Wayne Wade, who said Jackson was the best athlete on the field after his Bears defeated the Pioneers, 49-7, on Oct. 11.
“Coach Wade said he had a lot of respect for Ben as an athlete and a person,” Hanson said. “Ben is so humble. I’ve seen people try to discredit Ben because he played 1A. When Clairton is at full strength, they would probably beat the majority of teams up into 3A in Pennsylvania. They’ve got a lot of studs on that football team. There aren’t too many backs that are going to run the ball on Clairton the way he did it.”
In second place in the TD Club final standings, a whopping 174 points behind Jackson, was Southmoreland senior running back Colt Harper with 128 points. California senior quarterback Cochise Ryan was third with 122 points and Mapletown freshman Landon Stevenson, the highest-scoring underclassman, was fourth with 120 points.
In a three-way tie for fifth at 114 points were Belle Vernon senior running back Larry Callaway, Mount Pleasant senior wide receiver/running back Jacob Johnson and versatile Bentworth junior running back Owen Petrisek.
Carmichaels quarterback Kevin Kelly wrapped up his fine career with 104 points in his senior season to place eighth and Beth-Center wide receiver/running back Devin Dingle was ninth with 88 points.
Frazier junior wide receiver/running back Kenny Fine and Charleroi senior running back Brayden Mihalcin tied for 10th with 84 points apiece.
The top five in touchdowns were Jackson (50), Harper (21), Ryan (19), Johnson (19) and Petrisek (19).
The leader in field goals was Elizabeth Forward’s Andrew Smith with four, while Bentworth’s Trevor Richardson, Charleroi’s Joey Caruso and Connellsville’s Gage Gillott each converted three field goals.
The longest field goal was 43 yards by Richardson.
The extra-point leader was Belle Vernon’s Cam Guess with 53, followed by Caruso (48), West Greene’s Kevin Thompson (47), Southmoreland’s Andrew Rodriguez (41) and Mount Pleasant’s Luke Hauger (33).
Caruso was flawless on the season, converting all three of his field goal attempts and all 48 of his extra-point kicks.
The two-point conversion leaders, with five apiece, were Stevenson, Dingle, the Leopards’ Devin Whitlock and Carmichaels’ Bailey Jones. Ryan, along with Jefferson-Morgan’s Jonathan Wolfe and Colt Fowler, had each had four two-pointers.
Charleroi’s Legend Davis led the area with three punt returns for touchdowns, while Petrisek and Mount Pleasant’s Brady Johnson each took back two kickoffs for scores.
The top 10 Greene County scorers were Jackson, Stevenson, Kelly, Wolfe (80), Walker (78), Waynesburg Centrals’s Darnell Johnson and Trevor Stephenson (54), Thompson (47), Jones (46) and Mapletown’s Zach Greene and West Greene’s Corey Wise (30).