The Eagles seek revenge against IUP

Quarterback+Billy+Bahl+lines+up+for+a+shotgun+snap+in+the+Eagles%27+second+team+scrimmage.
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The Eagles seek revenge against IUP

Quarterback Billy Bahl lines up for a shotgun snap in the Eagles' second team scrimmage.

Quarterback Billy Bahl lines up for a shotgun snap in the Eagles' second team scrimmage.

Zach Read

Quarterback Billy Bahl lines up for a shotgun snap in the Eagles' second team scrimmage.

Zach Read

Zach Read

Quarterback Billy Bahl lines up for a shotgun snap in the Eagles' second team scrimmage.

Zach Read, MANAGING EDITOR OF THE COLLEGIAN

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Football is back in Ashland, Oh. and the Ashland University football team is back in full force and ready for another season.

Through all of the team lifts and conditioning in the offseason to team camp in August, The Eagles are ready to start playing again. They will play host to Indiana University of Pennsylvania (IUP) this Thursday (Aug. 30) at Jack Miller Stadium.

The Eagles are ranked 15th in the 2018 preseason polls while the Crimson Hawks are ranked fourth according to the American Football Coaches Association (AFCA) Preseason Coaches’ Poll.

“The opportunity to play the best, that is where we are at as a program,” Ashland head coach Lee Owens said. “We want that challenge, we want that opportunity.”

The Eagles opened up their season on the road in 2017 against IUP in a game that came down to the wire. In the end, the Crimson Hawks finished on top 26-23 handing the Eagles their only regular season loss in 2017.

In last year’s season opener, the Eagles and Crimson Hawks battled back and forth in the first half by exchanging scoring drives, and the game remained tied at 23 for the majority of the second half.

Ashland’s then senior kicker Aidan Simenc had a chance with a go-ahead field goal with 1:45 left to play but was blocked by the Crimson Hawks. They then drove the ball 51 yards down the field in 10 plays to allow Crimson Hawks kicker Dillon Sarka to knock home the 46-yard field as the final seconds ticked off the clock.

In 2017, the Crimson Hawks had a record of 13-1 with their only loss coming in the national semifinals against West Florida 27-17. The Eagles finished their 2017 campaign with a record of 11-2 after a regional semifinal loss to Harding at home 34-24.

With another opportunity at IUP in 2018, the Eagles are looking for revenge with 12 returning starters, eight all-GLIAC players returning, and a shot to beat the number four team in the nation at home.

For the first time in four years there will be a new face under center for Ashland and that will be Miami (Oh.) senior transfer Billy Bahl. In three seasons with Miami, Bahl played in 20 games throwing for 3,383 yards and 21 touchdowns.

“What’s most helpful for Billy, I think, is our offense fits his skill set better,” Owens said. “I don’t think he’s a spread quarterback. I think he’s a pro-style quarterback.”

Owens is excited about returning a core group of offensive skill players, linebackers, and defensive lineman.

Two tailbacks are returning from last season in senior Andrew Vaughn (1,095 yards, 13 touchdowns rushing) and redshirt-junior Luke Ogi (298 yards, two touchdowns rushing).

Owens hopes to keep both healthy throughout the season as they both missed games with injuries in 2017.

Unfortunately for Ashland, former running back Keishaun Sims, who contributed 455 yards and four touchdowns on the ground for the team last season, withdrew from the team for personal reasons.

His absence will prompt the Eagles to become more reliant on their veteran group of receivers that returns four of the top five performers from a year ago: sophomore Logan Bolin (team-high 43 catches, 505 yards, six touchdowns), seniors Kamaron Green (35 catches, 456 yards, six touchdowns) and Jamie Hence (25 catches, 330 yards, two touchdowns), and junior Stanley Jackson Jr. (24 catches, 409 yards, one touchdown).

The Eagles are concerned, however, with their offensive line after losing four starters to graduation last year. The only returning starter is redshirt-junior Ryan Maguire (left tackle) who will be joined by redshirt-freshman Samson Hairston (center) and three true freshman: Trey Madison (right guard), Alex Maxin (left guard), and Gavin Posey (right tackle).

“We’re young, and it’s going to be a process because these guys don’t have the amount of game experience we had going into last year with that great offensive line,” Owens said.

Defensively for the Eagles, Owens is excited about returning players such as All-American senior defensive end James Prater Jr., junior linebacker Clay Shreve and redshirt-senior nose tackle Brandon May.

Looking at IUP offensively, they are returning their dual-threat quarterback Lenny Williams Jr. who will be in his senior season. This is Williams fourth season as the starting quarterback for the Crimson Hawks who passed for 2,789 yards and 31 touchdowns, and ran for 406
yards and a score a season ago.

The Crimson Hawks backfield will also feature a duo of tailbacks with junior tailback Samir
Bullock (1,252 yards, 13 touchdowns rushing), and sophomore tailback Justice Evans (1,011 yards, seven touchdowns).

“We have to be able to stop that inside zone, there’s no question about that.” Owens said. “Because that is their bread and butter and everything they do is off that.”

Everything is set for one of the best matchups on opening weekend in Division II college football between #4 IUP Crimson Hawks and #15 Ashland Eagles. The game will take place Thursday (Aug. 30) at 7 p.m. at Jack Miller Stadium in Ashland, Oh.

Tune into 88.9 WRDL to listen to the game, live stream the game at https://boxcast.tv/view/indiana-pa-vs-ashland-football-433176 or watch replays on SportsTime Ohio: Aug. 31, noon; Sept. 1, 5 p.m.; Sept. 2, 9 p.m.; Sept. 6, noon.

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