Football wraps up season with a win

Eagles defense dominates in 17-0 win at Kentucky Wesleyan

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PHOTO CREDIT: AU ATHLETICS

Sophomore running back Larry Martin carries the ball in the Eagles’ 17-0 win over Kentucky Wesleyan. Martin gained 91 yards on 27 attempts in the season finale.

Ben Voelker, Sports Editor

The Ashland University Football team ended their season on a high note, with a 17-0 win over Kentucky Wesleyan.

Led by sophomore linebacker Jackson Myers, who recorded 10 total tackles, the Eagles defense bounced back after the previous week’s second-half collapse against Findlay. In the shutout of Kentucky Wesleyan, the team racked up two sacks, three pass breakups and seven tackles for a loss.

With the win, Ashland improved its overall record to 5-5 to finish with a record of .500 or better for 14 straight seasons.

“We’re a winning program,” Owens said. “That’s the mentality we’ve gone into every game with. But it’s been a tough year. I look back to 2013, when we had a similar 5-5 season. The next five or six years were as good as we’ve had in the history of our school.”

In a season marked by injuries, Ashland has turned to many sophomores and freshmen who did not have much experience playing at the collegiate level prior to this season.

However, the “next man up mentality” has rang true this season. The Eagles started three different quarterbacks throughout the season. Quarterback instability led to greater emphasis on the run game, which is led by a duo of sophomores Eli Potts and Larry Martin.

Defensively, Ashland lost their two starters at defensive tackle, leading to younger, more inexperienced players stepping into big roles. The experience these younger players received this season may be part of the key to Ashland’s success in future seasons.

“We had a huge recruiting class in 2020,” Owens said. “So we have a lot of young players, many who have played, that are in a developmental stage. They will continue to help us or help us for the first time next year.”

Looking forward, the Eagles face a pivotal offseason. There are many questions that need to be addressed. Who will step up and make plays at defensive tackle and cornerback? Does the squad need to find a more reliable kicker? Will quarterback Austin Brenner be healthy and ready to go for next season? Owens believes that these answers will come not from a “rebuild,” but a “retool.”

“We don’t believe we’re that far away from being a championship team,” Owens said. “We’re not that far away. The (transfer) portal has become more and more important in the recruiting process. We really believe that we’re going to be able to get some of those key players out of the portal that have Division I experience.”

While the 2021 football season has not gone how Owens had initially hoped at the beginning of the year, there is a lot to look forward to for 2022 and beyond.

“The adversity we faced this year was a bit too much for us to have the season we wanted, but the foundation of where we’re at and what we wanted is very strong.”