Eagles host Northwood in 95th homecoming game


Zach Read

Ashland looks to reach .500 with a win against Northwood.


The Ashland University football team is preparing to notch their second win of the season this Saturday (Sep. 22) as they host Northwood in the 95th annual homecoming game.

The Eagles (1-2) are coming off a 30-21 win at Wayne State this past weekend and will be back on their home turf since their first week loss against Indiana University (Pa.). The Timberwolves (0-3) are coming off a 53-10 loss to the No. 6 ranked Ferris State Bulldogs.

After being thrown into the fire the second week of the season, Ashland’s redshirt-freshman quarterback Austin Brenner will start his third career game under center and is beginning to get a little more comfortable. However, Brenner and the entire Eagle offense is still without a passing touchdown this season.

Brenner has also been the punter for the purple and gold this season as he boomed a 71-yard punt last game against the Warriors. Brenner’s passing completion percentage (72.3) is the best in NCAA Division II and his punting average of 46.1 yards is the second best mark in the nation.

“He has never lost poise, composure or ability to lead, he is doing a lot of things really well,” Ashland head coach Lee Owens said.

Carrying the load for the Eagle offense has been senior tailback Andrew Vaughn who has rushed the ball 58 times accumulating 337 yards and four touchdowns through the first three weeks. Against Wayne State Vaughn rushed for 135 yards (14 carries) and two touchdowns.

“He (Vaughn) was possessed in Detroit it was just ridiculous, he wouldn’t go down,” Owens said. “He’s in a peak right now, compared to any time he has been here; he had a better summer, he is better conditioned, he’s faster and he’s stronger.”

Along with the defensive forces of James Prater Jr. and Clay Shreve, stepping up defensively for Ashland lately has been sophomore linebacker Ryan Corkrean who has 18 tackles, one sack, and 3 ½ tackles for loss on the season.

Something you do not see all too often in collegiate football, Ashland senior Jack Holl started the Wayne State game at tight end but played both ways as he also played as a defensive tackle throughout the contest.

“I think it’s part of our plan to continue to use him in those ‘heavy’ formations and he knows it, he is just really smart,” Owens said. “It epitomizes our team and what we’ve tried to build here in terms of being unselfish and team first. It’s all about winning, it’s not about Jack.”

Ashland sophomore kicker Satchel Denton won the GLIAC Special Teams Player of the Week honors this past week who was 3-for-3 on extra points and 3-for-3 on field goals (32, 28 and 19 yards) against Wayne State.

The Northwood Timberwolves under fourth-year head coach Leonard Haynes runs their typical triple option offense that becomes a challenge for the Eagles to prepare for each year in such short time.

Owens said that it is not good flashbacks thinking about the triple offense because of the Eagles 34-24 playoff lost to Harding, who also ran the triple option, last season in the second round of the NCAA Division II playoffs.

Within the triple option offense the Timberwolves run a dual quarterback system in junior Joe Garbarino (two games played) and sophomore Grant Dunatchik (three games played). Garbarino leads the pair with 205 passing yards (14 of 23, one touchdown) and 140 rushing yards on 25 carries while Dunatchik has thrown for 109 yards (10 of 29, one touchdown) and has seen 32 carries for 81 yards.

“How do you practice it in two to three days and how do you simulate the speed?” Owens said. “Inevitably what happens when you go against that offense is that they look really good early because you can’t practice against how fast they’re reading that fullback/keep/pitch option.”

Leading the receiving core for the Timberwolves is senior Gary Landless as their deep ball threat with eight catches on the season that has amounted to 227 yards.

Their defense is lead by junior defensive-back Dimitri Abro with a team-high of 25 total tackles while junior wide receiver Alex Spicuzzi boasts 288 yards on 11 returns on the season for special teams.

“We’ve got our swagger back. I think we are right back on track, we are 1-0 in the conference and the only number we’re looking at is 2-0,” Owens said.

The Eagles will look for a large home crowd this Saturday (Sept. 22) for the homecoming festivities as they host the Northwood Timberwolves in a GLIAC matchup. Kickoff is set for 1 p.m. at Jack Miller Stadium in Ashland, Oh.