Eagles look to clinch GLIAC Championship

Noah Cloonan

Fall has finally arrived in Ashland, and it comes at the perfect time as Grand Valley State (7-2, 6-1) gets ready to head to Ashland to take on the Eagles in a game that will help determine the conference champion.

With a win, the Ashland University Eagles (8-1, 7-0) will clinch at least a share of the GLIAC regular season title and will cement themselves as one of the top teams in the region.

The stakes will be high at Jack Miller Stadium as the Eagles will look to protect their 20-game regular season home winning streak against their conference rivals.

Ashland is coming off of a 30-10 win over Wayne State, while GVSU comes in after a dominating 28-3 win over Northern Michigan.

GVSU has dominated the rivalry winning 17 of the 21 meetings between the two schools, but AU has gotten the best of the Lakers in two of the last three meetings, including a 45-31 win in 2015 at home.
Despite everything that is at stake, head coach Lee Owens said that his team is preparing the same way that they have all season.

“It’s the next game on the schedule,” Owens said. “You know obviously any time you play Grand Valley you’re the underdog, any time they lose it’s an upset. They’ve got great players, great tradition, great coaches, and for us to win it’s an upset.”

GVSU lost their opening game to Indianapolis, 24-20, but they have won six of their last seven games with the only loss coming to No. 12 Ferris State.

The Lakers are led by a dynamic duo at quarterback and running back.

Marty Carter has continued to emerge as one of the best running backs in the nation as he has run for 945 yards and nine touchdowns on the year. Carter averages 7.9 yards per career.

Bart Williams is the Lakers quarterback and he has been equally as good this season as he has accounted for nearly 2,000 yards of offense and has thrown 22 touchdown passes.

His favorite targets have been Brandon Bean, 52 catches for 706 yards and seven touchdowns, and Nick Keizer, 26 catches for 464 yards and eight touchdowns.

“You look at their stats and they are top on offense, top on defense, there is not a weakness on their football team,” Owens said.

The Lakers’ defense is led by senior Collin Schlosser who has 68 tackles and two sacks on the year.

The defense for GVSU will have a tough time stopping the Eagles offense that has scored over 30 points in all but two games this season.

“We are just gonna do what we have done the last eight weeks” Owens said. “We are gonna put it in Travis [Tarnowski’s] hands, you know he makes most of the calls at the line of scrimmage as it is. He always has the option to change the play from run to pass, from pass to run.”

AU has been potent through the air and on the ground as Tarnowski has thrown for 2,096 yards and 22 touchdowns, while Andrew Vaughn has been a force on the ground, picking up 944 yards on 161 carriers and he has found the endzone 10 times.

Owens said the his team was really going to emphasize taking care of the football during practice this week in hopes of limiting turnovers against GVSU.

Ball control is something that Tarnowski has excelled at so far this season, throwing just one interception in 244 passing attempts.

The Eagles will put their home winning streak on the line on Saturday at 7 p.m. as they look to clinch at least a share of the GLIAC title.