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Ashland and Norwalk Tangle in Playoff Game

Click here to listen to an interview with coach Sean Seder

 

          Ashland, in a share of the second place in the Ohio Cardinal Conference, takes on Norwalk, out of the tough Lake Division of the Sandusky Bay Conference, in a division III regional quarterfinal game at Community Stadium in Ashland on Friday night.

          The Arrows (6-1) beat Mansfield Senior in a battle of “OCC” teams (35-22) last week in a second round game.

          Coach Sean Seder felt it was a pretty good overall effort.  “We felt pretty good about last week’s game.  We kind of joked, or at least told the kids, that we played three quarter of really good playoff football and that fourth quarter we need to flush that and put four together.  Give credit to Mansfield Senior, their coaches and their kids.  They played well and fought back, but overall thought we played a pretty good overall football game last week,” he said.

          Declan Rohr threw four touchdown passes in that game.

          Ashland has shown good balance by being able to both run and pass and Seder says that makes them more difficult to defend.  “That has been a big focus of ours.  I just know from a defensive perspective that anytime an offense can both run and throw they are more of a treat to you.  We try to be two dimensional as much as we can.  I think we have a pretty good run game with Ethan Hartley and our O-line and Declan Rohr and our receivers do a pretty good job too.  We try to be as multi dimensional as possible.  Hopefully, the weather fairs well and we can take that into week three of the playoffs,” said Seder.

          There is rain in the forecast for Friday.

          Norwalk (4-3) outlasted Copley (17-10) last week after giving up all 10 of those points in the first couple minutes of the game.

          Seder says they have an outstanding defense and they have some athletes on offense.  “We feel like they have a pretty good defense.  They kind of play a 4-2-5 base and they shift into a 3-2 look at times with a lot of zone coverage behind it.  I think they really rely on that defense,” he told Swankonsports.com on Thursday, “Offensively, they have a gun slinger in #12 (Garrett Chapin).  The person we call their due is #6 Ethan Phillips, I think he is a pretty good player.  Then they have (Oliver) Maloney #3 and #4 (Kade Staley) and #1 (Sam Battles) are pretty good players as well.  They have some pretty good guys on offense kind of game planed around their passing game mostly.  Again, with the weather this week it will be interesting to see what happens.  We have to prepare on all fronts if you will.”

          Norwalk also has one of the best field goals kickers in the country in Garrison Smith.  Seder says they have to account for what he brings to the table.  “He is a heck of a field goal kicker.  Last week he made a 57 yarder.  He has made a couple of other 50-yarders this season.  From what I have heard one of the top field goal kickers in the nation, so anytime you have a kid like that on your team it gets you more points on offense.  Game planning wise it affects us a little bit that we know if they get past the 50 they are in striking range.  So, we have to take advantage of our offensive snaps and our possessions on offense,” said Seder.

 

Published 10/22/20

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Ashland Wants to be Aggressive This Time

 

          It’s the second time around for Ashland and Mansfield Senior as they Arrows and Tygers clash Friday night in a second round playoff game in division III.

          The first time they met, also at Community Stadium on September 18, the Arrows won (13-6) in an Ohio Cardinal Conference game.

          Ashland (5-1) did not play last week, but coach Sean Seder says they got better as a football team.  “I felt we took a step forward.  That is one of the big things that we really try and focus on.  Bye weeks in high school football aren’t too common, so you can either go backwards of go forward and we really focused on getting better.  I think we have a lot of guys that were banged up and they got healthy, so I feel like we took a step forward last week,” he said.

          Mansfield Senior (3-4) scored on the first play from scrimmage on a reverse pass from Amar Davis to Myles Bradley and made that stand up for a (7-3) win over Sylvania Southview in a first round game at Arlin Field to advance.

          It’s rather unique to play a team twice in a football season, but Seder says they know what to expect.  “In football you don’t see it a whole lot.  Playing a team twice is always tough, especially once you get to know what they do.  I think when it comes down to it, it is going to be a good football game.  Senior High has an elite defense.  It looks like they are trying to figure things out on offense, but when you have a defense that plays that well they keep you in every football game.  They have some dynamic players in Bradley and Grose and a couple of underclassmen that can take it to the house on any given play, so they are always a tough opponent,” said Seder.

          The Ashland coach says they want to be more aggressive in the things that they call on both offense and defense this time.  “When we look back at the first game and we have spent a lot of time watching that film we went in with kind of a conservative game plan.  We feel we have a pretty good O-line and a pretty good running back and we were going to lean heavily on them and lean heavily on our defense because they have been doing great all year as well,” he told Swankonsports.com on Monday evening, “I think this time though we will look at some similar things, but I think we have some confidence in our quarterback and our receivers and we might have a little more of an open attack offensively and defensively if they really do have a freshman quarterback back there then we have to do our job on defense and try and make his life difficult.  It’s playoff football, try find a way and advance.”

          The last time they played on October 2, West Holmes outscored Ashland (35-0) in the second half and beat them (35-14) for the Arrows only loss this year.

          Seder says they are out to prove that half is not what they are all about.  “We looked offensively and defensively and said here is what we have done for the entire season and that second half against West Holmes was kind of the anomaly.  The defense was not happy with their performance, the offense wasn’t happy with their performance.  The nice thing is you get another chance to come out and play and it’s at home, so you get to have a final say about what people think about how you play on the field.  Everyone is kind of chomping at the bit to get out there and show what we are made of,” said Seder.

 

Published 10/13/20

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Big One for Ashland Versus West Holmes

 

          Ashland is in a share of first place in the Ohio Cardinal Conference with the Wooster Generals and they travel to West Holmes on Friday night for an “OCC” game against the dangerous Knights.

          Now, the Arrows are scheduled to play Wooster in maybe about a month after the non-postseason playoffs are done for both sides, but that game isn’t nearly as interesting if Ashland doesn’t win on Friday.

          Wooster plays a non-conference game against Louisville on Friday.

          Ashland (5-0,4-0), #5 in the Swankonsports.com football coaches poll in the large school division, beat Lexington (44-10) last week.

          Coach Sean Seder says they were ready to play against the winless Minutemen.  “We thought Lexington had a pretty good defense.  We knew they were struggling a little bit on offense.  We knew it was one of those games where we couldn’t overlook our opponent.  Thankfully, we came out and took care of business on both sides of the ball and got a big conference win.  Now, we are set up for a big conference game with West Holmes,” he said.

          Quarterback DeClan Rohr threw for 366 yards against Lexington last week.

          The Arrows defense has not allowed more than one TD in any league game, but they are going to be challenged this week.

          The Knights lost a non-league game to future “OCC” member New Philadelphia (37-15) last week.

          Seder says West Holmes (3-2,3-1) is very explosive on offense.  “We think they are a really good offensive team.  They play pretty good defense as well.  Offensively, they are pretty impressive.  They started out the first week against Senior and put 56 points on them.  They have had some pretty tough opponent lately in Wooster and New Phily.  I think New Phily is the real deal and so is Wooster.  We don’t put too much weight into that, that all of the sudden they aren’t a very good football team.  We think they are pretty good.  It’s going to be a tough game down at West Holmes,” said Seder.

          West Holmes averaged 60 points over their first two games, but they have put only two scores on the board in each of their last three contests.

          West Holmes tends to be very aggressive on offense.  Seder says they are not afraid to take chances and that can end up in big plays for them.  “They have a pretty good receiver in #20 Brady Taylor.  They will throw it deep to him and he either catches it for a big play and a touchdown or like against Wooster I think they had five turnovers.  They are kind of a fest or famine team.  It can be scary because you definitely don’t want them to be feasting on you and getting lots and lots of big plays.  That is kind of what happened week one against Senior.  Hopefully, we stay opportunistic on defense and we can force some turnovers and keep some of their big playmakers in check,” said Seder.

 

Published 9/29/20

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Ashland Faces Tough Lexington Defense

 

          Ashland, the co-leader in the Ohio Cardinal Conference, entertains Lexington in a conference game on Friday night at Community Stadium.

          The football season is about as clear as driving U.S. Route 30 near Charles Mill Lake, simply it ain’t clear in almost every case.

          In the “OCC” the co-leaders Ashland and Wooster on not scheduled to play until October 23, if they play then.  Wooster plays at Mansfield Senior Friday night in their final conference game before the playoffs.  The Arrows host Lex and then travel to West Holmes next week.

          Ashland (4-0,3-0), #5 in the Swankonsports.com football coaches poll in the large school division, hung on to beat Mansfield Senior (13-6) last week to remain unbeaten. 

          Coach Sean Seder is pretty proud of the effort.  “We came into that game knowing Mansfield Senior is a heck of a football team.  I know the record may not show how good they are, but we thought they were a pretty good team and it was going to be a dogfight.  They have a really good defense and they have some weapons on offense.  Our defense did a good job of keeping them corralled in.  Our offense was able to put some points on the board.  Always happy when you can get a quality win against a good opponent,” said Seder.

          Ashland has been known for an explosive offense, but this year Seder says their focus has been on defense.  “If you have a stout defense you don’t have to score 40 points to win a game.  We said we wanted to switch things up a little bit going into this season and really wanted to focus on having a tough, physical defense and I think we have that.  Our goal is to always keep the other team under 20 and the offense score over 24 and if we make those metrics happen, we will win a lot of football games,” he said.

          Lexington (0-4,0-4) lost (16-0) to West Holmes last week and they have played good defense all season.  Their offense, on the other hand, has only one score to its credit this year.

          Seder says they are going to need to execute to score because Lexington isn’t gong to give them easy ones.  “I think they are a pretty good defensive football team.  They held West Holmes, which is a pretty good offensive football team, to two touchdowns last week.  They did the same thing to Mt. Vernon.  They played Mansfield Senior and Wooster tight for a little while, but then turnovers and big plays got the best of them,” he told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday evening, “I think their defense is pretty tough.  I think they have some athletes on the offensive side.  It looks like they still trying to find their identity and get things rolling.  You don’t want to be that team they figure it out playing.”

 

Published 9/24/20

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Ashland Hosts Dangerous Mansfield Senior

 

          In a key game the Ohio Cardinal Conference Ashland, a co-leader in the conference standings, play at home against Mansfield Senior, a game back, on Friday night.

          Ashland (3-0,2-0) shares first place with Wooster in the “OCC” standings. 

          They beat Madison (45-7) last week and coach Sean Seder says they were able to avoid a letdown.  “We kind of identified that as a trap week.  It was our first week of school and an opponent that was coming off some losses and we were afraid the kids might overlook them.  There were just all kind of reasons it could be a trap game.  It was a definitely a concern of the staff.  The kids came out a little flat, but then after we got a couple of turnovers and scored a touchdown things definitely started rolling and they took care of business,” said Seder.

          Ashland forced four first half turnovers last week that led to 21 points in the win.

          Mansfield Senior (1-2,1-1) punished Lexington (42-6) to pick up their first win of the season.

          Seder thinks they are getting better every time they play.  “I think they are a really good football team.  We have told our kids to ignore their record because I do think if their play West Holmes a little later in the season.  I think Senior has gotten better every week.  I think they are a really talented group.  They had a little bit of youth maybe that week one that cost them some points,” he told Swankonsports.com on Tuesday night, “They got better week two because DeSales is a good opponent and then last week against Lex.  They are getting better every week.  The more experienced their kids get, the more dangerous they become.  So, we have to come out ready to play football.”

          Mansfield Senior quarterback Brock Hill threw three TD passes last week against Lexington.

          The Tygers are younger than they have been in recent seasons, but they still have big play makers due to their speed.  Seder says one missed tackle leads to a big play.  “That is the things that scares you a little bit about them.  They are known for their defense, they are a really good defensive team, but they have weapons on offense that they can have big explosive plays.  So, that is the part that makes them dangerous and a little scary to scheme against because even if you are in the right position at times if you have one missed tackle all of the sudden a five yard gain turns into a big gain.  Trying to limit those explosive plays is the big focus for us,” said Seder.

          On defense, Mansfield Senior has the athleticism to be aggressive because they can cover you with their athletic backs, according to Seder.  “They have good overall team speed.  They usually play a really aggressive team defense.  A lot of teams like to sit back a little more, but they will come up and get in your face and bring a lot of pressure and play man coverage behind it.  Basically, making you beat them and just giving you things.  They are a really good defense.  They are going to be a tough test on Friday,” he said.

 

Published 9/16/20

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Ashland Can’t Overlook Madison

Ashland, in a share of first place in the Cardinal Conference, takes to the road, down U.S. Route 42, to Mansfield Madison for a conference game on Friday night.

Last week, in their conference opener the Arrows (2-0,1-0) beat Mt. Vernon (39-6) at Community Stadium.

Coach Sean Seder says they played well after the first drive and especially in the second half. “We had that first drive when we turned it over in the red zone and that kind of set them up for a score and you are thinking, man, I hope we take care of things with the turnovers. We were able to rebound and at the half it was 21-6 and had a couple of big stops on defense. I felt like the third quarter we kind of opened things up and got rolling,” said Seder.

One aspect of the game that has to be strengthened is their ball security, according to Seder. “I think the biggest thing for us is just protecting the football. That has been a big focus this whole off season. The defense, if we can just keep getting takeaways and if we can just protect the ball better and make good decisions, I think that is going to go a long way for us,” he said.

Madison (0-2,0-2) has faced two outstanding teams in conference play so far this season and they have been taken to the woodshed by Wooster (48-6) and West Holmes (63-0) last Friday.

However, Seder says they can not afford to look past the Rams to Mansfield Senior, who they play next week, or anyone else. “They have some pretty good athletes. That is one thing that we told our kids is they lost two games, but I think Wooster and West Holmes are the two teams you have to go through to win the conference this year. We understand they have played some pretty good football teams and we can’t overlook anybody, so hopefully we are ready to go this week,” he said.

The Madison offense has not gotten into the end zone this season, but Seder says they have some athletes they must deal with and they try and do a lot of things on offense. “They are kind of multiple. Just from watching them on film it feels like they are still trying to find their identity. They have a pretty good receiver and just a general athlete in number #3 Brooks. They like to try and get him the ball,” he told Swankonsports.com on Sunday night, “They have some good running backs and receivers, and of course, Osborne and Barrett and what they have done from wrestling. So, we think they have some pretty good athletes. They are going to do all kinds of formations and shifts to try and get those guys the ball.”

Published 9/07/20

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Ashland Has to Clean Things Up

Ashland begins play in the Ohio Cardinal Conference on Friday night by hosting the Mt. Vernon Yellow Jackets at Community Stadium.

The Arrows won their first game last week (19-18) at Berea-Midpark.

Coach Sean Seder says it was kind of an ugly win for them to be honest. “It was definitely a big win for us, kind of a confidence booster. Again, it was one of those ugly bad weather games that you just have to try and grit out and find a way to win. We got down 12-0, but the kids are really resilient, dealt with that adversity and found a way to come back and ended coming out on top,” he said.

Seder says coming into league play they need to take advantage of their opportunities on offense and be more consistent on defense. “The biggest thing that sticks out for out for us is there are not a whole lot games you re able to win when you turn the ball over and you just play ugly. We had three turnovers and we definitely have to clean that up and capitalize on our chances,” he told Swankonsports.com on Monday, “When we went back and looked at we felt offensively we could have put 40 on the board and ended with 19. Defensively, we could have held them to just one score. Those are the things we look at as a staff to tweak and improve on.”

Mt. Vernon won their opener last weekend in a game that was played mostly on Saturday (16-0) at Lexington.

Seder says the Yellow Jackets showed a strong defense and a pretty good running game. “We had some people that actually went to that game and they did say the grass field come Saturday was pretty interesting. Sounds like it was old school lots and lots of run, tough football game. That fact that they were able to hold Lexington to a shutout means their defense is up to the task, so we are going to have to come ready on offense. For us defensively, we have to be prepared to stop the run,” said Seder.

Mt. Vernon likes to feature the wing-T offense, which emphasizes the power run and they are going to have need to be focused on stopping that approach. “That definitely presents kind of a unique challenge because there aren’t as many teams in the area that run wing-T anymore. Most teams are kind of fast paced offense, so they are definitely a unique challenge, something our defense has spent a lot of time on. Hopefully, we will be ready to go come Friday,” he said.

Published 9/01/20

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Ashland Pretty Pleased

Ashland is the odd team out in the Ohio Cardinal Conference this week as they play Berea-Midpark in a non-conference game on the road on Friday night.

It took until last Friday to even come up with an opponent for them to play. Arrows coach Sean Seder says they don’t know much about their opponent either. “It has definitely been different. We found out last Friday we had Berea-Midpark. I think what has been different is we usually know a decent amount about our opponent. We have film on them. I mean we didn’t even do a film exchange. They haven’t been able to scrimmage yet this year. Like most people we kind of looked online and find highlights and different things from last season. Of course, read all of the newspaper clippings that are out there about them. We don’t have a true barometer or know exactly what to expect. We are just kind of guessing,” he told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday night, “So, that is definitely different from a week one perspective. I guess we are kind of focusing on ourselves. We do know who we have in the “OCC” so we will go out and compete and do our best this week and hopefully we will come out on top. After that there will be some more normalcy as far as opponents and what to expect.”

Ashland was able to scrimmage North Canton Hoover last weekend and Seder says he likes what he sees from his kids. “I think after beating ourselves up for a good couple of weeks being able to go against North Canton Hoover was a pretty good scrimmage. They are always a tough, physical football team, so we feel that was definitely in our favor. We had a good scrimmage. We are pretty happy with where we are right now. Of course, now with Berea we are not quite sure what to expect, so we are just going to go out and do the stuff we are doing and learn from it either way, win or loss and kind of go from there,” said Seder.

Ashland was one of the first teams in this area to embrace the empty backfield and Seder says they still feature some that. “We are probably pretty similar to last year. We still definitely still have empty as part of our offense. I don’t know I would identify us as nothing but empty. We have a pretty good running back and we will put him in the backfield. We may be empty half of the time, one back, two back, from time to time. We try and be kind of multiple, but we still kind of have those air raid tendencies,” said Seder.

On defense, Seder says they are similar and they have some kids that can make plays. “One of the biggest things we focused on in the off season was the fundamentals. We have been hitting them pretty hard. Schematically pretty similar with the ability to go to a three front or an even front. We have pretty good D-linemen and secondary play, so as long as we keep playing sound fundamental defense we are pretty happy with it,” he said.

Published 8/27/20

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Ashland Working on Depth

This week the go ahead was given to play football in the State of Ohio, but with a constricted plan it is presenting some challenges, a lot of them involve scheduling.

The “MOAC” stepped up to give Lucas someone to play.

In the Ohio Cardinal Conference there are an odd number of schools, which means somebody is always looking for a non-league game in an environment where everybody is playing league games only.

Ashland is in that position week one and as of Thursday afternoon, coach Sean Seder says there are still trying to finalize an opponent. “Initially there was extreme excitement everybody just elated players, coaches, family, everybody, that we finally get to have a season, but then once they announced that we were going to have a six week season almost everybody in the state went to league only play. We just happened to have a week one bye, so that has proved to be a difficult situation to try and find a week one opponent. We are still trying to finalize it,” said Seder.

Now, the Arrows have been able to lineup a scrimmage for this week and Seder says that is a big help. “Only having one scrimmage is definitely something different. It is going to be the closest thing to a game that we can get before week one. All of the schools and coaches really felt like we needed it. North Canton Hoover is always a pretty good football team. So, we’ll have a good test right off the bat. We are excited about that,” he said.

Seder, also the wrestling coach at Ashland, is in his second year as the head football coach and he says right now they are working hard at making sure they have depth on both sides of the ball. “We are pretty happy with where we are at right now. You always have things to improve on and stuff to get better at every week. I’m happy with where our defense is and the offense is coming around as well. We have a pretty good 11 on both sides of the ball,” he told Swankonsports.com on Thursday, “We have a little bit of depth. That is the biggest thing for us is figuring out who are our guys that are going to sub in and out, who are our twos and our threes. Like most high schools as soon as you have a starter go out you have to make sure you have the next guy up ready to go. That is kind of the biggest focus for us right now is making sure we get all of the fundamentals down, the scheme down, and make sure we have another guy ready to step up with need be.”

Published 8/21/20

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Ashland With a lot of Seniors

Ashland is loaded with seniors on its baseball team and that’s good and bad depending on what happens over the next month.

The latest from the OHSAA is practice can begin when students return to buildings May 4 and games are permitted starting May 9. However, that is subject depending on how things continue to develop regarding the COVID-19 pandemic.

It has been more than a month since there has been any baseball practice and Arrows coach Rich Gough says that leads to a lot of question marks. “With the regulations that the state came down with, with no physical contact with the players it is hard to have an idea where they are at. Our kids have been instructed to stay somewhat in shape and throw a little bit. Not getting in big groups, no team stuff. Find a buddy and maybe play some catch. We will just have to wait and see what happens,” he said.

Gough says five days to get a pitching staff ready is stretching it a little bit. “It is kind of hard to get your pitchers ready in one week given the fact that they have four or five weeks to get ready at the beginning of the season. We were making good progress in the gym with the practices that we had, but I’m afraid the kids have lost all of that conditioning. We might have to carry 15 pitchers just to get through a ball game,” said Gough.

Gough added that this spring shapes up as a very good baseball season for the Arrows if they can get on the field at all this year. “We have been building the program. I think we were up to more than 40 kids this year, which is kind of a high. We were going to have three teams for the first time in a number of years,” he told Swankonsports.com on Tuesday, “The varsity was basically I have 10 seniors and a number of those seniors were two year starters and going to be three year starters, so the staff was pretty excited about what we would be able to do this year.”

Published 4/14/20

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New Philadelphia to the “OCC”

New Philadelphia has become the eighth member of the Ohio Cardinal Conference and will begin play in the league in 2022.

Madison Athletic Director Doug Rickert says they have been looking for another member since Clear Fork left the league and they were finally able to come to an agreement. “We have been looking everywhere for the last few years. It is really difficult when you have schools in the east and schools in the west to try and make everybody happy. We have had some possibilities along the way, but nothing that was ever etched in stone. We knew that Dover and New Phily both wanted in our league. We kind of thought maybe it was a package deal. We really didn’t want to go from a league of seven to a league of nine, we wanted to be a league of eight. We sent out a letter to see if only one of them would come and both schools said they would come without each of other. We ended up with New Phily giving a presentation. We liked what we heard and we invited them into our league,” said Rickert.

A source has told Swankonsports.com the current member Mt. Vernon has inquired about rejoining the ever expanding Ohio Capital Conference. West Holmes at various times has expressed its dissatisfaction. However, there have been no official moves made by either.

New Philadelphia is in Tuscarawas County and is about a 90 minute drive from Mansfield.

Rickert says yes, it is a long drive for the schools in the Mansfield area, but there are other things you must consider. “It is an it isn’t. I mean everyone talks about that, but you have look at it like this. When we only had seven teams in our league and we had a bye week. In order to fill that week, we were playing teams in Cleveland, Columbus, Mentor, Toledo, and they were traveling anyway. I know Lexington was playing Ottawa-Glandorf and we were playing teams in Sylvania and we were playing teams in Mentor and trying to find these teams to play. Even in baseball or softball we are traveling to Columbus or Cleveland because we have a bye week there and you have to play whoever you could play. Yeah there is travel, but we are going to go to New Phily once every other year in football and once every other year in soccer. We go to West Holmes and just add another 20 minutes to that,” he said.

It is common practice that most leagues want eight members, that seems to be he perfect number. Rickert explains why that is the case. “I think it is a perfect number for games played in your season. For example, in football you are going to play three out of conference games and seven league games. With basketball and a 22 game season and you are going to play 14 league games, which is neat, because it is hard to find schools to play you. So, you only have to find eight out of conference basketball games. The same with baseball,” he told Swankonsports.com, “There is a 16 game season in soccer, so you want to have your league games take up some of those 16. When you have a soccer program like coach (Zac) Huff has built over here at Madison with our girls’ team, he wants to play a lot of out of conference games. He wants to play a lot of out of conference games against teams that will help him get seeded, but you also want to play teams in your league and for your league to be strong. If you have too may league games then all you are doing is playing league games and you don’t want that, but if you only have a six or seven team league it can become difficult to fill those games.”

The Knox Morrow Athletic Conference is also seeking an eighth member to replace Highland. Lucas, Loudonville, Utica and Johnstown Northridge are being considered.

Published 4/14/20

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Ashland Looking for Upset

Ashland takes its act to Toledo to face Lima Senior in a division I district semifinal on Thursday night at Savage Hall on the campus of the University of Toledo.

Last Saturday, the Arrows (10-13) beat Fremont Ross (69-65) to win a sectional title.

Coach Jason Hess says it was their first tournament win since 2015. “It was a real good win for us in a lot of instances. Not only to win the game and get to 10 wins this year and you give this group of kids a chance to climb the latter and cut down the nets for a sectional championship, but also when you look at our program it has been five years since we won a tournament game having to travel up to Toledo now. So, it is really rewarding for our guys, the guys that have been part of our program the last few years that haven’t had this opportunity and this group was able to accomplish that goal that they set out at the beginning of the year even though we came up short on some of our other goals. They just kept battling and fighting and always believed. We were able to make the ball bounce our way Saturday a couple of times and get the win,” said Hess.

Lima Senior (20-3) smoked Toledo Waite (80-47) for a sectional championship.

Hess says the Spartans are really loaded. “Lima is really good. They have a lot of depth. Their starting guard, about 6’2”, 6’3”, is going to Bowling Green next year to play. He is exceptional, he is really, really good. They have some bigs, 6’5”, 6’7”, 6’8” guys, so it is definitely a tough matchup. They don’t win the “TRC” without being really, really good, as competitive as that league is and have the record that they have got with the teams that they play. It is definitely an uphill battle. With the way they play it is just not a great matchup for us as far as size. The matchup I do like is their main defense has been full court pressure and we have done a pretty good job of this year handling it. So, I think if we can take care of the basketball we will be in the game and give ourselves a chance, but that is easier said than done with the way Lima pressures,” said Hess.

Nobody outside of Ashland, Ohio, believes the Arrows have much a of chance of winning and Hess says they can use that to their advantage. “We have nothing to lose, we are the fifteenth seed coming into the tournament. We weren’t even supposed to be in this spot to get past Fremont. I don’t think there are a lot of people outside of our gym that are giving us much of a chance. A lot of people outside of our gym weren’t giving us much of a chance last Saturday. I think our kids kind of like that. There is no pressure and they can just go and play. They get the opportunity to play at Savage Hall at the University of Toledo in a division one district game, there aren’t a lot of kids that get a chance to say that. A lot of teams are already at home and we get chance to play another game. That is the exciting part, the fun part. This is why you play the game,” he told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday, “I told the guys this week that over the weekend we turned the calendar to March. “March Madness” is not built on the top seeds winning all of the time, what makes March Madness, March Madness and the excitement around the NCAA Tournament or even the state tournament here is when upsets happen. Teams that aren’t suppose to win on paper get it together and win. We don’t have to beat Lima in a best of seven series, we just have to beat them one game.”

Published 3/05/20

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Ashland Squares Off with Athletic Fremont Ross

Ashland plays Saturday afternoon against Fremont Ross in a division I first round game at Fostoria High School.

The winner will advance to the district level next week.

Arrows coach Jason Hess says they played well at the end of the season, but it has been a while since they were last on the floor. “We did play well there the last couple of games, a couple nice wins, one on the road at West Holmes and then home with Clear Fork and I think it gave our kids some confidence and a little momentum going into the tournament. I do feel it was nice to have this break by the time we play in the tournament it will be a week and a half between our last game and the tournament. It has been nice to give our kids a couple of days off and get refreshed a little bit physically, but I think you also lose a little bit of that momentum since you were playing well since it has been such a long time span between your last game and your first tournament game,” said Hess.

Fremont Ross (7-15) won its last two games of the regular season as well in beating Tiffin Columbian (66-63) and Toledo Whitmer (67-59) last Friday. They finished sixth in the Three Rivers Conference.

Hess says they are a young team with a lot of athleticism. “Fremont is a team that is fairly young this year. They play a couple of freshmen and a couple of sophomores and have some juniors and seniors mixed in a little bit. The thing about Fremont is they have gotten better and better all year. You can see here the last couple of weeks that their freshmen and sophomores are starting to believe and be comfortable at the varsity level. They play extremely hard,” he told Swankonsports.com on Tuesday, “I know they had a really good win last Friday night against Toledo Whitmer on their home floor. We were up to scout it and see that game on Friday. I mean the kids play really hard. They are extremely aggressive going to the glass and have some good athletes. It is definitely going to be a game where we are going to have to try and match their aggression and intensity.”

Hess says the Arrows (9-13) have really not played a team like Fremont Ross all year long. “It is kind of a different animal. We were just talking about this (Monday) night in the coach’s office as far as trying to give our guys a comparison looking back on the year. Athletically they are similar to a Massillon Washington that we played earlier in the year. They have a lot of those great athletes that are division one football kids. Their aggressiveness on the defense end and the way they crash the glass they remind us a little bit of Mansfield Senior. They are a very athletic team and wouldn’t say we have played anybody exactly like them, but there are some similarities with some of the opponents that we have played this year,” he said.

Published 2/26/20

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Ashland Wants Momentum

Ashland completes its regular season on Tuesday night as they host Clear Fork in a non-conference game.

They Arrows lost (57-53) to Ontario on Tuesday and beat West Holmes (60-47) in an Ohio Cardinal Conference game on Friday.

Coach Jason Hess says they executed well in the games. “We are doing some good things. Tuesday night against Ontario I thought we had some segments of the game where we played really well. It was back and forth, it was a really good ballgame with Ontario. Unfortunately, we had a little bit of foul trouble. We have limited bench depth already. One of our guys got into four trouble and Ontario was able to make a little bit of a run there in the fourth quarter. We got down, six, eight points there in the fourth and weren’t able to recover from that,” he told Swankonsports.com Monday, “On Friday, to win a conference game on the road, even though West Holmes hadn’t won a game in the league, they got off to a good start against us, but I thought our kids really picked up the energy and intensity on the defensive side of the ball in the second and third quarter and we were able to pull away there and get a nice conference win on the road.”

Ashland (8-13) plays at home against Clear Fork (8-13) on Tuesday night. The Colts lost (86-70) to Mid-Buckeye Conference champion Lucas on Saturday night.

Hess says Clear Fork’s Brennan South is a tremendous player, but they have to be mindful of the other Colts too. “We haven’t had a chance to play them for a couple of years now, but I know coach (Steven) Bechtel does a great job and it has always been a tough matchup with them. There have been a lot of good games with them back and forth. I don’t expect anything different this time around. Those kids are well coached and they are ready to play. I think it is one of those games on a Tuesday night that it’s important to get off to a good start and get a little momentum going early and see the ball go through the basket for us. Brennan South is one of the top scorers in their area, so we will have to do a good job on him. The other guys are kind of key for them, the role players for them, when they step up and have double digit games and are efficient on offense it gives Clear Fork that extra one, two punch and makes them hard to beat,” said Hess.

The Ashland coach says they really want to close the regular season on a high note. “We don’t play our tournament game for 11 days, so it is going to be extremely important for us to end this regular season with a little bit of confidence and play well to hopefully give us a little springboard to some good, crisp practices to get ready for our tournament game. After the Clear Fork game we don’t have any scrimmages or live action for 11 days. So, we want to make sure we can carry that feeling and momentum and take with us into the tournament,” he said.

Published 2/18/20

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Ashland and Ontario a lot a Like

Ashland hosts Ontario in an interesting non-conference game between teams that are led by their guards on Tuesday night at Arrow Arena.

The Arrows are coming off a (67-61) loss to Ohio Cardinal Conference champion Wooster last Friday.

Coach Jason Hess says they played well, but they could never seem to get the big basket or the big stop when they needed it. “I thought our kids played extremely hard and we did a lot of good things. Give Wooster credit, it seems when you are a good team you make plays. It seemed like whenever we got it to about four, five points, they always came up with a big three or a big basket or something to stretch it back out. They only have one loss and they are going win the conference for a reason they do a nice job. We were right there, but couldn’t quite get over the hump,” said Hess.

Ashland (7-12) is at home for Ontario (13-5) in a non-league game on Tuesday night. Ontario beat Marion Harding (62-44) last Saturday in a Mid-Ohio Athletic Conference game. The Warriors have won six of their last eight and are second place in their league.

Hess says this should be a really good test for them. “They have a really nice year going. I know they had some injuries early and maybe didn’t quite reach the expectations that they had with the injuries, but they are having a really nice year. When we look at their team it’s a team that it’s almost like we are looking in the mirror. There are a lot of similarities between what they do and what we do and the way they play and the way we play,” he told Swankonsports.com on Monday, “So, we are excited to have an opportunity to play against them. We played them last year, but we haven’t played them very many times in the regular season. So, it is fun to kind of start this rivalry up. I have a lot of respect for what coach Joe (Balogh) does and all of the wins he has got, so he must be doing something right.”

Both teams are guard oriented and have perimeter shooting and players that can put the ball on the floor. Hess says they will need to execute very well. “Their guards are very good, that’s the strength of their team and it’s our strength. It’s not just one guard, but multiple guards on both sides. They like to get out and play fast and get the ball up and down the floor and that fits into the style of play that we like to play. So, it is really going to come down to execution and doing the little things right. It’s going to be who is going to get those bounces and put a little extra effort out on a Tuesday night,” he said.

Published 2/11/20

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Ashland Challenges “OCC” Champ Wooster

Ashland plays at home against Ohio Cardinal Conference champion Wooster on Friday night in league play.

On Tuesday night, in a league game the Arrows lost (49-48) to Madison on a last second shot.

Coach Jason Hess says they clearly had an opportunity to put the game away and did not. “Give Madison and coach Mergel credit, they made the play at the end of the game with seconds left and hit that shot at the buzzer to win the game. Unfortunately for us, we just didn’t execute down the stretch. We had one possession on defense when we gave up an offensive rebound on a free throw, which hurt us. We missed three of our last four free throws. Those kinds of plays kind of sum up the game,” he told Swankonsports.com on Thursday, “I don’t know if it was necessarily mental fatigue or physical fatigue or a combination, but we didn’t execute and finish the game like we needed to when we had a four point lead in the last minute. Give Madison credit, they hung in there and kept competing all of the way to the end.”

Ashland (7-11,4-6) is at home for Wooster (15-1,11-0), #2 the Swankonsports.com boys’ basketball coaches poll in the large school division, on Friday night. Wooster clinched the “OCC” title with a (51-34) win over Mt. Vernon on Tuesday night. In the first meeting between Wooster and Ashland, the Generals won (60-52) on January 10.

Hess says the Generals have kids with a lot of talent on offense and they play very intense defense. “Wooster has good length. They have long athletes at 6’4”, 6’5”. They have multiple kids that score off the bounce and a couple of kids that can knock down shots outside on the perimeter. They just do a tremendous job defensively. They play so hard and are so aggressive on defense. They go about eight deep and keep running guys at you and it just wears on teams. They have played several close games here lately within the league, but they have been able to wear their opponents down and pull it out in the fourth quarter,” said Hess.

Could Ashland hand Wooster its first conference loss? Hess believes they have the kind of talent to stick in the game. “We have competed with everybody all year, other than that first game of the year with Sandusky, who is a very good team, we have been right there in all of our games. I give our kids credit for how hard they have played and being able to hang in there even when we have been down double digits multiple times to be able to come back and be competitive in the game. We feel good about this matchup if we can control the game tempo and not get caught up in the pace that Wooster wants to play we should be competitive and right there at the end and hopefully we can make some plays to get a “W,” he said.

Published 2/07/20

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Ashland Plays Explosive Shelby

Ashland, of the Ohio Cardinal Conference, plays at Shelby, the Mid-Ohio Athletic Conference leader, on Friday night in a non-conference game.

On Tuesday night, the Arrows took a two point lead into the fourth quarter of an “OCC” game at Lexington, but lost (62-52) to the Minutemen.

Coach Jason Hess says the did some really good things in third quarter, but in the fourth quarter they missed some shots and turned the ball over and that is not a good recipe. “We did a nice job early on. We were down five at halftime, but in the third quarter we got a lot of energy going and we were able to turn Lexington over a few times and get some easy baskets. We played a really strong third quarter and went into the fourth quarter up two,” he told Swankonsports.com on Thursday, “Unfortunately at the start of the fourth quarter we missed some shots, a couple of inside shots. I think Lexington’s size disrupted what we were doing offensively. They were able to get a couple baskets and we turned the ball over a couple of times and got ourselves behind by about six or eight. Then we are playing catchup the rest of the fourth quarter and weren’t able to get back into the game closer than about four or five.”

Ashland (5-10) is at Shelby (13-2) on Friday. The Whippets had a 23-point first half lead at Willard on Tuesday night, but the Flashes rallied and beat them (78-73) in a non-league game.

Hess says the Whippets are very versatile on offense and their defense takes you out of what you want to do. “They are definitely very good. At 13-2 they have played a pretty good schedule. They have some good size even thought they play a perimeter oriented game their size can get in the paint and score around the basket. Defensively, they play extremely hard and really cause a lot of chaos on defense and make it really difficult for opponents to even run offense because of their pressure,” he said.

With the Whippets fast break offense and their pressure on defense, Hess says there tends to be a lot of ebbs and flows in their games. “They have had several games this year that have gone from one extreme to the other. Just this week they had a 20 point lead and Willard was able to come back. A couple of weeks ago they were down by 10 or 11 against Ontario with just a few minutes left and Shelby came back and won that game. It is definitely a team that can score in bunches, but because of the way they play it is kind of high risk, high reward to a certain extent,” he said.

Published 1/31/20

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Ashland Plays Mansfield Senior Again

Ashland beat Mansfield Senior handily at their place on Friday night and now they play them again on Tuesday in an Ohio Cardinal Conference game at Pete Henry Gym.

Ashland coach Jason Hess says this game was rescheduled from early December and he says he expects a different Mansfield Senior team this time around. “With Mansfield Seniors run for football this game was supposed to be played the second week of December and that didn’t happen, sot it got pushed back to Tuesday night. It is one of those things where you just never know if it’s good, bad or what not, especially after the way the game went on Friday,” he told Swankonsports.com on Monday, “I was really happy with our kids effort and they way they played Friday, but Mansfield has now had a couple of days to make some adjustments. They had a game Sunday and we played Saturday, so one game in between and it’s a quick turnaround and get ready and go play.”

Ashland (4-8,3-3) is at Mansfield Senior (4-6,3-3) on Tuesday night. The Arrows won last Friday (67-38) and Hess says he first quarter was key for them. “That was really key for us. We were able to get up early and that allowed us to really control the flow of the game, the tempo of the game. It gave us some more options to do some things offensively that you aren’t able to do when you are behind. It allowed us to be a little more patient and a little more deliberate and I thought that really worked in our favor,” said Hess.

Mansfield Senior shot only 25 percent on Friday night and they have lost four of their last five, including a (67-51) loss to North Canton Hoover on Sunday afternoon.

Ashland, on the other hand, has won four of its last six, and Hess says they are understanding their roles. “We have improved a lot. You can definitely see the maturity of our returning players settling into their new roles of leadership and controlling the game and also being able to step up and make plays when we need them. Also, the younger guys that didn’t have varsity experience after about game six, seven they have really started settling in and figured out what it takes to play at this level,” he said.

Published 1/21/20

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Ashland Finding Its Game

It has taken them longer that they wanted, but Ashland Arrows are starting to find the things that are going to make them successful this season.

They host West Holmes on Tuesday and Mansfield Senior on Friday in Ohio Cardinal Conference games this week.

They lost to unbeaten Wooster (60-52) last Friday in a league game and beat Norwalk (66-56) in a non-conference game on Saturday.

Coach Jason Hess has a smile on his face. “We had a good weekend last weekend. I think the guys are really starting to come together. Even though we came up a little short against Wooster the effort was really good and just the execution of the game plan. We missed some inside shots that hurt us on Friday. Overall, I think our guys are really starting to buy in and figure things out and also as coaches we are figuring out our guys now,” he told Swankonsports.com on Monday, “We had a young roster at the beginning of the year and we are getting close to that halfway point and we are growing up a lot and figuring out a lot. Some of the things we were thinking we were going to do early on we have had to change a little bit schematically. Overall, I think we have definitely made strides and big strides that were very visible to fans last weekend, so hopefully we can keep it going this week.”
Ashland has some quality outside shooters, but Hess says the last couple of weeks they have been trying to get in the paint more. “We have made a big emphasis on that the last two weeks about getting shots in the paint and good looks in the paint. I know at Madison a week ago and then at Wooster, in those two games we shot 19 threes combined, 10 in one game and nine in the other and we had a couple of games earlier in the year when we shot over 30. The emphasis has been placed on scoring in the paint and also defending in the paint and we have done a lot better job the last week and half on that,” he said.

Ashland (2-7,1-3) entertains West Holmes (4-8,0-5) in a conference game on Tuesday night. The Knights have won two of their last three and lost to Mansfield Senior (44-41) in a conference game on January 3.

Hess says, like them, they are improving. “Well, West Holmes is a team that is getting better. They have I think four wins on the year and they have been very competitive in a lot of their league games. This is a team you can see their improvements and they are right on the cusp of getting their first league win. They haven’t gotten one yet this year, but they have been very competitive with a lot of the teams in the league. They have some good size. They are starting two forwards at 6’4” and 6’5” with good length. So, they definitely have some pieces there and they are figuring it out as well,” said Hess.

Mansfield Senior (3-4,2-2) lost to Lexington (41-39) in an “OCC” game last Friday and to Olentangy Liberty (50-45) in a non-conference game on Saturday. Hess says they are still putting things together, but you must respect them. “They are very unique in our league. No one else has the athletes and is built the way Mansfield is. I am old enough to know and remember how good Mansfield basketball is. This year they aren’t quite where they have been in some years, but is still always fun to play Mansfield. They play hard they are very competitive and they have such good athletes. They are a team that lost a lot from last year and some of the guys that were coming back made some other choices with football and the long football run. There were kind of behind the eight ball as well to start the season. They are a team that has been very competitive in their games. It is atypical for Mansfield to be as low a scoring team as they are, but the defensive effort is there. They have been really competitive and close in all of their games,” said Hess.

Published 1/14/20

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Ashland Must Keep Head

Ashland plays at Ohio Cardinal Conference leader Wooster on Friday night hoping to build on some success they had last week.

The Arrows beat Mansfield Madison (54-52) in an “OCC” game last Friday to pick up their first win of the season.

Coach Jason Hess says that has brought an emotional lift to the basketball team, something they needed. “It is amazing the morale boost and the emotional lift you get with just an extra two points. You can play the game the same way, but that one bounce right at the end versus going the other way it just gives you a whole different perspective,” he told Swankonsports.com on Tuesday, “We were on the opposite side of things earlier in the year and you kind of get down on yourselves a little bit when you lose several close games and searching for that first win. Once you get that first one the weight is off your shoulders and you feel a little bit better about yourself.”

After securing an offensive rebound, Eli White converted two free throws for the winning margin against Madison.

Ashland (1-6,1-2) visits Wooster (9-0,5-0), #2 in the Swankonsports.com boys’ basketball coaches poll in the large school division, on Friday night. Wooster won at Mt. Vernon (56-47) to maintain a one game lead on Mansfield Senior and Lexington in the conference standings.

Hess echoes the comments of other coaches in the league in saying that the Generals play with tremendous effort. “The big thing that stands out to me anytime I see Wooster is just how hard those kids play. Coach Snowbarger does a tremendous job of getting his kids to play hard. They put out a lot of energy and effort on defense and pressure the basketball for 94 feet just make things really, really difficult on opponents,” said Hess.

Hess adds that you can not lose your focus against the Generals or it ends of being a big run for them, which is difficult to deal with. “They just feed off of it. A couple of turnovers turn into a couple of layups and a close ballgame can now be double digits. It is about handling the pressure, but also about being able to control the tempo and maintain your composure. Even if you don’t turn the ball over sometimes some quick shots feed into what they want to do as well,” he said.

Published 1/08/20

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Ashland Trying to Develop Inside Game

Ashland, searching for its first victory of the season, plays at Mansfield Madison in an Ohio Cardinal Conference game on Friday night.

They dropped their sixth in a row to begin the season when Clyde beat them (76-57) on Saturday night in non-conference play.

Coach Jason Jess says they didn’t play as well as they needed to. “Clyde was one of those games where we obviously didn’t play our best. To put a finger on exactly why that has kind eluded us this week. We are turning the page toward Madison. The score of the Clyde game is of a lot greater disparity than what the game was played. It was a two-point game in the fourth quarter and it ended being almost 20. It was one of those situations where the wheels fell off the bus. We didn’t finish the game the way needed to,” he said.

Ashland (0-6,0-2) is at Madison (3-6,1-2) in a conference game on Friday night. The Rams lost their “OCC” game last week (50-28) to Lexington. However, they rallied to beat Clear Fork (58-51) in a non-conference game on Saturday.

Hess says its is difficult to predict what kind of Madison team you are going to get. “I have seen the different scores and the stats in the scouting that we have done it is almost like Madison is two different teams. So, hopefully we are able to get a team that is not as sharp on Friday night as they have been on other nights,” he told Swankonsports.com on Monday, “I think that has been dictated by their opponents and the way teams have guarded them. Madison is a team that depends a lot on three point shooting, as do we. Three point shooting can be very inconsistent at the high school level.”

Both teams rely heavily on perimeter play, but Hess says it might come down to who can do some things in the paint and that team in likely to win. “I think the perimeter defense is going to be important. Who makes good decisions and takes care of the basketball and can find a little bit extra effort inside. Even thought we are strongly guard oriented I still feel that the game is won and lost in the paint. That is where we have been struggling this year because we haven’t been defending the paint well,” said Hess.

Published 12/31/19

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Ashland Will Have to Execute in Half Court

Ashland lost two basketball games in the most heartbreaking way this past weekend, but they are still a team with a big upside this winter.

The Arrows lost to Mt. Vernon (70-65) in overtime in Ohio Cardinal Conference action last Friday and then (61-59) to Massillon on Saturday night in a non-conference game.

The had a real good chance to win both, according to coach Jason Hess. “We were so close. The ironic thing for people that weren’t at the game, both nights, we had a shot to win the ballgame right at the end of regulation. Friday night it went into overtime and we lost there and Saturday we lost in regulation, a three pointer on the wing, right in front of our bench, both of them looked good from the coach’s perspective, I was standing behind the kid that shot it, but unfortunately neither were able to find the bottom of the net, they both rimmed out. So, that’s the way the ball bounces. I was super proud of our kid’s effort, just the way they competed and battled all weekend,” said Hess.

In terms of execution of the game plan, Hess says there is no question they were better last weekend. “We are definitely getting better, that is the most important thing. I wouldn’t say we are where we want to be yet, we definitely have a lot of room to grow. The strides we made form the first weekend to the second weekend is just a huge growth. I think if we keep making those strides the wins are going to come,” he said.

Ashland (0-3,0-1) plays at home against Lexington (2-2,1-1) on Friday night in “OCC” play. The Minutemen evened they record with a convincing (58-34) win over West Holmes on Friday night in a league game and then beat Ontario (59-49) on Saturday.

Hess says Lexington is going to make them execute in the half court to score and they are going to have to find a way. “I guess it is a typical Lexington team with where they have several 6’5”, 6’6” kids, a 6’7” kid, and they are going to try and throw the ball inside and beat you in the paint, try and slow it down a little bit and make you execute in the half court. That has been a matchup we have struggled with the last few years just because of Lexington’s size and their ability to control tempo and dictate the game,” he told Swankonsports.com on Tuesday, “It has really disputed us, especially on the offensive end of the court. We have got a little impatient and shot some bad shots. That is one thing we have been working on this week in practice is trying to execute better in the half court and find some ways to score some baskets against their tough defense.”

Published 12/18/19

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Ashland Wants to Play Fast This Week

Ashland and Mt. Vernon square off in the first Ohio Cardinal Conference game for both on Friday night at Arrow Arena.

In their first game of the year last Saturday, Ashland lost (86-68) to Sandusky in a non-conference game.

Coach Jason Hass says it was good to finally get a game in, but Sandusky hurt them on the boards and they had some problems containing their offense. “It is nice to get one under our belt and get some experience for some of these guys that haven’t seen any varsity action. Unfortunately, we came up on the short end of the stick. I felt like offensively we did a lot of things well and scored 68 points. It was just defensively, we had a few lapses and rebounding really hurt us. It is one of those things we have been able to focus in on this week in practice even more so than we have in he last couple of weeks,” he told Swankonsports.com on Thursday, “We were aware coming into the season with our lack of size and lack of depth some letdowns on defense and rebounding could be an issue, especially with the tempo Sandusky was able to play I think it exposed some of our weaknesses and hopefully we have been able to make some corrections and some adjustments here and get better from game one to game two.”

When it comes to last week, Hess says Sandusky was just a lot more experienced than they were and that is going to be a problem again this week. “Especially when we don’t have an overly experienced team. We have three guys with varsity experience and they were really solid for us last week, but those guys that are seeing varsity action for the first time there is a little bit of an adjustment period. I think that was one thing that kind of went in Sandusky’s favor and even Mt. Vernon this week. They are senior laden teams and when you have got a lot of seniors with experience that swings things in your favor in a basketball game here at the varsity level,” he said.

Ashland (0-1,0-0) entertains Mt. Vernon (1-0,0-0) on Friday night in an “OCC” game. The Yellow Jackets hammered Highland (65-32) last week in non-conference action.

Hess says they have more experience and they are bigger than his team. “They have two things that we don’t have and that is seniors and size when you look at their roster. It is definitely going to be a very good contest for us. When we looked at Sandusky we felt we were teams with similar builds, really guard heavy teams. Mt. Vernon is not built that way. So, this is really going to be a game that is really going to challenge us to see if we can dictate the tempo and the flow of the game or we fall into Mt. Vernon’s pace and tempo that will favor them,” said Hess.

One of the big keys for them, according to Hess, is to make this game be played at a faster tempo. “I like our chances in a high tempo or high pace. That’s what we want to play and that’s what we have got to do. We have talked to our guys this week in order for us to dictate the tempo it has to be on the defensive end and getting some stops because with no shot clock the only way to speed a team up and get them to play at a faster pace is really to put a lot of pressure defensively and make them uncomfortable and force them to make decisions that they don’t normally make,” he said.

Published 12/13/19

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Ashland Ready to Get Started

Ashland will get the boys’ basketball season rolling with a non-conference game on Saturday night against the Sandusky Blue Streaks.

Coach Jason Hess they are excited to play a game. “It will be nice. I definitely know our kids are ready after four weeks of practice you are itching to play someone else other than yourself even though we have had some scrimmages and everything it’s not quite the same as when then the light are on and there are fans in the stands and everything counts at this point. It is definitely exciting and a buzz of anticipation of that first game,” he said.

They have been working on a lot of the same things over the last month and Hess says its refreshing to put a game plan in. “As a coach you want to keep getting them better and there are points of emphasis that we have in our program and their are certain things that we hit on every single day, especially in the preseason trying to get those habits developed and make sure those actions are second nature but at this point we are ready to see someone else and do a little scouting report and putting some other things in our practice as opposed to some of the same old drills we have been running for the last four weeks,” said Hess.

One plus to a later start, according to Hess, is they are going run some different offenses and defenses this year with different personnel and this has given them more time. “It is definitely a different kind of team that we have this year. That has been kind of nice to have a little extra time. I know some guys opened up last week and we have a little extra time here to work on teaching and putting things in to get us prepared for the first game. Usually when we start playing games in basketball they keep coming pretty fast one after another. You like to have a pretty good base of what you are doing before the season starts,” he said.

Sandusky was the runner up in the Lake Division of the “SBC” last year and Hess says they are going to be good again. “They are a very good basketball team. They play hard. Just looking on paper with what they have coming back from a year ago I think it is going to be a really good matchup for us. Their strength is their guard play. They have one of the best guards in the area. I think it is going to be a really good test for our guys early to see where we’re at. Just to see how some of the new things we are doing will work in game situations,” he told Swankonsports.com on Monday, “Not having that Mansfield game on Friday isn’t all bad. Obviously, you want to play and get going. It would have been nice to get to play them before they get all of the football mode shuck off for basketball, but it is also nice to get a non-conference game in too before you start conference play.”

Published 12/03/19

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Ashland With a Chance

Ashland enters week 10 of the high school football season with an opportunity and that is really all they want.

If the Arrows beat Wooster at Community Stadium they will share the Ohio Cardinal Conference title with Generals and maybe Mansfield Senior, who would need to beat Madison.

They put themselves in position by outscoring West Holmes (49-24) last week. The Arrows are not mathematically eliminated from the postseason, but they are going to need some help.

Coach Sean Seder says they got better last week. “It was one of those things where West Holmes is definitely a team you don’t want to overlook. They looked pretty good offensively. They played us tough. We knew if we took care of business it was going to be a really fun week 10. We continued to improve. We saw things we liked and hopefully we can carry that over into this week,” said Seder.

Ashland (4-5,4-1) plays host to Wooster (6-3,5-0), #5 in the Swankonsports.com football coaches poll in the large school division, on Friday night.

Seder says the Generals are balanced on offense and they have some solid run stoppers on defense. “They have some pretty good football players. It is kind of hard to figure if they want to be a run or pass team because they have got weapons. Defensively, I know coach Shrock, their defensive coordinator, from my dad coaching at Waynedale and me playing at Waynedale, of course, he is the hall of fame coach from Smithville, so a pretty good history there,” he told Swankonsports.com on Monday, “Offensively, I think number 5 and number 8 are pretty good rushers and their quarterback can run the ball well. Then they have those two receivers that are 6’5” and 6’7” on the edges and they can go up and get the ball and go vertical. They are scary to look at. Defensively, they are going to be a physical team, 4-2, 4-3, have got some really big D-linemen. I think they are going to come at you. So, we expect it to be a pretty good game.”

When it comes to the Wooster, which held Mansfield Senior to a season low 17 points two weeks ago, Seder says they are hard to run against. “I think it really comes down to their D-line kind of sets it. They have two tackles that go 6’3” and about 300 pounds. Anytime you have guys like that up front they can kind of stop your run game a little bit. They have some receivers that also play DB and they have a really good linebacker. I think their defense probably has gone under the radar, but I think they are pretty impressive,” he said.

After starting the season 0-4, Seder says they are excited to have something to play for on week 10. “We couldn’t ask for anything more. Form the beginning the season our biggest goal was to improve on last year and put ourselves in a chance to play for a conference championship. With last week’s win that is something we kind of secured and now we get to play on week 10 when it is for all of the marbles for a championship. They want an outright championship and it looks like they might make the playoffs if they win. Both teams are playing for a lot, so I expect it to be a really fun game,” said Seder.

Published 10/29/19

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Ashland With A Must Win

Ashland shares second place in the Ohio Cardinal Conference with Mansfield Senior, a game behind Wooster, and they play at home against West Holmes on Friday night.

Unlike Mansfield Senior, they control their own destiny because they play Wooster on week 10.

They were able to put together a three touchdown second half last week in beating Lexington (35-10) in an “OCC” game.

Coach Sean Seder says they were able to kind of get their act together in the second half. “The first half it was really tight. Of course, the defense played a great game all of the way through, they kept us in that game. Kind of uncharacteristically we had a couple of turnovers there in the first half that we haven’t been having for a good four or five games. Then in the second half we made some adjustments, gained our composure, took care of the football, and put some points on the board,” he said.

Ashland (3-5,3-1) plays at home at Community Stadium against West Holmes (3-5,1-3) on Friday night. The Knights flogged West Branch (56-34) in a non-conference game last week.

Seder says this a team that can keep the ball out of the hands of their offense. “They have played Wooster and a number of teams pretty close. The thing that kind of worries you about them a little bit is they are kind of a power football team, so they can control the clock if they keep getting first downs it limits your possessions on offense,” he told Swankonsports.com on Thursday, “At times, we have been prone to turnovers. If we turn the ball over and they are moving the ball on the ground that can scare you a lot. Last week, they showed they can throw it too. I think their offense is going to be able to put them points on the board. I think the key is going to be for our defense to get enough stops, play strong like we did against Lexington, and then take care of the ball offensively.”

Last week, was really a team win for the Arrows, and Seder says they need to do the same kind of thing on Friday. “Last week, was one of those fun weeks where we kind of fed off each other. The defense kept getting stops, kept getting stops, keeping us in the game, and the offense was like just keep it up and we will turn things around, we will take care of it. I think Parker Henkle had a big interception on defense and then it just kind of gave us the momentum. It is definitely nice if you can play off each other and both sides keep you in the game,” he said.

Ashland has a chance to share conference title this season with two wins to close the season, but Seder says it has to start with a win on Friday. “We told the kids every single day and every single week from this point out is championship week. We have to treat West Holmes like it is the championship game because if we don’t win Friday night, there is no championship game the week after. So, we are kind of approaching it with that kind of focus and energy. We know they are good football team and we have to give them the respect they deserve. Hopefully, we are going to take care of that and then that sets us up for a pretty fun week 10, but week 10 doesn’t happen until you take care of week 9,” said Seder.

Published 10/25/19

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Ashland Travels to Lexington

Ashland hits he road for Lexington in an Ohio Cardinal Conference game on Friday night.

It’s a must win for the Arrows, who now trail Mansfield Senior and Wooster by game in the conference standings.

They lost at Mansfield Senior (56-21) last week when the Tygers exploded in the second half.

Coach Sean Seder say they were right there and suddenly they weren’t. “It was one those deceiving box scores when you look at the final score. Felt petty good about it for most of the game. Once we got it to with one score, I think was 28-21 with like five left in the third quarter. We felt like we were where we wanted to be,” he told Swankonsports.com on Monday, “They have some pretty good players and one of them is (Angelo) Grose and he returned a kickoff for a touchdown and then we fumbled as they scored quick. So, it went from one score to three scores in about three minutes. That is kind of when things fell apart a little bit. We definitely played a pretty tough game.”

Seder says they had a game plan installed last week to try and limit big plays, but sometimes it just doesn’t work to plan. “That is one of the things we tried to key. We even tried our best on special teams to keep the ball away from Grose because of how dynamic a player he is, but sometimes the ball bounces the way it wants too. We kicked it a little harder than we wanted and he was able to field it and make some plays. You do your best to limit big plays and home runs against some of those really good teams like Mansfield, but sometimes they get theirs and there is not a lot you can do about it,” he said.

Ashland (2-5,2-1) is at Lexington (2-5,1-3) for a conference meeting on Friday night. The Minutemen railed in the second half to beat West Holmes (28-24) last Friday for their first conference win.

Seder says they did it by passing the ball. “I think they did try to establish themselves as kind of a run team the first half of the season. Of course, they have number 18 (Alex) Green and he is one of the fastest guys in the state. They have a pretty good sophomore quarterback too in number 4. He was slinging the ball pretty good in the second half against West Holmes and they connected on some good wheel routes and some good vertical routes. That was kind of what got them going. They can still run, but it was the passing game in the second half that kind of elevated them past West Holmes,” said Seder.

Seder says there is a good football rivalry developing with the Minutemen. “The past couple of years it has been back and forth. Of course, last year they got the best of us. They had a pretty good player that I know graduated. Anytime we get a chance to play a conference team that has kind of been back and forth every year. The Lex, Senior, and Wooster games have a special meaning for our guys just because they are usually really tight and come down to the wire,” he said.

Published 10/15/19

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Ashland Meets Big Play Mansfield Senior

Two of the three leaders in the Ohio Cardinal Conference collide this week when Ashland plays at Mansfield Senior against the Tygers.

Wooster is the other leader. They host Mt. Vernon.

After trailing early, Ashland went on to pound Mansfield Madison (49-7) last week.

Coach Sean Seder says they have ben taking what the defense gives them. “That has kind of been the story these last couple of weeks. The first quarter we kind of figure out the defense is doing and start to find what is available and kind of take it. The second quarter is where we kind of got off and running,” he said.

Ashland scored four times in the second quarter last week.

Seder says good teams are ones that can adapt. “There are some teams that call themselves second half teams. They make adjustments at halftime. We like to think we can adjust on the fly with some of the things we have in. At the high school level, it is where you have your best matchups and where you can attack them at,” he said.

Ashland (2-4,2-0) plays at Mansfield Senior (6-0,2-0), #1 in the Swankonsports.com football coaches poll in the large school division, on Friday night. They buried Lexington (42-0) last week. Their defense has only been scored on three times in six games.

Seder says they are a big play team on offense. “They are just good in general offensively and defensively. On offense, they have playmakers all over the place. We have kind of coined them a home run team because they make lots of big plays,” he told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday, “I think they are actually more impressive on defense, only giving up three touchdowns on defense. They are just fast, really aggressive, fly all over the field, and are good tacklers and they usually don’t get beat deep. They are one of those teams that really make you earn it.”

With their speed and athleticism Mansfield Senior scores quickly and on big plays. Seder says they can’t let them get behind them. “One of our biggest keys that we have kind of talked about all week is they have the ability to hit a home run on every single play. It is our job to try and keep them in front of us and kind of make them march down the field methodically. So, they really do live on some big plays. If we can limit those and keep our offense on the field that’s probably our best shot,” said Seder.

When comes to the Tyger defense, Seder says they are not complicated. He says they put their athletes to good use. “They kind of fly all over the field. Their safeties will come down. When you have a safety that an come for 8-10 yards deep and make a play at the line of scrimmage it kind of speaks to your team speed on defense. Then again they can set back and they are fast enough to react and keep everything in front of them. They don’t give up big plays. That’s where they kind of rely on their athleticism and team speed. You might get one or two first downs, but you are not going to have many long drives,” said Seder.

Published 10/10/19

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Ashland Faces Madison on Friday

After earning their first win of the season last week against Mt. Vernon, the Ashland Arrows host Madison in Ohio Cardinal Conference play on Friday night.

They were able to pull away and beat Mt. Vernon (42-27) last Friday night.

Coach Sean Seder says it was good to get the monkey off their backs. “Getting over the hump is good for the kid’s confidence, especially to knock off a 4-0 team. We finally got everything going. We had seen glimpses of it up to this point, but hadn’t kind of finished a game. We came out that second half and definitely did that on Friday,” said Seder.

Seder says overall it was just a more consistent performance by the Arrows. “It was just putting the whole game together and being consistent throughout offense and defense. Just kind of getting it all done,” he said.

Ashland (1-4,1-0) is at home at Community Stadium on Friday night for the Madison Rams (0-5,0-2) in an “OCC” game. West Holmes smashed Madison (52-7) last week. They have not won a conference game since beating Orrville on week eight of the 2015 season.

Seder says Madison has had its problems this season, but they are still hungry and will be ready to play the Arrows. “They are obviously struggling a little bit. They are 0-5 right now. The one thing is they are kind of similar to the way we were, they have played some pretty good teams tight in the first half, they just kind of lose it in the second,” he told Swankonsports.com on Tuesday, “So, they are a team that you definitely don’t want to let hang around. We can’t help them with turnovers and fumbles and stupid things like that. We have to come out and play football because I am sure they are hungry for a win as well.”

Madison likes to feature the run and Seder says they need to keep the game close so they can do that. “I think the score kind of dictates that for them. When the game is close they feel like they can run it and they have a pretty good running back. When the game starts to get away from them and they have to throw a little bit I don’t think that is really to their strengths. That is one those things where the closer they are in it the more to their game plan they can be,” said Seder.

Published 10/02/19

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Ashland Looking to Throw it Versus Mt. Vernon

Ashland wants to get that monkey off its back this week as the Arrows travel to Mt. Vernon to play the Yellow Jackets in an Ohio Cardinal Conference game on Friday night.

It is the first time in 18 years the Arrows have started a football season with an (0-4) record.

They have likely played the toughest non-league schedule in North Central Ohio this season. They lost (46-35) last week to Sandusky in a non-conference game.

Sandusky’s Terion Stewart ran for than 280 yards and four scores for the Blue Streaks. Ashland coach Sean Seder says he is just a tremendous back. “He is pretty phenomenal player. It was one of those things where we had guys in the right position a number of times, but one on one he is just tough to bring down and he played a heck of a game for them. Offensively, we were pretty happy with some of the things we got going and we are hoping to carry that into this week,” he said.

Including this week, Ashland’s opponents have lost only one game. They play at Mt. Vernon (4-0,1-0) in a “OOC” game this Friday. The Yellow Jackets outlasted Lexington (26-21) in a conference game last week.

Seder says they this is another team with a lot of talent. “They are undefeated, so they are riding high with a lot of confidence right now. They have a pretty good running back, which is something we are pretty accustomed to at this point. Their quarterback we feel is pretty athletic. I know they have a receiver in number 20, who is one of the faster people in the state. He took second or third in the state in track in the 300 hurdles. He is a high jump guy too, so he is a petty good athlete out there,” said Seder.

Mt. Vernon makes no secret, they want to run the football, but Seder says they will try to hit you with the big one too. “They are definitely a run heavy team. They have a pretty good O-line and they want to pound it up in there. They are going to do it over, over, and over again and they kind of have that number 20 out there and they will flex him wide and send him vertical to try and keep you honest if you start to stack the box to stop the run,” he said.

Ashland runs the five wide, empty backfield, offense. Seder says they are anxious see how the Yellow Jackets will try to defend them. “That is the thing that is going to be the most interesting and we are kind of excited to see. So far, it seems like each one of the teams we have played had some really, really fast and athletic kids, while Mt. Vernon does, we do feel like there are some matchups we can take advantage of,” he told Swankonsports.com on Thursday, “So, being able to move our guys around to get those matchups and seeing how they respond to that air raid offense because most teams they have played have been pretty run heavy so far. That is going to be something that is fun to do.”

Published 9/27/19

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Ashland Plays Athletic Sandusky

Ashland plays as tough a schedule as anyone in North Central Ohio and this week they hit the road for Cedar Point Stadium to play the talented Sandusky Blue Streaks.

They played a game last week that didn’t end until going on one in the morning and lost Tiffin Columbian (31-7) in a non-conference game.

Coach Sean Seder says they did some good things early in the game, but they didn’t show up after play resumed. “We know Tiffin is a good team, of course they are still unbeaten. It felt like we were doing pretty well offensively and getting some things we wanted that first half. Went down and scored right there the very end and it gets called back. It went from being 21-14 to 21-7 when lightning hit. We thought we were doing some things we really like. For whatever reason once we came back from that long lull with all of the lightning we just couldn’t get our momentum back. Tiffin kind of took over in that second half,” said Seder.

Ashland is winless this season, but they haven’t played badly. Seder says they just can’t get over the top. “One of the things that you really hit home with the kids is, you hate to have a consultation, but I think you are going to be hard pressed to find a better 0-3 team, if that makes sense,” he told Swankonsports.com on Tuesday, “We have told these guys the teams we have played against are all pretty good teams and we were either in the game, had a chance to tie it up or take the lead, and we have had fumbles or interceptions or turnovers or dropped balls or whatever it is. We have been in all of those games to a point and we can’t finish. We are a couple of plays away from having a big win and we are competing with some of the better teams out there.”

Ashland (0-3) is at Sandusky (3-0), #2 in the Swankonsports.com football coaches poll in the large school division, in non-league play on Friday night. The Blue Streaks thumped Fremont Ross (42-7) last Saturday afternoon.

They have a college division one running back in Terion Stewart and an electric quarterback in Shonosi Arron and Seder says that’s not all. “Those two kids themselves are pretty special players. The running back is committed to B.G., but I guess there are a couple of Big Ten Schools courting him. He can really run. Their quarterback reminded people he could run too, he ran it 17 times for like 260 yards. Those are like video game numbers. They have a couple of receivers that can go up and get the ball. They have athletes all over the field, I know that,” said Seder.

The Ashland coach says they are very athletic on defense too. He says they challenge you. “Again, tons of speed. They are going to go man coverage the entire game. They are kind of one of those rare teams where they are just going to set there and say, hey, we are athletic enough that we can make up for it if we make a mistake. They are just going to man you up. We are just going to have to execute. This is going to one of those games for us to be able to knock them off we can’t have any self-inflicted wounds, drops, drive killers, turnovers. We have to play a perfect game and control the clock,” he said.

Published 9/19/19

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Ashland Faces Explosive Tiffin Columbian

Ashland is off to a (0-2) start and their schedule doesn’t get any easier as they host Tiffin Columbian in a non-conference game at Community Stadium on Friday night.

They have lost to two outstanding teams in Uniontown Lake (34-7) and Clyde (28-14) so far.

Coach Sean Seder says they really haven’t played that badly. “It is one of those kinds of interesting things. Usually with an 0-2 record you are kind of kicking dirt like man this stinks, but to this point we have done some really good things. We had a really good first half against Lake and a really good second half against Clyde. Obviously, both of those teams are pretty good. So, we have done some good things, we just haven’t put together a complete game and hopefully we keep building on it. Of course, we have Tiffin this week, who is another pretty good opponent,” said Seder.

He says that is about consistency, something the Arrows have lacked so far. “It is one of the things we have said up to this point self-inflicted wounds have been the difference for us. If we can put four quarters of mistake free football together we can hang with all of these teams and so far we have seen those playoff caliper type teams. So, anytime you are hanging with those guys you are usually a decent team yourself, so we have to keep reminding the kids of that,” he said.

Columbian (2-0) has had a couple of big third and fourth quarters in beating Fremont Ross (35-7) and Toledo Waite (41-6) in its first two games.

Seder says they have players all over the field. “They are just a good football team all around. Their defense is really fast, they fly to the ball, they are aggressive, they are pretty sound. I think their varsity defense has given up a total of six points. Their offense is pretty good,” he told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday, “They have a quarterback that can run. I joked the other day that you don’t see too many quarterbacks that are punt returners and kick returners as well, but he is that type of athlete. They definitely have some athletes and they play pretty well.”

It has been a lot of big plays for the Tornadoes this year and Seder says they can’t allow them Friday night. “We can be right nine out of ten plays and that tenth play they are going to score a touchdown, so we have to make sure we stick to our fundamentals. We can’t have a week when we have broken tackles, missed tackles, because this is a team that will make you pay for putting points on the board,” he said.

Published 9/12/19

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Ashland and Clyde in a Good One

Ashland plays at Clyde on Friday in a non-conference game in a battle between two of the better programs in this part of the state.

Last week, Ashland lost to Uniontown Lake (34-7) to open the season.

Coach Sean Seder says they had their opportunities, but they just made too many mistakes. “It is one of those things after watching it we think they are going to be a pretty good team the rest of the year and they were a pretty good team last Friday. It was 7-0 at halftime and we had a chance to score at least once, maybe twice. It stung on Friday night, but watching it on film we just had miscues. Four turnovers were kind of the big difference for us,” he told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday, “If we don’t have those turnovers and we covert on some of our plays. We had stuff that we really liked. We had some guys in position we just didn’t make the plays. Just kind of got the short end of the straw when it came to that stuff. The second half they just started to wear us down with their run game.”

Clyde lost a tight one to Toledo St. Francis (25-23) last week. They had a two-point conversion stopped in the final seconds.

Seder calls them physical and expects them to try and run the football against them. “They are a physical team. They are a pretty good run team as well. We have worked on some of the fundamental things on defense and our tackling because they are going to try and power it up in there. So, really focusing on that hoping that we shore some things up. Protect the football and hopefully we are in position to get a win on Friday,” he said.

Clyde won last year (28-21) and two years ago (22-19) and this one looks just as close.

Seder says it’s going to come down to who makes plays. “We were breaking down last year’s game again last night. The irony is both teams did a pretty good job of stopping everything. It was kind of those big plays, like a broken play for a touchdown, a turnover at a costly time. It’s going to be the “X” factors of who has the turnovers and field position and your players just making plays. We’ve had some close battles and it is going to come down to who makes the plays,” said Seder.

Published 9/05/19

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Ashland Has to Clean up Mistakes

Ashland plays one of the toughest schedules in the area and it begins right away as they host Uniontown Lake in a non-conference game on Friday night at Community Stadium.

Coach Sean Seder, who takes over this season from the retired Scott Valentine, says they have done some good things in the preseason, but they must clean up their mistakes. “We are pretty happy with where we are at. That last scrimmage we thought we saw some ready good things. We had way too many penalties. One of the things we talk about is we are going to be two things on any given Friday, well disciplined and hard working. Embracing that blue collar, lunch pail mentality,” he told Swankonsports.com on Monday, “We definitely had way too many penalties and that is something we addressed and we are going to keep working on. Other than that offensively and defensively, kind of schematically and the energy our kids are bringing we are pretty happy with that. We think if we get rid of some of those self inflicted wounds and mistakes we can be pretty good.”

Uniontown Lake will be team that has high expectations for this season and Seder says they have a good combination of size and athleticism. “I’ll tell you what it is going to be a tough opener. I know the people in Uniontown feel really good about this team and feel like they are going to have a strong season. I know a lot of them feel they are going to be competitive in the Federal League, if not win it this year. They think it is a playoff type team. Anytime you hear stuff like that you have to give them a second look. They are definitely a physical team. They have some pretty good sized kids. Some athletes coming back. Defensively, they have four down linemen that are pretty stout. Offensively, they have some playmakers and some size. They definitely look the part on film. It will be interesting to see what it is like on Friday,” said Seder.

After Lake, the Arrows play three very good teams out of the Lake Division of the Sandusky Bay Conference in Clyde, Tiffin Columbian and Sandusky. Seder says they are going to be ready for the “OCC” portion of their schedule. “We are definitely going to be tested come conference time. We have a couple of big boys right out of the gate, so we will find out what we are made of. Knock on wood hopefully we stay healthy and come out better for it,” he said.

Published 8/27/19

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Ashland With New Coach

For the first time in almost two decades, the Ashland Arrows are going have a new football coach, but it is someone familiar to many of the players.

Longtime coach Scott Valentine stepped down last spring and has been replaced by wrestling coach Sean Seder.

Seder says he has a lot of football is his background. “I have been around football basically my whole life. Of course, my dad was a head football coach and my grandpa and uncle were head football coaches. I kind of grew up with that. I was a coordinator for five years in Texas. When I moved to Ashland I was head wrestling coach and an assistant for coach Valentine,” he told Swankonsports.com on Monday, “When he resigned it was pretty late in the game and they were looking for somebody kind of already in our staff. Some of the kids talked to me, some of the seniors, and then their parents. Head football was always something I aspired to do eventually; I just wasn’t quite sure when. Then when things kind of unfolded the way they did it kind of provided that opportunity. I decided now was the time to do it.”

Seder has been pleased by what he has seen from the players this summer, but he says this week when the they start hitting for the first time in nine months is when the rubber will meet the road. “Up to this point everything has been great. Of course, we just put on the pads and we can’t do contact until we get our five days in. That is when the kid’s kind of separate themselves a little bit. Camp days during the summer were great. We have had a lot of enthusiasm from the kids and great effort so far. They have strapped up and been go getters. That is all we can ask from them right now. I have been pretty pleased with their effort so far,” said Seder.

Ashland was one of the first programs in this area to go with an empty backfield look on offense. Seder says he isn’t going to change that, but there will be some tweaks on defense. “Defensively was are going to have kind of a new look. We are going to be young on defense. We are only returning three or four of our starters on defense. We have looked at some different things defensively, so that will look a little different. Offensively we have been known as a five wide team. We are going to have a heavy dose of five wide still. We may throw out a couple of wrinkles here and there, but regardless it will still be some type of spread offense. We are probably not going to have a ton of old school bone or mid line veer or that fun stuff. We are still going to look pretty similar,” said Seder.

Published 8/06/19

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Ashland Edges Madison in 13

Ashland won its third straight game by scoring twice in the bottom of the 13 th inning to beat rival Madison (4-3) in an Ohio Cardinal Conference game played at Bud Plank Filed in Ashland on Tuesday evening.

Coach Rick Gough says I was nice to be able to make some big plays and win the game. He says the baseball gods were smiling. “They did smile on us (Tuesday) night. It was a heck of a ballgame between two rival schools. It was pretty much 2-2 the entire night. In the 13 th inning Madison scratched across a run to go up 3-2 and then with two outs in the bottom we were able to score twice to take the victory. It’s good for the kids, it’s good for the program that we were able to kind of turn the tide a little bit and win one. We have lost a few that way,” he said.

It one point Ashland has lost four one run games in a row, all league games.

Gough says they were able to get some outstanding pitching to keep themselves in the game against the Rams. “I am proud of our kids. They battled and Madison battled all night too. They kept us on the front foot. We hit a lot of breaking balls up into the air. I think we sent 45 batters to the plate and I think we ended up with seven hits for the night. It was a tough night hitting,” he told Swankonsports.com on Tuesday night, “We got a great effort from David Gearhart, who went six and two thirds giving up two runs. Brennan Hunt, who is pretty much our closer, came in and pitched six and a third, which is by far his longest outing of the year, of one run ball. So, we battled.”

It was a hustle play that got the Arrows (12-7,6-5) the win on Tuesday night. Gough says his kids gave it all they had. “We had a runner on second base with two outs. We try to preach to our kids all of the time about having a positive at bat. Cole Garrison hit a ground ball into the hole at second base. Their second baseman had a long wat to go to make the play and by the time he got there, Cole was safe at first and we sent the runner from second, Owen Chandler, and he was able to score to win the game. It was good to win that kind of game finally,” said Gough.

Published 5/08/19

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Ashland Pins Loss on West Holmes

Ashland is a good baseball team that has been more than a little unlucky this season, but Thursday evening they put it all together and beat “OCC” leading West Holmes (7-4) in a game that is ringing through the rest of the Ohio Cardinal Conference.

The result moves Lexington into a share of the conference lead with the Knights and leaves Mt. Vernon just a game back.

Ashland coach Rick Gough says the difference for them was the consistent pitching they got on Thursday. “We finally got over the hump. We got some good pitching from Cole Garrison. He went four good innings and kept us in the game. Our bats came alive and we had a number of kids with multiple hits for us. We are going to score runs,” he told Swankonsports.com after the win, “Our problem has been just getting good pitching and (Thursday) between Cole Garrison and Chase Hunt and Brennan Hunt, who came in to close it out in the seventh inning, they did a good job. It was about time we needed it.”

The Arrows (10-7,5-5) trailed (2-0) after three innings, but they reached West Holmes for two in the fourth, three in the fifth, and two more in the sixth.

Gough feels they are going to score some runs every time they get out there. “We are going to get our hits and we are going to score runs. We just haven’t been able to get that timely hit at the end of the game to get over the hump. (Thursday) we did and it feels pretty good, we needed it,” he said.

Cade McQuate, David Gearhart, Garrison and Kadin Schmitz all had two hits for the Arrows on Thursday. Gearhart had three RBI.

Ashland’s pitchers limited the Knights, one of the top hitting teams in the area, to six hits. The Hunt brothers shut out West Holmes over the last three innings of the game.

Gough says they were happy to play a role on in the “OCC” even though they are not going to win it. “I think Lexington is pretty happy (Thursday) night know we knocked (West Holmes) off to give them a chance to share or to win the league. I am not sure where Mt. Vernon is in this yet,” he said.

Lexington still must play single games against Mansfield Senior and Wooster. West Holmes (17-2,8-2), #1 in our poll, finishes next week with Mt. Vernon. Ashland plays Mansfield Madison in their final two “OCC” games.

The Arrows had lost their last four “OCC” games to Mt. Vernon, Lexington twice and West Holmes all by two runs or less. Gough says he is really pleased with how his kids responded to that. “I am proud of our kids because very easily they could have chucked it in and said you know what it is not our year, but they haven’t and hats off to them. We are looking forward to what is coming next,” he said.

Published 5/03/19

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Lexington Outlasts Ashland

Lexington kept itself alive in the Ohio Cardinal Conference race as they trimmed Ashland (3-2) in eight innings on Wednesday evening at Bud Plank Field in Ashland.

They scored two runs in the top of the eighth on a single and a ground out, but Ashland loaded the bases in the bottom eighth, scoring once, and leaving them loaded.

“It was a crazy, classic “OCC” battle, Ashland is really good, but we have proven to ourselves two nights in a row that we can hang in a close game and find ways to win and that is what we need at this time of this year because on the schedule almost everybody is going to be pretty good from here on out. You have to find ways to win,” said Lexington coach Kevin Morrow.

Ashland took the lead (1-0) in the bottom of the third when Cade McQuate earned a walk with the bases loaded off Lexington starter and winner Ben Vore. Lexington would tie it (1-1) in the on a RBI hit by Kevan Grimm in the fifth.

Lexington got two in the top of the eighth on an RBI single by Josh Aiello and a groundout by Vore. However, Ashland wasn’t done. They loaded the bases on a double, a walk and a single off Grimm, who relieved Vore in the eighth. It became (3-2) Minutemen when Grimm walked McQuate. He got the save though when we struck out Brennan Hunt looking on a 3-2 count to end the game.

Morrow gives credit to Ashland pitchers David Gearhart, the starter, and Cole Garrison. “The Ashland pitchers did a fantastic job just keeping us off balance and never giving in, but we just scrapped enough across to tie it and then we the two runs there to win it. We found a way with Kevin Grim on the mound to close it out,” he said.

Ashland loaded the bases in the third, seventh, and eighth innings, but could only get two runs out of it.

Coach Rick Gough says they had their chances and he is extremely proud of the effort his kids made Wednesday. “That was a heck of a high school baseball game. I am proud of my kids and the way they competed and battled. We had situations that we wanted,” he told Swankonsports.com after the game, “We had people where we wanted and for whatever reason we couldn’t get the one pitch we needed, whether it be a hit or a passed ball or a wild pitch. We stranded 13 runners, I know they stranded a bunch as well. I still say that it was a well played game by the kids.”

Ashland (9-6,4-4) has lost it last three “OCC” games by one run, (2-1) to Mt. Vernon on April 10 and (8-7) to Lexington Tuesday night. Gough says at some time the baseball gods have to start smiling on them. “I told the kids at some point these one run games have to even out. We are due. Give Lexington credit, they made the play where they needed to. The kid came in an got out of a jam, so hats off to them,” he said.

Vore, who had 11 strikeouts on the day, and Grimm, who ended up striking on the side in the eighth, struck out the last out of an inning five times, three with the bases loaded. “That is huge how many times they bailed us out. Some of the decisions in the dugout we were making about who to pitch to and who not to. The kids did a great job and made us look good,” said Morrow.

Lexington intentionally walked Hunt and Gearhart in the sixth to load the bases and Morrow says that took some conversation to come up with that strategy. “The first one wasn’t a tough decision, but then we thought about the lefty, righty combination, so that was a gamble. We were in the dugout trying to figure out what we wanted to do and we went for it and the kids bailed us out,” he said.

Lexington (8-6,6-2) continues to trail first place West Holmes on one game in the “OCC” standings. They play Wooster and Mansfield Senior in four straight league games next week. Morrow says those are games they have to win. “I told the kids that you have to keep pace. They play great baseball this year, it’s obvious, but we are right there and hopefully somebody can help us out,” he said.

Published 4/25/19

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Ashland Outscores Wooster in “OCC” Win

Brennen Hunt and Brenden Aebersold had three hits a piece and Ashland had 15 as a team as the Arrows completed a (14-9) win over Wooster in Ohio Cardinal Conference action on Thursday afternoon.

Ashland (5-0,4-0) shares first place in the “OCC” with West Holmes two weeks into the six week conference schedule. The Arrows beat Wooster (12-6) on Tuesday and handled Mansfield Senior twice last week.

The game had started on Wednesday, but had to be suspended due to darkness.

Coach Rick Gough says they had to show some mental discipline. “We wanted to try and finish it (Wednesday) night, but obviously the conditions and darkness prevented us from doing that,” he told Swankopnsports.com on Thursday evening, “We had gotten down early 8-2 and the kids kept plugging away and Brennen Hunt on the mound kept us in the game for a couple, three innings. We had to come back and finish it (Thursday) night.”

Hunt went four innings, giving up just one earned for Ashland.

This week’s offensive explosion by the Arrows has been pretty common in the early going. “We are averaging anywhere between 12 and 15 hits a night, so I can’t complain about that,” he said.

Cade McQuate and David Gearhart had two hits in the win over Wooster and Gough says they have been able to hit throughout the lineup. “If you look at the box score from (Thursday) night I think everybody in the lineup got a hit and a couple of guys got multiple hits. We are swinging the bats well right now,” he said.

Published 4/05/19

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Arrows Hammer Mansfield Senior in “OCC” Opener

Ashland showed they might be heard from in the Ohio Cardinal Conference race as they blasted Mansfield Senior (15-5) in five innings Tuesday in their conference opener.

Ashland was a .500 club in the conference last year and they hope to be better.

Coach Rick Gough says they are happy with the win, but they need to move on. “Anytime you can put one in the bank. Like I told the kids (Tuesday) night, anytime you get your first win in the “OCC,” just put it away and we will move on to (Wednesday,”) said Gough.

Mansfield Senior had beat Crestline (10-9) on Monday and coach John Beasley says they need to be more consistent in their performance across the board. “We did not execute as well as we did (Monday) night. Fielding, hitting, pitching need to improve to compete in one of the toughest baseball conferences in the state. The good thing about baseball is we get another crack at them (Wednesday,”) said Beasley.

Gough says they were able to substitute liberally on Tuesday and that is going to help the Arrows as the season moves on. “We were able to play basically the entire roster,” he told Swankonsports.com after the win, “Some kids that are going to be counted on down the road in various positions got some good at bats. I think that is going to help us in the long run.”

The “OCC” plays two game series if the weather allows and Gough says they need to be ready to turn in another good effort on Wednesday against the Tygers. “Every day is a new day. (Wednesday) when we go for “B.P.” we will forget about (Tuesday) and start fresh,” he said.

Published 3/27/19

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Ashland on the Move up

Ashland figures to be in the mix this spring in the Ohio Cardinal Conference baseball race.

They bring a lot of players back to the varsity roster from last year.

Coach Rick Gough says they have more experience. “It is a little bit different this year. Last year, we had a number of sophomores making their varsity debut. This year, I have got eight returning letter winners from last season and that has made things a lot more smoother. We haven’t had to back track as much,” said Gough.

Gough says they have not had to do as much teaching this year as last. “You can build from last year and you can take it another step. A number of our returnees have been able to do that,” he said.

Gough won’t say his team will be one of the favorites in the “OCC” this year, but he does believe they are going to be more competitive. “Last year, we were 6-6 in the conference and obviously a goal is to improve on that mark,” he told Swankonsports.com on Tuesday, “I still think Lexington and Wooster are going to be the two teams to beat just by last year and who they have coming back. I do think we will be more competitive in the league.”

Published 3/20/19

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Better Defense Needed by Ashland

Ashland makes that long trip Northwest to play Anthony Wayne in a division one sectional final on Friday night at Toledo Start High School.

Both teams have won 15 games this season.

Arrows coach Jason Hess says they knew by taking a bye they would be faced with this kind of game. “It does shake out that it is for a sectional championship and that is part of the reason why that we put our name on the line that we did when the tournament draw was a couple of weeks ago. We knew we would have to play a better team. In order to win a sectional, we were going to have to play a pretty good team up in the Toledo area anyway and we felt like this was the best possible matchup we could get,” he said.

Hess says Anthony Wayne (15-6) has good players at every position and that is why they have had the kind of season they have had so far. “They have several seniors that are pretty good basketball players. They have a 6’4”, 6’5” guard/forward that can shoot inside and out. He shoots the ball extremely well from three point range and plays off the dribble well and is a tough match up. Then their post kids are football like kids, 6’2”, 6’3” kids that are really good athletes, strong, physical kids that like to bang around the basket and can finish at the rim,” he told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday, “They have a really solid point guard that handles the ball and really sets things up for them and creates for others. It is a good team and they have won 15 games for a reason in their league with a pretty tough schedule. So, it is definitely going to not be an easy match up for a game one, but it is game one for both of us. We will have to see who shows up and plays hardest.
Ashland (15-7) plays an aggressive schedule and Hess says they have seen elements of this team, but really not the whole package that Anthony Wayne presents. “I think their post guys being physical are similar to Lexington. They are not as big as Lexington posts who are 6’5”, 6’6”, they are 6’2”, 6’3” posts and obviously they don’t have a Cade Stover type player in the middle. As far as somebody that can shoot it from the perimeter like what we are seeing here is similar to what we saw from a Perrysburg. We have seen some teams that have played a little bit like this although this is a little unique with the combination of the parts that they have got,” he said.

Hess says the big challenge for them is to be able to play the kind of defense you need to be able to win tournament games. “I think key number one is just to continue to execute our offense the way we have been the last few weeks. I think offensively we have been very, very good since about the middle of January. We have been playing unselfish and sharing the basketball. Defensively, we are going to have to find a way to string together some stops. That has been the one thing that has kind of been our Achilles’ Heel the last month or so in our couple of losses that we do have with Mansfield and Lexington. We just weren’t able to get enough stops consecutively to get a lead going in those games. We were right there and went back and forth with them. We have to find a way to get some stops,” said Hess.

Published 2/28/19

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Ashland Must Attack Mansfield Senior

Ashland will play in a role in who wins the Ohio Cardinal Conference title his week as they travel to Mansfield Senior to play the Tygers, who have a chance to share the “OCC” title.

The Arrows would have had the same opportunity if Lexington had not beaten Wooster on Tuesday night, now the best they can do is finish second in the conference.

They beat Wooster (84-82) in overtime last Friday night. It was the Arrows third overtime win in the last four games and is part of a streak in which they have won nine of their last 10.

Coach Jason Hess says both teams played well on offense. “We have played quite a few close ones. That is our third overtime game in the last two weeks or so, fortunately we have found a way to win all three. Wooster did a great job an really played well, especially offensively. I think that is the most points they have scored all year and fortunately we were able to score enough points to stay on top,” he said.

Ashland (15-6,8-3) is at Mansfield Senior (16-4,9-2), #2 in the Swankonsports.com boys’ basketball coaches poll in the large school division. In their first meeting the Tygers won (74-54) way back on December 14, in what was Ashland’s second game of the season.

Hess is impressed by how hard the Tygers play and he says they have to match that intensity. “They play so hard. I was really impressed watching the Lexington game a week ago with how hard those kids played and how much passion they played with and how much energy they put out on the floor,” he told Swankonports.com on Tuesday, “We have to realize they have a chance to win the Ohio Cardinal Conference and they are going to bring that same effort and energy this Friday and hopefully our guys are ready to go and not be intimidated and bring that same energy and effort.”

Ashland has had as much success against Mansfield Senior in recent years as about anybody has and Hess doesn’t believe they will be intimidated. “No, I don’t think they will be. I just know it is going to be a great atmosphere with everything on the line and with the conference and everything for Mansfield on Friday night. Mansfield is a team that plays on a lot of emotion and plays hard and if you get a little tentative against them they can really put a big run together and get the game over quickly,” said Hess.

Tempo is always important against Mansfield Senior and Hess says they don’t want to get going too fast, but they have to be able to attack too. “We have been working this week and several weeks actually with controlling the tempo and not only handling the pressure, but when we break that intimal pressure continuing to work and play offense and get the shot that we want and not just the first available shot because we are in a hurry,” he said.

Published 2/20/19

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Ashland Has to be Smart

With Lexington and Mansfield Senior playing so well, the Ashland Arrows have sot been able to the fly under the radar screen, but they are pretty good too.

They have won eight of their last nine with the only loss during that time coming to Lexington.

They beat Madison (67-54) in their last outing last Friday.

Coach Jason Hess says this group has worked hard to get where they have gotten so far. “Our kids have done a tremendous job this year really working hard and putting the extra effort and commitment in. I am so happy for them and so proud of them for the effort and the commitment that they have shown. I’m just happy that they have been able to achieve the success that we have had to this point. It is definitely much deserved. This group of kids has worked really hard,” said Hess.

Ashland (14-6,7-3) plays at Wooster on Friday night against the Generals (9-9,6-4) in an “OCC” game. Wooster is coming off a (71-44) thrashing at the hands of Lexington on Tuesday. Ashland won the first meeting (60-56) on January 11.

Hess says the Generals play really hard. “They have played a really tough schedule. They have competed with the best teams in the league. They are a team that just has no quit in them and really play hard and they way the play defense pressing 94 feet they can turn a game around in just a matter of a couple of possessions and go on a 6-0, 8-0 run and really just change the game with how hard they play,” he said.

With Wooster’s all out pressure there are going to be turnovers and Hess understands that and he says they have to take smart shots too. “Not only do we need to limit our live ball turnovers that lead to easy baskets for them, but also need to be really smart with our shot selection. Sometimes quick shots are almost as bad as a turnover because that just play into their hands. We have been emphasizing that all week with our guys making good decisions with the basketball an taking care of it and playing good smart basketball,” said Hess.

Ashland plays Anthony Wayne in the division one tournament in two weeks and Hess says their schedule allows them to prepare for that game. “We have made it through our gauntlet of a schedule where we had so many games in a short amount of time and now we have got Friday, Friday and another Friday for tournament. So, we have had an opportunity to catch our breath and get our legs back underneath us. At the same time, we don’t want to lose our focus and we want to continue to play our best basketball here the next couple of weeks heading into the tournament. So, we need to keep doing the little things and focus in and get better in the areas that we haven’t been as good as we would like to be,” said Hess.

Published 2/15/19

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Ashland Ready for Madison

With seven wins in its last eight games, the Ashland Arrows are playing excellent basketball heading into their home game with Mansfield Madison in Ohio Cardinal Conference action on Friday night.

Ashland has won its last two games in overtime, over Shelby (55-52) last Saturday and Sandusky (80-78) on Tuesday night.

Coach Jason Hess they had to dig deep and come up with some big plays on Tuesday night. “It has been a tiering stretch for our guys for sure. Finding a way to win in overtime is definitely difficult, especially Tuesday night we kind of broke the odds a little bit when we did not score first. They always say the team that scores first in overtime wins. We had to battle back on two occasions. Once at the end of the fourth quarter and once in overtime. Our kids did a great job of just hanging in there and playing the entire 36 minutes,” said Hess.

Although they have been one of the better big school programs over the last decade the Arrows only won two games last year. Hess says the players have worked very hard to turn that around. “The kids have done a great job and I really give them a lot of credit. It started way back in the off season. Back in early May and even before that we had a end of the year meetings these kids just committed themselves to the team and working hard and getting better together. They have invested so much time and effort here the last eight months or so into this team and into this season. They are refusing to except anything less than a successful season and they are leaving it all out on the floor,” he said.

Ashland (13-6,6-3) plays at home against Madison (4-15,2-8) on Friday night in “OCC” action. Madison has struggled like a duck in a desert this season. They lost (60-25) to conference leader Lexington on Tuesday night. They have won only once since the new year.

However, Hess says the Rams always play with intensity, especially against them. “It is always a competitive game. I look back through the years when I have been on the coaching staff and it seems like even in some of our better years when we were a lot better on paper. When we play Madison their kids just always play hard and seem to give a little extra effort against Ashland and I think our kids do the same against them,” he told Swaankonsports.com on Thursday, “With such a close distance between the two schools the kids know each other well and they have been playing each other through middle school and even before that at the Friendly House and different “Y” leagues. There is a lot of familiarity and when you get that with an opponent then anything can happen on a game night.”

Published 2/08/19

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Ashland Has to Execute Against Lex

Ashland has a chance to get right in the middle of the Ohio Cardinal Conference race with a win at Lexington on Friday night.

Right now, Ashland is tied with Wooster for second place a game behind Lexington and Mansfield Senior in the standings.

Ashland has won its last five games and seven of its last eight after a (60-38) win over Massillon on Tuesday night in non-conference play. They had lost to the same Tigers (72-70) January 5.

Coach Jason Hess says they have just been playing and refining. “We have definitely gotten better as they year has gone on and are doing a lot of good things now as a basketball team. We are excited to keep playing, which is a good thing. With the schedule we have had the last two weeks we haven’t had a lot of time for practice, so it has been just a lot of fine tuning and making some minimal, small adjustments for our opponent. Just try to keep guys fresh and excited to go play,” he said.

Ashland (11-5,6-2) plays at Lexington (11-3,6-1), #1 in the Swankonsports.com boys’ basketball coaches poll in the large school division, on Friday night. The Minutemen have a streak of their own as they have won their last seven and 10 of their last 11. They beat Ashland (59-48) on December 28.

Hess says they Minutemen make you execute on offense because they play outstanding defense and they don’t allow many second shots. “I think the one thing that really jumps out and we had trouble with the first time around is how good they are in their half court defense. They do an extraordinary job making things very difficult on their opponent. Number one, they really force you to be a jump shot shooting team. They take away inside shots,” he told Swankonsports.com on Thursday, “Second, they rebound a lot of misses. They don’t give up second and third chance opportunities. That puts you under a lot of pressure and forces you to shoot a high percentage with that first shot.”

Plus, Lexington has terrific balance on offense. Hess says you must guard the whole floor. “It is a tough matchup and that is part of the reason why they are winning the games they are and made the run they did a year ago and have the expectations and the pressure on them to repeat that this year is because they have so many weapons. You can’t just focus on trying to stop their inside game because they do have multiple guys that can knock down threes from the perimeter and really hurt you that way. So, it is a tough matchup for anybody, especially for our guys who stature wise aren’t quite as big as Lexington. We are going to have to find a way to grit it out. Hopefully, some of those shots aren’t going in for them on Friday,” said Hess.

Published 2/01/19

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Ashland Playing Some Good Ball

Ashland has put together four wins in its last five games, including Tuesday night over Perrysburg, and they play at Mt. Vernon in a league game on Friday night and at Orrville in a non-league game on Saturday night.

They trail “OCC” co-leaders Lexington and Mansfield Senior by a game heading into Friday night and still have both left on their schedule.

The Arrows beat Perrysburg (68-54) on Tuesday night and coach Jason Hess says they were outstanding, especially in the first two quarters. “We were really happy with the way our guys played (Tuesday) night, especially that first half. I think it was our best, most complete half of basketball we have had all year long, that first 16 minutes (Tuesday) night. We played pretty solid defense and offensively we really moved the ball and executed well. We got a lot of great looks and our guys stepped up and knocked them down,” said Hess.

Hess says they need to take that good play and be able to put a string of consistent performances together. “That is one of the things we have been talking to our guys about and really tried to emphasize is ball movement on the offensive side and try and get our assist total for the game up close to 20 assists or more. We have done that the last two games. Our offensive efficiency rating goes a lot higher when we are able to move the basketball that way,” he said.

Ashland (8-5,5-2) plays at Mt. Vernon (6-9,3-4) in an “OCC” contest on Friday night. The Arrows won the first meeting (73-56) on December 21 at Arrow Arena, but Hess says the Yellow Jackets play a lot better at home. “Going to Mt. Vernon is a very difficult place to play. We are going to try and get our guts to play the best they can. We have a short week of practice with the game on Tuesday, but past experience says and you can look through conference games and the wins that Mt. Vernon has they are significantly better playing at home,” he told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday, “They have a distinct home court advantage and play well down there. So, even though we were able to beat them the first time around back in December here at our place it is going to be a completely different ballgame down there.”

Ashland plays at Orrville (8-4) on Saturday night. Hess says that is going to be a unique kind of challenge. “They are a little different style basketball team than what have seen. Typically, they run a little more open post motion and like to spread it out. Their guards do a great job of just pressuring the basketball all over the gym. So, it will be a good test for us. They have good athletes and that was evident with their football state championship. Going on the road it will be another tough road contest for us and hopefully that will be one we will be ready for after Friday night,” he said.

Published 1/24/19

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Ashland Wants Good Start

Ashland travels to West Holmes for an Ohio Cardinal Conference game on Friday night against the Knights.

They host Perrysburg in a non-league game on Saturday.

Ashland beat Wooster (60-56) in and “OCC” game last Friday, but they lost (64-56) to “SBC” Lake Division co-leader Norwalk on Saturday.

Coach Jason Hess says they did not play with as much energy on Saturday night as they did on Friday. “We are definitely moving up. Saturday, I thought our defensive effort and just our overall energy was a little bit disappointing. I think emotionally after our big win Friday our kids weren’t quite ready to play. Unfortunately, we need to get them ready to play every night and we learned the hard way. Norwalk is a good team and Haraway is maybe the best kid we have seen individually all year with the way he can control the game on both sides of the floor offensively and defensively,” he told Swankonsports.com on Tuesday, “He was really the difference maker there Saturday night. Our guys are still improving and getting better and still learning how to win and how to play a complete four quarter game. It seems like we have had some lapses in a couple minutes here and a couple minutes there that have allowed some teams to get back in the game or when we have made runs we haven’t been able to keep pushing forward.”

Ashland (6-5,4-2) is at West Holmes (2-10,0-6) on Friday. They met in Ashland’s first game of the season on December 7, with the Arrows winning (60-42) at their place.

Hess expects the Knights at home this time are going to be a tougher nut to crack. “You never take anything for granted and the one thing we had the luxury of in the first half of the season is we played a lot of our conference games at home, so going on the road now is going to be a little bit of a different thing an typically everybody plays a little bit better at home. They are used to the home courts, they are used to the home hoops, the home background everything is a little bit different. There is a little bit more crowd energy into it. We are going to have to do a good job and get off to a good start on Friday with West Holmes and not allow them to gain confidence because they are a team that hasn’t won a lot or had a lot of success this year. When you get a team that starts to believe they can be very dangerous,” said Hess.

Hess says they can’t allow the Knights to gain any confidence in this game or it could be trouble. “West Holmes when I saw them here a week or so ago, they are playing some younger kids now that didn’t play against us the first time. They have moved a couple of kids up off their JV team to give them a little more offensive pop with some younger kids that can shoot the ball a little better. Those are kids that don’t know what they don’t know. That being said, if we let them hang around and it starts to be the fourth quarter maybe they don’t know they aren’t supposed to be in the game or be close. So, we definitely need to go down there and take care of business and just play our game,” he said.

Published 1/16/18

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Ashland Wants to Attack Madison Pressure

Ashland travels to Madison for a Tuesday night game in the Ohio Cardinal Conference.

They expect to see pressure and will need to handle it.

Last Saturday, they lost in the end to Massillon (72-70) on the road in non-conference play.

Coach Jason Hess says this time they just weren’t able to make the plays at the end of the game. “We played real well we just didn’t finish it out. We had a lead right at the end and a couple of plays, a couple bounces, didn’t go our way, and Massillon made some plays in the last few seconds to get the win at the buzzer. It was a tough one for our kids. Effort wise I thought we were right there where we needed to be. We did a good job for the most part except for right there in the closing seconds. It was a complete 180 from where we were the week before when we kind of did the same thing to Clyde and were able to sneak a win out there. It is just kind of the game of basketball,” he told Swankonsports.com on Monday, “Through the course of a career, a season, you are going to have a game or two you feel like you let get away and you have a game or two that you won that you are not sure how you came away with the victories. So, at this point we can’t focus too much on what happened or didn’t happen Saturday we just have to get ready to play Madison.”

Ashland (4-4,2-2) is at Madison (3-8,1-3) on Tuesday night. The Rams lost to Lexington (46-32) last Friday and succumbed to Big Walnut (67-26) in a non-conference game.

Hess says the Rams will paly hard and they are going to try and pressure the ball too. “They are going to play hard. Coach (Tim) Mergel does a great job with them. His kids play extremely hard. I know just from watching this year they are looking to up the pressure defensively and force things to happen, force teams to play a little faster pace to handle their pressure. They have been successful with it some games and in other games when they haven’t shot the ball well it has been tough to score no matter what you are doing defensively. Hopefully, for us it will be one of those nights when they don’t shoot the ball so well,” he said.

To be successful against pressure, Hess says you not only have to avoid turnovers, but get some good shots. “That is the thing with pressure defense. Hopefully, our guys have begun to learn with some of the scheduling that we have done this year going up to Toledo and already playing Mansfield and over at Massillon, and some of these teams that want to extend out and pressure you full court. Part of breaking that pressure and handling that pressure is not necessarily that you are not just turning the ball over, but also being able to execute and being able to run offense that you don’t necessarily shoot a quick shot because that is just like a turnover. That is where we have gotten ourselves into trouble in a couple of games early is we weren’t necessarily turning the ball over, but one we got across half court it was one pass and a quick shot and that plays into their hands as well. So, it is going to be important for us to not only be able to break that pressure, but be able to execute and run some offense,” said Hess.

Ashland won only two games last year and Hess says they have worked hard to become a better team this year. “The kids have worked extremely hard since last spring to get ready to play this year. We would like to have another win or two underneath our belt at this point. At 4-4 compared to where we were a year ago is pretty good, so hopefully we can find a way to get a good win because it is a conference game and it is important to stay on top of the that .500 mark and keep the confidence moving forward instead of taking a step back,” he said.

Published 1/08/19

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Ashland Feeling Better

Ashland does not play an Ohio Cardinal Conference game this week, but does travel to Massillon to play a non-league game on Saturday night.

They lost a tough “OCC” game at home to Lexington (59-48) last Friday, but rallied to beat a good Clyde team (79-77) in non-league play on Saturday night.

Coach Jason Hess says they did a lot of good things late against Clyde to pull out that win. “It was nice to see our guys rebound after that tough one Friday night. It took us all 32 minutes on Saturday. We were down late and there was just no quit in our kids. It was just one of those games in the last minute, minute and half, they refused to lose and we found a way to make some plays and hit some big shots,” he told Swankpnsports.com on Wednesday, “The kids just did a tremendous job contributing in one facet or another. Whether it as getting on the floor for a lose ball or getting an offensive rebound and getting us second chances everybody really did a tremendous job putting out a little extra effort down the stretch there to get us over the hump.”

Hess believes that win over Clyde can really help his kids gain more confidence as we head into the final two months of the season. “I thought when we came into practice earlier this week you could just tell the guys had a lot of confidence. I think it was one thing with this group I was a little concerned with coming into the year. It is a group that hasn’t had a lot of varsity experience and a lot of success at the varsity level. Learning how to win close games is an important skill. Really you can work on it in practice, but the only way to really hone that in is to be put in some close ballgames, so it was encouraging to see our guys pull that game out,” said Hess.

Ashland (4-3) is at Massillon on Saturday night. Hess says the Tigers will be a very athletic team, although not with a lot of game experience, they will be able to do a lot of good things. “Massillon is athletic. They have a deep team. Their sophomore class is really talented, but they got a late start with their run in the football playoffs. They have only played four, five games right now. It will be a good contest for us to see a pretty athletic team that has some good size to them and going on the road as well to go over to Massillon to play,” he said.

Published 1/03/19

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Ashland Feeling Pretty Good

Ashland proved last weekend how good of a basketball team they can be and they will need to show the same level of play, if not higher, this week.

They host “OCC” favorite Lexington on Friday and “SBC” power Clyde on Saturday.

Last week, the Arrows beat Mt. Vernon (73-56) on Friday in a league game and Ontario (78-63) on Saturday.

Coach Jason Hess says it was the best they have played all year. “We are really happy with the way last weekend went, both games Friday an Saturday winning at home against Mt. Vernon and then winning over at Ontario, which is always a tough place to get a win. It was nice to see our team kind of grow up and get a little bit of experience in close ballgames last Saturday. I thought our guys did a nice job executing down the stretch,” he said.

Especially good, was the Arrows guard play, according to Hess. “Saturday night was the best we have been all year as far as our guard play and decision making. We knew we had that capability with the team we had and the personnel that we had that was one of the things we thought was one of our strong points coming into this year to be able to control the tempo. We got a little lacky at times with some of the pressure defenses we saw two weeks ago with Mansfield and Toledo (Start.) I thought Saturday with Ontario our turnovers were way down and it was really the difference in the game because we were able to control things and spread them out there at end of the game and make them come and guard us and either get layups or free throws down the stretch and our kids did a great job of knocking in those free throws,” said Hess.

Ashland (3-2,2-1) plays at home against Lexington (4-3,1-1), #3 in the Swankonsports.com boys’ basketball coaches poll in the large school division, on Friday night. The Minutemen throttled West Holmes (58-22) in an “OCC” game last Friday and lost to Copley (64-48) in the Steve Smith Classic last Saturday at the College of Wooster.

Hess says the Minutemen are really impressive. “When you look at their roster the one thing that jumps out at you is how big they are. It is not uncommon for them to have five kids out there that are 6’3” or bigger. They are long athletes. They have several guys that are going to be playing at the next level at one college sport or another. They had a tremendous run last year in March. They have a majority of that team back. There were high expectations surrounding that team and they were early season favorites to win the league,” he told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday, “It is going to be a big matchup and they are kind of trying to get things straightened out for them. They are trying to find themselves this year. We are still kind of growing and learning with only five games under our belts. It should be a fun one.”

Clyde (4-2) suffered a couple of close losses last week to Toledo Bowsher (64-61) on Thursday and Sandusky (63-62) on Saturday.

Hess says they expect that Clyde is going to show them a lot of pressure all over the floor. “We haven’t spent a lot of time on them yet with Lexington being the conference game on Friday, but what we have seen from Clyde early is they like to pressure, they like to play fast, which really fits into the style of play we like to play. I think that some of the games we had earlier and our scrimmage schedule has helped us to prepare to play against those teams, who want to play a little faster. Hopefully, on the back end of a double weekend we can take care of business on Friday and we will be ready and have enough legs left to go out there and handle that pressure on Saturday,” said Hess.

Published 12/27/18

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Ashland Downs Ontario

Ashland’s Klejhan Randleman, Garrett Denbow and Mitchell Heilman combined for 63 points and Ashland beat Ontario (78-063) in the nightcap of the 419 Challenge at Ontario High School on Saturday night.

The Arrows (3-2) made 28 of 33 free throws and coach Jason Hess says they got to the foul line because they attacked the basket. “We were concerned a little bit about this being a trap game. As well as we shot the ball (Friday) night, hitting 12 threes (Friday) night, we really emphasized to our guys don’t just settle for three pointers. I know they went in (Friday) night, but part of the reason they went in was because we got inside out first. Klejhan (Randleman) set the tone right off the bat. That first possession when he went to the rim. He came ready to play (Saturday) night and we have kind have been missing that. We knew it was in him and he just did a tremendous job all night long on both ends of the floor. He was the game changer for us,” said Hess.

The Arrows led (54-52) heading to the final stanza, but they outscored Ontario (25-11) in the fourth quarter.

Ontario (3-2) had won three of its first four, but coach Joe Balogh says they were poor on defense and they weren’t able to find open shooters. “They just played better than us. They played smarter. They were just better than us in the second half. We didn’t do a good job in the first half of guarding. We weren’t ready to guard in the half court and they attacked it and got to the free throw line. I think they were 11-12 in the first half and then they go 28-33 in the game. So, you have to give them a lot of credit,” he told Swankonsports.com after the game, “They did a great job of attacking our defense and getting to the free throw line. One of the things we tried to emphasize for us is we needed to move the ball offensively and we didn’t do a very good job of that. In the fourth quarter, we just had too many turnovers down the stretch to give us a chance to win.”

Making 10 of the 12 free throws in the fourth quarter with the game on line was key for the Arrows. Hess says he believes this is a good free throw shooting team. “I told these guys earlier (Saturday) morning in our film session that I like the way our team is built that we can go to the free throw line an knock down free throws and I have a lot of confidence in our guys doing that. We have been shooting them decent this year, but not to the standard of what I thought these guys were capable of doing and (Saturday) night everybody stepped up and knocked them in. Overall as a team we shot the ball really well from the free throw line,” he said.

Ontario still managed five threes in the second half, but only one in the fourth quarter. Hess says they made some defensive adjustments. “We talked at halftime about heading a little bit harder coming off those ball screens because they hurt us a little bit in the first half and the Shaver kid turned the corner a couple of times and knocked down some threes. We were able to get our bigs to come out there and help. We were even able to get a couple of guys running through some passing lanes on the backside that led to some breakaway layups,” he said.

Griffin Shaver led Ontario with 22 points, including a four point play.

Randleman was a thorn in the Warriors side all night. Balogh says they allowed him to get to the rim too much. “It has to be one of the best games he has ever played. A big emphasis for him was we wanted him to be a jump shooter and we really didn’t do that. He just did a great job of getting to the glass. I think maybe it was a six point game, six or eight, and he takes kind of a tough shot, but we don’t get the rebound and he gets a stick back and a three point play out of it. Give them a lot of credit that is a great weekend for them. They beat a Mt. Vernon team that had been plying pretty good. We thought we had been playing pretty good and they basically just kicked us. Jason has got to be really happy going into Christmas and we are not as happy,” said Balogh.

Published 12/23/18

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Tempo a Key for Ashland

Controlling the tempo is going to be big again this week for the Ashland Arrows as they host the Mt. Vernon Yellow Jackets in an Ohio Cardinal Conference game on Friday night.

They looked like maybe they were going to upset the Mansfield Senior Tygers for the second straight season leading (31-30) at the half, but it was all Mansfield in the second half last Friday and the Tygers won (74-54) the “OCC” game.

Coach Jason Hess says the Tygers pressure got to them. “Unfortunately, Friday night was a tale of two halves. The second half wasn’t quite where we wanted it to be as compared to the first half. Our kids did an exceptional job starting the game. There was a lot of effort and energy defensively. We got some turnovers. We got a lot of stops and we were able to convert and have a lead. However, even in the first half I thought we had sometimes when we missed some bunnies and left some points on the board at the free throw line that we didn’t get. We maybe could have had a bigger lead than we did at the half. That may have given them a little more momentum,” he told Swankonsports.com on Monday, “Mansfield they are relentless, that’s the way they play, and that is way they have played for years and they are going to keep playing and they have had a lot of success over the years playing that way. Give coach Sykes and their kids a lot of credit for just continuing to battle and compete. We were up a couple of possessions there in the second quarter and they just kept coming after you until they were able to get ahead and then keep on going.”

In the second half last week, Hess says the Tygers pressure made his more inexperienced players rush things too much. “Part of that is because Mansfield’s pressure they just speed you up a little bit and sometimes those easy ones, those inside ones, you rush it a little bit. It is hard for us to simulate that kind of energy and intensity on defense that we are going to see in those games in practice. Some of our kids in the first time around here against Mansfield they hadn’t seen that at the varsity level yet with some of our inexperienced guys. It has to be a learning experience now at this point,” he said.

Ashland also lost a non-conference game (84-49) at Toledo Start on Saturday night.

The Arrows (1-2,0-1) host Mt. Vernon (2-3,1-0) on Friday night. The Yellow Jackets did not play a league game last week. Their only game was a (59-52) loss at New Albany on Saturday night.

Hess says Mt. Vernon may be young, but they are well coached and dangerous at any time. “They are extremely well coached. Coach (Nick) Coon does a great job. His kids are very disciplined. They are very fundamental. They are very good at executing their offensive stuff and really make you work defensively. They are a team that is inexperienced and they are just going to get better and better as the year goes on. You have seen improvement already over the first couple of weeks because they are getting more and more varsity experience. It is a team a little bit like us that didn’t have a lot of varsity minutes returning from last year. It should be a good game. They play good solid defense. They are a little more deliberate in style than we are. It is going to be important for us to control the tempo better than we were able to last week,” said Hess.

Published 12/18/18

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Ashland Has to Avoid Tyger Spurts

Ashland hosts Mansfield Senior in what might end up being an interesting matchup in the Ohio Cardinal Conference on Friday night at Arrow Arena in Ashland.

The Arrows have probably had as much success against Mansfield Senior has anybody as of late. They beat them last year in a year when they only won two.

Last week, Ashland opened the season with a (60-42) win over West Holmes.

Coach Jason Hess felt they got things started with good defense. “We were pretty happy with the way things went last Friday. The effort ways really strong by our kids. They got up there and really set the tone early defensively and really carried that throughout the whole night last Friday and we were able to find a way to make a few baskets and get a nice conference win at home,” he said.

If this is going to be a good year for Ashland, Hess says they need to play very good defense every time out. “Defense is one of those thigs that we try to pride ourselves a little bit here at Ashland and make sure that our defensive effort is always strong. There are going to be nights when you just shoot the basketball well. I always tell the kids that defense travels,” he told Swankonsports.com on Thursday, “Whether you are home, whether you are away your defensive effort is one thing that you can control in the game of the basketball. We can’t control officials, we can’t control if the ball goes in the hoop all of the time, but how hard we compete on defense is the one thing we do have a little bit of control of.”

Ashland (1-0,1-0) is at home for Mansfield Senior (4-1,1-0) on Friday night. The Tygers beat Madison (76-53) last Friday in their only league game. They beat Whitehall-Yearing (50-43) on Wednesday in a game played at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland.

Hess says it appears the Tygers have hit their stride. “I saw them early and they were kind of searching. They lost a lot of from last year and they were kind of searching to find themselves the last four games they have started to find themselves and develop their identity with their defensive pressure the way they just rebound the basketball relentlessly,” he said.

Mansfield Senior may have teams that good perimeter shooters or good passers, but Hess says they always rebound and defend. “The personnel changes for them year in and year out, but the game plan stays pretty true. They are just relentless on the offensive glass. Their defensive effort kind of feeds off turnovers. Once you turn the ball over once or twice, they just get a little more energy out of it and turn a four point run into an eight, 12 point run. You look at their games, and it has historically been this way, they will have some stretch in the game where they just outscore their opponent by double digits over a short span and the opponent is not able to rebound from it,” said Hess.

Published 12/14/18

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Ashland to Get Things Started With West Holmes

Ashland is a week late starting its boys’ basketball season and they are doing it with an “OCC” game on Friday night at home at Arrow Arena against the West Holmes Knights.

Coach Jason Hess says not playing last week gave them extra time to prepare, but they have the disadvantage of not playing yet. “We are obviously excited to get started. It is a week behind everybody else or most teams in the area anyway. Although that week off did gives us the opportunity to go out and do some scouting and watch some teams and help get us prepared for West Holmes this week. We still haven’t gotten the opportunity to get our guys on the floor with the lights on on a game night.” He told Swankonsports.com on Monday, “You just never know with those first game jitters and how the kids will react. There is a lot of excitement and a lot of energy. Hopefully, we will be able to keep our composure, stay in control, and get off to a good start.”

Ashland has some experience back, but Hess says they need those new guys to get their feet wet quickly. “There are always expectations. Everybody has a clean slate, a fresh start. There is just something about the boys seeing the ball go through the hoop for the first time. Your returning players have some confidence, but you have a lot of newcomers that haven’t been put in the spotlight before. It is something about those first varsity points or making that first play, diving on the floor for a loose ball, whatever it may be. It kind of helps relax you,” he said.

West Holmes won their opener in beating Loudonville (56-48) on Saturday night in a non-conference game. They have a new coach in Jordan Widder.

Hess says they are going to have to play well. “They had a good win Saturday night versus Loudonville. They are doing some things different. They have a good group of juniors and they play hard. I am hoping to get another chance to see them this week and watch some film on them. Try and get the best game plan we can. It’s a conference foe starting off and it is going to be a home game for us. Seems like you always want to win those home games, especially the conference ones,” said Hess.

With their first game being a home league game that puts even more of an emphasis on being prepared, according to Hess. “As much as you try to simulate things in practice going against the JV guys and scrimmages and everything it is always just a little different on game night,” he said.

Published 12/04/18

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Ashland Wants to Play Faster

Ashland only won two games last year, which is extremely rare for them, and the Arrows are working hard to get back to their winning way this season.

Coach Jason Hess have been very happy with effort he has seen from his group this year that has a little bit of a different makeup than in some past years. “We have been real happy with what we have seen so far. A large portion of our kids did not play football and were not involved in fall sports, so we had a really good turnout this fall starting back in September when we were able to get going with our four man workouts and our weightlifting and conditioning. The kids have been very committed this fall, so we are really looking forward to this season. Unfortunately, our football team did not make it the state playoffs this year like we have been accustomed to in the past, so the couple football kids that we did have were there right at the start of practice. We have had everybody there since day one,” he told Swankonsports.com on Tuesday, “I think that is really going to help us out in the long run just getting a little more practice time here at the beginning of the season and getting everybody on the same page. I thought that chemistry wise we have ben really good this fall. We have really been challenging our guys and they have been responding to it. We are looking forward to getting things turned around after last year.”

Conditioning could be a factor for the Arrows this season and Hess says they have been working really hard to make sure they are in the best shape possible. “We tried to push them a little bit harder this fall. Just a little past observation, I was never a football player, just from coaching and watching the kids, it usually takes them three weeks to a month into basketball season to get their legs underneath them where they can play long stretches of basketball. It is such a different conditioning with the constant changing of direction and the long stretches that you might have to play basketball and it is a different muscle group too with some of the defensive sides and stances depending on what positions they played in football and every kid is a little bit different. I think getting our guys in basketball shape as quick as possible can only help us,” he said.

Hess says there are a couple of things in particular that they are working on to be better than they were last year, unselfish play and getting down the floor faster. “A couple of things that we have really tried to focus on. One is just trying to get our culture and team chemistry established where our guys understand the importance of being great teammates to each other an that kind of leads to playing unselfish basketball where we make batter decisions offensively and get better movement and spacing. I think at times last year our offensive execution was pretty stagnate and not where it needed to be. It is just hard to play defense for long stretches if you are not scoring points. I think we are going to try and get back to playing a little faster this year where we can get out and run the floor and use our skill sets that we have got with this year’s group of kids where they can play out in space and allow them to create and play basketball a little bit more and a little more feely,” said Hess.

Published 11/14/18

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Ashland Stands in the Way of Wooster

Ashland has a chance to keep Wooster from winning an outright Ohio Cardinal Conference title on Friday night as they visit the Generals at Folis Field.

It is a somewhat similar situation to last year when Wooster beat Ashland to stop them from winning an outright title. The difference is Ashland will not get a share if they win, they have been eliminated from the race.

Last week, West Holmes beat Ashland (56-49) in double overtime in “OCC” play.

Coach Scott Valentine says the Knights just made some big plays. “It is just one of those things. I think we have some good athletes in our league and those guys are making plays. Unfortunately for us we haven’t been able to get that one stop, or that one play for ourselves defensively to allow us to get the win. Both sides of the ball our kids are playing hard,” he said.

West Holmes quarterback Bridger Cline threw for 435 yards and seven touchdowns last week against the Arrows.

They had also given up 43 points the week before to Lexington.

Valentine says he doesn’t believe it is really a tacking issue. “I don’t think it is tackling. I think we have been pretty good tacklers this year. It is just one of those things when a guy makes a play we have guys in perfect position on coverage on defense and a guy makes a great play over top or a guy running the ball,” he told Swankonsports.com on Thursday, “Like Stover running the ball he is a big physical kid. We had two of three guys and you try to get that stop. Again, I think our kids are playing hard. We will have to go back in the off season and look and see about things we are going to have to do.”

Ashland (5-4,2-3) is at Wooster (7-2,5-0), #3 in the Swankonsports.com football coaches poll in the large school division, on Friday night. Wooster beat Akron Firestone (44-12) in a non-league game last week.

Valentine says the have to make Wooster quarterback Dylan Dagley uncomfortable in some way and that is not easy. “I think there is no doubt their quarterback is the guy that makes everything go. He will run it on you and then he throws it and he has some good receivers out there. He is the guy you have got to control. You are not going to stop him, but you have to control him. Defensively, they have some big, physical kids up front that you are going to have to keep in tack if you are going to be able to move the football. Those have been our emphasis this week,” said Valentine.

Dagley ran for 98 and threw for 194 last week against Firestone. He accounted for four touchdowns.

Valentine says the Wooster game is a nice game to have at the end of the season. “I think that is something that over the years that our kids and their kids have battled and gone back and fourth with wins here and there. That is what really creates a rivalry when you have both teams battling and a certain team gets a win and the other team gets a win. That is the way it has developed over the years,” he said.

Published 10/26/18

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Ashland Must Forget Last Week; Concentrate on West Holmes

Ashland was eliminated from the Ohio Cardinal Conference race last week when they lost a shootout to Lexington, but they still have an outside chance to earn a division two playoff spot.

They need to first beat West Holmes this week.

Lexington recovered a fumble in the end zone in the final moments to compete a come from behind (43-36) win over the Arrows last week, dropping Ashland two games behind Wooster in the “OCC” standings.

Coach Scott Valentine says they made a lot of plays, just not enough. “It was a great high school game. It went back and forth. They got the last play to get themselves a win. Again, our kids gave a great effort. I told them that Saturday. It is just something where sometimes you give great effort, but things don’t work out, so we have to bounce back and get ready for this week,” said Valentine.

Ashland quarterback Mitch Heilman was 23 of 41 for 328 yards on the night. Lexington ran the ball for 346 yards on the night.

Valentine says they can’t be looking in the rearview mirror. “That is what we always say after those tough losses you going to be disappointed, but come Monday it is time to get back to work for the next week and our kids have been pretty good with that. So, we have to get ready for West Holmes,” he said.

Ashland (5-3,2-2) is at West Holmes (6-2,2-2) on Friday night for an “OCC” game. The Knights beat Beloit West Branch (30-8) last week in a non-conference game.

Valentine says West Holmes gives you a lot to prepare for. “They are a good football team. They have a group of kids that are seniors now and have played coming up through together. Offensively they give you a lot of different looks and do a lot of different things,” he told Swankonsports.com on Monday, “The defensively they are pretty sound in everything they do. They play good base defense and zone coverage and just try and take away what you like to do.”

West Holmes has an outstanding quarterback in Bridger Cline, who accounted for three TD’s last week. Valentine says he is a good distributor. “When we talk about our own offense that if we can get it to different people you become a lot tough to defend. That is something he does, he gets it to different people and that is what makes them tough to defend,” he said.

Published 10/16/18

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Ashland Has to Quit Giving the Ball Away

Ashland is in a must win situation when it comes to the Ohio Cardinal Conference on Friday night when they host the Lexington Minutemen at Community Stadium.

They are tied with the Minutemen a game behind the Wooster Generals in the “OCC” standings. They can’t afford to fall two games back.

They suffered their first conference loss last week when Mansfield Senior beat (26-21) them on a late TD pass with less than 30 seconds to play.

For them, Valentine said they just made too many mistakes. “Early on, they had changed some stuff up offensively and they controlled the ball. Offensively we couldn’t get some things going and we turned the ball over three times there in the first half,” he told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday, “So, fortunately in the fourth quarter we got some things going offensively and got ourselves back in the game and gave ourselves a chance to win.”

Ashland rallied with three scores in the fourth quarter to take a (21-19) lead on the Tygers.

Turnovers were also a factor in their other loss to Tiffin Columbian (31-28) on week three. Valentine says they have to quit shooting themselves in the foot. “Turnovers were really things that hurt us in the first half because some of those were down in their territory that could have maybe turned into points. We didn’t get as many turnovers as we had had before. When you take away some of those things and look at them those are things we have to make sure don’t happen this week,” said Valentine.

Ashland (5-2,3-1), #5 in the Swankonsports.com football coaches poll in the large school division, is at home for Lexington (3-4,3-1) in an “OCC” game on Friday night. The Minutemen held on to beat West Holmes (34-33) last week. The Knights missed a field goal at the horn.

Valentine says Lexington has found what it is good at doing. “Well, right now, I think they have some things they like to do personnel wise. Those are things we are going to have to defend against and adapt to some of the things they are doing there. You can just tell right now they are playing good team football. When you are doing that good things happen,” he said.

Cade Stover scored what turned out to be deciding touchdown last week against West Holmes and is a wrecking ball on defense is a senior. Valentine says that is a good thing for the rest of the league. “For us, he got hurt, so he didn’t play against us last year and he was out that week. He is a great player and a guy that us other coaches are going to be happy to see move on. Wishing the best of luck because I think he will have a great career in college, but glad to see go,” said Valentine.

Published 10/11/18

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Ashland Plays Dangerous Mansfield Senior

Ohio Cardinal Conference co-leader Ashland plays at home against Mansfield Senior on Friday night.

Ashland shares first place in the conference with Wooster, the Tygers are coming off a loss to rival Lexington (44-16) last week and have lost their last three gams in a row.

It was a fast start last week for the Arrows as they scored six times in the first half on their way to a (49-0) win Madison. After scoring only once in the first half the previous week against Mt. Vernon, coach Scott Valentine was pleased with the start to the game. “I think that was the big thing that the week before we didn’t finish our drives offensively in the first half,” he told Swankonsports.com on Thursday, “So, it was about us making sure we did that early. We were able to do that and defensively we were able to get a lot of three and outs. A good start was what we wanted to do.”

Since a week three loss to Tiffin Columbian (31-28) the Ashland defense has allowed only three scores and only one by the starting unit. Valentine says their guys are doing a lot of good things on that side of the ball. “We are happy. Our guys are playing fast, running to the ball, we are doing a great job of hitting with our shoulder pads, tackling and getting off blocks to get there. That is something we want to make sure we keep doing,” he said.

Ashland (5-1,2-0), #2 in the Swankonsports.com football coaches poll in the large school division, plays at Community Stadium against Mansfield Senior (2-4,0-2) on Friday night. The Tygers have also lost to West Holmes (35-20) and Maple Heights (38-14) over the last three weeks. They did win in their last visit to Ashland (45-42) two years ago.

Valentine knows they are dangerous. “Like always they are a good football team. They lost some tough ones there. They always have guys that can make plays. For us, those are always concerning things and something we have to make sure we are ready top go out and play four quarters of football,” he said.

Cameron Todd is expected to be the Mansfield Senior quarterback and Valentine says he brings a lot of athleticism to the field. “From our standpoint they do a lot of the same stuff. He is multiple and he can throw the ball. Those are things they were doing before. They could come out and do a few more different things that they might not have done. We see him as dangerous as the guy they have had there,” said Valentine.

Published 10/05/18

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Ashland Wants to Force Madison to Throw

Ashland hits the road to head down US 42 for a matchup with the Madison Rams in Ohio Cardinal Conference play on Friday night.

They broke a (6-6) halftime time with Mt. Vernon last week and went on to blast the Yellow Jackets (42-13) in their conference opener.

Coach Scott Valentine says they were able to make some adjustments. “I think definitely in the second half we got things going. In the first have did a lot of good things we just missed on a couple of opportunities, but I really felt in the second half things kind of came together on both sides of the ball,” he said.

Ashland has won more “OCC” football titles than anyone else and Valentine says you have to take games one at a time. “If you don’t get prepared each week then something is going to happen. This week it is about us getting ready for Madison and making sure we keep getting better as a team because if you are not getting better you are getting worse,” he said.

Ashland (4-1,1-0), #3 in the Swankonsports.com football coaches poll in the large school division, is at Madison (1-4,0-1) this week in “OCC” play. The Rams were whipped last week (68-13) by West Holmes in a league game. They have won only once in the last 20 games.

Valentine says Madison tries to get a lot of guys around the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball. “Defensively it looks like they are going to pack in the box and make you try and execute your offense against them. Defensively, they are going to bring some pressure and go some man coverage at times,” he told Swankonsports.com on Monday, “Offensively, they give you some different formations and they have some guys that run the ball hard and a quarterback that can throw it. So, those are all things that definitely we have to get ready for.”

Madison under new coach Dave Stupka would like to try and run the football and Valentine says a key for their defense is to put them situations where they need to throw. “With them they run a lot of “I” and double tights and doing some things formation wise they definitely seem like they lean towards the run a little bit. If you can get them behind the sticks a little bit or longer down and distances they have to do some things they don’t want to do,” he said.

Published 9/25/18

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Ashland Must Contend with Mt. Vernon Speed

Ashland, the defending co-champion of the Ohio Cardinal Conference, begins defense of that title on Friday night as they host Mt. Vernon at Community Stadium.

After losing on week three to Tiffin Columbian (31-28) the Arrows blasted Oberlin Firelands (48-6) last Friday.

Coach Scott Valentine says they played well in all phases of the game. “I was excited about our kid’s effort and how they came out and were ready to play and bouncing back after the week before. In all three phases of the game I thought we did a good job,” he said.

When you lose a game, Valentine says the most important thing is to handle that mentally and he feels his kids did that last week. “It’s the mental part more than anything. It’s how they are feeling. The confidence is shaken a little bit because they got beat. You have to make sure you do the little things right and that was our focus. I thought our kids did a good job with that,” said Valentine.

Ashland (3-1,0-0), #3 in the Swankonsports.com football coaches poll in the large school division, is at home for Mt. Vernon (2-2,0-1) on Friday night. The Yellow Jackets were waxed (38-0) by Lexington in their conference opener last week.

Valentine says a little surprised by that score and he knows Mt. Vernon will bounce back just like their kids did last week. “They are definitely a good football team. I was shocked when I heard the score, not shocked just kind of surprised because I thought it would be a closer game,” he told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday, “I think Lexington got some big plays on them and things kind of snowballed. There is no doubt that we have to be ready to go and play four quarters of football this week.”

When he looks at Mt. Vernon on tape, Valentine says the Yellow Jackets show a lot of speed on both sides of the ball. “I think they have good overall team speed. I think defensively they run to the football. Offensively they make some big plays with the speed they have. That is something we are going to have to contend with,” he said.

Published 9/20/19

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Ashland Has to Win One on One

Ashland hosts Oberlin Firelands in their final non-conference game of the season on Friday night before beginning defense of their Ohio Cardinal Conference title next week.

The Arrows (2-1), #5 in the first Swankonsports.com football coaches poll in the large school division, lost for the first time last Friday to Tiffin Columbian (31-28) on the road.

Coach Scott Valentine says they made some mistakes that ended up costing them. “It was just one of those things. I give Tiffin a lot of credit. Their kids came out and played hard. A lot of things we hadn’t done over the past few weeks we ended up doing. Those are things that will cost you. I think that is something our kids learn from and hopefully we are ready to move on,” said Valentine.

Tackling is something the Arrows have been working pretty hard on this year and Valentine says they did alright with that, but they did allow some big plays. “Our tackling wasn’t too bad. A couple times we gave up leverage and gave up a play,” he told Swankonsports.com on Tuesday, “Again, their quarterback did nice job. He pulled the ball down and a made a few tough throws and got them in. Again, I give them a lot of credit. We have to get better.”

Firelands (2-1) beat Vermilion, of the Bay Division of the Sandusky Bay Conference, (21-19) last week.

Valentine says the Falcons are an aggressive team that will try and come after them with their defense. “Defensively, they play a lot of man coverage and try and come at you with some blitzes and things like that. Those are things we haven’t seem a lot this year. Offensively, they are similar to what we have seen the last couple of weeks. Again, we have to get better at some of the things we are doing. Special teams also, we have to get better at special teams,” said Valentine.

It will be a matchup between Ashland’s five wide offense and Firelands’ man-to-man coverage. Valentine says they have to win the majority of those contests. “We told our kids just the other day that we are going to win or lose the game by how we handle the one on one matchups that they give us. For us it is going to be making sure we make sharp cuts and get open for our quarterback and give him time to throw it,” he said.

Published 9/12/18

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Ashland Takes on a Better Tiffin Columbian

Ashland, a winner of its first two games, heads for Tiffin to play the Columbian Tornadoes in a non-conference game on Friday night.

The Arrows own wins on week one over Green (28-26) and week two over Clyde (28-21,) making big defensive plays in the final minutes to secure the victories.

Coach Scott Valentine says they are excited by their play, but not satisfied. “There is no doubt getting two wins in the first two football games and playing the people we did we are excited about where we are at, but again you still have a lot of football left to play and you can see a lot of things you still have to get better at, so we just have to keep getting better at things,” said Valentine.

One thing in particular has pleased Valentine this year about his Arrows and that is the way they have tackled the ball carrier. “I think defensively I have really been excited about the way I think we are doing a lot better job this year with the way we are tackling,” he told Swankonsports.com on Monday, “That has been something we have tried to emphasize this year being better tacklers and I think and that is something we have done a nice job with.”

Tiffin Columbian (1-1) endured an (0-10) season last year, but the Tornadoes dominated Elida (35-3) on week before losing to powerful Anthony Wayne (31-14) last week.

Ashland beat them (42-24) a year ago and Valentine says the Tornadoes are vastly improved. “There is no doubt. We got to see them scrimmage and you can tell can tell coach (Judd) Lutz has done a good job up there with their guys and they are definitely a better football team,” he said.

With the players Tiffin Columbian has an edges, Valentine says they have to be able to contain those guys. “Anytime guys are making plays their quarterback does a nice job and they have guys that can catch the ball and run with it. Those are things going into this week that we are concerned about on defense,” he said.

Published 9/04/18

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Ashland Faces Physical Clyde

Ashland and Clyde are two of the dynastic football programs in North Central Ohio and they meet for a non-conference game on Friday night at Community Stadium in Ashland.

It came down to a late score last year when Clyde won (22-19) at their place and it would seem to be the same kind of game this time around.

The Arrows hung on to beat Green (28-26) in a first week game, defending a two point play with less than a minute to play.

Coach Scott Valentine says they made some plays, but they also have some things to work on. “As we went back through the video we saw a lot of good things, so that is a positive, but there are still a lot of those little things you have to get better at. That is what we have been working on this week,” said Valentine.

It can be a trap for teams that win on week one, Valentine says they have to understand that they still have to improve. “I told our kids on Monday that half of teams in the state lost that first week, but it is not what you did the first week it is where you end up at the end of the season. So, there are a lot of things you try and get better at. I think our kids understand that,” he said.

Clyde (1-0) got a field goal at the horn to beat Toledo Start (27-24) last Friday.

Valentine describes them as a physical team who has left the spread for a little more of the wing-T offense. “They are a normal Clyde team. They are big and they are physical,” he told Swankonsports.com Wednesday, “This year they have kind of changed offensively into more of a wing-T style offense to use some of that size and strength. Defensively, they are doing a lot of the same stuff up front. They are well coached, so it will be one of those games where we are going to have to go out and earn everything we get.”

When facing the wing-T you have to watch out for fakes and Valentine says they need to be true to their keys when facing the Fliers. “That is the thing we have emphasized this week. You have to trust your reads and get your eyes in the right place. Hopefully, we can do that on Friday night,” he said.

Published 8/30/18

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Ashland Must be Patient

Ashland plays at Green on Friday night as both schools open the high school football season in non-conference play.

The Arrows are one of the favorites to take the Ohio Cardinal Conference title, which is something that seems to be the case almost every year.

Coach Scott Valentine says they are used to those expectations. “We always tell our guys it is not something you are given it is something you have to earn on the field. We try to emphasize that and I think our kids have taken it to heart you have to start each year and each year is a new year and different. We will find out where we are at and things like that as we get into the season,” he said.

Valentine says there was improvement during camp, but you are always a little concerned about hose kids that have never been under the Friday night lights. “Overall I thought we improved every day that we got on the practice field. We always talk about you never stay the same. So, I thought we improved on a weekly basis and in between scrimmages. We saw some improvement this week going into the first game, but still that first game you never know how kids are going to handle it, especially guys that haven’t been out there in a starting role, so that is something we will find out as we get into the game,” said Valentine.

Green is a big school in the Akron area and Valentine says they can do a lot of different things on both sides of the ball. “They are a multiple front defense. They are in a three man front and a four man front. They like to play a cover four and not give up big plays. So, from our standpoint we are going to have to be patient and have to move the ball down the field,” he told Swankonsports.com on Thursday, “Then offensively they are multiple also. They have kind of a scatback who is quick and runs hard, but is smaller. The they have a big, bruiser type back that they will use in certain situations. That is something that is concerning tackling wise because you have to make sure you tackle both of them and they are a little different. Then their quarterback throws a nice ball and scrambles a little bit, so he is a guy you are going to have to contain also.”

Patience on offense is going to be a key for the Arrows. Valentine, says they have to take what is given to them. “We always talk about that there are certain things that defenses are going to try and take away. You first have to attack where they are not whether it is running the ball or throwing the ball. As you progress they have to make adjustments and you take what they are giving you at those times,” he said.

Published 8/24/18

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Ashland Looks Good

Ashland has won more Ohio Cardinal Conference football titles than anyone and they hope to be able to put themselves in position to do that again this fall.

Veteran coach Scott Valentine says they are making the improvement he wants to see with the opener next Friday against Green just around the corner. “Well, I think it is always important as you think about where your team starts and your goals and each section. We kind of divide things between scrimmages. I think right now we are progressing,” he told Swankonsports.com on Tuesday, “We still have a ways to go, but we are starting to see some of things we want to see from our group.”

Tackling, obviously, is a big part of the game of football and Valentine says right now his kids are doing a pretty good job of getting ball carriers to the ground. “I think on the defensive side of the ball I think we are doing a much better job this year of tackling. That was something as the year went on we got better at last year, but I didn’t think we started out the way we needed to. I like the way we are starting to tackle on defense. We can still get better. That is something I think has really improved for us,” said Valentine.

In the next week the Arrows need to continue to refine some things. Valentine says a lot that has to with the fundamentals and being able to repeat things play after play. “I think going into the first game it’s about consistency of doing assignments right and finishing blocks and getting off and reading keys. All of those little things that can make a difference. Our consistency on both sides of the ball and our execution,” he said.

Published 8/15/18

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Ashland Getting Ready for Another Season

Ashland shared in the Ohio Cardinal Conference football title last season and they have won more of those than any other school.

However, another season is underway. Veteran coach Scott Valentine says they have been pretty pleased with what they have seen, but it is very early in camp. “Like always at this time of year we haven’t hit anybody and that is a big part of the game being able to tackle people and block people and so until we are able to do that that is one of the things that we will have to wait and see,” he told Swankonsports.com on Thursday, “I have liked the way we worked through the summer as far as lifting wise and getting stronger and faster. With how we have used our camp days I am happy with how we are progressing.”

The OHSAA has rules on what you can do and when you can’t do it as far as wearing pads and hitting and how much hitting. Valentine says they want to break down their preparation into segments if you will. “We break our year up into in different segments because of how things are. If you try and do too many things early then you lose some of that. So, we kind of balance that out as we go through the summer,” he said.

Valentine says they have a lot of upperclassmen this year, but not necessarily kids with a boatload of experience at the varsity level. “It is going to be a younger bunch experience wise with guys that didn’t get a lot of playing time last year, but we feel we have kids that this is their opportunity like always of taking advantage of being able to play, so that is what we are looking forward to,” said Valentine.

This is not uncommon for the Arrows because they typically have a lot of seniors that stay with the program and play a lot. Valentine says every year it a time for different players to step up. “We try to stress that that whenever your opportunity comes make sure you are ready for it and I think that is something our kids have really taken heart to,” he said.

Published 8/03/18

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Ashland Beats Mt. Vernon in “OCC” Play

Ashland got past Mt. Vernon 5-3 in Ohio Cardinal Conference action on Monday afternoon.

That avenges a 5-2 loss to Yellow Jackets, the defending “OCC” champions, last Wednesday.

First year Ashland varsity coach Rick Gough knows any win against Mt. Vernon in a quality win. “Coach Gross does a great job down at Mt. Vernon and it is a quality program and anytime you can get a win over a quality program you are happy,” he said.

Brycen Light went to distance for the Arrows on Monday night and Gough says did a solid job of keeping Mt. Vernon off the bases. “Hats off to Brycen Light. He threw a complete game. Six strikeouts, no walks,” he told Swankonsports.com after the game, “I am not sure how many hits he gave up. He pitched his way out of jams and did an excellent job.”

Light was efficient on Monday and Gough says he kept the Yellow Jackets from getting a big inning. “I think a key (Monday) night was in six of the seven innings we kept the leadoff batter off the bases and that helped tremendously with our pitch count and we were able to play defense. We did make a couple of mistakes, but we were able to overcome those,” said Gough.

Ashland has a busy schedule the rest of this week. They play Medina, Mansfield Senior, Massillon and a doubleheader against Clyde on Saturday. Gough hopes they can get some consistency going. “Right now, we are playing Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and two on Saturday. I hope we get those games in,” he said.

Published 4/24/18

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Ashland Hammers Wooster

Ashland battled back from a loss Tuesday night to Wooster to blast the Generals (20-3) in an Ohio Cardinal Conference baseball game on Wednesday evening.

Coach Rick Gough says they didn’t play very well in an (8-5) loss on Tuesday and he was very pleased they were able to turn it around. “It was a great bounce back game for us. I didn’t feel we played our best ball on Tuesday and I was really happy that we bounced back (Wednesday) night and got the win,” he said.

Obviously, the Arrows (2-1,2-1) swung the bats very well on Wednesday at home. Gough says thy made some changes and that seemed to work pretty well. “I tweaked the lineup a little bit and the kids responded. I have one stat that says we had 16 hits and one stat that says we had 18 hits and you are not going to do that on a nightly basis, but it worked out well (Wednesday) night,” he said.

Ashland is scheduled to play Norwalk in a doubleheader on Saturday if the thunderstorms stay away and then Mansfield Senior on Monday and Mt. Vernon on Tuesday and Wednesday in “OCC” games.

Gough says he hopes they can take the confidence from Wednesday into this next stretch of games. “I think the fact that we have only played three games. We played our first game against Madison and did well. Then we had a week layoff where we were basically in the gym,” he told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday night, “We played on Tuesday and were kind of feeling are way around I believe. So, I think we made a pretty significant improvement (Wednesday) night. Now, will we do that going forward? That is hard to say, but (Wednesday) night we will enjoy it.”

Published 4/12/18

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Ashland to Field Young Team

Ashland is going to start the season very young this spring and their improvement is going to tell the difference between wins and losses for the Arrows baseball team.

Rick Gough, in his first year as the Arrows head coach, says they are going to have a number of kids that will be putting on a varsity uniform for the first time. “My players have worked hard and the coaching staff has worked hard. We have primarily a young team. We have got nine kids that will be seeing their first varsity action. So, it has been kind of a learning experience for this first year,” said Gough

There has not been a time out on the field either for this young team, according to Gough. “We have been able to be up on the turf a couple of times. At this point we have one scrimmage in,” he told Swankonsports.com on Tuesday, “I think as our team goes I think we will get better as the season goes. It is going to be a learning experience for a lot of them.”

Improvement can happen quickly in baseball because you play so many games in a short period of time, but Gough says it all relates to pitching. “It just depends on how much pitching you have. If you have enough pitchers to get you through then it is a good experience,” he said.

Pitching, well it is going to be young too, Gough says they only have on player back with any real experience. “We have seven or eight kids that can pitch for us. Coming back from last year we have Bryson Light that has two wins, so that’s all that we have in the bank. So, the other six pitchers are going to be on the mound for the first time. We will have to see how that goes,” said Gough.

Published 3/21/18

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Ashland Still Playing Hard

Ashland has not had as many wins as they were hoping for this season, but they have not quit playing hard.

They have three games this week as they host Massillon Perry on Tuesday in a non-conference game, travel to West Holmes for an “OCC” game on Friday night and to Norwalk for another non-league game on Saturday night.

They also played three games last week over five days and coach Jason Hess says that can become tiresome. “We just had one last week. Back to back three game weeks is kind of grueling. At this time of the year there is a lot of just fatigue and wearing down. It has been a long year. A team like us that really doesn’t have a lot of depth. We have not had a lot of good fortune this year. We have not played one single game with a full healthy roster. We have always had one guy out in one part of the season or the other with one thing or another. We have been a little bit short handed. We really have done a nice job with focus and putting out effort, but does take a toll on you,” said Hess.

The Ashland coach says that Perry is sort of the line them in a lot of ways. For one thing they play a tough schedule. “They have a really good point guard that does a lot for them. He really controls the tempo of the game. They are a younger team though, they play a couple of sophomores and a freshman. They are not a real deep team either, but they play good competition, they same as we do, with the Federal League. They are playing the Jacksons and the Hoovers and the McKinleys. Their schedule is no cakewalk. Record wise they don’t have as good a record as some of the teams we have played earlier, but yet they have definitely played a challenging schedule and they are a younger team and they have gotten better as the season has progressed,” he said.

Ashland (2-17,1-10) plays at West Holmes (5-13,1-9) in Ohio Cardinal Conference play.

Hess says he is proud of how his players are working to get better this deep into a season that has been short on wins. “We have talked to our guys all year about effort and energy and we have gotten better at it. Even though we have had some letdowns most games a couple minutes here and a couple minutes there we have had some lapses, but our effort and our energy has been pretty good lately. Give our kids a lot of credit I had a coach tell me last week that they were impressed with how hard our kids play considering our record.” He told Swankonsports.com on Monday, “At this point in the season and the record we have it is easy to hang your head and pout and feel sorry for yourself or get ready for baseball or track or whatever is coming next, but our kids haven’t done that. Give our kids a lot of credit for hanging in there and having a good attitude about themselves and being a positive group of guys to be around.”

Published 2/13/18

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Ashland With Three More Tough Ones

Ashland has played as tough a regular season schedule as about anyone in North Central Ohio and that continues this week as they are home for “OCC” leader Mt. Vernon on Tuesday and at Mansfield Senior on Friday, and oh yeah, at unbeaten Mansfield St. Peter’s on Saturday.

One good thing is, the Arrows have tended to play their best against good teams.

Coach Jason Hess says they have been far too inconsistent though. “We have talked about that as a staff. We play to the level of our competition to a certain extent. We can’t quite put a finger on it. We just have really struggled with consistency this year as a whole and individually during games,” he said.

Mt. Vernon (13-5,8-2), #1 in the Swankonsports.com boys’ basketball coaches poll in the large school division, is coming off wins last week over Lexington (67-57) and West Holmes (52-46) in league play.

Hess says they are playing with a lot of confidence right now. “They are playing eight seniors along with a couple of other underclassmen. They brought several talented players back from last year. They got a lot of experience last year. They were a team that finished in the top half of the conference a year ago. They kind of went under the radar a year ago, but they did have some big wins,” he told Swankonsports.com on Monday, “They really competed, especially late in the season. They are playing really well right now. They have won 10 out of their last 11. They are definitely playing with a lot of confidence and they are peaking at the right time.”

Hess says the Yellow Jackets will be patient and they play smart too. “They can score in multiple ways. They can score inside and they also shoot the ball exceptionally well. I think the key is try and disrupt them, but that is a lot easier said than done. They do a good job controlling the tempo of the game. They run their offense and they don’t take bad shots. They don’t beat themselves and that is very unusual for a high school basketball team,” he said.

Ashland (2-14,1-8) has one win in the league so far and that was in overtime (65-55) against Mansfield Senior on January 9.

However, Hess knows the assignment on the road on Friday night is going to be tougher. “Mansfield, especially this year, number one is take care of the basketball. They are not a team that is prolific offensively. They have had their offensive struggles as well. When you turn the ball over and it allows them to get easy baskets it makes them a lot more dangerous. The second thing you have to do is you have to rebound. Those are two things we did a decent job of the first time around and we were able to come out on top. I know going over to Pete Henry is a different story than us playing at home,” said Hess.

Published 2/06/18

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Ashland Building Toward the End

Ashland is still finding it hard to win games, but its execution has started to be a lot better.

They play at Lexington is an Ohio Cardinal Conference game on Friday night.

Over the last week, the Arrows beat Orrville (56-47) and lost close games to West Holmes (64-63) and Massillon (61-59) on Tuesday.

Coach Jason Hess says they were able to take those games down to the final plays. “We did pick up the win at Orrville, which was nice, a little boost for our guys. Saturday was one of those games when we didn’t play our best and had a couple of spells defensively where we kind of were noncommitted I would say. I didn’t feel like the effort was really strong defensively for stretches of the game, but yet we made a lot of plays down the stretch and had a one-point lead with 2.1 seconds left, however, the ball didn’t bounce our way and West Holmes was able to make a shot at the buzzer and get the victory. I liked the way our kids executed down the stretch. It was a similar situation Tuesday night. I thought we did a nice job with Massillon. I thought Tuesday might have been our best overall game of the season, however, they had the ball last and hit a shot with two seconds left. That is the way the game goes. Unfortunately for us we have nothing to show for our effort Tuesday, but I thought we really play a nice ballgame,” said Hess.

The wins might not be as plentiful as they, but Hess likes what he sees in terms of execution, especially when it comes to ballhandling. “We have shown great improvement, especially recently, again I thought Tuesday was our best overall game of the year. Offensively, we executed really well against a tough Massillon team. We are right there battling back and forth. It was a good game basketball wise with lots of lead changes. It was clean basketball with very few turnovers, so that is another area that we have really improved this year. I know early on in a couple of games we had 25 plus turnovers. Tuesday night with Massillon we had seven and that is a team that pressures, is athletic, and is all over the floor,” he told Swankonsports.com on Thursday, “We have got a lot of things that we have to be proud about and the improvement that was have made, but we aren’t getting victories just yet. There is still a lot of basketball yet to play. The kids have been tremendous attitude wise and continuing to work to get better each day. Good things are still ahead of us I think.”

Ashland (2-13,1-7) plays at Lexington (12-5,5-3) on Friday night. The Minutemen fell out of a share of the “OCC” lead with a (67-57) loss at Mt. Vernon on Tuesday night.

Hess says Lexington makes you execute on offense in order to score. “They are very good at half court defense and making those games just grind them out games. There are no easy points. I think points are definitely going to be at a premium and it is one of those things we have kind of been emphasizing the last few weeks is taking care of the basketball. I think our kids are starting to realize, especially with the two tough losses here lately that every possession matters, even if it is a first quarter possession, it may not get quite the attention that the last minute of the game possessions get, but in two point basketball games or one point basketball games every possession matters, every free throw matters and we are starting to realize how important each of those are,” he said.

Published 2/02/18

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Ashland Looking for Offense

Ashland has only one win this season, although it comes against “OCC” leader Mansfield Senior, and they continue to struggle to score of the ball consistently.

They lost “OCC” games to Wooster (73-54) and Mansfield Madison (60-50) last week and also lost Perrysburg (67-45) in a non-conference game on Saturday.

Coach Jason Hess says he saw some good things last week, but not enough. “It seems a little bit like we are moving forward in right direction and there is a little of digression last week with the way the results were. The big picture results weren’t where we want them to be, but there were still lots of bright spots in those games. At times I thought we played pretty well, especially Saturday up at Perrysburg we did a lot of good things in some stretches there in the third quarter we just couldn’t find the basket. It is hard to stay in the game against good teams like that when you are struggling to score,” said Hess.

Ashland (1-11) plays at Orrville (5-8) in a non conference game on Friday night. Orrville lost to CVCA (39-17) in the “PAC” on Tuesday night. Hess says the Red Riders are versatile. “They are similar to us. I feel like they are playing some younger guys. They are playing a couple of sophomores and freshmen and they are a little more inexperienced than some of the teams we have been playing lately that are more senior laden teams. They are good athletes that really get out and pressure you defensively. They are almost two teams within one. They have one wave of guys that are bigger guys. They have some big bodies. They have a 6’8” sophomore and some other guys that can sore in the post. They have about three or four other guys that are smaller guards that are ball hawks that just pressure the ball all over the court, all over the place. So, it is kind of a situation where they can play a couple of different styles. They’ve have good depth. They run a lot of kids in and out and have a lot of kids contributing for them.”

They host West Holmes (4-8,0-6) in a make up game in the Ohio Cardinal Conference on Saturday night. Hess says the Knights are not as bad as that record night indicate. “They can do some things. I thought they got off to a pretty good start this year, but then they got in the league and they hit kind of a little bit of a lull. Although, last Friday they played Mansfield and it was a single digit game, so it was definitely a tough one. Later on in the year when we go to West Holmes, playing down there is very difficult. Coach Troyer does a nice job. His kids always play hard. They have gotten better. I think they are in a similar situation to us in that they are getting better each week and doing some good things, but it is not always translating into wins,” he said.

Published 1/24/18

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Ashland Finding Some Things

Ashland picked up its first win of the season last week against talented Mansfield Senior and now they are starting to understand things a little more.

The Arrows play at Wooster on Tuesday night in an Ohio Cardinal Conference as they start to play league teams they have played once this season.

Last Tuesday, the Arrows (1-8,1-4) beat Mansfield Senior (65-55) in overtime.

Coach Jason Hess says it was as much about effort as it was anything else for his ballclub. “I think the big things last week was our kids really just bought into playing hard for the whole game. We have been talking that we need to have a four quarter effort instead of just two or three quarters and it actually took about four and half quarters to get it done last Tuesday. I give our kids a lot of credit because Mansfield made a big shot at the buzzer to send the game into overtime and our kids never got down on themselves, they never hung their heads, they just came right out in overtime and put the throttle down and just pulled away then for the win in overtime,” said Hess.

Hess adds there is no question they have the kind of talent to win games and hopefully the can build on what they did last week. “There is a lot of ability on this team and a lot of natural athleticism and talent. It is an exciting and fun group to coach it is just a matter of trying to put things together. We have continued to get better each day and each week. Hopefully, now we are getting close to the halfway point in season we will start compiling some wins and at the end of the year be playing our best basketball when tournament time comes around,” said Hess.

Ashland is at Wooster (7-4,4-2,) a game behind co-leaders in Mansfield Senior and Lexington in the “OCC” standings. They lost to Lexington (53-46) last Tuesday. They beat Ashland (54-48) the first time they played on December 8 at Arrow Arena.

If they are going to win Tuesday, Hess says they can’t have the high number of turnovers they have had in some games this year. “Not only the effort, but I think the big thing for us is taking care of the basketball. We have had a tendency to be a little turnover prone a couple of times this year. Our turnovers have been a little higher than we like them and those are opportunities that lead to easy baskets for the other team and also cut ourselves out of some scoring chances,” he said.

Ashland does not have as many wins as they would like to have, but Hess says this can be a much better second half of the season if they can be a little more consistent. “We have some kids that are really coming in and finding their own. Some of our juniors are really starting to step up here and be a little more consistent with their effort and learning how to play at this level and new roles that they are in this year. Unfortunately, it has taken a little longer than we were hoping at the beginning of the year,” he told Swankonsports.com on Monday, “Part of that has to do with the schedule and some tough opponents that we had early on, but I think that has also helped to prepare us as we go down the stretch. There is a lot of basketball left here to play over the next six weeks to two months. If we keep getting better each day we will be a pretty dangerous team when February and March rolls around.”

Published 1/16/18

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Ashland Has to Keep Senior High off Boards

Ashland has had some success against Mansfield Senior in recent years. They will go after their first win of the season when they host the Tygers on Tuesday night in an Ohio Cardinal Conference game.

They lost (60-40) to Mt. Vernon in an “OCC” game last Friday and traveled to Toledo and suffered a (74-52) loss to Toledo Whitmer on Saturday night.

Coach Jason Hess says they just aren’t getting enough of those 50/50 balls and they have to get more them if they are going to start winning games. “No matter what the record is you just want to keep getting better and keep improving and playing your best basketball at the end of the year. I think one thing that we have king of focused in on here the last week or so is to be a little more consistent with our effort. We have kind of challenged our guys that they have a little more in the tank and they need to give it for their teammates and put a little more on the floor,” he told Swankonsports.com on Monday, “There are times during games that we are not quite making those effort plays, getting the 50/50 balls, getting offensive rebounds, we give up an offensive rebound. Little things like that, as opposed to x’s and o’s things, are some areas that we have been trying to improve here the last week or so.”

Ashland (0-8,0-4) hosts Mansfield Senior (6-2,4-0), #1 in the Swankonsports.com boys’ basketball coaches poll in the large school division, on Tuesday night in “OCC” game. The Tygers did not play a league game last week. They lost to Lima Senior (54-47) last Saturday, that broke a six game winning streak. They are the “OCC” leaders by a game over Lexington and Wooster, who play each other Tuesday.

Hess says this is a Tyger team that gives great effort, plays aggressive defense and gets on the offensive glass. “Well, the one thing that jumps out when I watch them on film and see them is the defensive intensity they play with. They really get after it and make it hard for opponents to score. They make the games a grind. There is never a time when you can take a break. They are up in your shorts from start to finish. They just really get after it and they compete, and they play hard. They do a great job of offensive rebounding. They are not a team that shoots the ball extremely well from the perimeter, but because of their defensive pressure and because of the way they crash the offensive glass they give themselves a lot of extra opportunities to score,” said Hess.

If they are going to beat Mansfield Senior, something they have done in each of the last three seasons, Hess says they need to make the Tygers uncomfortable on offense. “When you let a team like this drive it to the basket and crash the glass and bully you a little bit they get momentum and they get energized from that and that makes it a long night,” he said.

Published 1/09/18

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Tempo Key in Ashland-Mt. Vernon Game

Ashland plays at Mt. Vernon in an Ohio Cardinal Conference game on Friday night. The Arrows are trying to find a way to get into the win column.

They play at Toledo Whitmer in a non-conference game on Saturday night.

Last Thursday, they fell to Lexington (63-48) in an “OCC” game.

Coach Jason Hess believes this team is still very capable. “Obviously, for us we just focus on getting better each day rather if it is a practice or game situation. Just continuing to grow as a team and also individually with what we want to do as far as basketball goes, but unfortunately that doesn’t always turn into wins on game night. At the same time, it is a long season and it is about getting better each day and play your best basketball at the end of the season. I think when you look at our schedule we haven’t had a lot of easy ones and there are not a lot of easy ones on the schedule. So, I don’t know if it is fair to our kids necessarily to judge this team quite yet based on wins and losses, but I also know that is part of the game and part of what high school sports are all about,” said Hess.

Ashland (0-6,0-3) plays at Mt. Vernon (5-4,2-2) in an “OCC” game on Friday. The Yellow Jackets dominated West Holmes (73-39) last Friday and added a win over Delaware Hayes (65-52) on Saturday.

Hess says they want to be deliberate and they are very good shooters when they are open. “They are a team early on at the beginning the year I really expected them to be at the top of the conference standings with as many seniors that they have. They have a lot of experience over there. They are a team that plays a very deliberate style and it is not something a lot of teams in our league play. It is one of those things that when Mt. Vernon is able to dictate the tempo they are very tough to beat. They can be very frustrating for their opponents when they play that type of game. It slows the pace down a little bit and gets other teams out of rhythm,” he said.

Hess says the key for the Arrows is to push the pace, but be selective in their shot selection. “With the way we are built and the way we have played for years is we like to play fast. We like to get our and go in transition. We have to be smart and make good decisions in transition. Just because we are playing fast doesn’t mean we have to shoot a quick shot. We can push it if we have a layup or a wide open shot that we can’t miss the kid has to have to the confidence to step it up and knock it down,” he told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday, “It is one of those things that getting impatient offensively is because we have been playing defense for a long stretch. That really goes back into that is the way they want us to play. It is almost counterproductive the mind set of trying to speed them up by pushing.”

Published 1/04/18

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Ashland Still Looking for that First Win

If you count just the second half the Ashland Arrows would be one of the better teams in the area, but unfortunately for the Arrows the points are added up over the whole 32 minutes.

Ashland has had a lot of inconsistency this year and that has paved the way to an (0-5) record so far over the first part of the season.

They lost (65-58) to Shelby last Saturday at a holiday tournament at Ontario High School.

Coach Jason Hess says they just couldn’t get anything going early in the game and got too far behind, something they have done before. “Saturday, we really got off to a bad start. We were really lackluster in the first half and dug ourselves a deep hole, down 18 points at one point there in the second quarter. Give our kids a lot of credit that we just didn’t hang their heads and leave with our tail between our legs. We came out fighting in the second half. We had it to a two point ballgame with about a minute and half left. We had a chance to tie it up, but we missed a pretty good look at it. That is the way it goes when you get behind early it is hard to dig it out of those holes sometimes,” said Hess.

They host Lexington (4-2,1-1) in the Ohio Cardinal Conference action on Thursday night and Hess says a win is real important for them because things are getting tough mentally for the kids. “I have said to just people around that are kids are figuring it out slowly, but the longer it takes the harder it gets. There are a lot of things mentally that start wearing on you when you can’t notch something in that win column. Part of it is we have played some pretty good competition,” he told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday, “I will put our schedule against anyone’s in the area with the teams we have played thus far. Moral victories and feel good wins don’t count for “W’s” so we have to start making some corrections on the court to get us over the hump.”

Lexington beat Madison (54-46) in a conference game last Friday and then beat Norwalk (56-48) on Saturday.

Hess says the first thing you have to concern yourself with is how to contain junior post Cade Stover and that is a difficult task. “Well, when you look at Lexington the one things that jumps out at you is how physical they play and how hard they play and that starts inside with Cade Stover. He has got to be a fifth years senior it seems as long as he has been around, but I am pretty sure he has another year left after this one. He really demands a lot of attention when you are putting things together to get ready to play Lexington. They have some shooters that can knock down shots around him. When they are shooting the ball well they are tough to guard,” said Hess.

Published 12/28/17

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Ashland Working on Getting Better

Ashland is still looking to get over the final hurdles that would lead to a win and their next chance is Saturday against Ashland in a holiday tournament at Ontario High School.

Coach Jason Hess says they have been doing some things better, but that improvement hasn’t been enough to win games. “There is a reason we practice four or five times a week and we only play two games. That’s the way you get better is grinding it out in practice and you find out about your ball team and where you are at when the lights are on on Friday or Saturday. The time to get better is through the week. I give our kids a lot of credit that they are coming and working hard even though we haven’t tasted success yet as far as victories go. We have seen improvement each week and we are getting there,” he told Swankonsports.com on Thursday, “When we break through I do think these guys can continue to improve and get better and there are going to be a lot of victories and success in our future if we can continue to stay the course and just trust each other and continue to work and get better each day.”

Hess says they have addressed some offensive issues, but at times they still have some concerns with defensive intensity. “Early on we had some trouble with turnovers and some shot selection that in the end are almost like turnovers. We weren’t running any offense and we weren’t getting anything out of it. I thought we got a lot better with that last Saturday against Toledo Start. We executed offensively and got a lot of good shots in a game that we were tied and had the lead there in the fourth quarter. So, that was really encouraging to see that kind of sinking in with our guys. I think we are still lacking a little bit of defensive intensity at times. We get a little stagnate on defense and a little sluggish and not quite as aggressive guarding the basketball as I would like to see at this point. We have improved in that area, but the problem is sometimes in the heat of the moment we have the tendency to revert back to some bad habits instead of the new tendencies that we are developing,” said Hess.

Shelby (3-1), #1 in the Swankonsports.com boys’ basketball coaches poll in the large school division, has looked very good so far this year. They were upset by Clyde (64-54) on Thursday night in a Lake Division game in the Sandusky Bay Conference.

Hess says they are bigger and more of a threat inside. “They have always been a good program and coach Schwemley has done a tremendous job and the one thing that has always impressed me about them is how hard they play. In the past we have had a little bit of an advantage and been able to win some close basketball games and part of that has been our size and our ability to go inside and score consistently. This year Shelby, in addition to their effort and their three point shooting that they have been known for, they have a little more height and a little more size, which makes them a very dangerous basketball team,” he said.

Published 12/22/17

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Ashland Must Value the Ball More

Ashland has been close to beating two good teams this year, but close only counts in slow dancing and hand grenades and certainly not in basketball.

They play at Mansfield Madison in an Ohio Cardinal Conference game on Friday and host Toledo Start in non-conference play on Saturday.

It was a (54-48) setback to defending “OCC” champion Wooster last week.

Coach Jason Hess says they have to grow up. “It is a young season. It is a lot of guys in different positions and a lot of inexperience on our ballclub. It is part of growing up and learning. Hopefully, we take a little bit from each game and get better for the next one. We practice four days a week or five days a week and we scrimmage and we do all of this, but there is no substitution for turning the lights on Friday night and putting the kids out there in a real pressure situation,” he told Swankonsports.com on Tuesday, “It forces them to grow up and understand what they can do and what they can’t do at this level. So, hopefully we are able to learn from it and take some positives from these two close games even though we came up a little short and make some positive strides moving forward.”

When it comes to getting better, Hess says ballhandling and shot selection come to mind first. “The big thing that jumps out at us is to value the basketball on offense. I am not talking necessarily turnovers, although Friday night the turnover bug bit us pretty hard, but even our shot selection and our offensive possessions. We are little loose and casual with the basketball. Sometimes we are getting shots up, but they are not the shots we want in that particular situation. It just comes from growing up and understanding the game and understanding your teammates and trust in your teammates to make the next pass and the right play. We are getting there in bits and pieces, but it is not quite there yet,” said Hess.

Madison (1-2,0-1) lost in overtime to Mt. Vernon (55-51) in league play last Friday and won its first game (75-51) over Norwalk in a non-league game on Saturday.

Hess says the Rams are explosive on offense. “I was fortunate to see them play Saturday night against Norwalk. They were really impressive with the way put points on the board and shot the basketball from the perimeter. I think they have that type of team that can put 45 to 50 points up in a half. So, it is going to be a big challenge for us. We are definitely going to have to come ready to play and see some significant improvement from where we were the last two weeks,” he said.

When it comes to the pace of the game, Hess believes the Rams like to run the floor, but they are selective. “I have seen them play both ways. They kind of pick and choose. I don’t think they are necessarily pedal to the metal full throttle all of the time, but they will run when the opportunity is there. They are very aggressive and they have some good basketball players that do a nice job of creating for teammates and setting other guys up for easy shots,” he said.

Published 12/13/17

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Ashland has to Rebound, Shoot Better

Ashland lost to a very good Sandusky team last week and they play another on Friday night when they host defending Ohio Cardinal Conference champion Wooster in the league opener.

Sandusky beat Ashland (65-54) last week. Sandusky took a quick lead, but the Arrows cut it to three in the fourth quarter.

Coach Jason Hess says they want to get back on the court and prove they are better. “We just unfortunately got in a little hole at the beginning of the game and came up a little short on the scoreboard. I think our kids have really responded well this week in making the improvements that we have emphasized in practice and we are excited to get back out there. It seems like in basketball is a little different than football where they are used to one game a week stuff,” he told Swankonsports.com on Thursday, “In basketball we tend to like to play a little more often that way it keeps your memory short as far as what happened the last game. Having a week off here between games this early in the season it gives us some good practice time to get better, but we are still very anxious to get out there and play again.”

If they are going to beat a team like Wooster, Hess says they have to get on the defensive boards and execute their offense better. “The two big areas I think are against Wooster is one defensive rebounding and the second one is just offensive execution. Wooster is a team that plays very hard and they are very aggressive in the offensive glass. So, we have to make sure we establish a physical presence when shots go up and we can go rebound their misses. Just handle their pressure and execute offensively a little bit better to try and get a little bit better shots then we got last week. I feel our kids are very capable of making shots and we arehttp://www.swankonsportshosting247.com/ better shooters than we shot last week,” said Hess.

Wooster, having lost most of its offense to graduation, stepped up and played very well in beating Massillon and Massillon Perry last week.

Hess says the Generals are playing a lot like they did last year when they won 20 games. He says they take you out of your comfort zone. “They are a team that plays with a lot of confidence. They play hard and they really, really get after it and guard the paint and guard the ball well and can shoot perimeter shots and can kind of disrupt teams with how hard they play defense and get them out of rhythm,” he said.

Published 12/08/17

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Ashland Asking Players to do Different Things

Ashland was one of the top teams in the area last season and they are hoping they can be there again.

They play Sandusky in an interesting non-conference game on Friday night.

Coach Jason Hess says they have some guys back from last year, but they are going to be asking them to fill different roles. “This year we are excited about the group of kids we have got. We have a few returners from last year’s team that had a good year. We have guys that were with us last year that we are expecting a lot from them this year. They were more role players last year. This year they will still be role players it is just going to be a bigger role,” he told Swankonsports.com on Monday, “We are going to be asking a lot of our seniors and captains this year to really carry the load, especially early while are newcomers are kind of getting their feet wet at the varsity level and getting caught up with the pace of play. Even though we do all these summer leagues and open gyms and workout stuff we do there is no substitute for game action. It is going to be a little bit of a learning curve here for this opening weekend until we get everybody acclimated to varsity action.”

Hess says there will be a learning curve for some of the players as they adapt to doing some different things and it is going to take a real game to figure out if they are good at it. “Typically you rely on your returners to bring you some experience and leadership, however they also have to adjust and evolve to understand that last year they may have been more of a defensive player or a spot shooter and now we are putting them in a role where they are a primary ball handler or we are asking them to do a little more rebounding or to be a playmaker because guys we leaned on heavily last year to do some of those things are not there anymore. It is a big learning curve year to year. We have scrimmages and stuff, but like I said there is no substitute for in game action. I know we are excited to play Sandusky and turn the lights on and put the uniforms on Friday night in front of a home crowd. It will be all about how we adjust and react to that in game situation for the first time when the adrenalin is really pumping for the first time and how we can handle it,” said Hess.

Sandusky is the defending division two district winner, but Ashland beat them last year by one. Hess says it will take a very good effort to win. “It is a good test they are a well coached team. They are a very athletic bunch. They do have a couple of scorers, they are a little more balanced then maybe they were last year when they were leaning heavily on Jayreese Williams. This year’s team from what I have seen and heard I think is a little more balanced. They do have some good size and some good athletes and it is going to be a good test for us. Last year we were able to pass that test on opening night. Hopefully this year we can find a way to play a little bit of defense and really make things tough for them and hopefully some shots fall for us,” said Hess.

Published 11/28/17

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Ashland Has to Take What’s Available

The fourth quarter last week was not the time for patience really, but Friday night they will likely need a lot of it.

The Ashland Arrows (9-2) rallied for three scores down in the fourth quarter to beat Columbus Mifflin (48-47) in overtime to advance to a division two regional semifinal on Friday night against Massillon Washington at Wooster’s Folis Field.

Coach Scott Valentine says he was awfully proud of what the Arrows did last week when the chips were down. “Sometimes things aren’t going your way. We got a quick score and then our defense got a quick stop and we were able to get some momentum and get going and finish the game off. I am really excited how our kids responded there,” he said.

It was actually Ashland’s first win in a playoff game since 2010.

Valentine compares last week to a come from behind win over Warren Howland in 2009. “We tried to compare a couple of those. One year Warren Howland with Marcus Fuller we scored three times in the last four, five minutes to win that one. It was definitely right up there. When you are around it a long time you see a lot of different things,” said Valentine.

There are very few high schools with more tradition in football than Massillon. Although, they have not won a state title since the playoff system started in the early 70’s. However, I think they still give footballs to parents of newborns at the local hospital.

The Tigers (8-3) beat Youngstown Boardman (28-23) in the first playoff game. They beat arch rival Canton McKinley (16-15) in their regular season finale. Their losses come to Mentor (49-14) in their opener and Akron St. Vincent/St. Mary (13-10) on week nine. They play a great schedule, perhaps a (35-6) win over Akron Firestone the lone exception.

Valentine says the Tigers like to run the ball and then do some things off of it. “First of all, they like to run the ball and then play action off of it. They have a couple of good receivers that coming of the play action they will throw the ball to and they will make some plays,” he said.

When it comes to defense, Valentine says Massillon is fundamental and does not allow many big plays. “Defensively, they are very sound. They read their keys and they play good team defense,” he told Swankonsports.com, “They are not going to give you the big play. That is one of those things when you have to be patient enough to take things and move it down the field. They are a good, sound, well coached football team.”

With their empty backfield Ashland kind of lives on the big play, example last week. Valentine says Friday night they must have some patience. “You try to stress to your kids patience as far as moving it down the field and even patience with what we are trying to do. If they are not going to give you and they are going to back off then we have to take stuff underneath and be ready to move it down the field. I think our kids have been pretty good with that. So, that is something hopefully we can do,” said Valentine.

Published 11/10/17

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Ashland Takes on Athletic Mifflin

Ashland has now been in the playoffs four straight times and it’s their seventh appearance in the last nine years. That’s consistency.

They travel to Columbus Mifflin on Friday night for a first round playoff game in division two.

Ashland has a 9-10 playoff record and went as far as the state semifinals in 2007. This season, they shared the Ohio Cardinal Conference title with Wooster and Mansfield Senior. Wooster did not earn a playoff berth. Mansfield Senior plays at Bay Village in division two.

Wooster railed to beat Ashland (34-31) last week to give the Arrows their only conference loss. Wooster led (20-0) in the first quarter, but Ashland battled back to take a (21-20) halftime lead. Arrows coach Scott Valentine says it was a heck of a game. “Anytime you don’t get a good start and they jump out on you, you use a lot of energy to get back in the game. I was proud of our kids. We got back in the game. We had some opportunities to get some stuff done in the second half, just unfortunately we didn’t. Their kids made some good plays, so I give them a lot of credit,” said Valentine.

Mifflin (8-2) out of the Columbus City League has won five of its last six. They did lose last Friday to Aurora (34-14) in a non-conference game. The Punchers have scored at least 40 points in half of their games. Valentine says they remind you of Mansfield Senior. “They are a very athletic team. They remind you a lot of Mansfield Senior with their athletic ability and their running. They have a quarterback that throws the ball to his receivers and they go up and get it,” he told Swankonsports.com on Monday, “Defensively, they bring some pressure like we saw against Mansfield. Those are the things we are going to have to be prepared for.”

Ashland (8-2), #4 in the Swankonsports.com football coaches poll in the large school division, beat Mansfield Senior (46-20) in a regular season game.

Valentine says they have to be good tacklers or there are going to be big plays. “Especially in the open field you have to be able to get guys on the ground and if you don’t that is going to cause you problems. That is going to be an emphasis this week,” he said.

With the kind of blitzing the Punchers do, Valentine says if they there will be opportunities for big plays. “That is something we always tell our guys outside. If they are going to blitz you have to win that one on one battle outside and then hopefully make a big play for us. Those are things that we are going to have to look and see what kind of blitzes they are running and what tips them off and try to have our guys ready to make a big play,” said Valentine.

Of Ashland’s 10 playoff appearances nine of them have been under Valentine since 2003, so they seem to know what they are doing. He says they treat this like any other week. “We are not changing the way we practice. A few weeks ago, we cut down a little practice time actually on the field just because it is the second half of the season. You just have to be careful with the wear and tear on the guy’s bodies. We are going to keep on the same schedule,” said Valentine.

Published 10/31/17

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Ashland Can Take it All

Ashland will win the outright Ohio Cardinal Conference football title with a win at home on Friday night against the Wooster Generals.

They lead Wooster and Mansfield Senior by one game entering the final week of the regular season.

In a wild game last week, Ashland (8-1,5-0), #3 in the Swankonsports.com football coaches poll in the large school division, held on to beat West Holmes (49-48) in an “OCC” game. The Arrows were able to stop a West Holmes two point conversion attempt after their final touchdown with less than a minute to play.

Ashland coach Scott Valentine says it was a game with a lot of momentum. “It comes down to how the game is going. We were in one of those games where it was going back and forth, and we had to keep scoring. Fortunately, we got the stop there on the two point play to give us the win,” said Valentine.

Wooster (4-5,4-1) is coming off a non-conference loss to Canton Central Catholic (31-27) last week. They also lost a tightly contested game to Mansfield Senior (28-21) two week ago.

However, coach Valentine says when you watch the Generals it is clear they are getting better. “Coach Haas and his staff do a great job. You can see as we watch games as they progress it is a team that has kept getting better as the year went on,” he told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday.

Wooster has scored more than 40 points three times this season. Valentine says Generals quarterback Dylan Dagley is a good orchestrator. “I think their quarterback is the guy that controls a lot of that. He makes a lot of plays. He will pull it down and run it when he needs to and makes pretty good decisions when he is running the ball. He has got some good playmakers with him,” said Valentine.

On defense, Valentine says Wooster will likely blitz a lot. “I think defensively they do bring a lot of pressure. They play some man and some zone too. Their front four guys have shown to be pretty good and their linebacker corps as far as controlling the running game. That is something that concerns you,” he said.

Ashland has won more “OCC” football titles than anyone and Valentine says their kids look forward to games like this. “I told our kids this is why you work all winter long and all summer long to hopefully be in a position to where you are going to play in a game like this at the end of the season. We are hoping for a fun night,” he said.

Published 10/26/17

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Ashland One Step Away

A win over West Holmes on Friday night will give the Ashland Arrows no less than a share of their seventh Ohio Cardinal Conference football title, the most of any school in the league.

They put themselves in that position with a (40-0) destruction of the Lexington Minutemen last week, scoring more than 30 in the first half of the game.

Head coach Scott Valentine says they could have had some more scores had it not been for their one mistakes. “We had three touchdowns called back, which came on penalties on us. Those are some things you don’t like to have happen. We looked at some of it and what we might have to change a little bit. Overall, we executed on offense and on defense we were able to get good stops and that enabled us to have good field position,” said Valentine.

Across the area there seem to be a lot of touchdowns called back this year on penalty, it’s like there was a big play look for a reason. Valentine says they tell their kids their focus has to be on the next play, not on officials. “I think this is one of those years. I know the officials are given things to look for. A lot of times in their intensity in looking for things is on a big play because something possibly could happen. They have a tough job. When they make a call, we tell our kids we don’t control calls. It is about us them coming back the next play and moving on,” he said.

Ashland (7-1,4-0), #3 in the Swankonsports.com football coaches poll in the large school division, plays at home at Community Stadium against the West Holmes Knights (3-5,2-2,) who beat Warsaw River View (49-0) in a non-conference game last week. They have scored at least seven touchdowns in three of their last four games.

West Holmes has a new coach in Zach Gardner and Valentine says they have really started to throw the ball a lot from a spread formation. “They are doing a lot of different things. A new coach has come in and does some nice things and they have improved throughout the year,” he told Swankonsports.com on Tuesday, “They have gotten wins here in the last three weeks, so they have some guys that can make some plays. They are far from the offensive type team they have been in past years.”

Ashland can score too and Valentine says they are going to have to score their share Friday night too. “When you have an explosive team you have to be able to put some points on the board too, so that is something we are going to have to do,” he said.

Published 10/18/17

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Ashland Needs to Keep Going

Ashland got a huge win last week over Mansfield Senior to remain in a share of the Ohio Cardinal Conference lead with Wooster, but they can’t be satisfied and have to understand there is a lot more to play for.

After holding just a five point third quarter lead Ashland exploded down the stretch to beat Mansfield Senior (46-20) and coach Scott Valentine says both sides of the ball where able to step up. “There in the second half we were able to take advantage of some opportunities we got and then defensively we were able to contain them and get stops when we needed them,” he said.

The Arrows have won six of their seven games this year and it seems they have gotten better every game. Valentine says they make that an emphasis in their program. “I feel each week our kids have come in and really concentrated on some things our kids need to get better at and we still have things to get better at, so this week has been no different,” he said.

Ashland (6-1,3-0), #4 in the Swankonsports.com football coaches poll in the large school division, plays at Lexington (1-6,1-2) in an “OCC” game. Lexington lost (55-21) to West Holmes last Friday.

Valentine says it is difficult to tell what the Minutemen are going to do on offense, so they have to be ready for about anything from a game plan standpoint. “There is no doubt they have some guys that can make some plays. So, that is the thing your focus has got to be on what they are going to do and how they are going to do it,” he told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday, “The question is Stover didn’t play last week, so we don’t know if they are going to do the same stuff or he is back and how he is going to do it. That is the thing defensively that we are trying to make sure we are ready for.”

For many years this was the last game of the regular season for both schools. In fact, Ashland beat Lexington last year on week ten to share the conference title with the Minutemen. Valentine says there is a sense of rivalry here. “I know the league has changed or rotated or whatever, but that has been the last game for a long time is has been built into a rivalry like game and something I know both teams look forward to that game. We want to make sure we are ready,” said Valentine.

For Ashland a win is a must. They play Wooster on week ten, but Valentine says they can’t be looking ahead. “We told our kids that hopefully we aren’t satisfied with the just the win over Senior because there is a lot left for us to do and we have to be ready to do that,” he said.

Published 10/12/17

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Ashland Tangles with Mansfield Senior

Two of the leaders in the Ohio Cardinal Conference lock horns on Friday night at Arlin Field in Mansfield for the right to stay on top in the conference standings.

Wooster, who plays Mt. Vernon, also has a piece of the lead.

Ashland (5-1,2-0), #4 in the Swankonsports.com football coaches poll in the big school division, beat Madison (56-13) last week. They were behind (13-7,) but then scored the next seven times they had the ball. Coach Scott Valentine says they were able to answer. “I felt we were able to get the ball moving. The turnovers you don’t like to see, but they were early. So, we had to come back and we answered some of the scores they had with our offense. Defensively, we got some stops there as we got into the second quarter,” he said.

Mansfield Senior (5-1,2-0) pounded Lexington (54-17) last week. The Tygers are led by University of Minnesota recruit Jornell Manns, who has scored at least twice in all of their games this year.

Valentine says it is not just Manns, the Tygers have a lot of guys that are home run hitters. “They have guys that are playmakers and will make plays. Those are games when you know you are not going to completely shut them down. You have to try and limit as many big plays as possible. Part of that is trying to make sure that you do things right offensively to help yourself out too and give them short fields and things like that,” he said.

The Tygers tend to be a team that will blitz a lot and try and be aggressive and make plays. Valentine says they have to take advantage of that. “We talked to our kids that last year we had some big plays because of some of the things they do give you and opportunity if you beat a guy one on one and get open you are going to make a big play,” he told Swankonsports.com on Tuesday, “We are looking to try and take advantage of those opportunities we get on Friday night.”

Mansfield Senior beat Ashland in a shootout (45-42) last season and Ashland won at Arlin Field two years also (25-21) and those are the kinds of games these two tend to play. Valentine predicts Friday night will be no different. “There is a high level of competitiveness against each other. Over the years it has been back and forth and things like that. They are always hard hitting and physical games. I don’t anticipate anything less,” he said.

Published 10/04/17

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Ashland Wants Big Plays

The nature of their team, and the way they play, makes Ashland a big play team on both sides of the ball and they have to make those if they are going to win games.

They have been doing that and that has led the Arrows (4-1,1-0), #4 in the Swankonsports.com football coaches poll in the large school division, to a share of first place in Ohio Cardinal Conference.

They trailed Mt. Vernon (21-20) last week with about 8:00 to play in the game, but coach Scott Valentine says they were able to rise to occasion and win (35-21) in an “OCC” game. “I was really proud of the way the kids responded. We had some opportunities that we didn’t get. Credit Mt. Vernon that they kept battling. When we got down our kids responded on offense and defense,” he said.

Ashland runs the five wide offense and they bring a lot of people on defense. Valentine says it is about making those big plays. “We also talk about when you get opportunities to make by plays you have to be able to make them. We have been fortunate that our guys have been able to take that and make some big plays,” he said.

Ashland has also been motioning some skilled players into the backfield to run the ball and quarterback Keagan Armitage has been taking off a little more too. Valentine says it depends on what the defense is giving them. “Sometimes you get into certain games depending on what they are doing to you defensively you have to maybe run it a little bit more and then the pass comes a little bit later,” he told Swankonsports.com on Thursday, “Just like you take the short passes over the long ones early and things like that. I think that has led to us running the ball a little bit more.”

Madison (0-5,0-2) lost (56-20) to West Holmes last week in “OCC” action and the Rams have just had trouble putting things together, but Valentine says their players are still putting in the effort on the field. “The thing I told our kids all along is every game is important. Madison’s kids are working hard and they are trying to do everything they can. Unfortunately they haven’t won a game. Coach Masi and their staff work hard with their kids. We have to step out there and be ready to play a four quarter game in order to get the job done,” said Valentine.

Even though they have not won a game this year, Valentine says the Rams have shown they can make big plays. “When you watch video on the plays some of their kids have made. They have had the opportunity to make some plays and they have. From a defensive standpoint we have to make sure we don’t give them big plays and give them opportunities. Plus, we have to make plays offensively,” he said.

Published 9/29/17

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Ashland Facing Stingy Mt. Vernon

Ashland opens up play in the Ohio Cardinal Conference, they are defending co-champs, with a visit to Mt. Vernon to play the Yellow Jackets.

Mt. Vernon beat the other defending co-champ Lexington (15-13) in their “OCC” opener last week.

Ashland (3-1), #4 in the Swankonsports.com football coaches poll in the large school division, beat Uniontown Lake (21-7) in a non-conference game.

Coach Scott Valentine says they did some good things on both sides of the ball. “Going in we knew they were a good program, so we knew it was going to be a battle all four quarters. I really felt our defense did a good job containing their running back. We did a great job coming down hill and tackling him. We didn’t let them score on offensive touchdown,” he told Swankonsports.com on Monday, “Unfortunately, we gave up a special teams one. Defensively we had a great game. Offensively we made some big plays and Keagan ran the ball well for us. It was one of those things where we had to take what they gave us. They had eight guys covering the pass, so he is going to have to run it, and that’s what he did.”

Valentine believes this team is improving week by week. “Over the first four weeks. I think each week we have gotten better, but what we tell our guys is we definitely haven’t played our best game. We still have things we have to get better at doing, so we are going to go back to work this week,” he said.

Mt. Vernon (2-2) also has a (31-0) win over Newark to its credit. Valentine says they are pretty solid. “They have done a nice job. They held Lex down last week. Some of the other opponents they have played against they have done a nice job against them. We are going to have to look and see how we can try and to impact them and try and make some plays,” says Valentine.

Valentine says the Yellow Jackets are going to bring a lot of players from a lot of angles to try and get pressure on quarterback Keagan Armitage. “They run a 3-3 stack most of the time. Sometimes they get in a four man front. They are going to bring pressure from different directions. So, you are just going to have to be ready to pick up the pressures they bring,” he said.

Published 9/19/17

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Arrows With Another Good One

Ashland plays one more non-conference game on Friday night at Uniontown Lake before beginning Ohio Cardinal Conference play next week.

After spotting Tiffin Columbian a (10-0) lead, Ashland (2-1) rallied to upend the Tornadoes (42-24) last week.

Coach Scott Valentine says they tell their kids the game lasts 48 minutes and you have to play the whole time whether you are ahead or behind. “We always tell our guys that it is a four quarter game. You can have some bad things happen early or the other team just makes some plays early, but you have to keep battling and I thought our kids did that,” he said.

There are seven schools in the “OCC” now and that means every week a league school will not have a conference game. Valentine likes the fact their number came up first. “When I saw the schedule come out and that is where we were because a lot of times in those other weeks it is tough to find a game or you are playing somebody that is really good like St. Ed’s or St. Ignatius or somebody that is looking for a game those weeks. I felt really fortunate that we had that first week,” said Valentine.

Lake (1-2) lost last week to Copley (21-20) is a new opponent for the Arrows. Valentine says the Blue Streaks have a good program. “They have always been a good program. They have a great tailback that is a downhill runner. If you don’t tackle him he is going to make some big runs on you,” he told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday, “Defensively, they have always played pretty good. They keep you in front of them and then come downhill. The linebackers run to the ball. So, it is going to be a challenge for us.”

Ashland plays as good a schedule for a big school in this area with Clyde and Green and so on. Valentine says that’s by design. “There is no doubt we are looking for people that are going to make us better and give us the challenge we need to keep getting better. Our kids know going in that they are a good football team, but we have seen some good football teams up to this point and we have to go out and play a good four quarter football game,” said Valentine.

Published 9/14/17

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Ashland Must be More Consistent

Ashland has the players to be a very good team, but they have to be more consistent on both sides of the ball to reach that goal.

Clyde edged Ashland (22-19) last week. The Fliers scored a fourth quarter TD and they sacked the Arrows on fourth down to end their final drive,

Ashland coach Scott Valentine says it was a well played game by both sides last week. “It was a great high school game. They are a good program and a good team. In third quarter we were able to get a big play and score and it kind of went back and forth. They got the lead there and we drove down and just couldn’t finish that last drive off. So, again it was a great game,” he told Swankonsports.com on Tuesday, “I am proud of our kids and how they kept bouncing back and competing. We got better, but we still didn’t get the win, so we have to get back to work and get ready for this week.”

When looking back at the Clyde game, Valentine says they need play with more consistency in all areas. “I think there are some things on both sides of the ball and even special teams that we have to be more consistent with. Part of that is good tackling and reads and things like that. Offensively, executing things that we are doing, so anytime you play somebody good that consistency shows up a little bit, so that is somewhere we have to get better,” said Valentine.

Ashland (1-1) hosts Tiffin Columbian (0-2) in a non-conference game at Community Stadium on Friday night. Columbian lost to Elida (42-20) on week one and Anthony Wayne (42-3) last week.

Ashland beat Columbian (38-21) last year, but Valentine says the Tornadoes are better this year. “When you see them on tape coach Lutz has done a nice job and you can tell they are working on things and they are definitely better than they were last year,” he said.

Tiffin coach Judd Lutz has been talking quite a bit about wanting to run the ball, but Valentine says they still want to balanced. “I think they are somebody who team wise that is something they are looking to do, but them again they are going to be balanced, but they are definitely trying to emphasize the run,” said Valentine.

Published 9/06/17

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Ashland Must Win up Front

Ashland travels to Clyde Friday night for a non-conference football game between two of the better programs in North Central Ohio.

Clyde won (38-21) last year at Ashland.

The Arrows took a (31-14) early in the fourth quarter and hung on to beat Green (31-28) last week,

Coach Scott Valentine says they made enough plays to get the win last week. “I thought our kids did a great job. I thought we came out and initially I thought we made a few plays. Then I thought we came out in the second half and our defense really turned up the heat on the quarterback and really contained them. It was unfortunate because we had an opportunity to put the ballgame away there in the fourth quarter with a couple of plays and just missed on a couple of throws and missed a couple of blocks,” he told Swankonsports.com on Thursday, “When you don’t put people away then you give them that opportunity. Credit Green that they battled back through and gave themselves a chance, but our defense rose to the occasion and got the stop in the end for us.”

Valentine has great respect for the Clyde football program and he says year after year they put together a very competitive team. “There is no doubt. The kids in their program come up through and they understand what has to be done to get ready for the season and he does a great job and his coaching staff. So, you can’t expect anything less than what you get from them every year,” he said.

When it comes to this year’s team, Valentine says the Fliers are very good up front and those guys are very good at controlling the run game and the pass game. “Up front their defensive lineman are really good. They do a good job of not only playing the run, but rushing the passer also. I think that defensively makes them a pretty good defense. Then offensively they just do a good job of shifting and changing their formations and trying to get you not to recognize things and take advantage of some things that you don’t do. That concerns you defensively that you are ready for all of that,” said Valentine.

When you are trying to defend the Fliers, Valentine says you have to be ready to make the needed adjustments. “When they shift you have to be ready to counter a little bit. You don’t have to make a wholesale change. If you don’t counter then they get leverage or get position on you that puts you in a bad situation. It’s just recognizing all of the things is something hopefully we are ready for,” he said.

Published 9/01/17

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Ashland Still Preparing

Ashland will be tested when they open the season hosting Green on Friday night in their opener at Community Stadium.

Coach Scott Valentine says they have gotten better step by step, but that improvement needs to continue this week as they get ready for Friday. “I think with each of our scrimmages we have seen some improvement, but you still have to make that improvement during game week. So, there are some things we have to get shored up as we head into Friday,” he said.

The Arrows have done some good things as a team this month, but Valentine says they need to find out the things they are best at against other teams in a real game. “I think you always have a little bit of an idea as you head in, but those game situations are a lot of different. You have to find our once you get into games how things play out from there,” he said.

Green was a (2-8) football team a year ago. Valentine says the Bulldogs are a team that is going to show a lot of looks on both sides of the football, so they have to be ready for a lot of things. “They run like a 4-2-5 or 4-3 defense. They show some different looks and different blitzes, so offensively we have to prepare for those,” he told Swankonsports.com on Monday, “Offensively they give you a lot of different, multiple formations and do different things out of different formations, so defensively we are going to have to be ready to adjust to those types of things.”

Green is new to the Arrows schedule and it is the first week of the season anyway. Valentine says they have to be ready to make adjustments on the field based on what they see from the Bulldogs. “In the first game you have to find a way to adjust to anything they would throw at you. You are going against guys that haven’t shown anything and all of the sudden they are out in a whole different offense or do something totally different defensively. Those are things you hopefully have in your package that you can play so you can make those adjustments on the sidelines or in between series or even during the series you can do that,” said Valentine.

Published 8/22/17

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Ashland Building for Another Big Season

Ashland attacks a football season to be ready when Ohio Cardinal Conference play begins on week four or five of the season and just about every year they are in fact ready to contend.

Head coach Scott Valentine says sometimes it takes a little bit to find out just what you have on your team and they are in that process right now. “Each year you have guys you have to replace and you are trying to figure that out. As the team comes together some things you don’t know to about week three what a team is really going to be like. That is what we are trying to figure out here in the preseason,” he said.

Ashland plays its first game next Friday at home against Green. They play always good Clyde on road on week two and host tradition rich Tiffin Columbian on week three. There first “OCC” game is week five against the Mt. Vernon Yellow Jackets.

Valentine says you want to be tested early in the season so you can make some decisions with players and approach to the game that are going to make you a better team when it counts most. “You are trying to find out early in your year where you strengths lie and where you are weak and how you can make it stronger,” he told Swankonsports.com on Tuesday, “Hopefully during that process you are winning games while you are doing that, but I have seen too many people play somebody not very good early and then they find out weaknesses week two, three and four and you are already in the heart of your season. We always try to play some people early that will give us a chance to see where we might need to shore up things.”

Ashland plays Dover in its preview scrimmage on Thursday and Valentine says there is a tight rope to walk when it comes to preparing and the excitement the kids have for that first game. “There comes a point where that you try to hit as many things as you can, but until you play a game you are not sure where you are at, so it comes that point like with Dover we will run half a game so we get an idea of some things we have to work on before we get into that first game. You want your kids excited for that first game, but there are a lot of things that go into being ready, so hopefully you are hitting all of those things,” said Valentine.

Published 8/16/17

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Arrows on Right Track

Ashland Arrow fans are used to winning football and they should be pretty happy again this season.

The Arrows are coming off a year in which they shared the Ohio Cardinal Conference title and made the playoffs and this year they should be in at least in position to do that again.

Veteran coach Scott Valentine says they have already learned a lot this preseason and they have to continue to make steady progress to be the kind of team they are capable of being. “I think like very year there are some things that we saw that were good and a lot of things to work on. Watching the video tape I think it was good for our kids to see the speed of the game,” he told Swankonsports.com before practice on Thursday, “That is the biggest difference is the speed of the game once we got going in the scrimmage compared to practice. We just talked about how we have to bring that speed to practice to help us get better.”

Ashland has won 78 games in the last 10 years against a very good schedule and that has helped them make the playoffs seven times in those 10 years, including the last three. They have won six Ohio Cardinal Conference titles in the last 10 years on top of that.

Speaking of tape, Valentine says technology is a big help to the modern day high school football player if they want to use it. “With Huddle our kids can watch stuff at home and some of them do and some of them don’t. The good ones are usually guys that are watching some of that stuff just see things that you can get better at is very important,” he said.

Ashland hosts Green in their opener on August 25, they play at Clyde on September 1, and at home against Tiffin Columbian on week three. They play at Mt. Vernon on week four in their “OCC” opener.

Valentine says they have the kind of personnel that could lead to a good season, but it is going to take the willingness to improve and get better. “Like every year you just have to keep improving. Right now, we just have a lot of things to improve on and if we do that and keep working hard and keep competing I think we have a shot, but you have to do those other things first,” he said.

Published 8/11/17

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Ashland Beats Holland Springfield… Again

  

          When you do it two years in a row maybe it is not an upset.

          Ashland for the second straight year knocked off a higher seeded Holland Springfield on the road this time (6-4) Monday night in a division one sectional semi-final.

          Coach Rob Lavengood says it just seems that they have Springfield’s number for whatever reason.  “It was a great win.  This must be our lucky field.  This is two years in a row that we have played them up at their place in a sectional opener.  We beat them 6-3 last year and 6-4 this year.  So, we will take it.  Ricky Maffett gave us a great pitching performance (Monday) night for about six innings.  We had some timely hitting.  We had a couple of guys in Blake Holt and Tyler Croskey have big days at the plate for us.  We were able to hang on in there in the seventh inning.  They loaded the bases there and made it interesting.  It was a good win on the road and we are just happy to move on to Wednesday’s sectional final against Anthony Wayne,” said Lavengood.

          Ashland (10-11) not only got solid pitching, but they got clutch hitting and Lavengood says they were able to keep adding runs after getting the lead and that was key.  “We were able to get some big hits early on to get a couple of runs on the board, but I think it was really key for us in the middle innings where we were able to have a three run inning to stretch the lead from 2-0 to 5-0 and then they came back to score a couple to make it 5-2.  We came back with a really important run in the top of the seventh to make it 6-2 because they scored a couple in the seventh and had the bases loaded to end the game,” he told Swankonsports.com on Monday night, “So, that ended up being a big extra run that we scored there in the seventh inning.  Anytime you have a chance to tack on some runs in a tournament game in becomes huge.  You still have to get 21 outs and sometimes that 21st out is the hardest one in the game.”

          Next for Ashland in tournament play will be a visit to Anthony Wayne on the Wednesday.  The Generals dispatched of Findlay (9-1) on Monday in a first round game. 

          Lavengood says it will be a big challenge, but not one that can’t be accomplished.  “Anthony Wayne is a very good team.  They are like 14-4, something like that on the year.  They play a very good schedule in a very tough conference and they have a couple of pretty good pitchers.  They are a solid team and we are going to have to travel to play at their place Wednesday, but I think if we play like we did (Monday) and pitch like we did (Monday) we will give ourselves a chance to win, so it should be a good game,” he said.

 

Published 5/09/17

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Ashland Preparing For Second Season

  

          Ashland put together a good performance on Wednesday with a (20-1) win over Mansfield Senior in Ohio Cardinal Conference play and now they want to get on a grove for the postseason.

          After struggling Tuesday in a (13-11) win over the Tygers, Ashland coach Rob Lavengood thinks they were much more focused on Wednesday.  “We were much better (Wednesday) night.  We came out and swung the bats a lot better.  Bryce Stormer gave us a good outing on the mound.  He threw 37 pitches in four innings and 25 of them were strikes.  That is what you ask for to pound the strike zone and make them hit the ball and he did a nice job.  It was nice to get everyone a chance to get some at bats and playing time and not have to sweat one out,” he said.

          It looks like Mother Nature is in a bad mood and we might get to play any baseball the rest of the week.  Lavengood says they have some good games coming up and he says they don’t want to be practicing inside.  “Especially this time of the year when you really don’t want to have to go back inside and it looks like we are going to have to do that for the next couple of days if the weather forecast is right, which is unfortunate because we have a nice game set up with Bellevue (Thursday) night at Heidelberg College.  They are a quality team for one, but also getting a chance to play on a college field to get ready for tournament.  You hate to not be able to get those games in,” he told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday night, “Then we have a home doubleheader with Orrville on Saturday, which would be another nice tune up heading into tournament.  So, we are hoping we are able to get those games in, but the weather doesn’t look great and Monday we have to head up to Springfield for our tournament opener.  If we have to go back inside it is not ideal, but it sounds like everyone might be in the same boat as we are, but it is what it is and you just have to do your best to prepare for the tournament when we are able to get back outside.”

          Ashland (9-11) plays at Holland Springfield in a division one tournament game on Monday.  The Arrows upset Springfield (6-3) last season and Lavengood believes they will enter the game with some confidence.  “We went up there last year and got a big win in the sectional opener at Springfield.  So, we are playing someone that we have had some success with, so hopefully we are able to do it again this year.  It is going to be a good game.  It should be a good match-up with two teams that are pretty evenly matched and hopefully we are able to come out of there with a victory,” he said.

 

Published 5/04/17

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Colts Down Ashland in “OCC” Action

   

          Mitch Dulin went the distance allowing only three hits and Thomas Staab was 3-for-3 with four RBI and two runs scored as Clear Fork belted Ashland (9-1) in Ohio Cardinal Conference baseball on Thursday at American Legion Field.

          The Colts (7-5,4-2) also got some production from the bottom of the lineup as Gage Belcher, Dulin, and Mason Cox combined for thee hits and six runs scored.  “It was the first time this year that it was a 1-9 effort.  We did the same thing (Wednesday) we jumped out to a 6-0 lead and then got complacent and they almost came back and beat us.  We showed some resilience (Wednesday.)  (Thursday) with Mitch (Dulin) it so great to have an ace that you say that we need this outing out of you and he gives it to us every time.  We had some run support and played some great defense.  It has been a while since we have played error free baseball, well we had an error there in the seventh, but it is starting to come around.  It is starting to look better than it did a week ago,” said Clear Fork coach Rusty Staab.

          Dulin stuck out eight and retired 13 in a row at one point.

          Only one runner got as far as second base in the first two innings, but the Colts put up and five spot in the third highlighted by a two-run single by Staab and three stolen bases by Clear Fork.

          Ashland coach Rob Lavengood says they made too many mistakes, but he says Clear Fork was the better team on Thursday.  “We got off to a good start the first couple of innings.  After two innings we are setting 0-0 and then they put some pressure on us by doing some things offensively and we didn’t handle it really well.  We had a couple of errors, a couple of passed balls, wild pitches, some lapses on defense that allowed them to have a five run inning.  When you give up a crooked number that is tough to come back from,” he told Swankonsports.com before getting on the bus, “You have to give them credit.  I thought the Dulin kid pitched well and they put the ball in play and put some pressure on us.  I felt like they beat us (Thursday) night and I thought (Wednesday) we beat ourselves.  The difference is they outplayed us (Thursday) and you have to give them credit.”

          Clear Fork got four more in the fourth highlighted by an RBI single by Staab and a two-run double by Jared Lind. 

           The Colts trail “OCC” leader Mt. Vernon by two games.  Staab says they are going to get better as the season progresses.  “I think once we get all of our guys off the “DL” I think that is really going to give us a mental push too.  We are waiting for Hunter Auk to get back, and for Jarrod Smith and Luke Clark, of course.  We have guys that are doing a great job, role players that are coming in and being starters, but I think when we get our main group back on the field that is when we can take the next step,” said Staab.

          Clear Fork plays a tough non-league schedule and Staab says they will play one of Ohio’s best on Saturday.  “We can celebrate this win, but we play one of the top D-one schools in Ohio in Olengangy Orange with one of the best players that is probably going to get drafted with Tyler Brown.  So, we have our work cut out for us on Saturday.  We like to play really good teams and set it as a yardstick to see where we are at.  Maybe get a few autographs after the game,” he said.

 

Published 4/14/17

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Lady Colts Stay Unbeaten

  

          Senior Darian Gottfried went the distance allowing just six hits and freshman shortstop Carson Crowner had three hits, two runs scored and three stolen bases as Clear Fork topped Ashland (5-2) Tuesday in Ohio Cardinal Conference softball.

          They share first in the “OCC” with Mt. Vernon.

          Clear Fork (9-0,5-0) took the lead in the first when Crowner singled, stole a base, advanced on an error and scored on a wide pitch.  Bryanna Masters tied the game with a home run in the top half of the second, but the Lady Colts would come right back. 

          They scored in the bottom of the second when Zara Thomas walked, stole two bases and scored on an infield ground out by McKenzie Baker.  It became (3-0) in the third when Whitney Snavely singled, advanced to third, somehow avoided being caught in a run down between third and home, and scored on a force play. 

          Two more Clear Fork runs scored in the fifth when Crowner again singled, stole two bases, and scored on a sacrifice bunt by Gottfried.  The final run scored on a rocket shot by Haylie Miller over the left center field fence, her fourth homer of the young season.

          Masters drove in her second run with an RBI double in the sixth.

          Clear Fork’s first four runs were directly due to do their speed on the bases.  “I think we have a good combination of some power and some speed.  Against Masters you have to generate some of your own offense sometimes because she is good she is going to shut you down.  You are not going to string three or four hits together to score a run.  You are going to have to generate some stuff.  Fortunately we had the right kids get those hits where we could use our speed and crank out some runs,” said coach Jeff Gottfried.

          It has been a rough start to the season for Ashland (1-6,0-5,) who has also played unbeaten Mt. Vernon and talented Shelby.  Coach Bill Herman says he is starting see some good signs.  “Bry did a nice job.  We are starting to come together.  It is early in the season.  We have played what seven games.  Things are starting to fall into place for us.  We will get it figured out really soon.  Everybody is back from spring break and that stuff.  It’s too bad we had to start with some of the tougher teams in our conference,” he said.

         Clear Fork stole nine bases on the day and also picked up extra bases with the aggressiveness.  Gottfried says that is the way they like to play.  “It’s fun, the kids the enjoy that.  Sometimes it is risky, risk versus reward, it probably all evens out in the end.  I know our kids enjoy playing that way and I think our fans enjoy it certainly and I enjoy coaching that way.  It’s a mentality that our kids have they know when we are aggressive I am not going to be upset about it if we make a mistake,” Gottfried said.

          Darian Gottfried, who will sign a national letter of intent to play college softball at Black Hills State University on Wednesday, was again on top of her game.  Her dad says the biggest thing was no walks.  “I thought she threw very well.  The biggest thing is stay away from those free passes.  She didn’t allow a walk on (Tuesday.)  Masters had two hits and drove in two runs.  She is a good player and sometimes good players just get you, but overall she handled the other eight kids in the lineup very, very well.  She set the tone for us out on the mound,” he said.

          Clear Fork’s defense has been solid all season and again there were no errors on Tuesday. A new name, freshman Brooke Robinson made a circus catch in rightfield in the seventh inning.  Gottfried says that was a huge play.  “I don’t think there was anything that was outstanding or spectacular.  Probably the best one of the night was the one in the last inning.  I mean if that one falls they have two runners on no outs and they have something brewing with the tying run at the plate.  Instead we have a freshmen come in and she had a big hit in Saturday’s doubleheader.  She is one of those kids that I think will be ready maybe a year from now, but when we have a chance for her to come up and help us she certainly can,” said Gottfried.

          Clear Fork and Ashland play again at Ashland on Wednesday in “OCC” play.  They are both part of the Wendy’s Tournament in Ashland over the weekend.

 

Published 4/12/17

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Ashland Rallies to Dump West Holmes

  

          Ashland fell behind 5-0 early, but would rally and beat West Holmes (8-7) in an Ohio Cardinal Conference baseball game on Tuesday.

          Coach Rob Lavengood says his Arrows (2-3,1-2) really showed some heart on their field on Tuesday night to get win that they really needed.  “It was definitely an important win and it was a good win for a lot of different reasons.  One, we wanted to bounce back and get a win after losing our last three games.  We also wanted to get our first conference win after losing last week to Mt. Vernon twice.  Also we went down 5-0 in the second inning because they had a kid that hit a grand slam.  To come back from down 5-0 and then we took a lead 7-5 and then we lost the lead to where it is 7-7.  It was just a back and forth game and I give our kids a lot of credit for battling for seven innings and coming up with a one win with a run in the bottom of the seventh.  It was an exciting game and it was really a good win for us,” said Lavengood.

          After falling being (5-0) after an inning and a half, the Arrows scored four times in their half of the second inning to get back into it and Lavengood thought that was pretty big.  “I think the key to the game (Tuesday) night we after they put up five runs in the second inning we came right back and put up four runs in the bottom of the second inning.  If we would have gone without scoring and the momentum would have stayed on their side I think it would have been pretty difficult for us to come back and win,” he told Swankonsports.com after the win, “I thought that was an extremely important inning where we answered their five with four of our own and got us right back into the game.  There is no question our kids battled.  I thought Hunter Krebs, who started for us, really pitched pretty well.  He had two bad pitches where the same kid hit home runs off of him, but he settled in and gave us just about six innings and I thought at was key for him.”

          Scoring right away is big and Lavengood says if you are the team that lost a lot of your lead that can really be deflating as well and that is king of what happened Tuesday.  “On the flip side if you are a team that scores five runs you want your pitcher to go right back out there and pound the strike zone and get you back in the dugout as fast as you can to hit again.  Again I thought that was a key their guy struggled a little bit in that next inning and we were able to take advantage of it.  Baseball is such a mental game and such a game of momentum swings and that really swayed the momentum back on our side to get us back in the game.  Basically it was a close game the rest of the way from then on out,” he said.

 

Published 4/05/17

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Ashland Ready to Compete

  

          It’s going to be another loaded year in Ohio Cardinal Conference baseball, but the Ashland Arrows believe they can compete.

          Coach Rob Lavengood says they have a lot of experience and talent back and his cautiously optimistic about what the Arrows can do this year.  “I am excited.  We have nine, 10 seniors coming back this year that got a lot of experience on varsity last year.  I am cautiously optimistic about the season as we get ready to get rolling pretty soon,” he told Swankonsports.com on Monday, “The kids have been working hard and we have really been able to get a lot done the first few weeks.  We have been able to practice on our field about nine times.  I think last year we might have had nine total practices on our field the entire season.  So, we are a lot farther ahead this year then what we have been able to do the last couple of years.  I think we are going to be ready to go.  Unfortunately the weather right now isn’t cooperating, but hopefully things will clear up by next week and we will have good weather this spring.  I think our guys are going to ready to roll.”

          Early in the baseball preseason the weather was tremendous and teams were able to get outside.  Now, there is snow on the ground now, but Lavengood says they are still way ahead in terms of preparation.  “You can certainly get some hitting done in a cage and some other things inside, but there is nothing we can do in a gym that can simulate what you can do on a baseball field with outfield cuts and relays, just ground balls on a regular baseball field as opposed to a basketball court.  There are just so many game situation type things that we have been able to do already with some inter squad scrimmaging with our guys that I think we are so much more prepared to start the season this year than we have ever been really the last five, six years.  We are excited, but things are different when you go between the lines and you start playing other teams.  We are looking forward to season getting started,” said Lavenood.

          The “OCC” has almost always been a good baseball league and with the inclusion of Mt. Vernon this year Lavengood says it will be even better.  “It is always a good league for baseball and this year is not going to be anything different with the addition of Mt. Vernon to replace Orrville.  Not to say that Orrville hasn’t had some good teams the last few years, but Mt. Vernon has good baseball every year.  We have played them non-league the last few seasons and coach Gross is going to have them ready to go.  That is going to make the league for baseball even stronger with their addition.  Clear Fork went to the final four last year, Madison is always good, Wooster is always good, Lexington is always good, and West Holmes had a pretty solid team last year and I think they will be okay this year too.  So, baseball wise this is always a tough league and you better be ready to play every night,” said Lavengood.

 

Published 3/14/17

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Ashland Faces Balanced Findlay

  

          Ashland takes on Findlay Tuesday night in a first round tournament game in division one at Fostoria High School.

          The Arrows (15-7) finished in second place in the Ohio Cardinal Conference last year.

          They beat Madison (80-60) in an “OCC” game on Friday night and coach Jason Hess says they have certainly gotten into a grove offensively over the last couple of weeks.  “I think the last few weeks we have been playing quite a bit better offensively.  We have had a lot more balance than we had earlier on and that makes us more difficult to guard.  We have three or four guys that are capable of scoring a lot of points for us,” he said.

          They have the division one district player of the year in Griffin Gerwig.

          He says they have been able to move the ball really well in their offense and that has resulted in some open shots.  “Especially there Friday night with Madison the way we moved the basketball we got a lot of open looks and our guys knocked them down.  We made 15 three pointers.  Anytime you are double digit three pointers you give yourselves a pretty good chance to win the basketball game,” he said.

          Findlay (14-8) brings a three game losing streak into the tournament with losses to Toledo St. John’s (54-48) and Toledo Whitmer (64-52) the last two Fridays and Lima Senior (56-53) in overtime on Valentine’s day.  One of their key wins this year comes over Ottawa Glandorf (65-51) back in mid-January.

          Hess says they have a lot of guys that can score the ball from all over the court.  “They are a well balanced team.  They have a couple really solid forwards that play really hard and physical and they have a couple of younger sophomore guards that shoot it very well from 20, 22, 23 feet away so, they are definitely a team that you have to guard inside and out.  They are really well balanced and they play hard and they are very good at executing their offense and offensive sets,” said Hess.

          In order to have success against the Trojans, Hess says they have to handle the ball without a bunch of turnovers, continue to get good shots, and play solid defense.  “Number one, which is something we have been trying to focus on here a little bit lately, is take care of the basketball.  We have had a few games when our turnover numbers have creped up a little bit higher than we would like, so number one is take care of that basketball so we can get ourselves some more shots at the basket,” he told Swankobnsports.com on Monday, “Number two is to continue that good ball movement that we have had.  Number three, I would say is just play solid defense where we do a good job communicating on their different screens and their different looks that they run at us, so we can contest their shots and we don’t give up uncontested open looks.”

 

Published 2/28/17

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Ashland Starting to Peak

  

          Ashland has a tough tournament trail ahead at the division one level and they seem to be building momentum for it.

          They chased “OCC” champion Wooster pretty hard last Friday leading (50-42) after three quarters before losing to the Generals (69-60) in the end.

         Coach Jason Hess says they played about as well as they could for three quarters in that game.  “We played some of our better basketball of the season for three quarters of the game last week and this the time of the year when you want to be playing your best basketball.  So, it was definitely exciting and definitely a positive that we could take away from that game.  We need to continue to build on it.  The kids did a great job sharing the basketball offensively and we had great ball movement and the kids where able to knock down some shots and it was a direct correlation to the ball movement we had on the offensive end and defensively we were solid as well,” said Hess.

          In the fourth quarter they let it get away and Hess says they had some ball handling issues and some foul trouble, which were kind of related.  “In the fourth quarter we got a little out of sink offensively and turned the ball over several possessions and also we got into a little bit of foul trouble and sent Wooster to the free throw line for some free points.  We had to take one of guards off the floor and I think that led to some of the turnover problems.  We had some different guys handling the ball than we had handling the ball the whole game,” he said.

          Ashland (14-7,9-4) plays at Madison (12-9,6-7) on Friday night in Ohio Cardinal Conference action to close the regular season.  They beat the Rams (62-60) on January 20 and Hess expects this one to be just as close.  “I am expecting a close game and a tough contest.  It seems like when we get together with Madison we play close games.  It is two similar schools.  We play hard and compete.  There are not a lot of unexpected things.  Both schools know each other very well,” he told Swankonsports.com on Tuesday, “Coach Mergel does an excellent job with his guys and our guys come ready to compete.  So, it should be a good game.  It should be a fun one.  One more final tune up to get us ready for the tournament.”

          Tyrell Ajian scored 60 points in two games last weekend for Madison and Hess says they have to be able to slow him down.  “He has been playing at a really high level since the last time we played them and maybe a game or two before that.  When you look at his stats he has been shooting the ball extremely well.  He has been a very efficient scorer for them.  He is really what makes them go.  We are going to have to do a really good job defensively.  It’s can’t be just one person, but collectively as a team to make him really have to work for his points.  He is not a kid you are going to be able to shut out and just take out of the game completely.  You just have to find a way to make things difficult for him,” he said.

 

Published 2/22/17

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Ashland Takes on Wooster

  

          Ashland will be the first team to challenge Wooster after they lost a game as they meet in Ohio Cardinal Conference play at Wooster on Friday night.

          The Arrows won their last “OCC” game when they blasted West Holmes (90-60) last Friday.  They also lost (60-50) at Akron Buchtel on Saturday. 

          Coach Jason Hess says they had good offensive flow against West Holmes.  “We are doing some good things.  Against West Holmes it seemed like everything was clicking and it was one of those nights when a lot of shots where falling.  The reason for that was the way we were moving the ball and playing unselfish and making that extra pass.  A lot of our shots where good open looks because of our ball movement and the way we were playing offense.  It was a tough loss on the road Saturday night at Buchtel.  They have a nice team and are looking to make some noise in division two over there in the northeast district.  We were competitive and competed with them right there to the end and just weren’t able to pull that one out,” he said.

          Hess says it can be a hard thing to accomplish sometimes, but when you get kids to understand what a good shot is you can score some points.  ehhh

“It is hard to get that mindset because not only do kids have to understand the game and the situation and what a great shot is versus what a good shot is and what an acceptable shot is.  Sometimes we talk about taking a shot you can’t miss as opposed to taking one you think you can make depending on the game situation,” he told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday, “In order for kids to make that extra pass it just comes with experience not only the chemistry of playing together, but understanding the flow of the game and the way the whole setting is going.  We have trouble with kids because sometimes they get a tunnel vision  and see one thing at a time as opposed to seeing the big picture in a half court situation and the spacing and all of that.  It is one those things when kids and teams get that ability to make that extra pass and be unselfish and share the basketball they are fun to watch and it is a fun group to be around.”

          Ashland (14-6,9-3), #4 in the Swankonsports.com boys’ basketball coaches poll in the large school division, plays at Wooster (19-1,12-0), #1 in our poll, on Friday night in “OCC” play.

          Wooster lost their first game on Tuesday night to Massillon Jackson (80-52) and Hess expects them to come out on fire on Friday night.  “We are expecting a full strength, fully loaded Wooster team here. The way we have been after losses this year we have kind of regrouped and refocused.  Sometimes it takes a game like that to get the focus of the kids back in line and everybody back on the same page a little bit.  We are expecting Wooster to come out all guns blazing so to speak.  They had a tough game last week with Clear Fork and have played some close haves and close quarters and Jackson was able to beat them on Tuesday night.  We are going to have to come ready to play.  It is going to be a tough game on the road and good environment over at Wooster, so it should be a fun one,” said Hess.

          Ashland will play Findlay in the first round of the division one tournament.  Hess thinks things worked out pretty well for them.  “We were pretty happy with the way everything shook out.  We are the seventh seed and we are going to play Findlay in the first round and they are the sixth seed.  We thought it was a pretty good draw for us all things considered as far as the travel and heading up north.  Findlay has a really good team.  They play hard.  They have several good basketball players.  They have a couple of younger guards that really shoot the ball well.  They have a couple of big guys that really compete and play hard and they are very physical inside, so it is going to be a tough match-up for us, but we thought considering the teams in the draw it came out about as good as we could hope for,” said Hess.

 

Published 2/16/17

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Ashland Knows What it Has to do

  

          Ashland faces Carrollton in the first round in the division two state duels wresting matches Sunday at St. John Arena on the campus of The Ohio State University.

          The Arrows, the Ohio Cardinal Conference champion, is the number six seed of the eight qualifiers, Carrollton is number three.

          Coach Sean Seder says making it to Columbus was a top priority for his team.  “It was one our biggest goals at the beginning of the season.  Last year we wrestled down at Claymont in the regional semis and all of that.  We have five pretty strong seniors and they wanted to go out and say the wrestled down at Columbus at St. John at the state duel finals.  They accomplished that goal and now we have a pretty tough task with Carrollton,” he said.

          The winner of the first round match will face either Woodridge or Wauseon.  Of course, to win the title you have to get by powerhouse St. Paris Graham, the top seed.

          Seder believes the match with Carrollton may come down to the very end.  “When we look at it on paper it looks like it is going to be a super tight match.  If we wrestle 10 times they could win five and we could win five.  It is really going to come down to bonus points, which I am sure they know and have told their kids too.  They have some buzz saws, some pretty good wrestlers and I know they are counting on bonus points or pins.  We have a couple of those same types of kids,” he told Swankonsports.com on Saturday, “They are really strong from 32 to the middle weight area.  That is kind of where their guys are.  Of course, they have the Pasiuk brothers who both ranked second in the state at 132 and 182.  We have a couple of pretty good guys in the middle weights too, but we have a couple sprinkled down there at 106 and 126 and also up in the upper weights.  It is going to be if our kids can get the bonus points and if our inexperienced wrestlers can last a whole match against their better kids.”

          You can never tell for sure, but Seder says they should know early on in the match what they going to have to do to advance.  “We draw it up on paper on how we do in a best case scenario and a worse case scenario and look at the numbers and how far apart they are.  We definitely did that.  We will have a pretty good idea of where are after we get through the 126 match because we are going to need some bonus points from at least two or three of those kids. We feel there are a couple of toss up 50-50 matches.  There are four or five of those in the duel where we don’t have a ranked kid and they don’t have a ranked kid.  If you can win more of those 50-50 matches than your opponent that is probably going to be the deciding factor.  It could be a freshman that is stepping in for an injured wrestler that could decide it,” said Seder.

          A couple schools out of the bay division of the Sandusky Bay Conference have first round matches in division three.  Oak Harbor meets Shadyside and Edison faces Swanton.

 

Published 2/12/17

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Rebounding Must Improve for Arrows

  

          The Ashland Arrows are a good team still working on getting better here in the final weeks of the regular season.

          They play host to West Holmes in an Ohio Cardinal Conference game on Friday night and travel to Akron Buchtel for a non-conference test on Saturday night.

          Last week, the Arrows came form behind to beat Mansfield Senior (42-41) in an “OCC” game on Friday night and then missed a shot at the horn and lost to Massillon (70-67) on Saturday.

          Coach Jason Hess says they had a pretty good chance to win both games really, or lose them both for that matter.  “It was nice to get the one on Friday night that was the league game against Mansfield, there is a little bit of a rivalry there.  Going over the Massillon, whether it was any affect or not Massillon didn’t play on Friday night and we might have a little bit of tired legs, but I thought our kids played hard and competed for the most part in both games.  Fortunately on Friday we were able to score enough points even though it wasn’t a really high scoring affair to come out on top.  Saturday we gave ourselves a chance, we played good enough defense, and hung around even though we trailed most of the game we game ourselves a chance.  We had the ball at the end of the game with a chance to tie it up.  We had a pretty good look at the rim it just didn’t fall for us,” said Hess.

          The last couple of weeks the Arrows have been working getting better shots by running their offense and Hess thinks they are getting there.  Now he says they need rebound better as a team.  “Offensively I think we are getting better.  Saturday over at Massillon we did have some possessions where we moved the basketball really well against a pretty good Massillon team and got some really good looks at it.  A couple of them didn’t fall for us and couple of them did, but I think the kids were definitely able to take from that what we need to do to score against the better teams. So, hopefully we can continue to build on that,” he told Swankonsports.com on Tuesday, “The other thing we need to work on on the defensive end is just getting a little more aggressive for the 50/50 balls for some of the rebounds.  We have been really fortunate with Griffin Gerwig, who averages about 12 rebounds a game and when we need rebounds he goes and gets them.  When we get ready for tournament going up to Toledo we can’t rely on just one guy to rebound, so we have got to continue to work on getting all five guys to rebound the basketball.”

          Ashland (13-5,8-3) plays at home against West Holmes (1-18,1-11) on Friday in an “OCC” game.  The Arrows had to rally to win the first time and (66-54) and Hess says they can not take a win for granted.  “We definitely should not look past them.  I know when we went down to West Holmes there in January in the first half of the game we were tailing by 16 points.  Our kids saw glimpses that night of what West Holmes is capable of doing.  They have a couple of pretty good shooters that are shooting a good percentage from the three point line.  When you can make three point shots at a high rate it can keep you in basketball games and give you a chance to win.”

          When it comes to the trip to Akron on Saturday night, Hess says that game, and last week against Massillon, are ones that are going to prepare them for the postseason.  “The Massillon game and this game coming up with Buchtel are two games late in the season here that are great games to get ready for tournament on the road.  It gives our kids a real tournament feel to have the bus trip over there.  An hour long bus ride, get off, and have to get ready to play that game with a team that is very athletic and has some pretty good guards that shoot the ball pretty well with all of full court pressure and pressure defense.  We will have to get our kids ready to hand that.  Just go out there and compete and see what happens,” he said.

 

Published 2/08/17

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Ashland Looking for Better Execution

  

          Ashland is working this week on finding more offense as we get into the stretch drive of the regular season.

          The Arrows play at Mansfield Senior in an Ohio Cardinal Conference game on Friday night and then travel to Massillon for a non-conference game on Saturday.

          Lexington knocked Ashland back into third place in the “OCC” with a (59-45) win last Friday.  Coach Jason Hess says they have to get back to running their offense better.  “We try to learn from all of our games.  It is more enjoyable to learn from a win, but sometimes it is more productive to learn from a loss.  It seems like those are times you get the kid’s focus a little more and their attention span is a little more locked in after a loss.  We weren’t happy with the outcome Friday.  We are really going to focus this week on trying to get some of our offensive movement getting back going again,” he told Swankonsports.com on Tuesday,  “We just didn’t shoot the ball very well.  I think a lot of that was due to Lexington’s defense.  Some of our shots weren’t really in rhythm.  We were a little hesitant at times and forced some things at times.  We need to get back to playing a good, fluid offensive game and I think our shots will start falling again.”

          Ashland (12-4,7-3) plays at Mansfield Senior (3-13,2-8) in “OCC” play on Friday night.  The Arrows won the first meeting between the two (60-54) on December 30.

          Hess expects the Tygers to give them another good run.  “They are very athletic and they played us very tough at home right there after Christmas.  It was a struggle for us and we were fortunate to be able to pull that one out.  This is a little bit of a different team than we saw.  I know that they added a couple of players that had injuries or missed some games due to academic reasons.  So, this will be a little different Tyger team than we saw the first time around and they played us very tough the first time.  It is definitely going to be a challenge with their athleticism.  They are a team throughout the season I think hasn’t had a lot of confidence.  If they can get going early they can be very dangerous,” said Hess.

          With Mansfield Senior, Hess says, you know what you are going to get and that is a whole lot of pressure.  “That is Tyger basketball no matter what their record is and really who the personnel is.  That is what they do.  That is what they have done for years is just put a lot of pressure on you defensively and really try to force turnovers because that is their best offense is getting those turnovers and allowing them to get out and get some easy baskets,” he said.

          When it comes to Massillion, Hess says they are big and athletic too.  They will get all over the boards if you let them.  “They are going to be athletic as well.  Now, they are going to be a little bit bigger than Mansfield Senior.  They have several kids, 6’4”, 6’5”, a 6’7” post kid that is being recruited by Ohio State to play offensive line, so they definitely have some size.  They have some athletic guards that can really penetrate in the middle.  Sometimes their best offense is their guards penetrating and let the big guys crash the glass and offensive rebound.  It is definitely going to be a weekend that will help prepare us for down the road here in getting ready for tournament time with the athletes we are going to see this week will be similar to what we will see when we head up to Toledo for tournament time,” said Hess.

 

Published 2/01/17

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Ashland Attempts to Qualify for State Meet

  

          Ashland wrestles in the regional level of the state team duals tournament on Wednesday.  If they win the Arrows advance to the state quarterfinals.

          They are also the favorite for the Ohio Cardinal Conference tournament, which will be held on Saturday at Mansfield Madison Middle School.

          Coach Sean Seder says this has already been a good season for them, which has included winning the J.C. Gorman title earlier this month.  “We are happy with the season so far.  We kind of knew coming in we had a special group and a pretty good senior class and if we continued to improve the way we thought we should we could have a really good season.  Our biggest goals are still ahead of us with the state duals and then individually our kids want to place at the state.  We are kind of right where we need to be.  We have had a pretty darn good season so far, just a few hiccups here and there with some kids getting banged up, but others have stepped up for us pretty big here down the stretch and continue to fight through and hopefully we will kind of cap the season off right,” he said.

          Ashland meets fellow “OCC” member West Holmes in the regional semi-final on Wednesday night.  If they win they will face either Fairfield Union or New Lexington for the regional title.

          Seder says they always emphasize the team aspect of wrestling and their kids embrace it.  “One of the big things that we kind of preach in our room we have four big rules and one of them before a meet is we really emphasize the team aspect of it and team duals is a great part of that.  You may bump up and wrestle a kid a little heavier than you,” he told Swankonsports.com, “The team duals are really exciting and you get some of those fun nail bitter matches that come down to the last match and everybody is into it, the comradely, the kinship, the brotherhood.  Team duals we really embrace that.”

          One thing that gives the Arrows an advantage in these kinds of events is the depth they have in their program.  Seder says they have had a number of kids win matches this year.  “I think we have been kind of blessed the past year or two with numbers and depth, this year especially.  We have had a couple of upperclassmen that were state ranked and pretty good wrestlers that have gone down in the last week or two and we have been fortunate to have freshmen and sophomores step up.  That is pretty awesome because when the seniors graduate they just kind of fill their shoes.  We don’t necessarily completely reload, but it is not a complete retooling kind of thing,” said Seder.

          Other schools that have reached the regional level include Sandusky, who wrestles Sandusky Perkins.  The other half of that bracket is Defiance and Wauseon.  Upper Sandusky takes on Whitehall with Logan Elm and Miami Trace in the other half.  Oak Harbor, of the bay division of the Sandusky Bay Conference, takes on Genoa with the winner getting Northmor or Marion Pleasant of the Mid-Ohio Athletic Conference.  Crestview of the Firelands faces Edison of the “SBC” with winner getting one of two Wayne County Athletic schools in Smithville or Waynedale.

 

Published 1/31/17

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Big Game For Ashland in Many Ways

  

          Ashland and Lexington are tied for second place in the Ohio Cardinal Conference heading into a Friday night meeting at Arrow Arena.

          Both trail Wooster by two games.

         The Arrows kept themselves in the race with a (48-44) win over Mt. Vernon on Tuesday night.

          Coach Jason Hess says they got some big minuets from some kids off the bench in that victory.  “Mt. Vernon does a really good job of running their stuff and controlling the tempo of the game and getting it in their favor.  That is evident in their scores.  When you look a lot of their scores are on the lower scoring side.  It was in the 40’s here Tuesday night and I thought our kids did a really good job of grinding things out on defense and getting some stops when we needed them.  We had several kids step up and make some big shots like Kamrin Knowlton come off the bench and Manny Langston in double digit scoring for us, which was just huge to help give us a little bit of an edge and get us a win on Tuesday,” said Hess.

          Lexington (13-3,7-2), #4 in the Swankonsports.com boys’ basketball coaches poll in the large school division, won the first match-up (46-45) in December at Lexington and that is the kind of game the Minutemen had been playing for most of the season, but Hess says the last couple of games they have been different.  “We have noticed that on film they have done a little more pressing and making it more of a full court game.  It will be interesting to see how they try to come out and attack us.  They had a lot of success the first time around slowing things down and making it a half court game where we had to really work to get points in the half court,” he said.

          When it comes to things they have to do better than the first time they played Lexington, Hess says they have to contain Cade Stover a little better, something that isn’t easy.  “One thing for sure is when we played them as early in the year as we did I think a little bit different on both sides.  We both have a lot of kids that play football and both schools were in the football playoffs, Lexington went a little father than we did, but the kids were still kind of getting their basketball legs,” he told Swankonsports.com on Thursday, “Even though the personnel is the same I think both teams are at a little different point and have a little different identity than we did in December.  We are going to have to do a really good job guarding inside.  They are getting a lot of points inside from Cade Stover.  We have to get him under control to have a chance to win.”

          A win is crucial for Ashland (12-3,7-2) if they have any chance to catch Wooster, but Hess says they just want to beat Lexington.  “Wooster has pretty well separated themselves having a two game lead on both of us.  If you want a chance to catch Wooster you have to win this game.  More than that the rivalry between Ashland and Lexington in a lot of sports and it goes back to football and the way they competed down to the end and shared the “OCC” championship.  Even if we can’t catch Wooster it would still be nice to win this game and be able to move ahead of Lexington,” he said.

 

Published 1/27/17

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Ashland and Madison Tangle on Friday

  

          Ashland put together a good performance at home against Clear Fork on Tuesday and now they are preparing for a showdown with the Madison Rams on Friday night in Ohio Cardinal Conference action.

          After getting belted by Wooster (75-41) in league play last Friday and holding off Norwalk (49-47) on Saturday, the Arrows stuffed Clear Fork (52-31) in a good effort.

          Coach Jason Hess thought they played well on both offense and defense against the Colts.  “It was nice to kind of get a little bit our edge back on the defensive end on Tuesday.  I thought we were pretty solid defensively.  We were very active pressuring the basketball and more active than we had been in the past away from the basketball, which allows us to get some steals and deflections and disrupt their offensive flow.  That was nice to see on Tuesday night.  The ball went through the hoop a couple of times too because we were able to get out and run and get some transition shots.  We got a lot of inside scoring Tuesday and didn’t just rely on settling for outside jumpers,” said Hess.

          Ashland has been a high pressure team this season and Hess says they believe good defense leads to good offense.  “We really try to make that a point of emphasis in our program that our best offense is playing good defense.  Defense travels so whether it is a home game or an away game if you guard and you play good defense you can give yourself a chance to win,” he told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday, “We were able to do that Tuesday and hopefully we can continue to build on it.  We have had a fairly solid defensive effort all year long with a couple of letdowns here and there, but overall I have been pretty pleased with our defense and I think that is a credit to our senior leaders and the size and athleticism we have on the team.”

          Ashland (10-3,5-2) hosts Madison (8-5,4-3) on Friday night.  The Rams edged Lexington (56-53) Tuesday on Tyrell Ajian’s fall away 25 footer. 

          Hess says the Rams play tough defense and show some floor balance on offense.  “They are a team that is just hard nosed and will compete on the defensive end and they have given us trouble in the past years because of how good they play in the half court defense.  They have some weapons with a couple of kids averaging 15 plus points a game.  They shoot from the perimeter well and they have some inside scoring as well.  They are a very dangerous team.  They have a good record and they have won a lot of games.  It is going to be a tough challenge for us,” said Hess.

          Ashland is taller overall than Madison, but the Rams match them in athleticism.  Hess thinks it will be a competitive game.  “This is a good match-up record wise we are pretty similar and especially when you compare us to similar opponents we have played.  This is going to definitely be a close match-up and I expect a close game throughout,” he said.

 

Published 1/19/17

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Arrows Want to Run Under Control

  

          Ashland, a game behind in the standings, takes on first place Wooster, in a huge game in the Ohio Cardinal Conference on Friday night.

          The Arrows are one of the few teams that Wooster plays that can match their height and athleticism.

          In a non-conference game on Tuesday night, the Arrows downed Canton Central Catholic (71-54) and coach Jason Hess says they did it with another big second half.  “That seems to be the way this season has gone for us.  In the first half we don’t necessarily get off to a great start, but we play good enough defense to kind of hand around and then find a way to win games in the fourth quarter.  A lot of credit should be given to our kids for the way they make adjustments throughout the game and the way they have learned and been able to make plays down the stretch to win basketball games,” he said.

          Ashland (8-2,4-1), #4 in the Swankonsports.com boys’ basketball coaches poll in the large school division, hosts Wooster (10-0,5-0), #1 in our poll, on Friday night.  Wooster beat Clear Fork (71-50) an “OCC” game last Friday and Elida (69-67) in a non-conference game on Saturday.

          Hess says they put a lot of pressure on you the entire game and you have to handle the ball.  “That is really what this game Friday night is going to boil down to.  If we can take care of the basketball, value the basketball, and limit our turnovers that will lead to easy baskets for them and make them work to score in half court situations.  That will give ourselves and chance and it should be a close basketball game.  If we get a little loose with the basketball and it turns into a track meet where they are able to get out and run it could be a long night for us.  Hopefully, we can find a way to take care of the basketball and be solid with the basketball against their pressure,” said Hess.

          Trevor Smith has been the Generals leading scorer in their last two conference games.  He is a transfer from Northwestern and Hess says he has made Wooster a better half court team.  “Anytime you add a guy that is capable of shooting the three as well as he does, not only the three, but the 25 foot three pointer, that stretches the defense out.  That is just an extra weapon and a weapon that you have to guard.  So, that makes them a lot better in the half court,” he told Swankonsports.com on Tuesday, “Also with their size.  They are very similar to us with their size and athleticism.  It is a very good match-up and it will be a very even match-up on paper with physcialness of the kids and how the kids play.  It should be a fun one and we are looking forward to the challenge.”

          Ashland wants to push the pace of the game themselves, but Hess says they must be under control.  “We are going to continue to run and push the basketball because that is when we are at our best and we have to play to our strengths.  The key though is to be under control when we are running.  Not to get caught up in the chaos that they try and cause on defense and get ourselves out of control, but to stay within our system and stay with what we are doing as a team.  We have been very good when we have been out running, but occasionally we have kind of got into the habit of shooting some bad shots.  It will really help them out if we do that,’ said Hess.

 

Published 1/13/17

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Ashland Hosts Talented Mansfield St. Peter’s

  

          Ashland plays at home at Arrow Arena Tuesday night against a very good Mansfield St. Peter’s team in a game between two of the better basketball teams in North Central Ohio.

          The Arrows (5-1), #2 in the Swankonsports.com boys’ basketball coaches poll in the large school division, beat Mansfield Senior (60-54) in Ohio Cardinal Conference action last Friday.

          They rallied in the second half to do it, but coach Jason Hess says they need to quit putting themselves in a hole.  “I told the guys Saturday morning we need to start figuring out how to put four quarters together and try to get off to a better start so we don’t have to go into the locker room each week down five, six points and put extra pressure on us to play a perfect second half to win,” he said.

          Mansfield St. Peter’s (8-1), #1 our poll among the smaller schools, dismantled rival Mansfield Christian (76-42) in a Mid-Buckeye Conference game on Friday.

          Hess says the Spartans play solid fundamental basketball and they have four guys that can really score it against anybody they have played.  ”They are a very good team.  They are four very capable scorers that can go off for 20 plus points any night.  They are a team that went to the reguonals last year and play with a lot of confidence.  They have good size with their guard-forwards, 6’3”, 6’4”.  They have good length there and good guards at the top of their defense that put a lot pressure on the basketball,” he told Swankonsports.com on Monday, “They are a well balanced team they are not just relying on one guy.  They execute their offense, they take good shots, they play an up tempo style, they get out and run and take advantage of that stuff.  They are capable to stepping out and shooting the three as well.  There are a lot of different ways they can beat you.”

          Ashland has one of the tallest starting lineups in North Central Ohio this season.  Hess says they need to take advantage of that against the Spartans on both offense and defense.  “I think we might have a little bit of an advantage with our size because I think more of the strength of their team is with their guards and their perimeter players as opposed to their inside guys.  We also need to use our length to defend them and not give them easy looks at the basket.  So, hopefully you can guard them tightly on the perimeter and defend their shot and not have to crowd them where they can go bye us on the dribble.”

 

Published 1/03/16

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It’s About Handling the Pressure for Arrows

  

          Ashland, just a game behind “OCC” co-leaders Wooster and Lexington, entertains Mansfield Senior at Arrow Arena in Ohio Cardinal Conference play on Friday night.

          They rallied to beat Mt. Vernon (62-48) in conference play last Friday, erasing a one-point deficit after three quarters of play.  Coach Jason Hess says eventually they were able to make their size and athleticism a factor.   “It was a game where Mt. Vernon really shot the ball with confidence and did a good job of controlling the tempo and it wasn’t finally until the fourth quarter when were able to use some of our size and athleticism to wear them down a little bit and force some uncharacteristic mistakes and turnovers out of them that we were able to capitalize on and stretch it out a little bit,” he said.

          Mansfield Senior (1-6,1-2) plays at Ashland (4-1,2-1), #4 in the Swankonsports.com boys’ basketball coaches poll in the large school division, on Friday night.  The Tygers lost for the first time in more than 30 years to Clear Fork (60-53) last week and were buried by Akron St. Vincent/St. Mary (85-49) on Tuesday night.

          However, Hess says this not a team void of talent.  “They are a very talented team and they are extremely athletic.  I think they are in a situation maybe like where we were a year ago where they are just trying figure things out.  When you look at the pieces they had last year in Mario Young and David Hall and some of those guys the last couple of years.  Those are guys they relied on to fill a lot of baskets and make a lot of shots when times got tough.  Right now they are trying to figure out who is going to be that step up guy and make baskets for them and make plays for them,” he told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday, “Last year we started out 1-6 turned things around and ended up with a pretty good year.  So, when I look at Mansfield and I have been telling the guys all week we can’t assume anything.  It doesn’t matter who is wearing the uniforms Mansfield is still Mansfield until we go our there and prove differently.  I hope we can get our guys ready to play against a good team.  I think it is going to be competitive and fast paced game and hopefully our guys are ready to play.”

          Over their first five games Hess says the Arrows have been the most aggressive team and that is not going to be the case on Friday.  He says they have to handle the Tyger pressure.  “We really haven’t seen that type of pressure defense yet this year.  In the games we have played we have tried to be the more aggressive team and the more athletic team and we have tried to apply that pressure defense to our opponents and we have not had anybody try and guard us in that manner.  We have tried to practice against it this week.  I have asked some alumni guys to come in who are home from college break and do some different things to try and simulate that in practice.  Hopefully are guys will be up for the challenge and be able to handle that pressure and be able to attack that pressure and get some baskets,” said Hess.

 

Published 12/29/16

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Ashland Wants to Get Better at What They do

  

          Last week, Ashland suffered its first loss of the season, but they were able to rebound from it and get a win the next night.

          They lost an “OCC” game to Lexington (46-45) on Friday night and their share of the conference lead along with it, but they were able to come out on Saturday night and beat Shelby (59-56) in the “OCC/NOL” challenge. 

          Coach Jason Hess hopes his team learns form the experience at Lexington.  “I thought we played really well on the defensive end on both nights.  Lexington does a great job with their half court defense and unfortunately we weren’t able to capitalize on some scoring opportunities that we had in that game.  We just needed a couple of more buckets.  It was a good experience for our kids and hopefully we can learn from it and grow.  We will see here in the upcoming weeks as we continue to play conference games and close games how we finish those and we can look back that it was a productive loss for us even though we came up a little bit short and suffered our first loss,” said Hess.

          In the Shelby game, according to Hess, they were able to make the plays at the end of the game to pick up the win.  “Saturday night we rebounded well after that loss and the kids competed, even though we were down early against Shelby we just kept battling and competing and stepped up on the defensive end a little bit more, make some plays, and make enough free throws down the stretch Saturday that we didn’t do Friday.  It was nice to see the guys come back Saturday night after the way we got beat Friday,” he said.

          Hess says they are still trying to refine the things they do with the ball and without the ball.  “It is one of those things where you have to make adjustments a little bit although what I have told our guys is we need to get so good at what we are doing that even though other teams know what is coming they still have a hard time guarding us.  The thing we are try to teach in our offense and our system is the kids make basketball plays and they make reads on the defense and they take what the defense is giving them as opposed to running a set play or a set look every single time down the floor that is easy to scout and easy to guard because the kids are doing the same thing over and over.,” he told Swankonsports.com on Thursday, “We tried to give our kids some flexibility, but encourage them to make reads and make plays within the structure of an offense so they can hopefully read what the defense gives them.  Obviously there are tendencies and stats throughout a season and all of that stuff kind of levels out.  The coaches we play in our league and the coaches we play in our out of conference schedule do a nice job of preparing their kids.  So, the kids have to make adjustments, we have to make adjustments and we were able to do that a little bit with Shelby.  We changed some things up defensively in the second half and our kids did a really good job of making those adjustments even though we didn’t spend a lot of time on them in practice.”

          Ashland (3-1,1-1), #4 in the Swankonsports.com boys’ basketball coaches poll in the large school division, plays at home against Mt. Vernon (3-3,1-1) in an “OCC” game on Friday night.

          Hess says they know they are going to have to get out and guard the perimeter.  esHe

“It is a new league opponent for us, but we have been playing them the last few years in a non-conference game, so we do have a little bit of familiarity with Mt. Vernon.  I think they are a good team that plays hard.  They do shoot a lot of perimeter shots from what I have seen in looking at their stats and a couple games I have seen them play.  So, we are going to have to get out and guard the perimeter.  Coming off of playing Shelby that is what we had to do there.  We would like to be able to force an up tempo game and get out in open space.  You will hear that week after week that our kids are a lot better in open space when we play fast and make the game up tempo.  Hopefully defensively we can continue to raise our pressure and intensity and speed teams up,” said Hess.

 

Published 12/23/16

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Ashland Tangles With Lexington, then Shelby

  

          Ashland has started the season in fine fashion, but they face their toughest weekend yet with Lexington and Shelby in back to back games on the hardwood.

          After a (57-49) win at Clear Fork last Friday, the Arrows are (2-0,1-0), #2 in the Swankonsports.com boys’ basketball coaches poll in the large school division.  Coach Jason Hess says they are happy, but know a lot more work needs to be done.  “We are excited to get off to a 2-0 start.  It is one of those things where we have only played two games and a lot of other teams have played four games, so we have definitely had a small sample size compared with some other teams. So, we are still learning about our team and trying to get better each day in practice to get ready to play our next opponent,” he said,

          Hess would like to see some more balance on the floor offensively rather than relying on one guy per night to carry them.  “We need to get better just with our offensive chemistry and offensive flow.  We have done a pretty good job of isolating a couple of match-ups.  The first game (against Sandusky) Griffin Gerwig had a really good night and we got a lot of points from him.  Then Garret Denbow the second night (against Clear Fork) was able to make some shots for us.  We are still looking to get that consistency offensively where we can get two or three guys scoring each night as opposed to just relying on one guy,” said Hess.

          Ashland travels to Lexington (4-0,1-0), #3 in our poll, for a big, early season match-up in the Ohio Cardinal Conference on Friday night.  The Minutemen beat Madison (51-49) in overtime in their first league test last Friday.

          Hess says sophomore Cade Stover has embraced the new role he has stepped into this year for the Minutemen.  “They are a good team.  He is a big kid, a strong kid, a good athlete, and he is going to be a handful for us.  He did really well against us last year.  He was in a little different role for them last year where this year he is more of a main guy where he was part of the supporting cast last year.  He got better and better each game last year and he is off to a great start this year, so he is definitely going to be a handful as we put a defensive game plan together,” said Hess.

          Will this be a tempo driven game?  Hess says they don’t want to face that tough Lexington half court defense very much, they prefer to run the floor.  “When you look at their scores they haven’t been extremely high scoring games, but they were pressing and they were trying to push the ball a little bit.  It will be interesting to see how this game unfolds.  I think we are better when we are playing up tempo and they definitely play good half court defense, so that is something we want to avoid as much as possible,” he told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday, “Hopefully we are able to get out and run a little bit and do a better job than we did against Clear Fork of taking care of the basketball and not turn it over.  It will be a big challenge for us here early in the year.”

          Ashland meets Shelby (2-2) in the “OCC/NOL” Challenge on Saturday at Ontario High School.  Hess says the Whippets will be the ones trying to force the tempo.  “Shelby is not a team you have to try and get out in transition.  They start running as soon as they get off the bus.  They are going to play fast, they are going to spread the floor.  It is going to be a big challenge for us, especially on the back half of a double weekend to see where our guys are conditioning and stamina wise playing two nights in a row for the first time this year.  We are probably going to need to use our bench more than we have the first two games to give our guys a little bit of a rest when we can to try and steal a minute or two here for those guys that play a lot of minutes to keep everybody as fresh as possible,” said Hess.

 

Published 12/15/16

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Ashland Starts Well, Needs to Get Better

  

          After an outstanding performance on the opening Friday, the Ashland Arrows have established themselves as one of the contenders for the Ohio Cardinal Conference title this season.

          They beat a very good Sandusky team (60-59,) the defending Northern Ohio League champion, last Friday. 

          Coach Jason Hess says they gained a lot of confidence from beating such a good team in their first game.  “There is a lot of confidence coming off that win at Sandusky last Friday.  It was definitely a game that will go a long way as far as confidence goes.  The kids are starting to believe.  As a coaching staff we kind of thought all fall that and through early part of preseason with our scrimmages that we have a lot of pieces in place and this could be a good year for us, but you still have to go out and play that way each and every game. There are no guarantees that just because you could be good it is going to happen,” said Hess.

          Hess says they knew they had the potential to be a solid team this year as they have height and athleticism.  However, Hess says they understand that one game does not make a season.  eHe

“We are just starting and it’s a goal here that each week we have to get better so when March comes around that is when you are playing your best basketball.  We are still working at fine tuning things and working on improving things we saw we needed to improve last week and getting ready to play a game this week,” he said.

          Ashland starts the attempt to win the “OCC” title, something they did two years ago, on the road at Clear Fork on Friday night.  The Colts also won on the road last week, beating Mansfield Christian (51-46) in a non-league game on Saturday night.

          Hess says the Colts have a blend of youth and experience and they have some kids that they can make some plays.  He says this is an important game for them to build a foundation.  “It was fortunate we didn’t play Saturday and I was able to go watch them play against Mansfield Christian.  They do have some experience back, but age wise they are still young.  They are still starting a couple of sophomores and a freshman.  It is an important game for us to get off to a good start and establish ourselves early and set the tone with how we want to play,” he told Swankonsports.com on Thursday, “Clear Fork is a dangerous team.  They didn’t have a lot of success last year, but they got a lot of guys experience last year.  The more they play together and the more experience they get and the more confidence they get they become more dangerous.”

 

Published 12/09/16

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Ashland Shows Well in Wrestling All-Star Matches

  

          The area high school wresting season kicked off on Monday night with the annual North Central Ohio Coaches Association All-Star preview held on Monday night at Shelby High School.

          As a warning to the rest of the Ohio Cardinal Conference, the Ashland Arrows had nine of their kids participate with seven of them winning matches.

          The Arrows are the defending “OCC” champs and they are seeking a repeat. 

          Coach Sean Seder, speaking to Swankonsports.com after the matches, says they have a lot of confidence heading into the season.  “We have some pretty high expectations to have a good year this year.  We have a lot of upperclassmen back.  We have a pretty competitive room right now.  I am hoping it all pans out,” he said.

          Austin Mcnamara, Matt Taylor, Landon Plank, Sid Ohl, Devin Groschinski, Josh Bever, and Tyler Newlan all won their matches on Monday night.  Ohl, Taylor, Plank all qualified for the state tournament last year and

          Seder says he likes the experience that they have this year.  “We have a lot kids that are kind of battle tested.  They started as freshmen and sophomores and now have worked their way up as seniors.  They have been through it and seen it and been in those tough situations.  So, hopefully that experience pays dividends,” he said.

          Madison’s LeConte Merrill and Carson Speelman also won their matches as did Nick Dillon of Lexington.

          Seder says the “OCC” will have a number of pretty good individual wrestlers and some good teams too.  “I think that Madison, West Holmes, Lex will have a couple of kids.  Wooster always has a couple of kids.  Mt. Vernon is new this year and it will be interesting to see what they bring to the table.  In general the “OCC” has tough kids in just about every weight class.  It should be a good one,” he said.

 

 

Published 11/29/16

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Ashland will be Big and Mobile

  

          Ashland is going to be among a number of petty good teams in the Ohio Cardinal Conference this season.

          They are certainly going to be one of the biggest.

          Second year head coach Jason Hess says things are coming around pretty well for the Arrows with the regular season opener at defending Northern Ohio League co-champion Sandusky on Friday night.  “We have had a pretty good preseason with all things considered.  We got a little bit of late start with the football team making the playoffs in the first round.  We also had a few nagging injuries from football season that we had to give the kids a little extra time to get over.  Things have come around a little bit here and progressed a little bit faster the last week.  We are still working and trying to figure out some of our rotations and lineups as far as what guys play well together.  What five guys fit together on the floor at all times in different situations.  The kids have done a great job of being patient working together and learning new spots.  Our scrimmages have been very beneficial to us.  We are trying to fine tune some things to get ready Friday,” said Hess.

          With a big front line this season the Arrows are going to be tough to handle for a lot of teams, especially because those guys also have some athleticism, according to Hess.  “We are very fortunate.  I think this is the first year in my years of coaching that when we are in a team huddle that I am looking eye to eye with most of them.  That is a good thing to have when you are a coach that you are not looking down on your players.  The old adage is you can’t teach height,” he told Swankonsports.com on Monday, “We are blessed this year with several guys on the roster that are 6’4”, 6’5”, 6’6” and have good length and athleticism.  They are mobile guys that can move, that can run the floor.  We want to push the basketball and play that up tempo that we have done for several years now.  This group can do that and hopefully our length and athleticism will help on the defensive end as much as anything.”

          Sandusky features the talents of last year’s division two district player of the year in Jayreese Williams.  They lost to Lexington in the district final a year ago after winning it two seasons ago.

          Hess says the Blue Streaks, who beat the Arrows in the football playoffs, are going to be a big challenge.  “There is no doubt about it this is a Sandusky team that is very talented, especially kind of spearheaded by their three guard attack with the Williams brothers and Croom that has a lot of experience at the varsity level.  They have had a couple of long tournament runs when March came around.  They know how to win games.  They play hard.  They are very athletic.  It is going to be a great test for us to kind of find out where we are at when the lights come on Friday night,” he said.

 

Published 11/29/16

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Ashland Wants Better Start

  

          Ashland would like to start this season like they were playing in the second half of last season and be competitive in the tough Ohio Cardinal Conference.

          The Arrows has some length this year and some athleticism.  Coach Jason Hess says they have the kind of raw materials that can make up a good basketball team.  “So far we are excited about this year we have a few guys coming back that played some minutes last year.  We have guys coming up off the JV team that have good length to them and good size.  When you look at our roster I don’t know that we have had this much height and length for a long time.  We are a pretty athletic group, so we are really excited, but we are still early in the season.  In fact, (Monday) night is the first night we have had everybody here.  With football we have been a little slow getting started,” said Hess.

          Height is a big part of basketball, but it isn’t everything.  Hess says they have to work hard if they are going to be in position to be ready to good when the season starts a little over two weeks against Sandusky.  “It is nice to have that length and size, but the skill and the effort is still really important.  If we can get that skill to come back for these guys that are coming off of football and get the rust off and teach the young guys what effort it takes to play at the varsity level and if you can put that all together you have the makings to have a special year,” he said.

          Ashland lost six of their first eight last year, but railed to finished (11-12) on the season.  They beat “OCC” champ Lexington on the road in late January.

          Hess says with a little longer preseason and the experience he gained as a coach hopefully this can be a better season from start to finish.  “Last year the football season went the same length, we lost in the first round of the playoffs, but we lost two weeks out of our preseason, this year we only lost one, so that makes a big difference.  The other thing is as a second year head coach you are little more used to the expectations of getting through the preseason and organizing the workouts and scrimmages and how you want to manage your time to get your guys ready,” he told Swankonsports.com when we visited Arrows practice on Monday, “Hopefully with the guys we have coming back and the minutes that they played last year everybody will be able to transition to the second year a little smoother and we can get off to a little better start than we did a year ago.”

 

Published 11/15/16

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Ashland Has to Get Sandusky Out of the Box

  

          Ohio Cardinal Conference co-champion Ashland plays at Northern Ohio League winner Sandusky in a regional quarterfinal game in division three on Saturday night.

          Ashland (7-3), #5 in the final Swankonsports.com football coaches poll in the large school division, has kind of been playing playoff football for a month now as they had to win their last four games to make the postseason.  “There is no doubt about that. That is one of those things when you get to that point sometimes you have teams that figure out how hard you have to practice to get ready for things.  As you go through the year that is one of those things that when you get to that point that the level of intensity in practice goes up and that has been the case for us the last few weeks,” said coach Scott Valentine.

          They beat Lexington (24-21) last week to earn a co-title with the Minutemen in the “OCC” and Valentine says you want to take some momentum off a big win into the playoffs.  “You don’t want to lose a game at the end of the year as you are heading into the playoffs.  I guess you have to recover from things if you do.  Being able to come back last week and get that win and it gives us a share of the conference championship and gets us into the playoffs was a good way to go in for us,” he said.

          Sandusky (9-1), #1 in our final poll, is coming off a (23-8) win over Norwalk last week.  Valentine says the Blue Streaks are a team with speed to burn.  “They have some great athletes.  I would say they are a comparable team to Mansfield Senior.  They have athletes in a lot of different positions.  If you don’t contain them they will make big plays.  That is the big thing we are trying to concentrate on this week,” said Valentine.

          Sandusky has an outstanding quarterback in Ja’vez Alexander.  Valentine says he does a lot of things that add up to big plays for the Streaks.  “He is a very good player.  One that concerns me a lot.  You are not going to stop him completely, but you do have to try and contain him and try to limit the big plays that they have,” he said.

          The Blue Streaks have been really successful at containing the run this year, especially against teams like Shelby, Valentine says they are going to open some things and make Sandusky guard them on the perimeter.  “Defensively they play a 4-2-5 and they pack guys in the box and their number one goal is to stop the run.  That is one of those things when we look at things we are going to have to be successful at throwing the ball.  We have to get guys out wide and open up the run for us,” said Valentine.

 

Published 11/03/16

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Ashland Win Means Shared “OCC”

  

          Ashland must beat Lexington on Friday night in order to share the Ohio Cardinal Conference title with the Minutemen and that would also give the Arrows a chance to make the division three playoffs.

          The Arrows (6-3,4-1) beat Mansfield Madison (42-20) lat week in order to set up this opportunity.

          Coach Scott Valentine says they were focused on what they had to do last week.  “With our kids that is the way we approached it nothing happens in week 10 if you don’t take care of week nine.  We had a good week of practice last week and we were able to go out and get the job done,” he said.

          Lexington has one of the better defenses in the area this year.  Valentine says they have good speed and they peruse to the ball well.  “They have guys that run around and do a great job of running downhill and play good team defense and they have kept people out of the end zone.  I think that is definitely a great part of their team and the success they had this season is that defense,” he said.

          Lexington beat Mansfield Senior (42-20) last week and also scored 40 points the week before.  Valentine says the Minutemen are getting better on offense.  “They have a lot of the same guys playing on both sides of the ball.  They have playmakers and when you have playmakers they are going to make plays and put points on the board.  They definitely have that,” he said.

          Ashland has dominated the series with Lexington having won nine of the last 10 meetings.  Lexington’s only win coming in 2008, the only time until this year they won the “OCC” title, that’s one was outright. 

          To win this time Valentine says it is all about big plays and who makes them and he knows that special teams are often a factor in these kinds of games between good teams.  “Defensively we have to be able to contain their big playmakers and not give them the big play.  You are not going to stop them, but at least not let them get a lot of big plays.  Offensively for us we are going to have to make some big plays,” he told Swankonsports.com on Tuesday, “We have to execute our offense against their defense and make some big plays and get some scores.  Special teams in these tight games are always big.  The Ohio State game last week special teams were a big part in that game, so that is something we are definitely going to emphasize going into this game.”

 

Published 10/26/16

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Ashland in Position

  

          Ashland trails Ohio Cardinal Conference leader Lexington by a game and they play the Minutemen next week with a chance to do no worse than share the title.

          However, first things first.

          They play at Mansfield Madison on Friday night and must have a win to keep those conference title hopes alive.

          They beat Clear Fork (23-14) last week, stopping the Colts twice inside their own 10.  Coach Scott Valentine says his kids were up to the challenge.  “I thought defensively, the kids when we had to get some stops down there by the goal line we got those stops.  Then offensively we were able to drive down and get the ball in the end zone.  Like I always say anytime you get a win it’s a good win and I felt we played pretty good defense there in the second half,” he said.

          Ashland controls its own destiny terms of the league title and Valentine says that is all you want at this time in the season.  “At the end of the year you want to be in that discussion for a championship and you would like to control your own destiny.  That was something we talked about on Monday after the game that starting this week the opportunity is there and are we going to get ready and get the job done or not.  I think we have had a pretty good week of practice, but we still have to do it on Friday night,” said Valentine.

          Ashland (5-2,3-1) plays down the road at Madison (2-6,0-4) in “OCC” play on Friday.  Madison has shown the ability to score points this year in bunches, but they have given up even more.

          Valentine says they have to be able to lock down on the Rams big playmakers.  “They have a lot of big play capabilities offensively.  They score a lot of points and so that is something that is a challenge for us defensively to get stops on them and not give them big plays.  They have some big play makers and you have to keep them in tack,” he told Swankonsports.com on Thursday, “Defensively people have been able to move the ball on them, but at times they have looked really good too.  They are a team that definitely we have to be ready for and be ready to play four quarters of football on Friday night.”

          When asked if they would deploy a strategy to keep Madison’s offense off the field by eating some clock, Valentine says it depends on the game situation.  “When you get into games you look and see what are some possibilities as the game gets going.  I think you kind of have play out as the game gets going and maybe change out a little bit here and there as you get going.  We aren’t going in with that definite idea, but we talk about all of the different possibilities with how the game might play out and be ready to adjust if we have to,” he said.

 

Published 10/21/16

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Ashland Must Stuff Clear Fork

  

          Ashland travels to the Clear Fork valley for the final time to play the Colts in an Ohio Cardinal Conference game.

          The Colts are leaving the league after this season.

          The Arrows beat Mt. Vernon (49-36) last week in a game between schools that will both be in the “OCC” next season.

          It was a game in which Ashland led all night, but they couldn’t quite put the Yellow Jackets away until late in the game.  Coach Scott Valentine says every week presents a different challenge.  “That is one of the things we tell our kids all of the time that is why this is greatest team game that there is because you have to be able to do things on either side of the ball depending on the game.  We had to score a lot last week and have our defense get some key stops for us.  The special teams did a nice job too.  That is what we are looking for,” said Valentine.

          Keagan Armitage has been the Ashland quarterback pretty much since early in week three after starter Grant Dendow suffered a thumb injury.  Valentine says their game plan has been pretty much they same.  “We have not changed our approach much on offense.  We knew we weren’t going to have to change a lot.  He has run our system since he was a freshman.  He is a junior now, so he knew everything,” he told Swankonsports.com on Monday, “We thought he had a pretty good shot to be pretty good.  We haven’t changed a lot and he has been able to handle everything that we are doing and has done a really nice job for us.”

          Ashland (4-3,2-1) trails Lexington and Mansfield Senior by a game in the “OCC” standings, while Clear Fork (3-4,1-3) last week won their first conference game over Madison (31-28) at Ram Field.  They have also had to replace their quarterback as Thomas Staab is out for the season with a leg injury and has been replaced by sophomore Jared Schaefer.

          Valentine says the Colts want to run the ball, but they are doing in different ways than years past.  “They are doing a few different things this year by spreading it out and with some of their sweeps.  They still come at you with the run game.  Defensively our focus is going to have to be on stopping them running the ball the way they like to run it,” he said.

          On defense, Valentine says the Colts are going to be very aggressive and bring some pressure that they are going to have to handle to be successful.  “Defensively they still bring a lot of pressure and they come at you with different looks.  Those are the things we are going to try and prepare for.  You always know you are going to have to play well against Clear Fork because it is always going to be a tough battle,” he said.

 

Published 10/11/16

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Ashland Has to Move on

  

          Ashland plays a non-conference game against future “OCC” member Mt. Vernon on Friday night.

          Mt. Vernon is in the Ohio Cardinal Conference this year in every sport except football due to some contracts with other schools and threatened legal action.

          Last Friday, the Arrows were involved in another shootout, losing to Mansfield Senior (45-42) in “OCC” play.

          Coach Scott Valentine says there were a lot of big plays.  “It was one of those games that went back and forth.  We had our opportunities and so did they.  They ended up getting that one more play than we did.  Credit to them and the effort they gave.  We are focusing on getting better and moving on,” he said.

          Mansfield Senior running back Brian Benson set a school record for rushing yards with 388 yards on the ground.

          Ashland (3-3) has suffered some injuries at key positions this year, including quarterback, but Valentine says next man up.  “That is one thing we have always talked about with our kids that you have to be ready for that next one.  The next one of the most important one and there is nothing you can do about the past.  I think our kids have really adapted to that.  They take it to heart because we have had some guys step in and really play well for us,” said Valentine.

          Their front seven was young to begin the season, but Valentine likes they way they have matured.  “I think they have come together.  That is something I think you are always looking for.  We have had to make some adjustments for some people and you always look for units to come together.  I am happy with the way we are progressing there,” he said.

          Mt. Vernon (1-5) has lost its last five, including (42-0) to Hilliard Darby last Friday.  They have lost to “OCC” members Wooster (44-8) and Lexington (34-15) this season.

          Valentine says the Yellow Jackets like to feature the power running game.  “I think they are a team that likes to run the ball.  They get in the “I” and flat backs and a tight end.  They are going to come at you and run some power and counter stuff.  It is similar to some of the stuff that we used to see from Wadsworth a couple of years ago and things like that,” he told Swankonsports.com on Tuesday, “Defensively they are a 3-4, similar to some of the stuff that Mansfield does.  They don’t play a lot of man like Mansfield did, they are cover 2 and cover 3 out of a three man front.  Those are things we have seen.  This week we have to get better at the little things.”

 

Published 10/05/16

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Ashland Can’t Live in the Past

  

          Ashland won likely the most exciting game in North Central Ohio last Friday when they rallied to beat Wooster (43-36) in triple overtime in Ohio Cardinal Conference action.

          Keagan Armitage, Ashland’s back up quarterback to start the season, scored the deciding touchdown for the Arrows.

          Coach Scott Valentine says there were a lot of big plays in the game they just made a few more.  “I think there was great effort by both teams.  I’ll tell you it was just one of those games where you make a play and you might be there and they make a play.  There was effort throughout that whole game and the overtime by both teams.  It was a great game and we were just fortunate we could get the win,” he said.

          It was a great win, no doubt, but Valentine says they have to sort of file and forget that one now.  “The thing we tried to stress to our kids is that it was a great win and everything, but it is a new week and if you don’t get ready and don’t practice the way we need to you are not going to feel good after Friday night.  That is one thing we have emphasized and our kids have taken it and moved on and are getting ready for Mansfield,” said Valentine.

          Ashland (3-2,2-0) plays at Mansfield Senior (3-2,1-0) in an “OCC” game on Friday night.  The Tygers outlasted Clear Fork (42-39) last week in a game where only eight points were scored in the second half.  Valentine says the Tygers did what they had to do on both sides of the ball to win.  “It is a team game and you go in spurts sometimes and with them last week there were some spurts.  Their defense was able to help them finish the game off.  That is part of the game.  They are a good football team and we are going to have to play really good football to have a chance to win,” he said,

          There is no question that Mansfield Senior has explosive athletes again this season, including Brian Benson, the school’s all time leading rusher. 

          Valentine says they must be good pursuers and tacklers on defense this week.  “Defensively it has to be great team effort.  You have to have maximum guys around the football and running to the football in case something happens you have extra guys there,” he told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday, “That has been our emphasis this week about running to the football and being sure tacklers when we get the opportunity.”

 

Published 9/29/16

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Ashland Meets Unbeaten Wooster

  

          Step by step the Ashland Arrows have improved as football team over the first four weeks of the high school football season, but they face their biggest challenge of the season as they travel to Wooster on Friday night to play the unbeaten Generals.

          The Arrows (2-2,1-0) last Friday beat West Holmes (35-7) to open play in the Ohio Cardinal Conference. 

          Coach Scott Valentine says he thought last Friday his team did a pretty good job against West Holmes’ wing-T offense, improved their tackling, and made stops when they had to have them.  “With the style of offense they played that is a tough thing on your defense.  I didn’t think we had a great early part of the week practice wise, but we talked to the kids and the last couple of days we really focused in on what we needed to do with their offense,” Valentine told Swankonsports.com, “We gave up some yards, but when we had to we stopped them in the red zone and got some turnovers and we have tackled better and you look for that as you progress through the season.”

          Having been injured early in the game with Tiffin Columbian, the Arrows played their second game without starting quarterback Grant Denbow.  Valentine says it will likely be some time before Denbow can return at quarterback with his injured thumb.  “Right now it is going to be week to week.  With the thumb when you are the quarterback you have to be able to hold the football.  So, he wasn’t able to play.  He is anxious to play and we are looking some other possibilities with maybe some defense and stuff like that.  Quarterback wise it could be another few weeks.  Guys heel at different rates and you just never know and you kind of see as you go on.  Keagan Armitage has been doing a great job for us,” said Valentine.

          Last week, Armitage was nine for 13 for 151 yards passing against West Holmes.

          Wooster (4-0,1-0), #1 in the Swankonsports.com football coaches poll in the large school division, shutout a Madison team (38-0) that had averaged over 45 points a game of its last two last Friday in their first “OCC” game of the season.  Valentine knows the challenge will be tremendous both in preparation this week and the game on Friday and Folis Field in Wooster.  “They are very good and we have to get to work because that is a very big game as far as the league is concerned,” he said.

          The Generals have been very good on offense with running Trey Mathis and quarterback Peyton Bennington, but Valentine says the Generals might be better on defense.  “They have a lot of guys back this year and they run downhill.  Offensively they have some weapons, but defensively they are really playing well right now and we are going to have to find some way to get some points,” he said.

 

Published 9/19/16

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Discipline the Key for Ashland

  

          Ashland uses a tough non-conference schedule to get ready for the Ohio Cardinal Conference season and that portion of the season starts at home Friday night with the West Holmes Knights.

          Starting quarterback Grant Denbow was knocked out of the game last week with Tiffin Columbian and his status for Friday night is uncertain at this point.

          They beat Tiffin Columbian (38-21) last week to pick up their first win of the season.  Coach Scott Valentine says it was a big boost in confidence.  “The loss in the first game was a tough one to take.  The next week I thought we improved, but we just didn’t do it enough.  Anytime you can get a win, especially before conference play it is big,” he said.

          Ashland lost week one on the final play of the game to Wadsworth (27-24) and the next week to a solid Clyde team (38-17) to start the season.  However, Valentine believes the schedule prepares them well for the “OCC.”  “That is why we try to play a tough schedule.  You always find out where you are at.  Good teams can expose some weaknesses.  You kind of go from there to find out what else you can do.  Our kids feel like they have gone through some tough games and hopefully we are ready to go for the conference,” said Valentine.

          West Holmes (0-3) is coming off (41-7) loss to state power Steubenville.  This summer former coach Kevin Maltarich resigned sighting differences with the school’s administration.  However, Valentine says things have stayed pretty consistent with the Knights.  “They played a great non league schedule.  The staff that has taken over is a group of guys that have been on staff and have been there.  Even though they lost coach (Kevin) Maltarich I think the change over for the kids wasn’t as big as it could have been with the guys they hired,” he said.

          The Knights have traditionally featured the wing-T offense and have emphasized the running game.  Valentine says against them you have to be very good at getting off blocks and getting to the ball carrier.  “The things that they do offensively are different than we see a lot of times.  For us we are going to have to be able to get off blocks and make tackles because of the different things they do in their offensive package,” he told Swankonsports.com on Tuesday, “We need to stay disciplined and stay where we need to be nx play our responsibilities.  With what they do offensively that is one of the biggest keys for us.”

 

Published 9/14/16

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Ashland has to Limit Mistakes

  

          Ashland plays one of the tougher non conference schedules in North Central Ohio and they face another challenge this week as they play at Tiffin Columbian against the Tornadoes.

          They lost on the last play of the game to Wadsworth (27-24) in their opener.

Last week, they lost to Clyde (38-17) on week two.  Arrows coach Scott Valentine says you can’t make mistakes like they did against real good teams and have success.  “There was a point where we tied it up 7-7 and they got a couple of big plays, but it was 17-14 right before the half and they got a big play on us right before the half.  It is one of those things where we look at ourselves and I thought we improved at tackling and blocking and some of those things,” he told Swankonsports.com on Tuesday, “We went back and looked at big plays that we gave up and those are things that you can’t do against good football teams.  Clyde is a good football team and we got ourselves in a hole and we weren’t able to get back out.  We have tried to work on some of those things and get better at the fundamentals that we need to get better at.”

          Big plays often tell the story in high school football.  You have to make them and stop the other guys from doing it.  Valentine says they were not able to do that last week.  “We gave them an interception for a touchdown, you just can’t give turnovers up.  We had them stopped a few times on fourth down and like 16 and a third down and real long and we end up giving them first downs on a long run.  Those are some things that you can’t do against really good people.  That is something we have got to correct and get better at,” he said.

          Tiffin Columbian (1-1) lost to Clyde (49-0) on week one, but they got a late defensive touchdown to get past Bryan (21-14) last week.  They have a new coach in Judd Lutz.  Valentine says the Tornadoes and clearly a team to be reckoned with.  “They have some young players playing, but they got the win last week and they improved like you want to every week.  So, we are going to have to go up there and be ready to play four quarters of football and make sure we don’t give up big plays and we don’t have mistakes,” he said.

 

Published 9/07/16

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Ashland Meets Clyde in Battle of Good Teams

  

          Ashland and Clyde are two of the better high school football teams in North Central Ohio and they collide at Ashland’s Community Stadium on Friday night.

          Last week, Ashland lost (27-24) in agonizing fashion as Wadsworth scored on a “Hail Mary” pass at the gun.  Ashland coach Scott Valentine says it was a good game and it is too bad somebody had to lose.  “When you are in those types of games, a great high school game, you are disappointed for your kids because of the outcome not going your way, but overall I was proud of the way our kids battled.  We were down and came back.  Those things happen and we have been on the other side of some games over the years where it is going our way.  More disappointed for the kids than anything.  I told them at the end we have a lot of football left to play and we have to bounce back and we have a tough Clyde team that we play this week, so we don’t have time to feel sorry for ourselves,” said Valentine.

          They certainly did some good things and some bad things this week, but mostly Valentine says they have to learn from it and move on.  “We watched the tape of Saturday morning and saw a lot of good things, but there are a lot of things to get better at.  So, that has been the focus this week,” he told Swankonsports.com on Tuesday, “I just reminded them you think about the games last year when Michigan got beat by Michigan State on the last play and the Green Bay Packers beating Detroit on the last play.  It happens at all levels and it just happened to happen to us.  You have to move on and I think that is something we have done pretty well this week as far as practice.”

          Valentine says they have to be better at the fundamental elements of the game, tackling and blocking.  “We have to become better tacklers.  It is not like we are not hitting, but we are not finishing our tackles by using our feet and running through those tackles.  We can still get better at getting off blocks on defense.  Offensively, blocking wise we just hit some people and stopped our feet.  A lot of that stuff comes with game experience and we have to work through understanding we have to finish things with our feet,” he said.

          Meanwhile, Clyde overwhelmed Tiffin Columbian (49-0) last week, scoring six touchdowns in the first half of game.  Valentine says the Fliers have players all over the field.  “Offensively they have a running back that runs really hard.  They do a lot of looking over their keys and making sure they are in the right stuff.  Those are the things offensively that make them very affective.  They have some big, strong lineman up front on defense.  So, we are going to have to find a way to neutralize some of those things to help us be successful,” said Valentine.

          Ashland plays Columbian next week and they have a very good non-conference schedule.  Valentine says that is by design.  “To play somebody that isn’t very good doesn’t benefit us at all.  We feel the teams we are playing non conference are going to prepare us for our conference schedule.  There are things you see and learn from in the first game and you have to get ready for another tough opponent.  The type of practice we are trying to have this week hopefully pays off in the end,” he said.

 

Published 8/31/16

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Ashland Hosts a New Wadsworth

  

          Ashland and Wadsworth has become a traditional opener, but this time there is going to be a new twist.

          The Grizzlies have a new coach in former Loudonville coach Justin Todd and he has turned the Wadsworth power run game into more of a spread look.

          Ashland Coach Scott Valentine says his kids have looked pretty good in their preparations for the season.  However, he cautions that they do have some new starters, especially on defense.  “I think we are coming together, but you just don’t know for that first game when you get out there and how kids respond to situations that come about.  I think we have moved in the right direction.  Friday night is that first test and we will find out where we are at,” he said.

          You don’t practice the special teams in scrimmages and Valentine says just the tempo of a scrimmage is different than a game and you don’t know for sure how players will react.  "There are so many different situations that come about.  Then you throw in special teams and how those special teams are going to respond.  There are a lot of different variables when it comes to actual games and how those kids do things.  If you have never been in that situation sometimes those kids respond differently,” said Valentine.

          Todd is bringing a different look to the Wadsworth program and Valentine knows they Grizzlies will bring a stiff challenge to Community Stadium on Friday.  “Justin did a great job at Loudonville.  Went to Mt. Vernon for a year and did a great job there.  He is a guy that knows the game and has a good coaching staff,” he told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday, “I know they will be well prepared.  The thing is I know they have a good running quarterback.  That is something we are going to have to be ready to contain defensively.”

          Both teams like to spread you out, but Valentine says they will do it in different ways and look for different things.  “I don’t think they are quite like us.  He does a lot of read option stuff with the quarterback running the ball or handing it off.  They do a little more play action stuff.  We are a little different.  We like to throw the ball first then running.  I think that is the style he likes,” he said.

 

Published 8/25/16

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Ashland Working Things Out

 

          Ashland has a week to go to be ready to open the season against the Wadsworth Grizzlies and new head coach Justin Todd next week and they are making moves to affect that result.

          Veteran head coach Scott Valentine says they have made some decisions they believe are going to help the football team this fall.  “I think we are headed in the right direction.  We still have a lot of things, like always, getting ready for that first game, but I think we are headed in the right direction.  We made a few position moves we think are going to help us.  So, those are all things that you have to get done and we are trying to get that done before that first game,” he said.

          Valentine says he and the coaching staff have to make choices that benefit the team as a whole and that may include moving a kid to a new position on the field.  “That is what we try to tell kids.  As coaches we are trying to make decisions early enough to give them the opportunity to get time playing at that position.  Sometimes we look at things in the off season and try to make some,” he told Swankonsports.com on Thursday evening, “You have to be careful because you don’t want to take a kid out of a position that they are used to, and might play at a high level at, to another position where he can not keep up and play to his potential.”

          Ashland has been a program that has been a consistent winner over the years and Valentine says they try to get their best kids on the field where they can make plays.  “We always try to evaluate our top 20 guys and for those top 20 guys you have to find a spot on the field.  If three of them are in the same position you not where you want be.  Those are things as coaches that we try to look at and evaluate and try to make some moves that are going to benefit us as a team,” he said.

          When it comes to having players go both ways for the whole game, Valentine says that is not something they want to do very often if they can help it.  “We usually try to go what we call one and half.  If we have a guy that is starter on one side of the ball he will play half time on the other side of the ball.  We want to find a guy that can get in there and play half of the game at that other position.  I just think it is too tough for a kid to go both ways for the full game.  At some point there is going to be a let down and sometimes that can cost you.  So, we try to work more one and half than we do two,” said Valentine.

 

Published 8/18/16

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Ashland Has Good Talent Again

 

          You just expect that Ashland is going to have one of the better football teams in North Central Ohio every year and it looks like this year should be no exception.

          Ashland brings back a lot of talent on offense as Grant Denbow will be calling signals again and will have some veterans to try and move the ball.  Meanwhile, on defense, the Arrows will need to rebuild what was a very good front seven last fall.

          Coach Scott Valentine says they have looked pretty good so far in workouts, but he will really be able to tell what he’s got when they start hitting in practice on Saturday.  “I think our kids are learning everything.  The older guys should know it by now and I think we are moving fast with that stuff.  It all comes down to if we can hit and what we can do there,” he said.

          Valentine says he loves having a quarterback back, but he knows they have some work to do on the defensive side of the football.  “Definitely it is nice to have a third year quarterback back, which we haven’t had for a while.  We have some of our skilled guys there,” he told Swankonsports.com when he entered Community Stadium on Thursday for practice, “We have our defensive secondary back, but we lost a lot of our other guys defensively.  Those are the question marks.  Like always you hope the guys that it is their turn to step in, you hope they are ready to go.”

          With Denbow in the fold Valentine says it makes things a little easier when they get practice started, but he says there are some steps he has to take in developing a relationship with the new players.  “Here the first few days a lot of that stuff he knows and the guys know him.  It is still him getting used to some knew guys too.  So, that’s part of the process.  You can give him some more freedom to do some things that make you look like a good coach when he makes those decisions,” said Valentine.

          Ashland had one the best front sevens in the area last year, but Valentine says they have only one of those guys back, so they are going to have to have some new players step up.  “We had a great group up front last year.  We have one of those guys coming back.  Like I said we have guys that feel have had some experience and it’s their turn.  We will find out what they are like here pretty quick,” he said.

 

Published 8/05/16

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Ashland Upsets Third Seed

 

          Ashland, near the bottom of Ohio Cardinal Conference standings, and not having an Ashland like year, rose up Monday night and beat third seeded Holland Springfield (6-3) in the first round of the division one baseball tournament.

          The Arrows (4-14) scored five times in the top of the seventh inning to take the lead in the game.

          Going in coach Rob Lavengood thought they matched up pretty well against Springfield.  "After talking to a couple of coaches leading into the tournament draw the word on Springfield was they pitch and the play good defense, but they aren't a great hitting team.  I thought you know what?  If we can pitch and play defense ourselves.  We really haven't scored a whole lot of runs this year either.  Maybe it can be a low scoring affair and we can scratch across a couple of runs and get a "W."  It was just a great win," he told Swankonsports.com after the tournament win, "We had a lot of guys step up and make plays and do a variety of different things to get us a chance to win.  The kids never quit.  We got down 2-1 heading into the seventh and just had a big inning and put some pressure on them.  We got a few breaks.  They misplayed a few balls and the next thing you know we through five runs up on the board and then hung on."

          Ashland has had a lot of tough luck losses this spring and Lavengood says he is just excited for his players.  "Just happy for the guys. We haven't won a whole lot of games, we have been close, but we have lost a lot of tough ones.  (Monday) night we were able to get the breaks and get a "W" and really proud of the guys," he said.

          Ashland was able to play some small ball in that critical seventh inning and Lavengood says they were able to force Springfield to make some plays.  "We did some things in that seventh inning to put some pressure on them.  We tried a couple of suicide squeezes, they threw a couple of wild pitches, we stole a couple of bases, and really tried to put some pressure on them.  Fortunately for us they misplayed some balls and gave us a chance to put up and crooked number and score five runs," said Lavengood.

          It's another trip northwest for the Arrows on Saturday afternoon as they play Perrysburg, a (5-0) winner over Toledo Start, in the next round of the tournament.  Lavengood says they will need a similar effort against a similar team.  "Essentially Perrysburg is a lot like Springfield.  They pitch pretty well, they play solid defense, but they are not a great hitting team.  They haven't scored a whole lot of runs this year.  I think it is a very similar team.  They are a couple games under .500 overall.  I think if we can put another game together like we did (Monday) I think we can go there Saturday and have a chance to win a sectional championship," said Lavengood.

 

Published 5/10/16

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Ashland Breaks Through

 

          Ashland has been team that hasn't been able to finish off the job, but they were able to do that on Tuesday night and beat arguably one of the hottest teams in North Central Ohio.

          The Arrows (3-8,3-6) downed Lexington (4-3) in an Ohio Cardinal Conference game to pick up their first quality win of the season and knock Lexington three games behind the conference leaders in the process.

          Coach Rob Lavengood says they were able to do some things that they haven't been able to execute so far this spring.  "This was a big win for us.  We have really been struggling lately scoring runs, getting big hits with guys in scoring position, keeping other teams from getting big hits with guys in scoring position," he told Swankonsports.com on Tuesday night, "So, for us to go on the road and beat a good quality Lexington team that was 10-4 I think going into the game, and really get some key hits and making some huge plays defensively was a big  win for us.  Hopefully, this will be a huge confidence boost for us moving forward and we can start to get on a roll here and get a little run and win some games here."

          Down (1-0) entering the fifth inning, Ashland was able to put three runs on the board to take a lead they would never give up.  Lavengood says they were able to execute some small ball.  "We were kind of able to do some things to put some pressure on them defensively in that inning.  We executed a beautiful hit and run that allowed us to score.  We got a sacrifice bunt down, which they ended up throwing away, which allowed us to score.  We really played a little bit of small ball and executed well in that inning doing that.  Fortunately for us they made a few mistakes defensively and we were able to take advantage of that by executing and putting some pressure on them and give us a little bit of a cushion with a three run inning.  Logan Brewer kind of took it from there and pitched a good ballgame for us and gave us a chance to win," said Lavangood.

          Lexington (10-5,5-3), #3 in the Swankonsports.com baseball coaches poll in the large school division, and #1 in our new Twitter fan poll, closed the gap to (4-2) in the sixth, but Ashland pitcher Logan Brewer was able to get out the jam.  Lavengood says Brewer was finally rewarded.  "He was big (Tuesday) night.  Really he has pitched well all season long without a whole lot of run support.  I jokingly, about a week and half ago, called him Corey Kluber, because the last few years Kluber has pitched really well for the Indians and just didn't get a whole lot of run support.  That has been Logan all year long.  He was 0-4 coming into (Tuesday's) game and had an ERA of 2.10.  He just hasn't had a whole lot of run support.  He has had some bad luck.  I felt good for him that he was able to get a win (Tuesday) and really give us a good performance," he said.

 

Published 4/27/16

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Ashland Shuts Out Mansfield Senior

 

          Hunter Krebs tossed a two-hit shutout and Ashland picked up their first win of the season in beating Mansfield Senior (10-0) in five innings in an Ohio Cardinal Conference baseball game Wednesday afternoon.

          Coach Rob Lavengood says they needed a confidence builder on Wednesday.  "We definitely needed a win.  We haven't had a whole lot of games up to this point and time due to the weather.  We were 0-3 coming into (Wednesday) night, but we have actually played some pretty decent baseball even though we were 0-3, so it was definitely nice to get the monkey off our back and get a "W" (Wednesday) night.  Hopefully that will be a jump start for our guys and we are able to get on a role," he said.

          Lavengood says Krebs did an excellent job of hitting his spots and throwing strikes.  "If you can get good pitching and play good defense you are going to have a chance to win every night.  Hunter Krebs had the ball for us (Wednesday) night.  He threw five innings, a complete game, two hit shutout.  He did a nice job of attacking the zone," he told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday night after the win, "I think he only walked one guy and his pitch count was only about 60 pitches in five innings, so pretty economical.  If he pitches like that on a regular basis he is not only going to give us a chance to win, but give himself a chance to go deep into the game and be able to throw six or seven innings."

          Ashland (1-3,1-3) plays at Mansfield Senior (1-6,1-4) on Thursday afternoon at Arlin Field and then they play Wooster (5-4,3-1) on Friday in "OCC" action.  Lavengood says they want to get on a streak here.  "We are preaching to our kids that we have to take one game at a time and not overlook Mansfield (Thursday) night and make sure we go over there and take care of business and not look ahead to Wooster.  If we can get a couple more wins this week and get ourselves to 3-3 in the league as well as overall then we are feeling pretty good about ourselves heading into the weekend and next week with a big, two game set with Madison next Tuesday and Wednesday.  We just want to get some momentum, get some confidence and start playing consistent baseball game in and game out," said Lavengood.

 

Published 4/14/16

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Ashland Needs Wins Against Wooster

 

          Ashland needs to plays some baseball and they need to play well too as they face Ohio Cardinal Conference co-leader Wooster in back to back games on Tuesday and Wednesday, if the weather permits.

          The weather has been lousy for about the last week and Ashland coach Rob Lavengood that has not allowed them to get on the field.  "The weather here these last several days hasn't been real good.  We had a doubleheader cancelled on Saturday up at Sandusky Perkins with them and Olentangy Orange.  We haven't played since Wednesday and we just want to get back out there and get some momentum going and playing some good baseball," he said.

          Ashland (0-2,0-2) has started the season a little slowly, with back to back losses to the other "OCC" co-leader Clear Fork, but Lavengood says they have done some good things, a lot of good things on the field, just not enough to win.  "We want to have some success out there and get some confidence going with our kids.  Even though we lost two games to Clear Fork we played some good baseball.  We played three games last week.  We were tied 1-1 after seven in a suspended game versus Shelby and then we lose 1-0 and 12-5, but in our 21 innings, 19 of those 21 innings, we gave up three runs," he told Swankonsports.com on Monday night, "We just had two bad innings versus Clear Fork on Wednesday where our defense and pitching let us down and we really didn't swing the bats well on Monday and Tuesday.  So, we are sitting at 0-2, but in all but two of the innings in the 21 that we played we gave up three total runs.  So, our pitching and defense was really pretty good other than two bad innings.  We just have to get the bats going.  We swung them better on Wednesday.  I think we are going to be fine, we just have to be consistent and I think good things are going to happen."

          Wooster (4-3,2-0) beat Lexington in both of their "OCC" game last week, (6-3) and (7-1), and the Generals have put together a solid team.  However, Lavengood believes they can compete.  He says they have a good rivalry with the Generals.  "We have had some good games against them the last couple of years.  We battled for a conference championship against them three, four years ago.  I think the next couple of days, if we get the games in, should be hard fought, spirited games.  Hopefully, our pitching and defense hold up and we swing the bats a little and we get a couple of "W's," he said.

 

Published 4/05/16

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Colts Edge Ashland in "OCC" Game

 

          The only run scored on a suicide squeeze, but Clear Fork senior Shane Klenk made it stand up as he threw a three hit shutout to lead the Colts to a (1-0) win over Ashland in their first "OCC" game of the season on Tuesday at Legion Field.

          Clear Fork coach Rusty Staab says Klenk was outstanding and he was able to throw all three of his pitches for strikes and again they played some pretty good defense.  "I fell like we are the Cincinnati Reds of '90 with that great pitching staff or any of teams that have just had guys go out and throw strikes.  We talked about it at the beginning of the year.  Shane throws 78 pitches (Tuesday.)   Mitch threw 67 (Monday.)  Both had compete game shutouts.  I feel like I should go out and play the lottery or look for an eclipse," he told Swankonsports.com after the win, "I was telling them in our meeting after the game when a pitcher knows he can throw all three pitches and if he makes a mistake and it is hit hard it is still going to be played.  They got three hits and there was some and there was a little bit of a possible rally going and boom we get out of it with a fly ball and we get out of it with a ground ball.  So, hats off to our defense and Shane pitched a great game."

          Ashland pitcher Logan Brewer was the hard luck loser.  He also gave up only three hits and struck out six.  Brewer also had one the hits, a ringing single in the third.  Clear Fork left fielder Mason Cox ran down a Brewer drive that appeared to be destined for the leftfield corner to start the sixth.

          Arrows coach Rob Lavengood says both pitchers were at the top of their game.  "You have to give their kid a lot of credit.  He kept us off balance.  He threw a lot of breaking balls.  We were out on our front foot.  Our guy pitched well.  It was just a good, well pitched game.  I mean the game only lasted about an hour and 20 minutes.  We ended before the softball game, which doesn't happy very often.  You have to give the pitchers a lot of credit.  I though Logan pitched really well for us.  Unfortunately we weren't able to score a run.  Maybe we can get the bats going here pretty soon and put some runs on the board," said Lavengood.

          The only run of the game came in the home half of the third when Luke Clark and Klenk led off the inning with back to back singles and were advanced to second and third on a bunt by Ricky Bartrum.  Lane Belcher then laid down a perfect suicide squeeze bunt between the mound and third base to allow Clark to score.

          The Colts threatened again in the fourth and sixth, but couldn't score.  Ashland second baseman Ricky Moffett somehow was able to keep a Clark smash if front of him an defuse a Clear Fork rally in the sixth.  "Ashland made some good plays too.  That ball that ate up their second baseman, he at least kept it on the field and we able to throw Luke out.  I thought if that gets by then we have first and third and then maybe we can sneak a run in.  Our only run was a suicide, so we are struggling a little bit offensively, but we are still getting a "W" and that is way more important than anything else," said Staab.

          The two teams meet again Wednesday at Ashland and Staab says the plan for them will be the same.  "I told Lane (Belcher) no pressure, but there were back to back shut outs and you get the ball (Wednesday.)  He laughed, but we will see what happens.  It is supposed to be warmer.  I'll tell you what Brewer pitched a heck of a game.  His slider was really working an it was really baffling our hitters.  For him to lose that kind of game that kind of stinks, but we were very fortunate," he said.

 

Published 3/30/16

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Ashland With Answers and Some Questions

 

          Ashland has some kids that can play baseball, but they also have a lot of players that are going to be knew to varsity competition this spring.

          Coach Rob Lavengood says they graduated 10 players that played quite a bit for then in 2015 and they are going to have to develop some guys that can play at the varsity level.  "It is still kind of hard to tell where we are going to be at.  We will have our first scrimmage on Wednesday and a couple more scrimmages over the weekend an early next week we will have a better idea of were we are at.  I like our pitching at the top of rotation.  We have a couple of guys that every time they are on the mound they are going to give us a chance to win games.  There are some question marks, especially on the infield," he told Swankonsports.com, "We graduated our entire infield from last year.  We have to find guys that can step in and replace those guys.  We had 10 seniors last year.  Quite a few of those guys were in the lineup at some point and we have to find guys to fill those holes and get on base and score runs for us offensively.  I like the kids that we have.  I kind of cautiously optimistic, but also there are a lot of question marks that have top be answered going into the next couple of weeks."

          There two guys back from last year that will be at the top the Arrows starting rotation and Lavengood says they need to find some other guys now that can get varsity guys out.  "I feel pretty good about the two guys at the top of our rotation with Logan Brewer and Hunter Krebs.  Both of those guys are back from last year and they pitched quite few innings for us at the varsity level.  I think we have some other guys that are going to be able to give us some innings this year and compete for our number three, four and five spots in the rotation.  I like our pitching depth.  There are some other things we are going to have to do well to be successful," said Lavengood.

          With so many sports open in the everyday lineup for Ashland there has been a lot of competition for those openings.  Lavengood says that is always a good thing and it makes you better.  "Competition is great.  The more guys that are competing for a job, pushing each other to get better is not only going to make just the players better, but it is going to make our team better.  I love when you have more than one guy competing at a specific position and pushing for playing time and trying to make each other better.  There is no question that you want to have guys competing every day.  If you don't have that sometimes complacency sets in and that is not going to make you any better," he said.

 

Published 3/16/16

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Ashland Must Handle pressure

 

          Ashland makes the two hour bus ride to Toledo Central Catholic on Tuesday night to play Toledo Whitmer in a first round tournament game in division one.

          The Arrows advanced all the way to the district final last year before losing to Lima Senior.

          Ashland (11-11) finished up the regular season last Friday losing to Wooster (76-62) and coach Jason Hess says they didn't handle Wooster's press the way they wanted to.  "We were able to see some of the same style play that we'll see Tuesday night.  Unfortunately we didn't handle it really well over at Wooster and came up on the short end.  We just had a couple of lapses in the game on Friday, especially at the end of the second quarter and the beginning of the third quarter where we didn't respond to their pressure and intensity," he told Swankonsports.com on Monday, "They really got up to a sizable lead and then we were not able top come back from that.  Definitely it was an eye opening experience for our kids.  We have had a couple of really good days of practice here gearing up for Whitmer, so hopefully we will be able to make the adjustments we need to and go up there and compete and have no regrets.  No mater what the outcome is if we go up there and play hard and we do the things we are capable of doing we will see what happens."

          Whitmer is the third seed in the district and Hess says they are going to see a team that will put a lot of pressure on them and can balance the floor on offense.  "We are expecting to see pressure defense, full court pressure, and some half court 2-3 extended zone pressure.  The are going to play hard, they are to play fast, they are going to push the ball and be very aggressive offensively.  They have a forward guard combo that is a very nice player.  He is averaging about 17 points a game.  He can shoot it from outside and get it to the basket off the bounce.  They have a physical, strong post player that is averaging close to a double double.  It is going to be a tough match up for us and we are going to have to be ready to play for 32 minutes because they keep coming at you with their defensive pressure the entire night," said Hess.

          Regarding the two hour bus ride to Toledo, Hess says they have to not let that bother them and be ready to give their best effort.  "Unfortunately we didn't have any control over the bus ride.  We have to make sure when we get off the bus at Toledo Central Catholic we are ready to play.  We can control our effort and what we do.  There are a lot of things about the game that are out of our control.  So, we have to get our kids as ready as possible and focus on controlling what we can control ," he said.

 

Published 2/23/16

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Ashland Challenges Wooster in "OCC" Game

 

          On of Ashland's best wins this season was when they beat Wooster at their place last month and Friday night they get a chance to do it again, this time on the road.

          After blitzing West Holmes (79-47) in an "OCC" game on Friday, the Arrows lost in overtime (56-53) to Massillon on Saturday.  Coach Jason Hess says that was a night when they just couldn't make shots and sometimes you have those nights.  "On Saturday we missed some good looks at the basket.  We had some good looks at the basket that we knocked down the previous two weeks that unfortunately Saturday didn't fall for us.  Some of our shot attempts were hurried a little bit by Massillon's pressure and their athleticism, but overall I thought our kids played really hard.  They competed like crazy on the defensive end and held Massillon to 56 points in an overtime game and that allowed us to hang around and gave us a chance to win, but we just couldn't make a couple of shots that we needed to," said Hess.

          Ironically, Wooster beat Massillon (89-85) on Tuesday night.  Hess says, as everyone knows, the Generals (14-6,10-3) will press all night long and they have to be able to handle that.  "At this point in the season there aren't a lot of secrets left.  Wooster's calling cared all year has been pressure defense for four quarters the full length of the court and swarming the basketball with one or two or even three guys at times.  We were fortunate the first time to be able to handle the pressure and make some plays against the pressure and we have to be able to do that again," he told Swankonsports.com on Tuesday, "It will be a great game for us on the road just like the Massillon game was here last Saturday to get us ready for tournament.  These two opponents are similar to Toledo Whitmer that we will see in the tournament."

          Ashland (11-10,7-5) beat Wooster (68-50) on January 16.  Hess says thy know this a team they can beat them and his team believes in itself and what it can do on the floor.  "Our kids believe we can compete and beat any team on our schedule and we have proven that this year.  We have been in a lot of close games and we have beaten a lot of the good teams on our schedule.  Confidence wise our kids are not intimidated at all by Wooster with the way they play and some of the points they put on the board, which has been impressive at times toping 100 and getting close to 100 other times.  I think we will be ready to come out and play hard and give it our best shot," said Hess.

 

Published 2/17/16

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Ashland With Two More

 

          Ashland continues to take steps forward as the Arrows get ready for the division one postseason tournament coming up.

          They travel to West Holmes for an Ohio Cardinal Conference game on Friday night and host Massillon Washington in a non-league game on Saturday night.

          Last week, they lost to Mansfield Senior (75-64) in an "OCC" game.  Coach Jason Hess says it was a night when they made a lot of shots, but so did the Tygers.  "Losing when you shoot 60 percent isn't easy, but it is a little easier when the other team shoots 62 percent.  It was a game last Friday when baskets looked about twice as big as they really were.  Both teams shot it really well from the perimeter as well as inside.  It was just a tough night for defense.  Unfortunately Mansfield's pressure defense was able to force a few more turnovers than our pressure defense was able to create and that was really the difference in the game," said Hess.

          Then on Saturday, Hess says they did a pretty good job in bouncing back and getting a win (59-52) over Mt. Vernon.  "Saturday the kids did a great job of rebounding from the loss on Friday night by going to Mt. Vernon and beating a nice Mt. Vernon team on their home floor.  It was nice to see the kids respond and not hang their heads and be down after a tough one Friday and come right back and compete against a non-conference team that will be in the conference next year," he said.

          Ashland (10-9,7-5) pays a visit to West Holmes (1-17,1-11) on Friday night in an "OCC" match-up.  It has been a rough year for the Knights, but Hess says they are still dangerous.  "Coach Troyer does a great job of trying to get the players to play hard and to buy into the system.  Anytime you are away from home in the conference it is tough.  For some reason history is what it is and the last two times going down to West Holmes has not been easy for the Arrows," he told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday, "It is definitely a challenge that we are going to have to be up for.  We need to get off to a good start because when you have a team that has struggled to find wins this year and if you let them hang around and they start to gain confidence they become really dangerous."

          On Saturday night, it is a non-conference match-up with Massillon Washington.  Hess says it is a game that should a good tune up for the tournament.  "It is a point in the season where it would be nice not to have double weekends because you want to get your kids rested up and ready for the tournament run, but it is a very good game for us as far as they type of team we will see in Toledo Whitmer in the first round of the tournament.  Massillon is very similar as far as the athleticism and the pressure defense.  It is a good game to get us ready for that.  It will be senior night for our guys, so it will be exciting and emotional night, so hopefully we will be able to come out and play well and send our seniors out on a positive note," said Hess.

 

Published 2/11/16

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Ashland is Believing

 

          Ashland beat "OCC" leader and state ranked Lexington last week and they believe they can do the same at Mansfield Senior on Friday night in conference action.

          The Arrows knocked off Lexington (61-51) last Friday and followed that up with a (68-41) win over Orrville the next night.  Coach Jason Hess says they really do have a smile on their face.  "It was a great weekend for us with two big conference wins.  There was a lot of excitement Friday night going down to Lexington and getting a win down there.  It is a tough place to play, especially this year with them being state ranked and in first place in the "OCC" at the time and are still in a tie for first place.  That was a big win for our kids.  Then Saturday we came back and really shot the ball well and were able to beat Orrville at home.  It was a great double win weekend for us in the "OCC."  Our kids are playing with a lot of confidence right now and they playing hard and playing together.  That is a good recipe to make things happen," said Hess.

          They face won seven of the nine games they have played since the new year and Hess says the Arrows really found some things during the holidays and have been able to carry that forward.  "I think the few days off there at Christmas break was just what the doctor ordered for our team.  It allowed us to refocus and get a couple of kids healthy that had been battling from fatigue and injuries here early in the year.  It allowed us to get back on the same page and doing what we need to do as a basketball team," he said.

          Ashland (9-8,7-4) is at Pete Henry Gym to face Mansfield Senior (9-6,8-3) on Friday night.  The Tygers are again loaded with talented players who can do a lot of things.  Hess says their strategy is very similar to what it has always been.  "There are no surprises year and year out.  I don't even need to look at a roster and I can tell you what Mansfield is going to do and what they are about.  But, they are very good at what they do.  They are very good at that pressure defense.  They get up and guard you all over the court and they have multiple guys.  They play eight or nine guys and they are all capable defenders," he told Swankonsports.com on Tuesday, "Offensively they like to create off the bounce, get to the rim, and then offensive rebound.  It is not a complicated game plan, but it is a lot easier said than done when you are going against the Tygers."

          Just like when they played at Lexington last week, Hess says you have to believe you can win and they do.  "That is one of the things we have battled here at Ashland over the years.  I think with the success that they have had last year and able to compete with them the first game this year our kids feel like they can beat Mansfield.  That is the first step in doing it is believing that you can.  We have had good teams that could never get over the hump against Mansfield and find a way to beat them.  Just like last week against Lexington, I know there are a lot of people outside our locker room that won't give us much of a chance, but our kids believe we can compete with anyone on our schedule right now," said Hess.

 

Published 2/03/16

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Ashland Right There

 

          Beating Lexington isn't easy.  The fact that is has only been done once this year should tell you that, but Ashland might have the components.

          We shall find out as they play at Lexington on Friday night.

          Last Friday, they almost beat Mansfield Madison, losing in the final moments (40-36) to the Rams.  Coach Jason Hess says they were just one play short really.  "On Friday night against Madison we were just never able to get into the rhythm offensively like we like to.  Madison did a great job of controlling the tempo and slowing us down from getting out and running with it and getting out in open space like we like to play offense.  Defensively we kept battling, we kept grinding the whole night and we kept the game close.  We even had a chance there with 30 seconds left we had the ball and we missed a pretty good look, it just didn't go down for us or we might have been able to pull that one out," said Hess.

          They did win at Clear Fork (57-41) on Saturday in "OCC" play.

          Lexington (16-1,8-1), #1 in the Swankonsports.com boys' basketball coaches poll in the large school division, has lost only once in conference play and that was at Wooster (69-66) a couple weeks back.  They lead the conference standings by one over Wooster and Mansfield Senior.  Hess says they have all of the elements of a very good team.  "They are very balanced and they can beat you in multiple ways.  They can play fast.  They can get out and pressure.  They can slow the game down and execute in the half court.  They are a very good team and they are ranked in the top five in division two in the State of Ohio for a reason.  When you win 16 games versus one loss you are doing something right.  They are a tough match up for everybody.  Going over there is never easy.  It is always a tough place to play," he said.

          Hess says it is going to take a lot of good things to have a chance to beat a team like Lexington.  "If they press us, and the usually press for some potion of the game, we are going to have to handle that pressure.  The big key I think to slowing them down defensively is to make them work for everything they get.  They do an excellent job of the offensive glass to give themselves some second and third chances.  To give themselves some easy baskets by getting offensive rebounds.  Another thing they do with their defensive pressure they force a lot of turnovers and that leads to easy baskets for them," he told Swankonsports.com on Monday, "If we can make them earn their baskets instead of giving up some easy points here and there we will give ourselves a pretty good chance.  Another thing is we have to make sure we finish and capitalize on the offensive situations that we get.  We have to be able to make those shots in the paint and we have to be able to make free throws."

          The first time Ashland (7-8,5-4) played Lexington they took them to the end before losing (60-55) to the Minutemen.  Hess says they know what it takes.  "We have a team that can match-up with Lexington.  We have some good size with 6'4", 6'4" and 6'5".  We are not quite as big as Lexington, but we have some good size.  Lexington is a very good team and they are senior led and that makes a difference.  When you have seniors on the floor they have that sense of urgency and this is their last go around.  We played right with them for three plus quarters over here at our place.  We beat Wooster.  We played with Mansfield Senior, so we have been right there with all of the top teams in our conference," said Hess.

 

Published 1/26/16

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Ashland Needs to be Aggressive Against Madison

 

 

          Ashland hosts Mansfield Madison on Friday night in an Ohio Cardinal Conference game that may go a long way in determining who is a contender and who isn't in the conference.

          The Arrows (6-7,4-3) played likely their best game of the season in a (68-50) win over Wooster last Saturday night.  Coach Jason Hess says it was a solid performance, but they can still get better.  "We are definitely starting to come together.  Saturday night was one of those nights when we kind of saw some things come to fruition with what we are capable of as a basketball team.  I think we can continue to get better, but we were finally able to get over that hump and beat a quality opponent in a game that we need to win on keep pace in the "OCC."  It was a big win for us and it gave our kids a lot confidence and a lot of momentum here going into this weekend," he said.

          Wooster is a team that will press for 32 minutes in games and Hess thinks they did a good job of handling that on Saturday night.  "I don't know that we did too much different or out of the ordinary of what we normally do.  The big thing that stood out to me is just how we executed offensively against their pressure.  That is something we had struggled with the week before against Mansfield Senior.  We did a much better job of being under control and not panicking against the pressure and made good basketball plays and good decisions of moving the ball around and finding the open guy," he said.

          Madison (8-6,5-2) beat Ashland (58-42) on December 4 behind 18 from Tyrell Ajian and 16 from Billy Buckley.  Hess says this is a team that is more than just Ajian.  "They are a good team.  They are right in front of us in the "OCC" standings.  They are in that bottleneck there in second place and we are behind them, so this is a big game for us to climb up the ladder in the "OCC" standings.  I know the first time around Tyrell Ajian hurt us a little bit and Billy Buckley shot the ball well.  They have other guys that can contribute and can have big games.  They are a good team, they are well coached, and they play hard.  They are aggressive.  It is going to be a good match-up for us and hopefully we can see how far we have come since the first time around," said Hess.

          Madison has reputation of being aggressive on defense.  Hess hopes they can get the get the Rams in foul trouble, but he adds they have to be aggressive themselves.  "They play good defense.  The guys that come off the bench still contribute to the team, but they are in that role for a reason and primarily your starters are logging most of the minutes and their usually is a little bit of a step down from you starters to your bench guys.  So, anytime you can get into an opponents bench by getting them into foul trouble is a good thing.  Typically the best way to do that is being aggressive yourself on offense and attacking the basket," he told Swankonsports.com on Monday, "When you settle fro jump shots there is usually not a lot of fouls called.  So, we will have to look to move the ball on offense and look to attack.  Things we open up if we look to move the ball.  We have done a much better job here of working inside to out and getting some inside touches to our post guys.  The guards have been able to feed off of that and take advantage of some openings."

 

Published 1/19/16

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Just a Few More Points For Ashland

 

          Ashland beat Mansfield Senior three times last season, including in the division one tournament, and they almost did it again last week.  This time with a different set of characters.

          However, there have been a lot, too many, almosts this season for the Arrows.

         This week it is a doubleheader of Ohio Cardinal Conference games for Ashland, both at home, West Holmes on Friday and then the Wooster Generals on Saturday at Arrow Arena.

          Coach Jason Hess says they have been good enough to get themselves in games against good teams, but not good enough to beat those teams on most occasions.  "We are right there with the best teams in the league night in and night out.  We just need to find away to make those plays down the stretch when it is winning time.  Make those basketball plays, get those defensive stops.  In that game against Mansfield Senior we had a few turnovers there at critical times that got us a little hole with a couple minutes to go and we weren't able to climb out of it," he said.
          West Holmes (1-10,0-5) plays at Ashland (4-7,2-3) on Friday night.  Although the young Knights haven't won many games, Hess says they are well drilled on what they are supposed to do.  "They are a well coached team, they play hard, and they have some talent on there.  They are a young team.  They play a lot of sophomores and other underclassmen, but they do play hard.  It is going to be important for us to get off to a fast start," he told Swankonsports.com on Tuesday, "With a team like that that has struggled record wise this year you don't want to let them build any confidence and let them think they have a chance to win this game.  They are just as hungry as any other team to win a basketball game."

          Wooster (7-3,4-1,) the only team to beat Lexington this year (69-66) last week.  Hess says, like Mansfield Senior, they are going to bring a lot of pressure.  Hess says they have to do a better job of handling that press is they are going to win.  "Wooster is a team that plays very similar to Mansfield Senior and what we saw there last Friday night with that constant pressure for four quarters after made shots, missed shots, it's just a lot of pressure.  We are going to have be able to handle the basketball.  Hopefully we can learn from some of the mistakes that we made in the Mansfield Senior game and be ready for Wooster," he said.

 

Published 1/13/16

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Ashland Knows the Drill

 

          Ashland beat Mansfield Senior three times last year when they won the Ohio Cardinal Conference title, now they need to find out how to do it this year with a different group of players.

          The Arrows rallied last Saturday to down Shelby (62-58) in non-conference play.  Coach Jason Hess thinks that was a big win in terms of momentum.  "It was an important win for us.  We had been making some strides all season long.  You could see the improvement, but you can only go for moral victories for so long eventually you need to start knocking some up in the win column.  It has definitely given the kids a lot of confidence going into a big game this week with Mansfield Senior," he said.

          Ashland (3-6,2-2) hosts Mansfield Senior (5-3,4-0), who shares first place with Lexington in the "OCC," on Friday night in a conference game.  Hess says it isn't hard to figure out what the Tygers are going to do, but executing against it is a different animal.  "It is not a complicated system that they run and it is not a surprise.  We have gone against Mansfield for years now and the formula to beat them really doesn't change.  The difficulty of going up there and getting those wins is a challenge sometimes.  Last year, we were fortunate enough to do it three times and we are going to have to find a way with this group.  We need to execute our game plan and find a way to and hopefully give ourselves a chance to win the ball game," said Hess.

          The keys against Mansfield Senior are the same as they almost always are through the years, reducing turnovers and finding ways to keep them off the offensive boards, according to Hess.  "They get a lot of their offense based off the turnovers they create that lead to easy baskets.  You need to eliminate the easy baskets for them.  We are not going to not turn the ball over.  There are going to be turnovers.  There are going to be turnovers in a high school game.  We need to make sure those turnovers don't lead to easy baskets at the other end.  We have turnovers that go out of bounds and we are playing hard and we are running those are going to happen and it will give us a chance to set up our defense.  All we are asking for really is to give ourselves and chance to play defense and make them earn their points," he told Swankonsports.com on Tuesday, "They do a great job of attacking the glass.  They are a tough team to box out because of their athleticism and quickness.  A lot of time because of their dribble penetration you have guys rotating over to cover the drive and that frees up other guys to dive in there and go after an offensive rebound.  Part of offensive rebounding is guarding the bounce and the other is when that ball goes up finding a body, making a good check out, and going after the ball."

 

Published 1/06/15

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Arrows Rally to Beat Shelby

 

          Ashland made four of five of five free throws in the final 1:23, outscored Shelby 33-19 in the second half, and they beat the Whippets (62-58) in a non-conference game at Shelby High School on Saturday night.

          Trailing (39-29) at halftime, Ashland coach Jason Hess thought they forced Shelby to take tougher shots in the second half.  "We challenged the kids at halftime that they were going to win the game on the defensive end.  I told them the way Shelby plays and the way we want to play 10 points isn't a huge margin.  Two weeks ago against Canton Central Catholic that is a huger difference.  I said they are going to keep shooting and we are going to keep playing and give ourselves a chance to get back in the game.  The kids chipped away, we actually had it tied there in the third quarter, and they made a little bit of a run and got back in the lead, but we did have the lead cut in half by the end of the third," said Hess.

          Brady Hill scored with :01 second left in the quarter to give the Whippets a (53-49) lead after three quarters.

          Shelby coach troy Schwemley says they let Ashland back in the game, it was tied at 44 with 2:24 left in the third after Ashland's John Wolfe scored in the lane, and he says they didn't get to the line enough.  "I think the first three minutes we turned the ball over two or three possessions.  We really didn't execute defensively and get high percentage shots that we need to get.  They cut back into the lead, but I thought we recovered," he told Swankonsports.com after the game, "I believe we were up at the end of the third quarter, so even though we had the slow start to the third we were up four.  When you shoot one free throw for the game and the other team shoots 17 you are at a disadvantage.  That's pretty simple."

         Logan Brewer led Ashland with 18, while Wolfe added 16.  Davey Hipp paced Shelby with 18.

          Hess says the pace of the game can make it difficult to get out on Shelby's shooters.  "It is tough because of how fast they play and you start getting tired.  When you start getting tired, your hands are on your knees and you don't close out.  I thought Grant Denbow did an outstanding job defensively in the second half.  Him being able to guard number 24 (Davy Hipp) might have been the difference in the game," he said.

          Hess added they were able to bring some guys off the bench to give their starters a rest.  "We have some nice depth.  The guys that come off the bench play hard.  They are still learning, but that is the nature of high school basketball.  You don't have eight guys with experience every year.  You have to get them experience as you go.  This was a great game, a great atmosphere to get experience and to learn from," he said.

          Ashland caught Shelby at 56 all with 2:46 to play on a pair of free throws by Griffin Gerwig and took the lead on Gerwig's basket 30 seconds later (58-56.)  Hipp tied the game at 58 with 1:55 remaining.

          Schwemley says he thought there were times when they had opportunities to get the foul line and were not given that chance.  However, also have to do a better job of being stronger.  "I thought there were times we needed to be a little stronger in the paint.  Some loose balls, some situations, that we could control, you can't control the officials call or what the other team does, but there are things we can control.  We have to play through those and overcome some of those obstacles and we just aren't to that point yet," said Schwemley.

          The Whippets (4-5) have been in this position before, a one point loss to Norwalk (42-41) and four point loss to Ontario (61-57) and a three point loss to Galion (64-61) are examples.  "You have just watched how we have lost five games in similar fashion.  Every game we have had leads or opportunities.  We need to make those big plays and need those big stops in those tight moments that we haven't figured out how to do and we need to figure that out," he said.

 

Published 1/02/16

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It is time to Win for Ashland

 

          Ashland has been playing some good basketball against good teams, but they haven't been winning and that's what needs to happen starting now.

          The Arrows have lost close games to both of the "NOL" co-leaders in Sandusky, by three, and Norwalk, by two, and the "OCC" co-leader, Lexington, by five.

          However, coach Jason Hess says they need to find a way to get over the top.  "I told the guys after the last game we aren't into moral victories. We aren't looking for that, we are looking for "W's" and they have responded this week and had a good week of practice.  We have to find a way to put together some complete games, four solid quarters, instead of just two or three minutes at a time.  The good thing is there is still a lot of season ahead of us," he told Swankonsports.com on Tuesday, "The bulk of the conference schedule is still ahead of us even though we have played seven games we have only played three conference games.  Orrville here on Wednesday is a conference game on the road, so that is one where we need to start making those steps and get over that hurdle and start getting some wins and start building some momentum when we get into the grind of the conference schedule."

          Ashland (1-6,1-2) will be at Orrville (2-3,1-2) for an Ohio Cardinal Conference game on Wednesday night.  Hess says the Riders have had a similar season.  "They are very similar to us.  They don't have an outstanding record, but they have played well in spurts.  They are another team that has some young players, inexperienced players, and then they have some kids that have some varsity experience.  They have kind of been growing as the years goes.  Coach Slaughter does a great job with those guys.  They always play hard and as the year goes they get better.  Hopefully we can get them here before they get things breaking and get things figured out here before they do," he said.

          To come up with the win, Hess says they have to do a good job of the slowing down the Orrville guards and they must do a better job of getting on the boards.  "They have two good guards/forwards in Marcus Conway and Luke Smith that are 6'2', 6'3" and can push it and really like to go offensively.  When they get rebounds there is no outlet pass, they just get it and go.  So, we have to be able to slow those guys down.  They have other guys are round them that are capable of making threes and knocking down perimeter shots.  Defensive rebounding has kind of been a struggle all year, but we have to do a much better job of doing a consistent job of the glass," he said.

 

Published 12/30/15

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Ashland Getting Closer

 

          Ashland is clearly improving as a basketball team, that was proven when they nearly knocked off unbeaten Lexington last week, but they are just falling a little short.

          They also took Northern Ohio League co-leaders Sandusky and Norwalk down to the end.

          Last Thursday, Lexington beat them (60-55) and coach Jason Hess says it was free throws that cost them that game.  "We are definitely making improvements and making strides and now we have to find a way to get over that hump and start marking up some "W's."  The kids are playing hard, but there are a few little things that we need to do.  On film we saw things we could correct, the one glaring thing was our free throw shooting," he told Swankonsports.com on Monday, "Last Thursday night we were 6-18 from the free throw line, which is really hurts in a five point game.  We think we are a much better free throw shooting team than that.  For whatever reason last week they just didn't go in for us.  Hopefully, we can get that corrected and start knocking down some free throws."

          With a number of kids in new roles this season there have been some issues with execution, but Hess says he has never had to worry about kids playing hard.  "I think the thing that has stood out for me and that I am most happy with is our effort.  It has been consistent effort even though we haven't been really polished at times and our execution has been a little rough we are still growing as a team an guys that are figuring out their new roles compared to what they were a year ago the effort has been there every single night.  I told the kids after last Thursday that although weren't perfect yet the nice things is I haven't had to worry about coaching effort.  The kids show up every night and they are ready to play hard and they go out there and compete and they leave it all on the floor," said Hess.

          Ashland (1-5) travels to Canton Central Catholic on Tuesday and Hess says Central Catholic is still sort of putting their team together.  "They are team that is starting to figure things out about themselves.  They are in a different situation than we are because they made it to the state finals in football, so they had a few games early pushed back.  They are still trying to sort things out here and kind of getting everybody on the same page coming out of football.  I know they had some scrimmages early, but they didn't have their football guys.  That takes a little getting used to coming out of football season," said Hess.

          He says they certainly have the building blocks of a good, solid team.  "They have a really nice post player, he is about 6'5", a big strong kid that finishes well around the basket and can step out and score form about 17 feet.  He shoots the ball well from the free throw line.  They have a guard that is a very good scorer as well," said Hess.

         The Ashland coach also says it will interesting to see how his team reacts to going on the road.  "It definitely going to be a good test because we are going on the road and we have only played on the road once this year.  It will be interesting to see where our guys are in terms of our mental focus after the bus ride and it is a good long bus ride over there on a Tuesday night," he said.

 

Published 12/22/15

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Ashland Has Hands Full

 

          Ashland, the defending "OCC" champ, plays host to conference co-leader Lexington at Arrow Arena in a rare Thursday night game in the Ohio Cardinal Conference this week.

          The Arrows (1-4, 1-1) got their first win last Friday against Clear Fork (65-44) and then lost a tough one in no-conference play to Norwalk (52-50) on Saturday night.

          Coach Jason Hess believes his team is getting better, but he knows Thursday night they are going to see a very good team.  "We are definitely improving each week.  We are getting healthier too, which is a good thing.  We are almost getting up to full strength here as far as personnel goes.  We are still waiting for Grant to get back to 100 percent, but he is playing and that helps.  It gives us a little more depth on our roster.  We have a big test ahead of us with Lexington this week.  They are setting their (5-0) and in first place in the league and were the preseason choice to win the league and always make some noise when March comes around, so we definitely have own hands full," said Hess.

          Lexington has five guys 6'4" or taller and quality guards like Zahn, Vore and Nickoli.  Hess says they can balance the floor, which makes them hard to guard.  "They have a really nice combination of perimeter playing guards and big guys, not to mention some pretty good athletes.  They have some roles players they can mix in with them that are very good defensively cause a lot of havoc.  They cause a lot of turnovers and get easy baskets.  They are definitely playing really well to start the season.  It is what everyone expected.  They have a lot of guys coming back from last year's team that ended on a hot streak at the end of last season and that has kind of carried over into this year for them," he said.

          With their height and athleticism Lexington (5-0,2-0), #1 in the Swankonsports.com boys' basketball coaches poll in the large school division, can be very hard to score on.  Hess says the Minutemen can turn it on.  "We have seem some film on them.  We have seen them live and they kind of fool you in the first half.  They have had several games that have been pretty close at halftime and it seems like they come out in the third quarter and they can just ratchet up that defensive pressure a couple of notches and then just run away with the game," he told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday, "They do things with their athleticism, their length, their size, that a lot of teams can't do.  It is one those things that it is hard to prepare for.  This week in practice we are putting extra bodies on the floor to try and simulate that as much as we can.  It is one those things that before you get in a game like situation it is hard to prepare for."

 

Published 12/17/15

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Ashland Facing one the State's Best Big Guys

 

          Ashland has some done some good things, but not enough of then early in the season as have dropped they first two games to good teams.

          Madison beat them (58-42) in an Ohio Cardinal Conference game last Friday.  Ashland coach Jason Hess credits Madison, but says they have to try some different things too.  "I don't know that I would say it was a step back.  Obviously, we didn't improve quite as much as we wanted too.  You have to take your hate off to Madison.  It was a little misleading in Madison's first two games because Friday night was the first time they have had a full roster.  Without Billy Buckley and the Kohler kid they are a different team.  They did a great job against us on Friday.  They shot the ball extremely well.  The made 10 threes.  We have to make some adjustments to get out and defend the perimeter a little bit better and find a way to score.  Right now, we are struggling to get some offense.  We are looking at doing some different things and trying to play to our strengths a little bit more and make some adjustments this week," said Hess.

          They take on the Medina Bees (1-0) and their big guy o Tuesday night in a non-conference game.  Hess says John Teske is big and he is skilled.  "When you talk about Medina you have to mention John Teske.  He is 7'1", a senior, that is going to play basketball at the University of Michigan.  He is a big part of the Medina team at this point.  He can score from the inside, he can step out and score from the outside.  One of the strengths of his game is how he alters the game defensively with his shot blocking and his presence in the paint.  The have some pretty good guards and a couple of other good forwards.  It is going to be a big test for us.  They made it to the regionals as well last year with several kids coming back.  They beat Solon on Friday night and I am sure they will be prepared," said Hess.

          Then on Friday night the Arrows (0-2,0-1) host Clear Fork (0-2,0-2) in an Ohio Cardinal Conference game.  Hess says their focus is on Tuesday with Medina, but Friday will be very important game for the defending "OCC" champs.  "We do have Clear Fork in the back of our minds because it is a league and it is important to get that first league win and be able to get back to .500 in the league.  You need to get some momentum there you don't want to drop down two games early.  It's a home game for us.  Coach Bechtel has got his kids ready to play every game.  They are going to come fighting the get their first league win as well.  They are learning on the fly and they are getting better every night.  Hopefully, we can get our first league win," he said.

 

Published 12/08/15

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Ashland Learning How to be Better

 

          Ashland, the defending Ohio Cardinal Conference champion, begins its defense of that title on Friday night when they visit Madison to do battle with the Rams.

          In their first game last Saturday, the Arrows lost (57-54) to one of the top teams for the "NOL" in the Sandusky Blue Streaks.  Coach Jason Hess feels that could be a great teaching tool for them.  "It was a good test for us.  We knew going in that Sandusky had a lot of players coming back from a regional team the year before.  They were really athletic with a couple of talented guards.  We learned a lot about our team last week unfortunately we came out on the short side of things.  Our kids showed a lot of fight.  We were down by double digits in the third quarter and battled back and got it to within two late in the fourth.  We even had a shot to try and tie it and send it to overtime.  I am not upset at all with the effort.  There are definitely some execution things and some other things that are correctable, but there were a lot of bright spots as well," he said.

          Nobody wants to lose, but Hess feels the game with Sandusky could be a good loss for them if they can continue to focus on getting better.  "I said after the game that it was a loss, but if we can learn from it then it is a loss that may help us a lot down the road.  It is not going to define our season, unfortunately it is a loss at home, which we don't like.  But, at the same time with team goals that the kids set out for themselves, all of those are still on the table," he told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday, "You take that experience that we gained playing a good game against a tough team and learn a little about ourselves and make adjustments and improve here.  We have had a couple of good nights of practice, so hopefully the kids are starting to make the adjustments and realize what varsity basketball is about.  Sandusky had a lot of kids coming back and we had a lot kids seeing their first varsity action there last Saturday."

          Madison (1-1,1-0) has a (63-39) loss to Shelby and a (55-33) win Tuesday night over Clear Fork to its credit.  Hess says Madison is an athletic teams that can do a lot of things and will be getting a couple of players back on Friday night.  "Madison has a good team.  They have quite a few more pieces than just Tyrell Ajian.  Unfortunately with their game last week against Shelby and (Tuesday) night they had a couple of kids that are key kids for what they want to do that haven't suited up yet.  The real Madison team hasn't been on the court yet.  Unfortunately for us on Friday night it is my understanding that they are going to be at full strength.  They are very talented, they definitely have some kids that can shoot the ball well.  They play hard and coach Mergel does a great job.  It is definitely going to be a test for our guys going on the road Friday to try and get our first "OCC" win." said Hess.

 

Published 12/03/15

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Depth to be key for Ashland

 

          Ashland returns some very capable players from their Ohio Cardinal Conference champions from last season, but their relative success this year is likely to be determined by their bench.

          Ashland plays host to Sandusky in a non-conference game on Saturday night in their opener.

          Coach Jason Hess says really they are still in the process of determining the personnel and the roles that will their bench.  "As a coach I don't know if you can ever really say that you are satisfied.  I thought our kids have had a pretty good preseason.  In four scrimmages we have learned a lot about our basketball team.  We are still searching a little bit for our depth chart.  The kids are aware that we are still looking for a rotation.  It may take a couple of games down the road here, and a little real game experience, until you figure out how everybody fits in and how all of the pieces fit together.  We have a good group of kids coming back that have some experience.  I am really liking our initial group and what we are searching for right now are a couple, two or three kids, that will fit in as reserves and back ups and role guys that will fit in and do the little things and how they will jell with the guys we have coming back with the experience," said Hess.

          Hess really feels that his bench is going to be a big factor in how good the Arrows, and how consistent, they can be this year.  "Last year as good as our top level players were what made that team special, and what makes special teams special, is when everybody buys into their role.  The team is really only as good as the bottom guys on the depth chart.  It takes a whole unit to make a team and you need those guys.  Not only do you need them in practice, but you just never know when in games it is going to be their time to step up," he told Swankonsports.com on Thursday, "Everybody is gunning to take away your first, second and even third option.  So, it is those other guys that might not necessarily get all of the hype and the publicity that have to step up at different times throughout the season and they always have to be ready, it's a tough role to be in because they never know for sure night in and night out whether they are going to be playing four minutes or 20 minutes and they have to be ready to step up and answer the call."

          Sandusky won the division two district title last season.  Hess says the Streaks are going to be very good this year again and they are going to get a good test on Saturday night.  "We are going to find our right off the bat where we stand.  They are bringing a lot of guys back.  They are a senior laden team with a lot of experience from that regional run.  They are well coached and they are going to do a lot of things that are going to impact us early and we are going to see if our young guys are ready to answer the call.  I feel confident in the guys we have back that have the experience because they have been through it.  So have Sandusky's players though Sandusky has a few more of them than we do.  We have three, four guys that are going to be getting their first varsity action and we will have to see what they do when we put the lights on for real," he said.

 

Published 11/26/15

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Ashland Expecting More of the Same

 

          Ashland enjoyed a tremendous season last year which resulted in an Ohio Cardinal Conference title, a district final appearance, and a number of schools records

          Even with losses to graduation and a new coach this promises to be a very good season too.

          First year coach, but former assistant Jason Hess, says there are still a lot of good players at Ashland.  "Last year was a special team and there is no doubt about that.  The good news for me is coach Fralich definitely did leave the cupboards bare.  We have six guys that were key parts of that team last year and saw playing time at the varsity level and competed in practice every day with that group.  The good news is we have a little bit of experience even though we did lose quite a bit from that team as well," he said.

          Hess says he isn't going to try and reinvent the wheel.  He says they are going to continue to try and do a lot of the same things.  "As far as this year's Arrows we are going to continue to do the things that we have done well in the past.  We are going to continue to emphasize the defensive end of the court and put an even bigger emphasis on the defensive end.  Mixing up our defenses between some zone and some man and little bit more pressure.  We have got some good sized athletes, some length and athleticism.  We have several kids that are 6'4', 6'5" and can run well.  We would like to get our guys out into the open floor and hopefully with our defensive pressure and our length we can get out and run and create some easy baskets for ourselves," said Hess.

          Already being an assistant in the program was a big factor in him taking the varsity head coaching job according to Hess.  "That is part of the reason why I am in the position that I am in because when coach Fralich talked to me in the spring and it was time from him for family reasons for him to move on from his job as head coach here at Ashland.  It was one of those things where I never really thought too much about it, as far as taking over a program with my career and profession it is kind of hard and kind of time demanding way to take on that responsibility," he told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday, "These are special young men and it's a joy to coach them and because of the relationship and comradely I have with these guys is what brought me to the sidelines, being able to hang out with these guys and experience practice every day on a daily basis.  They are a special group of kids and we have been very blessed with great kids and great parents."
          The players are familiar with Hess, the way he coaches, and his expectations.  So, he thinks it will be an easy transition.  "The nice thing is they know me, they know what I'm made of, they know what I am expecting as a coach and they are willing to meet those expectations and they also know what we stand for as a program.  At the same time they don't have to learn a new system.  We are going to continue a lot of stuff that coach Fralich put in place over the last five years.  So, it is an easy transition for the kids.  They don't have to change all of their basketball know how and terminology.  So, a lot of the stuff is going to look the same to them.  That's helped me as first year coach that we have guys that understand the system as well. We don't have to do a lot of teaching with our younger guys.  Our older guys are already familiar with the system and can help teach it," said Hess.

          With the season the Arrows had a year ago (22-2) there was a lot of winning going on a Hess says this year's players participated in the that and they learned from it.  "It is one of those things where these guys expect to win.  They know how to win.  They have been part of winning.  They have paid their dues.  They realize what it takes to win at this level.  The guys that we lost to graduation last year did a tremendous job of raising the bar of expectations for our program and doing it the right way.  The came to practice everyday to work and put the time in in the off season and these guys saw that," he told Swankonsports.com, "They saw the success and were able to reap the rewards of that hard work.  We have several kids that have put in a lot of extra time this summer in the gym, in the weight room, improving their skill, and athleticism because they want to have a successful season on the basketball court.  They realize that is doesn't just happen because you were good last year.  You only get the opportunity to win championships if you put the time in.  There is no one that is going to take a back seat and just hand you the trophy.  The kids are working hard and doing a great job."

          Hess says this year's Arrows want to win and they know how to go about doing it.  "It's about knowing how to close out a basketball game, knowing what needs to be done down the stretch.  We saw last year with the group we had that sometimes you just have seniors and they make plays.  As coaches we can't take credit for that, we just have to shake our heads and tip our hats and that is part of the joy of having seniors and they have been through the gantlet and they know what it takes to win," he said.

 

Published 11/19/15

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Ashland Will Have to Stop the Run

 

          Ohio Cardinal Conference co-champion Ashland will play host to Bay Village in the division three regional quarterfinals on Friday night at Community Stadium.

          They belted Lexington (38-6) last week to secure their share of the conference title.

          The Arrows own a six game winning streak and coach Scott Valentine says the are going to continue to try and do the things that have made them successful as they prepare.  "We are going to try and keep our schedule the same and how we have been working through the week.  You want to try and keep that routine for the kids.  They are going to realize the importance of where you are at and what is going on.  You just want to try and keep things and build on what you have been doing throughout the year," said Valentine.

          After a loss to Wooster (21-7) on week four, in their first conference game, Valentine says they have had a better approach, especially when it comes to making needed adjustments.  "After that loss to Wooster I think each week we got better at some things.  We definitely handled some adverse situations that happened during the ball game a lot better.  We didn't handle some of the situations against Wooster that way.  Those are always things you want to be able to do throughout the year and we have been able to do that," he said.

         Ashland (9-1), #2 in the Swankonsports.com football coaches poll in the large school division, meets Bay Village (9-1) on Friday night.  Valentine says the Rockets are going to try and run it at them.  "They are a team that definitely has a good running back.  He does a great job of running the ball, so he is somebody we are going to have to be able to stop the run and try to make sure we can get him stopped or at least contain him, I don't think we can stop him," he told Swankonsports.com on Monday, "Defensively, they are one those defenses that has some big, strong guys up front that are trying to not let you run the ball.  They haven't faced teams that do some of the things that we do, so we are going to have to wait and see how they defend us."

          In terms of their approach to the game, Valentine says Bay Village reminds him a little bit of West Holmes, a wing-T, run first team in the "OCC" they face every year.  "I think they are somewhat similar to some people in our league.  I would say a team maybe like West Holmes and some of those teams that have bigger, physical kids and have big strong runners.  We can see some similarities to some teams in our league," he said.

 

Published 11/03/15

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Intensity a Key for Ashland

 

          Ashland is in a three way tie for first place in the Ohio Cardinal Conference with Mansfield Senior and Wooster and a win at Lexington on Friday night will give them no less that a share of the conference title.

        They outscored Madison (19-0) in the fourth quarter last week and they beat the Rams (36-14) in conference play.  Coach Scott Valentine says they made some big plays in the second half.  "I was really happy for our kids.  I think our defense really got after them in the second half and that allowed us offensively to get some plays.  I think our special teams, our kicker Bryce Stormer, kicked a couple of field goals for us that spread it to eight, and then from then on we were able to do a lot of good things," said Valentine.

          Second half play has been a hallmark of the Arrows (8-1,5-1), #2 in the Swankonsports.com football coaches poll in the large school division, this season.  Valentine says they have been able to make changes and execute those things.  "I'll tell you what it has been a good second half team for us.  We have been able to take the things we have talked about at halftime and then go out the second half and put those things to work on the field for us.  That has been a really big surprise for us," he said.

          Lexington (6-3,2-3) won their first five games of the season, but they have lost three of their last four, including a (45-28) setback to Mansfield Senior last week.  Valentine says the Minutemen are certainly good enough to challenge them.  "Their coaching staff has done a great job with their kids, they have a good group of kids and they have played good football.  That is definitely something we have talked to our kids about.  For us it is going to be important to go down there and understand it is going to be a four quarter game in order to be successful," he said.

          Valentine says Lexington quarterback Joey Vore has been a playmaker this season and their defense has been tough at the point of attack and been good at stopping the run.  He says they must go to Lexington and play in top gear for 48 minutes.  "They are a group of kids that keep battling and battling throughout the game," he told Swankonsports.com on Thursday, "I think their quarterback does a great job of distributing the ball, has quickness and runs it when he needs to.  Defensively, they attack downhill, their linebackers attack downhill.  Those are things that we have go to try and control on offense and be ready for the blitzes they are going to throw at us."

 

Published 10/30/15

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"OCC" Leaders Clash

 

          Ashland and Madison, two of the leaders in the wild Ohio Cardinal Conference, play each other in a huge "OCC" game on Friday night at Community Stadium in Ashland.

          Those two, along with Mansfield Senior and Wooster, have 4-1 conference records with two weeks to play in the regular season.

          Ashland (7-1,4-1), 32 in the Swankonsports.com football coaches poll in the Swankonsports.com football coaches poll in the large school division, downed Clear Fork (44-12) last week in conference action.  They had to battle back after Clear Fork produced the first two scores.  Coach Scott Valentine says they were able to do that.  "They always have a good game plan and do some things that can give you some trouble.  Their quarterback made a nice long run against us and then they got another drive.  The thing I was proud of was our kids didn't panic," he told Swankonsports.com on Thursday, "We went back and offensively we got some scores there before the half and then offensively we did the stuff we needed too."

          Madison has worked its way into the share of the conference lead on the back of a three game winning streak, including a (49-14) win over Orrville last week. 

          Valentine says the Rams (5-3,4-1) have a lot of home run hitters.  "They have those big play makers and a lot of different guys making plays for them.  They stretch your defense out a little bit and give you some different formations that can give you trouble.  I think that is the key for us to try and limit their big plays and be able to attack them with some of our weapons," said Valentine.

          Plus, according to the Ashland coach, Madison does a number of different things on defense designed to take you out of what you want to do.  "Well defensively the thing that I have noticed is they can do multiple things.  They can bring pressure from different areas with blitzes.  Those are things we are trying to prepare for and be ready for," he said.

          There have been a lot of games in the "OCC" this year that have come down to the fourth quarter.  Valentine believes this is going to be another one and they have to ready for that kind of game on Friday night.  "That is thing that I have trying to instill in our kids that every week in our league if you are not ready you could lose.  You have to go into each game ready to play a four quarter game and their is no doubt with the things they do and things they have going that this is going to be a four quarter battle, definitely," said Valentine.  

 

Published 10/23/15

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Adjustments are Big for Ashland

 

          Ashland is a three way tie for second place in the Ohio Cardinal Conference along with Mansfield Senior and Mansfield Madison, a game behind Wooster.

          They play at home on Friday night as they host the Clear Fork Colts in "OCC" play at Community Stadium.

          Last week, the Arrows (6-1,3-1), #3 in the Swankonsports.com football coaches poll in large school division, pulled away in the fourth quarter to belt Orrville (54-25) in a conference game.  Coach Scott Valentine says they had to make some adjustments and they were able to get that done successfully.  "I thought in the first half they did some things offensively that we hadn't seen them do.  They ran the option a little bit.  It was one of those things where our kids had to make adjustments at halftime," he told Swankonsports.com on Monday, "We turned the ball over a couple of times, which you can't do anytime.  I think our kids came out the second half and focused in and stopped them on defense and made our plays on offense."

          Valentine believes that good teams are the ones that make those adjustments when faced with the job.  "Sometimes they come out on the field with different things they are doing that you didn't practice for.  The kids have to make adjustments and you have to make adjustments on the sidelines.  If you can do that it really helps you," he said.

          Clear Fork (2-5,0-4) has had its problems in the "OCC" this year scoring only five times in four games.  However, Valentine says one thing about Clear Fork is you are never sure what you are going to get and you must be able to adjust that's for sure.  "That is one thing that we know every year.  Dave is a guy that will switch up week to week and come out with something a little bit different.  You just have to be ready to adjust.  They do a good job during the week coaching their kids up to do those things.  We know this week we are probably going to have to make some adjustments early in the game," said Valentine.

          Ashland plays Madison and Lexington its last two games, but Valentine says if they want to have a chance to win a piece of the "OCC" they can't take this week off.  "We tell our kids all of time that you have to be ready each week.  If you are not, anybody in our league can beat anybody.  That is the thing that maybe they haven't won very many or as many games as they probably would have liked, but they play good football, hard nosed football, and we will have to be ready for four quarters of football," he said.

 

Published 10/13/15

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Ashland Playing Good Football

 

          Ashland is right in the thick of the Ohio Cardinal Conference race with more than half of the conference season remaining.

          They trail Wooster by a game in the conference standings.

          Ashland rallied to beat Mansfield Senior (25-21) last week by recovering a fumble for a score and kicking a field goal in the fourth quarter.  Coach Scott Valentine was excited with the play of his kids.  "They are a very good football team and I was proud of way our guys handled some of the ups and downs of the football game.  During the Wooster game we didn't handle those ups and downs, but our kids did that against Mansfield and that was a big win," he said.

          The coach feels that they have gotten pretty good leadership this year and that certainly has helped them be a good team.  "That is the thing.  Each year you have a new group of leaders.  Who are going to be the guys that pull the guys through some of those ups and downs?  That is always a learning experience and that is something we learned from Wooster and I was proud to see us handle that," he said.

          Ashland made some big plays in the special teams against Mansfield Senior and Valentine says that has been a strong area for them all year.  "I think that is one thing we have talked to our kids about our special teams have been a positive for us.  We had two huge punts.  Our punter dropped a snap, but got it off and got it down there.  Then we had a 73 yard punt that helped change the field position for us," he told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday, "Our kickoff team has been doing a great job of covering.  We have been able to pin teams within the 20-yard-line.  We have had a couple of big returns on punts and kickoffs.  I have been happy with our progress.  Like always you can get better, but that has been a plus for us."

          Ashland (5-1,2-1), #3 in the Swankonsports.com football coaches poll in large school division, plays at Orrville (2-4,1-2) in an "OCC" game on Friday night.  Valentine says Orrville has some players that can do some things.  "I think they have some playmakers, some guys that can make plays.  So, those are the guys that you really have to contain.  Form a defensive standpoint you have to control those guys and not give them opportunities for big plays.  They made some big plays and really got some things done against West Holmes," said Valentine.

          Having already lost to Wooster (21-7) this year Ashland does not control its own destiny.  Valentine says all they can do is keep winning.  "You just have to keep taking care of yourself.  We are focused this week on things we still have to get better at.  If we are going to be a good football team throughout the year we just have to keep better.  That is one thing we want to focus on ourselves and get better at the things we need to," he said.

 

Published 10/08/15

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Ashland Facing a Quick Mansfield Senior Team

 

          In a crucial match-up in the Ohio Cardinal Conference on Friday night Ashland entertains the Mansfield Senior Tygers. 

          Mansfield shares the "OCC" lead with Wooster and Lexington, Ashland trails by a game after losing to Wooster (21-7) two weeks ago.

          The Arrows (4-1,1-1), #5 in the Swankonsports.com football coaches poll in the large school division, responded last week to beat West Holmes (42-12) in an "OCC" game.

          In a game they had to win, Ashland coach Scott Valentine says they came out and played very well.  "I thought we came out and did a lot of really good things on both sides of the ball.  I thought it was good for us.  We kind of took what they gave us.  They were trying to cover the pass.  Our line did a great job blocking and we were able to get our running game going," he said.

          Ashland was one of the first schools to embrace the empty backfield, four wide out, spread offense, but this year Valentine says their personnel dictates they run the ball a little more.  "We think we have some guys that we can hand the ball to and we thought our offensive linemen were pretty good at getting at people and getting on people.  We thought that could be a positive for us to be able to mix in a little bit more balance than we have had the past few years," he said.

          Mansfield Senior (4-1,2-0) has beaten Clear Fork (30-0) and Orrville (49-14) in their first two conference games.  Valentine says what they want to do on offense is turn around and hand it to Brian Benson and Tyquan Vickers.  "They have two good guys back there and they both do a good job running the ball," he told Swankonsports.com on Thursday, "That is going to be a big challenge for us containing those guys.  Like always you have to be able to contain them and keep them from making the big play."

          As this season has gone on, the Tygers have gotten better on defense.  Valentine says Mansfield Senior relies on its quickness and has a defense designed to take advantage of those skills.  "Their schemes are designed to allow their kids to move and run to the ball.  That's what they are good at.  They seem to have been getting better at tackling and making plays that way.  that is the thing that impresses you the most is their speed and quickness on defense," said Valentine

 

Published 10/02/15

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Ashland Knows What it Has to do

 

          Ashland lost their first Ohio Cardinal Conference game of the year last week to Wooster and they likely can afford no more if they expect to come away with the conference title.

          The Generals held Ashland to only one score in downing the Arrows last week (21-7) in the conference opener.  Wooster held them to just 194 yards passing last week, that's is not up to Ashland's usual total.  Ashland had less than 100 yards on the ground.

          Ashland coach Scott Valentine credits Wooster for a great game plan and solid execution.  "Wooster has a very good football team.  Defensively they played a very good game and we just couldn't get things going offensively.  I thought our defense did a great job there were just a couple of big plays they made.  I give Wooster a lot of credit they are a good team.  I told our kids were are 3-1 and we can't feel sorry for ourselves it's time to get going and get moving again," said Valentine.

          There were 10 penalties for 66 yards for Ashland and Valentine says you can't have those kind of mistakes and be able to beat good teams like Wooster.  "Last week we hurt ourselves with turnovers and some big plays penalty wise.  Some big plays that were called back after some penalties.  Those are things we will emphasize this week," he told Swankonsports.com on Monday, "We were still kind of inconsistent with our mental mistakes, we are still kind of inconsistent there.  You know I think we are progressing, but when you are playing good people those mistakes really count."

          It's back to league action for the Arrows (3-1,0-1), #5 in this week's Swankonsports.com football coaches poll in the large school division, this week as they travel to West Holmes (1-3,0-1) on Friday night.  The Knights are coming off a (42-21) loss to Mansfield Madison.  They totaled more than 300 yards rushing in their only win over Wooster Triway (46-40) on week one.  Valentine says Holmes wants to run the ball.  "There is no doubt that is what Kevin has done.  That's what he believes in and their kids believe in it too.  That's the thing they believe in it and they are going to come at you.  They do a good job in hiding the ball, so it makes you be very disciplined when it comes to you defense," said Valentine.

          The Knights feature the deceptive wing-T offense.

          It's only week five, but Valentine says this a game they have to win to remain in the "OCC" race.  "You have to stay one game back until somebody can knock off Wooster or the teams that won the first week you have to stay one game behind.  You can't afford to have two losses," said Valentine.

 

Published 9/22/15

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Ashland and Wooster Lock Horns

 

          Ashland and Wooster are two of the teams expected to contend for the Ohio Cardinal Conference title this fall and they meet in the conference opener for both schools at Community Stadium in Ashland on Friday night.

          The Arrows (3-0,0-0), #1 in the Swankonsports.com football coaches poll in the large school division, are off to their first 3-0 start since 2006.  Coach Scott Valentine is excited by what he has seen on the field.  "We really came through the preseason and kept getting better and they were able to get a good start like they wanted too," he said.

          Allowing only two scores over the last two weeks, wins over Medina Highland (41-7) and Tiffin Columbian (16-7,) the Arrows have been outstanding on defense.  Valentine says defense has really kept them in games early.  "Our defense has kept us in games and allowed our offense to adjust to some of the things that people are doing defensively to us and then we were able to get big plays after that.  That has been a big key to our success," he said.

          Wooster's only loss in conference play last year came to Ashland (21-14) at their place.  They went on to share the title with West Holmes.

          The Generals (2-1,0-0) lost their first game this year last week to Green (21-7) to fall from the ranks of the unbeaten.  Valentine says have speed and lot of it.  "They are a good team.  They have some good skilled guys and do a lot of things and make big plays.  From our standpoint we are really going to have to defend and keep them from getting big plays," he told Swankonsports.com on Thursday, "Then like us they have some speed.  They are similar to us on defense as far as getting to the ball.  So, we are going to have to adjust for that."

          Winning that first conference game is key because if you don't you always feel you are looking up at someone and Valentine says it is especially important considering they are playing Wooster, one of the other contenders.  "There is no doubt that you want to get a good start in your league anyway.  With them having won the league last year and then coming back this year with some guys that are back.  We definitely wan to get a good start against them," he said.

 

Published 9/18/15

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Two Outstanding Defenses Meet as Ashland hosts Tiffin

 

          Ashland and Tiffin Columbian, two of the more successful programs in this part of the state, collide as the Arrows host the Tornadoes at Community Stadium on Friday night in non-conference play.

          The Arrows (2-0), #1 in the Swankonsports.com football coaches poll in the large school division, pounded Medina Highland (41-7) last week, forcing six turnovers in the process.  Coach Scott Valentine says they played very well in all phases of the game.  "There was no doubt that our guys got after it on both sides of the ball and on special teams.  I thought our kick coverage was pinning them back in there.  So, it was definitely an all around team win," he said.

          They have scored some points, beating Wadsworth (28-20) on week one, but Valentine says it has been their play on defense that has stood out to him.  "I think defensively we have really come on with the speed we have on defense.  I think we are doing a good job of tackling and running to the ball.  Those are all things that are important, so we have been able to hang our hat on our defense.  Last week, we got six turnovers and that led to a couple of scores for us," said Valentine.

          Tiffin Columbian (1-1) lost their opener to Clyde (15-8) and beat Bryan (35-0) last week on week two.  Valentine says the Tornadoes are pretty good on defense too.  "They have some big kids up front that hold that line of scrimmage.  You don't get a lot of push on them and their guys all run to the ball.  They play that 3-5 defense and the five linebackers, those kids all run downhill.  So, we are going to have to find a way we can move the football on them," he said.

          On offense, Valentine says Columbian can do a number of things, so they will have to a good job of reacting to what they see before the snap of the ball.  "They play a couple of different quarterbacks.  One of them is a kid that can sit in the pocket and throw the ball and the other guy is a guy that kind of runs the ball a little bit more," he told Swankonsports.com on Tuesday, "So, you have to kind of look and see who you are going to face and try to prepare for both of them.  They spread it out a little bit.  They have a couple of kids that run the ball and a couple of playmakers outside.  So, we are going to have to be prepared for a few different things."

          Columbian beat Ashland (23-20) in the first meeting between two last season in Tiffin.

 

Published 9/09/15

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Ashland Picks up Solid Win; Moves Forward

 

          Ashland broke a four game losing streak to Wadsworth and beat the Grizzlies (28-20) last week in their opener of the season and now they hope to take that momentum forward.

          They host talented Medina Highland (1-0) in another non-conference game on Friday night.

          Coach Scott Valentine thinks they did just a wonderful job on defense in containing Wadsworth's power running game.  "I am so proud of the way our kids played.  Defensively we were able to contain, we weren't going to stop their tailback, but we were able to contain him for most of the night.  We made a lot of big plays sacking the quarterback.  Offensive, for most of the night, we executed most of the stuff we wanted to.  Just a good overall win," he said.

          However, even after a good performance like they had last week, Valentine understands the Arrows have a lot of growing to do on the gridiron.  "That's what I told our kids.  They last four, five years we have been the ones that have been 0-1 and lost that first game.  It doesn't make any difference if we win or lose it we have nine games left and we have to get better at a lot of things.  We saw those things on video tape, so that is our goal this week in practice and get better at the things we have to get better at," he said.

          Highland, who beat Brunswick last week (17-7,) is new to the Ashland schedule.  Valentine says they are a team that used to success and will be aggressive on defense.  "They are a team that has been in the division two playoffs the last five to eight years.  They execute their offense.  Their quarterback runs the ball very well and makes you be a disciplined football team and that is something we are really going to stress on defense to be disciplined and make sure we get our assignments," he told Swankonsports.com on Monday, "Defensively they have some big guys up front and they are going to stop your run and they cover you with man coverage.  Offensively, we are going to have to be ready to beat some guys one on one."

          With the win over Wadsworth and another tough game with always good Tiffin Columbian coming up, Valentine says a win on Friday would be huge for them when it comes to the playoffs.  "Definitely our non-league schedule is something that you always want to try and win those non league games because hopefully they have a good season in their league and they can help you.  That is something we have struggled with the last few years.  We keep reminding our kids that we make sure we get another one this week," he said.

 

Published 9/01/15

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Ashland Defense Must be up to the Task

 

          Ashland is at Wadsworth to open the season on Friday night against the Grizzlies in what shapes up as a tough, physical game between two traditional powers.

          With any football team their health can be a big factor when it comes to their success and that is probably magnified at the high school level.  Ashland coach Scott Valentine says they have been fortunate enough this season to not have many injuries.  "I felt scrimmage wise we had some good scrimmages and practice wise I felt we were able to be physical some and when it comes down to it we came out pretty healthy," he said.

         Ashland has some experience back at the skilled positions, but they have some youth up front.  Valentine says those guys in trenches have shown some pretty good improvement this month.  "I think we were getting better and I think that is a never ending process when you are young.  Those guys are going to have to keep progressing throughout the year," he told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday, "We have always talked about that you have to take jumps after games and especially after week one.  I think they are getting prepared and hopefully we are prepared for Friday night."

          Wadsworth is kind of like they have always been, a tough, physical, run first team.  To slow them down, Valentine says they have to be sure tacklers and they must get good pursuit to the ball.  "Coach Dennison and his staff do a great job.  They are an "I" team, and a lot of people don't run the "I" anymore, but that's what he has been very successful with.  He has a great tailback, who is an All-Ohio player.  He is somebody we are going to have to tackle and make sure we get a lot of people to the ball.  He is a big, strong runner and they come right at you that way," said Valentine.

          Valentine says the Grizzlies are going to be aggressive on defense and that young line is going to have to be able to give the offense the time it needs to make some plays.  "Defensively they bring a lot of different blitzes.  We are preparing for them and hopefully we can pick them up and give our quarterback some time to throw the ball," he said.

 

Published 8/27/15

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Ashland Has Some Experience

 

          Ashland has been the most consistent football power in the Ohio Cardinal Conference and you have to figure the Arrows will at least be a factor in the "OCC" race this fall.

          The Arrows (6-5,4-2) finished a game behind co-winners Wooster and West Holmes in the "OCC" last year and lost to Lewis Center Olentangy (33-6) in the first round of the division two playoffs.

          Coach Scott Valentine says they will have some ball handlers back this year that played significant roles for them a year ago.  "In certain year we have lost some skilled guys and have experienced linemen and other years we have the opposite," he told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday. "I think this year we have some experience back in our skilled positions, but up front on both sides, especially the offensive side, we are a little young, and defensively we have some experienced guys that had a big impact for us.  It is kind of one of those years when you have some balance, but you have to have some guys step in and do the job."

          He says this will be an important camp for some of those guys that are going to be counted by to be part of that offensive line where teamwork is so important.  "There is no doubt.  You talk about that all of the time until you start playing and being able to hit you haven't found out what kind of football team you are going to be," he said.

          Teams can put on pads and start to hit each other starting on Friday and Valentine says that is going to be a key part of the season for the Arrows.  "You have your five day acclamation period and you try and get some work done, especially the mental part.  Once those five days are over you start to find out.  In your scrimmages you start to find out who some of the people are that are going to be ready to go and where you have to get better," said Valentine.

          The "OCC" is usually completive when it comes to football and Valentine, the dean of "OCC" coaches, feels that this season will be no different.  "I think it's going to be similar to last year where it is kind of up in the air.  Everybody has lost some pretty good players.  I think each year the league it is who can play the schedule through.  I think it's similar this year, who can play week in and week out," he said.

          Ashland opens the season on August 28 at traditional non-conference opponent Wadsworth.  Their first "OCC" game will be at home against Wooster on September 18.

 

Published 8/06/15

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Clear Fork Downs Ashland

 

          Clear Fork scored four times in the first inning and went on to beat Ashland (6-3) in an Ohio Cardinal Conference baseball game on Wednesday in the valley.

          Thomas Staab started the bottom of the first with a double, followed by a single by Nick Schoonyan, and Ashland misplayed a ground ball by Lee Snyder allowing Staab to score the game's first run.  Luke Clark then drove in two on a ringing double.  Later in the inning Caleb Merendino drove in a run with a single.

          Coach Rusty Staab they were able to take advantage of situations.  "Anytime you can come out and hit the ball.  We always tell the kids keep it out of the air.  When you hit it on the ground three things have to happen.  They have to field it, they have to throw it over, and someone else has to catch it.  Ashland kind of struggled in the first inning.  For once in a long, long time we were able to capitalize on their mistakes because we got a couple of key hits after those errors.  It is awful nice to see Lee (Snyder) out there with a 4-0 lead, 5-0 lead and he can just go out there and throw his fastball and his change up," said Staab.

          Ashland coach Rob Lavengood was disappointed that his players were not mentally prepared for the game.  "We weren't ready to play offensively and defensively.  We have three guys strike out in the first inning.  Obviously our mindset when we stepped in the batter's box wasn't very good.  The defensively we come out and have three errors, allowing them to score four runs, probably only one of them was earned.  We have to come ready to play a lot better than we did (Wednesday) night.  You spot them four in the first inning and you lose 6-3 and that was really the ballgame right there," said Lavengood.

          Snyder struck out nine Ashland hitters over four innings.  Staab says he kept the Arrows off balance.  "He has a great change up there is no doubt about that.  He can throw it at any time in the count.  It just freezes them.  Rob (Lavengood) was getting frustrated because they froze and they just wouldn't swing and it was strike three.  Lee has had two great outings in a row and we hope it continues because it is tournament time," he said.

          Clear Fork upped their lead to (6-0) on RBI hits by Snyder in the second and Ricky Bartrum in the third.  Ashland got a run in the sixth and two in the seventh.

          The Colts (11-7,6-4), #5 in the Swankonsports.com baseball coaches poll in the large school division, didn't make any errors over the first five innings, but Staab says they kind of lost their focus.  "We fielded the ball great until the sixth and seventh then their brains kind of drifted towards the clouds and some of the nice looking girls from Ashland and everywhere else.  That's what I talked about in our huddle after the game.  A good team, and not that Ashland isn't, a good team in the tournament is going to turn that error into a four run inning and now they are back in the game," he told Swankonsports.com after the win, "Ashland darn near did it because we had a throw to second where he is dead out and our second baseman misses it.  We get a routine grounder to short and it goes right through his legs.  Those are the things that can't happen and the kids know it."

          Clear Fork plays host to Galion (8-14) in the division two sectional semi-finals on Saturday.  "We got the seventh seed and no one sees us play.  We were 10-6 at the time of the draw.  We just didn't win enough big games.  If we would have beat Madison and maybe swept Highland.  Those Sandusky teams they don't see us play they just look at records.  We got a seventh seed that I wasn't happy about, but what can you do.  It really didn't matter we got a home game against Galion that we just beat last Saturday.  I know we are probably going to see (Chad) Karnes, who is probably their ace.  We'll see what happens, hopefully we will continue this," said Staab.

          Ashland (10-8,6-4) will be at home with Toledo Central Catholic next Thursday in a division one tournament game.  "It was nice to be able to play a home game for a sectional final next Thursday against Toledo Central Catholic.  With 20 teams involved in the sectional draw there are a lot of good teams.  We were hoping to be one of the top eight so we could host.  Toledo Central Catholic has a nice team, they are 9-8.  They play a tough schedule, so we are going to have our hands full, but we are going to be playing on our home field, which is nice," said Lavengood.

 

Published 5/07/15

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Ashland Dismantles Mansfield Senior

 

          Ashland scored 10 times in the first inning and five more in the second and went on to destroy Mansfield Senior (17-0) in five innings in an Ohio Cardinal Conference game Tuesday at Arlin Field.

          The win came on the heels of a tough loss to co-leader Lexington (12-2) on Monday in a conference game.  Coach Rob Lavengood it was good to get some momentum again.  "It was obviously nice to bounce back and get a win and put some runs on the board (Tuesday) night.  We swung the bats pretty well and we can build off of that and get ready for another game (Wednesday) night at our place and get a sweep," he said.

          Mansfield Senior (1-11,0-7) has been run ruled in four of their last five league games and their pitching has been sub par all season.  Lavengood says they had to sort of take the Tygers previous performance on the mound our of their minds.  "We told our guys before the game when they step into the batter's box the goal was to have a quality at bat, whatever that may be.  We were able to draw eight walks (Tuesday) night, we got some hits.  We moved runners.  We had a lot of quality at bat's and that is good to see, no matter who is on the mound," he said.

          Ashland (10-7,6-3), two games behind co-leaders Lexington and Mansfield Madison, is at home for the Mansfield Senior on Wednesday.  Lavengood says they have to take a fresh approach to the game.  "We told the kids after the game (Tuesday) night that come (Wednesday) we have to treat the game as 0-0 and starting fresh and you don't have a 17-0 lead when the game starts.  So, we have to come ready to play (Wednesday) night.  I like the way our pitchers threw the ball (Tuesday) night.  In five innings we didn't walk anyone.  We went right at them and were aggressive in the strike zone and that was the key," he told Swankonsports.com on Tuesday night after the win over the Tygers, "Unfortunately we didn't do that they night before against Lexington when we walked nine guys.  It was nice to see us throw strikes, aggressive in the strike zone on the mound and our hitters had a good approach at the plate."

          Ashland also has two games series with Clear Fork and Madison left on their regular season conference schedule.

 

Published 4/29/15

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Arrows Rally For Big Win Over Wooster

 

          Alex Stefaniuk, Logan Brewer, Jake Jones and Ryan Gray all drove in runs in the pivotal seventh inning as Ashland topped Wooster (5-3) in an Ohio Cardinal Conference baseball game on Wednesday afternoon at Wooster High School.

          Ashland led (1-0) going to the bottom of the sixth and Generals put up a three spot to take the lead heading to the final inning.  Facing the prospect falling two games behind conference co-leaders Mansfield Madison and Lexington Arrows coach Rob Lavengood says they rose to the occasion and came up with four big runs.  "It was a huge win (Wednesday) night, especially after getting beat up pretty good (Tuesday) night on our home field," he told Swankonsports.com after the win, "To go on the road and to be able to come back after having a lead.  We were up 1-0 to going into the bottom of the sixth and we give up three runs and then were able to come back in the top of the seventh and score four and get a win.  It was just a great win for our guys and a huge momentum swing for us going forward into this weekend and they rest of our conference schedule."

          Wooster (6-5,5-3) had beaten Ashland (11-0) on Tuesday night.

          Ashland has already spilt there series with West Holmes and Lavengood knows it was very important to do the same against Wooster and he says the players showed how tough they were.  "We have a lot of character and a lot of heart on our team.  Our guys battled against a really good team on the road in some awful elements to tell you the truth I mean the weather was pretty brutal for both teams out there.  Our guys showed a lot of toughness and that was good to see.  Hopefully, a win like that is one that can really propel you the rest of the season.  When you have a chance to battle in the close games it gives you the confidence that they can make plays down the stretch and get big wins," said Lavengood.

          Ashland (9-5,5-2), #4 inn the Swankonsports.com baseball coaches poll in the large school division, faces its second game of the season against Lexington (8-6,6-1) on Monday and then plays Mansfield Senior on Tuesday and Wednesday of next week in "OCC" play.

          With so many teams near the top of the standings, Lavengood says you are going to have to have a lot of quality arms if you are going to end up with the title.  "I think it could come down to pitching depth in the end.  For example, we are supposed to play Madison twice the last week of the conference schedule when both of us are going to be involved in tournaments.  So, you might be in a situation when you are not able to throw your number one, might not even be able to throw your number two.  So, it is going to come down to pitching depth, you know, how good is your number three, how good is your number four in some of those games.  That might end up deciding who wins the conference championship," said Lavengood.

          Ashland plays in a big regular season mini tournament at Newark this weekend.

 

Published 4/23/15

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Ashland Blasts Orrville

 

          Ashland kept itself in the Ohio Cardinal Conference race with a (13-3) win at Orrville on Wednesday afternoon.

          The Arrows (5-4,3-1) played some outstanding teams last weekend in the BW3 Ashland-Madison Baseball Classic, splitting their four games, beating Perrysburg (3-2) and Massillon Perry (7-4) and loosing to Mt. Vernon (3-0) and Mentor (9-4).  They shutout Orrville at home on Tuesday (4-0) in conference play.

          Coach Rob Lavengood says they are starting to hit their stride.  "We are playing a lot better here recently than we were at the beginning of the season, especially pitching and defense.  That is good to see that we are making improvements, making strides.  It was also nice to see us swing the bats a little bit better (Wednesday) night.  We haven't quite swung the bats as well as I would like early on in the season, so to put up 13 runs was nice to see," he said.

          They got some key hits with runners in scoring position on Wednesday and Lavengood says they need to stay aggressive at the plate, especially in clutch situations.  "That is one thing that we have kind of struggled with early in the season.  We are putting guys on base.  The problem is when we get guys on base we are not driving them in.  It seems like some of our guys are changing their approach when they step into the box with guys on base as opposed to not having anyone on base.  We are getting a little bit less aggressive," he told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday evening, "We are watching too many pitches in the strike zone that we are not swinging at.  We have talked the last couple of days about of making sure we have the same approach no matter what the situation is and step into the box with confidence.  Finally we were able to get some hits with guys in scoring position (Wednesday) and put up a good number on offense."

          Ashland plays host to Lexington (5-4,4-0) in "OCC" play on Friday and Lavengood says that is going to be a very important game for them.  "Friday is a huge game.  Lexington so far hasn't lost a conference game.  There are a handful of us that are one game behind them, Madison, Wooster, Clear Fork and us with one loss.  So, this is a big game for us.  It is a make up game from last week when we had two rain outs with Lexington.  We are playing on our home field.  Our big junior Logan Brewer is going to be on the mound for us.  We are looking forward to the game.  We are playing a lot better now.  Our kids are playing with confidence and hopefully that carries over into Friday and we have a good outing and are able to get a win," said Lavengood.

 

Published 4/16/15

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Ashland Facing Great Competition

 

          Ashland has really strengthened its schedule this season and that will be highlighted by a big weekend this weekend if the weather allows them to play.

          So far, the Arrows have only played three games, and only one in the last week.  Coach Rob Lavengood says they really want to get out on the field and show what they can do.  "It definitely is frustrating.  I know our kids want to get out there and play games.  We are just at the mercy of Mother Nature right now and she isn't cooperating really well this week.  We had a tough loss to a really, really good team on Monday with Cleveland St. Ignatius and our guys just want to get out there and play a game and we get rained out Tuesday and Wednesday with Lexington.  Hopefully, the weather cooperates and we can get a game in with them (Thursday) night at our place, but you just never know it doesn't look really good right now," said Lavengood.

          On Monday, statewide power Cleveland St. Ignatius pounded the Arrows (12-0), but Lavengood says that is one of the best teams in the State of Ohio.  "They are 7-0 and they are probably one of best teams in the state this year.  They are really loaded and have five or six kids that are going to go play division one baseball.  I think our kids understand the caliber of team we played Monday, but that doesn't change the fact that they want to get back on the field and have success.  Hopefully we will get a chance to do that the next time we play, whenever that is going to be," he said.

          Ashland (1-2,1-1) hopes they can play at home against Lexington (3-2,2-0) on Thursday in Ohio Cardinal Conference play.

          Then this weekend two teams out of the "OCC", Ashland and Madison, are hosting a big regular season tournament.  Lavengood says some of the best teams in the state are going to be here.  "Doug (Rickert) and I talked back in June about trying to set something up and try to bring in some top notch talent from across the state to play for a weekend.  We have a great weekend set up for Saturday and Sunday and the weather looks great for those two days.  I'm just hoping both of our fields are able to recover from the rain that we are going to get this week," Lavengood told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday night, "We have Perrysburg and Massillon Perry coming to our place on Saturday for a three way.  Mentor and Mt. Vernon are going to Madison for a three way on Saturday.  Then the teams are going to flip flop sites Mentor and Mt. Vernon come to our place on Sunday and Perrysburg and Massillon Perry will go to Madison on Sunday.  Those are four very good division one teams in the state that are going to provide some great competition for both of us.  It should be a great weekend if we are able to get it in and hopefully we are able to play well and compete against those teams."

 

Published 4/09/15

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Ashland Downs West Holmes in Extra Innings

 

          Ashland survived a game when they left 15 guys on base and didn't make the plays in the field and they beat West Holmes (6-4) in eight innings in their Ohio Cardinal Conference opener on Tuesday.

          Coach Rob Lavengood, now his fifth season at the helm of the Arrows, says it might not have been a work of art, but they will take it.  "It was definitely nice to get that first win under our belts.  It was a little closer than what I was hoping, but we will take a win no matter how we get it.  Going on the road to West Holmes is usually a pretty tough place to play.  So, we will take it, getting that first win in the "OCC" and hopefully we can come back (Wednesday) at home and get another one," he said.

          Lavengood says they eventually made some big plays in the game.  He says for most of the night hey just can't get the big hits when they had a chance to establish the lead.  "Even within the same game you have to have a short memory from one at bat to the next.  If you have a bad at bat in the first or second inning and you come back up in the third or fourth inning you have to put that one behind you and be ready to swing the bat and have success the next time up.  Baseball is definitely a sport where you have to put things behind you and move on if you are going to be successful.  We had some guys that did that (Tuesday) night.  There were some good things out there, but there were definitely some thins that we have to improve upon and get better.  We had base runners all night long and we stranded 15 guys.  We had our opportunities to bust the game open.  We just couldn't quite get the big hit when we needed to, but our pitchers threw the ball well, which was a good sign," said Lavengood.

          Ashland (1-0,1-0) will host West Holmes (0-1,0-1) in another "OCC" game on Wednesday.

          Pitching was the key to their success on Tuesday.  Lavengood says both guys they ran out there pitched well.  "Logan Brewer, our junior, coming off a long basketball tournament run, for him to go out there and throw four solid innings for us, gave up two unearned runs, struck out nine, that was a great first outing for him.  Our sophomore, Hunter Krebs, our lefty, came in and threw four innings, and got his first varsity win, gave up two unearned runs, and pitched really well, and had six strikeouts.  We struck out 15 guys between the two pitchers, so I thought our two pitchers threw the ball very well," he told Swankonsports.com on Tuesday evening, "We did show some patience at the plate and had 10 walks, which was good.  Those were some things that definitely put a smile on my face.  We just didn't come up with the clutch hit, but it is early in the season and I think we are going to swing the bats it is just a matter of time before the bats heat up and we come up with hits with runners in scoring position."

 

Published 4/01/15

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Ashland With Some Talent

 

          With Some talent back, the Ashland Arrows figure to be competitive in the Ohio Cardinal Conference this season.

          Ashland won the title three years ago.

          They have been able to get out in the field this spring and coach Rob Lavengood says that is a very good thing.  "Anytime you can face live pitching and put your players in game situations that helps to get you ready for the regular season.  We were fortunate enough to get outside all of last week on our field practicing.  Then all of the sudden this week we run into some bad weather.  We did a get a scrimmage in Saturday against Massillon Jackson and Tuesday against Crestview and hopefully (Wednesday) against New London to get us ready for the season," he said.

          The Arrows played a scrimmage against state power Massillon Jackson on Saturday and Lavengood says that plus scrimmages against Crestview and New London should get them ready for the season.  "Massillon Jackson is the defending division one state champs.  They had a great season last year and they have a great program every year.  They reload instead of worrying about rebuilding.  That was a good scrimmage for us Saturday to get a chance to see some really good pitching and some guys that swung the bats really well.  It kind of gave us a gauge of where we are at at this point in time and where we need to get to be successful this year.  Now, this week we have a couple of teams that are a little closer to home.  Some smaller schools with good baseball traditions.  Hopefully these will be a couple of good tune ups to get us ready for this weekend," said Lavengood.

          Ashland plays host to Norwalk and Sandusky Perkins in a three team regular season opener on Saturday if weather permits.  Lavengood says they have some talented players, but they will be challenged this year.  "We have quite a bit back.  We feel we have a chance to have a pretty solid team this year.  A lot of it is going to depend on our pitching depth and our health.  We have 10 seniors and we only graduated four guys off of last year's team, so we have some experience coming back.  Hopefully that will translate into some success," he told Swankonsports.com on Tuesday, "On the flip side we have a killer schedule.  This is probably the toughest schedule that I have put together in my five years as head baseball coach.  We have some very good non-conference teams we are playing along with our conference schedule.  Our conference is always pretty tough top to bottom baseball wise, so we are going to have to come ready to play every day."

          Ashland's basketball team won the "OCC" and advanced to the district final.  Lavengood says they have a couple of guys that were part of that team.  "We have two guys coming in from the basketball team that had a great season.  Trey Smith is our one senior coming back at shortstop.  He was the point guard on the basketball team.  Logan Brewer was also a starter.  He will be a pitcher for us as well as a corner infield guy.  Hopefully those guys will bring a good winning attitude over from basketball to help along with the rest of the guys we have coming back," he said.

 

Published 3/25/15

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Girls' Basketball Players to Showcase Talents

 

          Wednesday night, girls' basketball players of all ages will get an opportunity to show what they can do to fans and college coaches with Shelby Rotary NCO Girls' All-Star Basketball Classic at Shelby High School.

          Kyle Fenner of Colonel Crawford and Eric Mitchell of New London are the coaches in the senior game, which includes two ten player teams.

          Fenner has done this before, so she knows what to expect.  "This will be the second time coaching the all-star game.  I believe in 2000 I coached the all-star game over in Ashland, so this will be my second time," she said.

          She will coach team black, which will include: Anna Hintz of South Central, Deijah Swihart of Clear Fork, Gabby Stephens of Shelby, Shelby Stamm of Bellevue, Ellie Richmond of Wynford, Hannah Adams of Willard, Sydnie Carpenter of Ashland, Mekaila Grose of Mansfield Madison, Ta-Sharra Jeffries of Sandusky and Emily Wagner of Sandusky Perkins.

          A real key to this format is to get everyone into the game with a chance to showcase there skills.  "It's not really hard we will have ten kids and we will probably put them in groups of five and let them play for four or five minutes then we will substitute.  We will approach it that way and let them get up and down the floor and show their skills.  If it's a game at the end we will probably go with the five or six best kids that we feel can win the game for us," said Fenner.

          Some of the players might know where they are going to college, but some may not.  Fenner says this is their chance to impress.  "There are going to be a good portion of college coaches there that night.  They have done a great job of getting college coaches there.  It will a great chance for these kids to show their skills off to not only the area, but also some college coaches that will be there," she said.

          On team white will be Carly Santoro of Bellevue, Valesha Province of Tiffin Columbian, Shelby White of Ashland, Jeryn Reese of Mansfield Senior, Morgan Bailey of Clear Fork, Hunter Feltner of Willard, Alexis Smith of Mansfield Madison, Makayla Cook of Norwalk, Megan Flaherty of Bucyrus and Samantha Reer of Norwalk St. Paul.  The coach of the team will be Eric Mitchell of New London.

          There is also an underclassmen game on Wednesday night, a first due to a change in OHSAA rules and Clear Fork coach Heidi Roush is one the coaches in that game. 

          She was an MVP in an all-star game as a player, but this will be her first as a coach.  "It is my first time coaching anything like this.  There are some stipulations as to who can coach the younger kids.  You couldn't have one of your own players on the team.  I think that is how they kind of stumbled on me.  I'm really looking forward to it.  I think it will be a lot of fun," she told Swankonsports.com.

          Her team members are:  Renee Stimpert of Crestview, Abigail Fogle of Upper Sandusky, Sarah Ogden of Wynford, Gabbi Baldridge of Willard, Ashley Painley of Norwalk St. Paul, Shelby Kin of Carey, Maggie King of Willard, Jisselle Thomas of Norwalk, Paige Leitz of Monroeville and Leah Bouillon of New Riegel.

          She says she will judge playing time by performance during the game.  "With you know you have talented kids, they wouldn't be on the team other wise.  I think for the most part you just go with who is playing well.  Get everyone in there and let them show their skills," said Roush.

          There are only a couple of practices before them game and Roush says the players sort of have to get used to each other.  "There are some larger schools and I know those players and what they are capable of and there are some players that I haven't seen before and I only know their stat lines checking on then throughout the season in the paper.  I think it will be a little bit of a challenge for the kids knowing each other.  Some of them will have played against each other in summer league, some during the season and then there are kids they really don't know each other," said Roush.

          Playing for team black in the underclassmen game are Seina Adachi of Seneca East, Sydney Wentling of Carey, Kamryn Troike of Fostoria St. Wendelin, Payton Shays of New London, Kelci Simms of Bucyrus, Jenna Strayer of Bellevue, Sydney Holderman of Riverdale, Emily Yeager of Mansfield St. Peter's, Jackie Garrett of Shelby and Alexus Burkhart of Colonel Crawford.  They will be coached by Jon Dawson of Willard.

          Roush thinks it is pretty cool that underclassmen get to participate too.  "In this sport most of the time you are going to end with a loss and it can be so disheartening.  Now, these younger kids are going to get a chance to play again this season and pump them up and get them ready for next season," she said.

          There will be a halftime three point shooting contest among girls in district 6.  Some boys will be there for dunk contest as well.

          The underclassmen game starts at 6 PM, with the senior game at about 7:45.  Tickets for the game are $6 for adults, $3 for seniors, and free for 18 and under who donate a gently used or new children's book to the Shelby Rotary's "Big Red Book Shelf."

 

Published 3/23/15

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Ashland Has to be Beat Mansfield Senior Again

 

          Ashland has beaten Mansfield Senior twice this season and they must do again if their are to advance in the tournament.

          They play the Tygers in the division one district semi-finals at Liberty-Benton High School on Thursday night.

          Ashland (21-1), #1 in the Swankonsports.com boys' basketball coaches poll in the large school division, won its 21st game in row last Friday when they beat Anthony Wayne (61-52) to earn a sectional title.

          Coach Tim Fralick admits they are going to have to play better against Mansfield Senior.  "This time of year the sense of urgency form opponents and it's supposed to be from your team as well is definitely at a higher level .  It is just a little bit different game come tournament time.  Teams have a little bit better idea, usually, of what you are going to do and what you strengths are.   The tempo of the game sometimes can slow down.  There is a little bit more emphasis on each individual possession and being efficient with your possessions, so the tempo slows down a little bit.  That may favor a team that does not run like us.  We need to have the ability to execute even better in the half court setting.  I don't think we have been deficient in that area, but our strength is pushing the ball and getting out in transition and pressuring defensively and creating opportunities offensively.  That being said we have been working more on our offensive execution and working against pressure with a team like Mansfield Senior," said Fralick.

          Mansfield Senior (16-7), #3 in our poll, downed Perrysburg (61-39) last Friday.  Fralick says in many ways this is a typical Mansfield Senior team they will be facing.  "They have done for years what we have done this year and that is making their opponent uncomfortable and they do that through pressuring you into doing something different.  A lot of teams that run a lot of sets, which we don't do, are used to getting the ball to their better players in specific spots and specific situations and by consistently pressuring you are taking them out of that typical flow of their offense.  That can be extremely affective and I think that is something they have been doing for years," he told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday, "On offense they have been able to get out on transition and create from their defense and do a  good job of the defensive glass and getting the ball and going.  When you look at their team this year probably everybody but Levins can get a defensive rebound and just go with it, so the break doesn't slow down at all.  Whoever has it goes and the other guys are running.  When Wilder has the ball in his hands he is a force.  He makes that ball go just a little extra faster with a guy with his type of speed.  They can really do a good job with a variety of different people.  Defensively they have some really good athletes that can get up an pressure you.  That is what they have done for years and that is what we anticipate them doing and you have to do a good job in those areas."

          Basketball is a game of momentum and never more than a game between two teams like this.  Fralick says they have to create those bursts, while limiting Mansfield's.  "Both teams feed off of runs with momentum and runs.  We are a team that can score 10 points in a minute and a half and they are too.  Whoever can whether the storm, can keep their head, can handle that adversity, can trust in what they are doing, can have that type of internal leadership that can calm a group down and keep them moving forward will be in a better position for success," he said.

 

Published 3/12/15

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Ashland Opens Tourney Against Anthony Wayne

 

          Ashland, the outright Ohio Cardinal Conference champion, and holder of a 20 game winning streak, plays Anthony Wayne in the division one sectional final at Lexington High School on Friday night.

          Obviously, the Arrows had great success during the regular season, but coach Tim Fralick says they understand the tournament is different and they have to put it in another gear.  "There is definitely a different level of intensity and a little extra sense of urgency to each possession, to each game, come tournament time.  You do have the raise the level another notch in order to be fully prepared to compete come tournament time.  I think our guys are ready for it, excited for it.  We put ourselves in pretty good position by how we competed throughout the season and being rewarded with the number one seed and having the opportunity to select for a bye.  We had a chance to go see that game on Wednesday night have a live look on them as well as a number of different game films," he told Swankonsports.com on Thursday, "We have been able to prepare and some of the things we have been doing throughout practice throughout the season to help us improve as a group.  Obviously we have a nice winning streak right now and I think we have continued to make strides throughout it.  We haven't been complacent, at least in my eyes, at any point.  I think we are heading into the tournament playing some pretty good basketball."

          Anthony Wayne (8-14) beat Oregon Clay (74-55) on Wednesday night to advance.  Fralick says they are kind of like a combination of two teams they played in the "OCC" this year.  "As far as comparison to conference opponents, in talking to our assistants about it, kind of a cross between Wooster and Clear Fork.  Wooster in that they have some size and pretty good athletes and Clear Fork in the fact that they do rely on a couple of their key guys to be big time scorers for them and their complementary guys are more glue guys type defenders, rebounders, in that they don't rely on them to score as much.  Both of those teams have had some pretty good games throughout the season.  When you look at Anthony Wayne's schedule and who they have competed with they are a quality opponent," said Fralick.

          One of the keys to the Arrows (20-1), #1 in the final Swankonsports.com boys' basketball coaches poll in the large school division, season has been their pressure defense.  Fralick says they want to use that to force the tempo of that game.  "We have to continue to do the things that we have done to put ourselves in position for success.  Guard wise they have some ball handlers that are younger guys that might have some difficulty against our pressure, so we need to continue to focus on those things and making our opponents uncomfortable on the defensive end and getting them out of the stuff they typically run.  You can tell that they are more comfortable in a half court set type situation and if we can disrupt that it will certainly be to our advantage," he said.

 

Published 3/06/15

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Ashland hosts Madison

 

          Ashland just keeping rolling along like a cement mixer going to down a steep hill as they have now won 19 straight high school boys' basketball games.

          They beat Lexington (70-67) in overtime in an Ohio Cardinal Conference game last Friday and then bludgeoned Massillon (88-54) on the road on Sunday.

          Coach Tim Fralick says the Massillon game was one of their better efforts of the entire year and that is great to see this close to the end of the year.  "We played pretty well.  It was one of our better games of the season, which was good to see this time of year heading into tournament time.  You want to be playing your best ball at the end of the season and we showed sings of that on Sunday.  We played in the "Motor City Roundball Classic" earlier in the year with Saturday and Sunday games.  It's a nice event, but you don't get as many people and it's a different atmosphere," he told Swankonsports.com on Tuesday, "I think that may have prepared us a little bit to play on Sunday at Massillon.  We travel decent, but there wasn't a ton of fans there overall.  The guys created their own energy.  I think they were hungry to play better than we did on Friday night and I think they did.  It was nice to see them respond the way they did."

          Ashland (19-1,13-0), #1 in the Swankonsports.com boys' basketball coaches poll in the large school division, is at home for Madison (11-9,6-7) in league play.  Fralick says Madison will be physical and make it tough to score.   "I think coach Mergel has done a really nice job with his group.  They took a tough break with their best player going down.  They have found ways to patch things together and compete in games and win a lot of them.  They are going to play hard and they are going to play physical.  They are going to do a lot of different things in order to try and stay in the game and give themselves a chance down the wire to try and win the game.  We are going to have to be prepared to just be real aggressive defensively and continue to give up good shots for great shots by making the extra pass," he said.

          They certainly can operate in half court situation, but Fralick says they want to create some fast beak opportunities against the Rams.  "We ran the floor really well on Sunday.  When you run the floor you are not always going to get the ball, but if you run it every time you are going to give a teammate a chance to score by dragging the defense over.  And another thing you will give yourself an open look or an opportunity.  You have to stay consistent with those things.  I think if we do that we are always going to put ourselves in position for consistency against any defense," he said.

 

Published 5/25/15

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Ashland Isn't Going to Stop Working

 

          Earlier this week, the Ashland Arrows won an outright Ohio Cardinal Conference title with a win over West Holmes, but they still have three games to play and they aren't going to stop trying to get better.

          Coach Tim Fralick says this is not the time of the season to ease up and take the foot off the pedal.  "This certainly isn't the time of year to take a rest, I guess there is never a good time of year to do that, but especially at this time of year.  You have to find way to continue to get better and improve through the course of a long season.  When it comes down to it where we want to be at the end of the season we are going to be playing some teams who are just as good, or better than us as far as talent goes, so we are just going to have to try and continue to get better as a group so if we do run into one of those really talented teams along the way we can try to outlast them by being the better team.  You do that by controlling the controlables and every day at practice our leaders finding a way to set the tone for practice day in and day out," said Fralick.

          Ashland (17-1,12-0), #1 in the Swankonsports.com boys' basketball coaches poll in the large school division, travels to Lexington (11-9,6-6) for an "OCC" game on Friday night.

          The Arrows took apart Lexington (78-33) last month, but Fralick says the Minutemen have developed into a very good team.  "They had some guys that were sick early in the season and I think that affected them the whole week heading into the first weekend and they ended up loosing a couple of close ones there.  It took them a little bit of time to find themselves as a group with some guys being out and a different flow that what they had during the entire preseason.  They have done extremely well the last six, seven games, lost a close one at Mansfield Senior, other than that they have won the majority of those, if not all of them," he told Swankonsports.com on Thursday, "We know that the Lexington-Ashland rivalry is big and not only are they going to be ready to play us because of that they are going to be extra prepared to play us because we played extremely well against them earlier in the season and they certainly don't want that to happen again and they will be looking to make their mark."

          Ashland has won 17 straight games and has not lost since the first week of December.  Fralick says their opponents, including Lexington, are aware of the season they have had.  "With them and with any team we are going to be looked at as a targeted group right now.  We are going to get our opponents best shot and that's a great challenge for us.  I think it helps continue to get better as a group," he said.

          Ashland's game against Mt. Vernon, postponed earlier this month, will not be rescheduled.

 

Published 2/20/15

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Ashland Wins Outright "OCC" Title

 

          Ashland pulled away in the second half Tuesday night to beat West Holmes (61-44) and secure the school's first outright Ohio Cardinal Conference boys' basketball title.

          Brett Vipperman scored 23 points as the Arrows won their 17th straight game to remain unbeaten in the "OCC" this year.  Coach Tim Fralick says they wanted take care of business Tuesday night.  "We had a great environment and a good win against a good team.  Friday we had clinched a share of the title, but obviously wanted to take the next step.  We knew we had three opportunities to do so.  As competitors we wanted to get it done as soon as you can.  We were able to play some good ball in the second half and clinch the outright title.  We have a group of guys that have really put a lot of time into the game and committed to our system and what we do," said Fralick.

          They have a nice combination of two, three and even four year varsity players and Fralick says they know winning the conference title wasn't easy.  "The "OCC" formed in 2003 and Ashland hadn't had an "OCC" basketball title and fortunately we were a team that was able to break that streak.  I think we are the sixth team in the conference to win a title and we are proud to do it.  We know it has been a heck of a conference.  It is my fifth year at the high school and there have been some really good teams over the years.  So, we feel really proud to represent the Ohio Cardinal Conference as its champion this year," he said.

          With more success this year than in quite a while on the basketball floor Fralick says they have been able to bring more fans to the gym.  He says they were excited to win the title at home.  "Tuesday night sometimes you don't get as many people out there and as exciting environment as you would on a Friday night or even a Saturday night, but is still nice to do it and home.  You have  a lot people there that have supported you for years.  There have been some people that probably haven't been to the gym in a number of years that are coming out and we are getting some good feedback from them," he told Swankonsports.com after the win, "The thing that you love to hear as a coach is they love the way we play defensively and they love our energy and how unselfish they are.  Those are things as a coach that you are extremely proud of."

          West Holmes had led Ashland in the second half at their place 10 days ago and Fralick says they play the game the way it should be played.  "They did an excellent job and were right there with us for quite a while (Tuesday) night.  Fortunately we were able to pull away in the third quarter.  Coach Troyer does an excellent job.  They really do some good things and they play exceptionally hard.  Unfortunately they have lost a lot of close games.  I think with some experience for their young guards that next year they will be able to win some of those close games," he said.

 

Published 2/17/15

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Ashland Can Earn a Share

 

          A win Friday night over the visiting Wooster Generals will give the Ashland Arrows no less than a share of the Ohio Cardinal Conference championship.

          The Arrows rallied to beat West Holmes (53-47) in an "OCC" game last Friday and did the same against Shelby (70-57) in a non-league game on Saturday.

          Coach Tim Fralick says his team was able to show their mantle.  "We were put to the test a couple of different times.  In the third quarter in both games the opponent took a lead, all be it by just one or two points, and really forced up to elevate our game to another level and fortunately our guys did do that within our system.  Their energy level increased and I feel like their focus was there and their execution.  It was great to seem them have some adversity and fight through it and find a way to come out on top.  Where it stems from was our ability to get stops defensively," he told Swankonsports.com on Thursday, "Offensively we do feel like we have a number of weapons that over a course of a game we are going to find a way to score points.  I just though we were able to come up big when we had to on the defensive end.  Our pressure did what it was suppose to do.  We executed well and forced our opponent into tougher, contested shots and were able to come up with the first miss."

          In their first match up in January, Ashland scored the last 12 points of the game and beat Wooster (58-53) at their place.  Fralick says he is sure the Generals remember that and likely think they should have won that game.  "They are definitely a very god ball club.  They beat West Holmes, a team we struggled with on Friday, by 21 on Tuesday.  We know they are going to give us all we can handle.  They will be ampped up to play us.  Over there we needed a 12-0 run in the last two minutes to prevail.  Fortunately for us since that game we have continued to improve and we have been fortunate enough to win.  Since that game they have lost some close games.  They are probably feeling that is a game that could have gone either way and could have turned the fortunes of their season a little bit.  They will certainly be ready for us and their is a lot of season left for them.  I am sure they want to finish the season off strong heading into the tournament.  In their mind and their eyes probably no one better to get that started than us," Fralick said.

          Ashland (15-1,10-0), #1 in the Swankonsports.com boys' basketball coaches poll in the large school division, have done a lot of great things, but Fralick says all of their goals lay in front of them.  "We are certainly happy with what we have been able to accomplish, but we aren't going to settle on it.  We feel like we have a lot more things we can accomplish.  The goals we set out for ourselves at the beginning of the season we haven't attained any of them yet.  They are all in front of us, so we have some work to do.  I think our guys realize that.  They are a mature enough group, an experienced enough group, to keep putting their best foot forward.  Control the controlables, our attitude and our effort.  If we can do that we will put ourselves in great position to get those goals.  Hopefully, one of those is an Ohio Cardinal Conference championship. something that hasn't been done here at the school.  I know our guys, and our school, would really be happy about that," said Fralick.

         

Published 2/13/15

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Ashland Has a lot of Skills

 

          Ashland enjoys a three game lead in Ohio Cardinal Conference after wins over Mansfield Senior and Orrville last week.

          The win at Pete Henry Gym (73-59) over Mansfield Senior was a huge win for the Arrows.  Coach Tim Fralick says they knew if they were to reach their goals they were going to have to beat the Tygers.  "We were really happy with the win, especially over there on the road.  It was a good accomplishment for our kids.  Heading into the season we wanted to win the conference, that is one of our team goals, and we know in order to do that we were going to have to take care of business with Senior High, which we hadn't done in quite a while.  It was exciting and we celebrated as a team, but at the same time we realize we need to continue to work to get better.  The goals we put out in front of us as a team we are on our way to them, but we haven't achieved any of them just yet," he said.

          Isaac White became Ashland High School's all-time leading scorer on Saturday night.

          The Arrows have really good shooters and defenders in their group, but Fralick says a real key has been their depth of ball handlers.  "That is a big difference between the teams of my first couple of years, this is my fifth year at Ashland, and my teams now is we have better ball handlers and we have more of them and obviously that is a great thing.  When you talk about Isaac White, a four year varsity guy, playing mostly point guard throughout, Trey Smith, who has been a very good combo guard for us for three years, and even John Wolfe, who is now a sophomore, and had some varsity experience last year as a freshman and he is a tremendous secondary ball handler for us," he told Swankonsports.com on Tuesday, "The likes of Brett Vipperman, he plays the four and the five for us, and we feel just as comfortable with him handling the ball out front for us as most of our guards.  When we are in a stretch situation to try and get the last shot of a quarter or to finish the game lots of times we will have him out in the mix on the perimeter.  Lots of times it is beneficial for us with bigger guys on him it is a good mis-match for us.  Our depth and our talent with the ball has really prevented teams from pressuring us.  It is a better situation for us when you can create off of the bounce."

          Ashland (13-1,9-0), #1 in the Swankonsports.com boys' basketball coaches poll in the large school division, plays at West Holmes (6-11,2-7) on Friday night.  The Knights lost to Berlin Hiland (58-53) on Tuesday night.  Fralick says the Knights play with great intensity.  "Coach Troyer, in his second year there, has them playing extremely hard.  I was wowed by how hard their guys got after it.  When you do that you are going to continue to get better.  They have played a lot of close games here as of late.  I like the way they play.  They play similar to us in some ways.  They try to pressure defensively and try to get up and run offensively.  It should be a game that is up and down and probably quite a few points put up on the board.  They have a guy in Josh Neer that is their leading scorer and leading rebounder.  He is a 6'2", 6'3" forward that plays the guard position.  He is a tough match-up and has shown the ability to score in bunches, so we are going to have to do a very good job on him," said Fralick.

 

Published 2/04/15

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Ashland Expects Big Test

 

          Ashland is the leader in the Ohio Cardinal Conference, and by two full games, over Mansfield Senior and Wooster, but they are looking at maybe their biggest test since the opening week of the season when they play the Tygers at Pete Henry Gym.

          The Arrows (11-1,7-0), #1 in the Swankonsports.com boys' basketball coaches poll in the large school division, have won 11 in a row since an opening night loss to Medina.  Coach Tim Fralick says they are playing pretty confidently.  "I think you can do that even when some of them are not pretty you are on a nice little roll and you have quite a bit of momentum behind you. We have certainly been happy with the streak and we have been able to break a couple of recent records with that streak.  I think the last team to win that many in a row was the 69-70 team, something like that.  Our guys feel proud to be doing something like that.  I think they also realize that it hasn't been easy.," he told Swankonsports.com on Thursday, "We have a group of seniors, Isaac White has played all four years on varsity and his first year we were 9-13 and really just starting to develop and move this program in the right direction.  The other guys, Drew, Trey and Brett played as sophomores, this is their third year.  The program has continued to improve with their leadership and them modeling the kind of effort you need to put in in the off season.  Our program has really been able to make strides and put ourselves in this position."

          In their first meeting December 19 at Ashland the Arrows won (59-57) and Fralick says this is a better Mansfield Senior team, much better.  "Senior High at Senior High, or Senior High period, has always been a tough game and when you taking it over there that adds to the challenge and the toughness of the game.  I think our guys are excited with the opportunity.  I think there will actually be some nerves, but more excitement than nerves, which is a good thing.  I think our guys feel that we have the experience, talent, leadership and toughness to go out there and put us in great position for success.  With that being said we are going to have to play extremely well.  They are a team that has improved throughout the year," he said.

          With the addition of David Hall, a transfer from Mansfield St. Peter's, Fralick says they Tygers have more depth and that makes them even more difficult to deal with.  "They have some good young guards that are going to be picking up some experience as the year goes on and we expected them to improve.  They are a little bit more aggressive you can tell some of their skill levels have increased throughout the course of the season.  David Hall is a guy that is averaging five points and five rebounds right away.  You know once he gets into the system and into the flow that will probably increase.  That adds another guy with some size and athleticism to the mix.  The Levens kid is 6'3" with a wide body and he didn't play much early on.  He is playing a lot more.  That adds to their depth and the way they want to play, getting up and down the floor, they can shuffle a couple more kids in and out.  We are excited for the challenge.  As a group we know we are only going to get a couple more of these opportunities and we just want to go out there and control the controlables and put ourselves in position for success," said Fralick.

 

Published 1/30/15

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Ashland Holds Off Colts

 

          Ashland scored the first 12 points of the game, built an 18-2 lead, and then held on down the stretch to beat Clear Fork (58-51) in an Ohio Cardinal Conference game on Saturday night.

          The Arrows (11-1,6-0), #1 in the Swankonsports.com boys basketball coaches poll in the large school division, have won 11 straight games.  Coach Tim Fralich says they got things going early and that was key for them.  "We came out with some energy and played well and made some shots early on and put some pressure on them.  We have been doing that the last few games," he told Swankonsports.com after the game, "We certainly did that again (Saturday) night and we needed it because in the second half we didn't have the same execution.  We were a little unfocused at times leaving shooters open.  You know, not making some of the plays we typically make in a game situation.  I think overall it was a good challenge for us because we have had a couple of games here when we have had big spreads and for our guys to be in those pressure moments and get that adrenaline pumping in those situations, making the adjustments needed, and then making the plays."

          Sophomore Grant Denbow led four Ashland players in double figures with 14.  Brett Vipperman had 13, Trey Smith 11, and Isaac White 10 for the winners. 

          Clear Fork coach Steven Bechtel said his kids never gave up even when down by as many as 18 points in the game.  "After 23-7 after the first quarter.  I commented about that after the game I said down 18 you guys just continued to fight every single possession.  We did a great job of that this weekend.  My hat is off to them they have big hearts and a lot of pride," he said.

          Mansfield Senior rallied to beat the Colts (70-65) on Friday night in league action.

          Clear Fork actually outscored the talented Arrows in the second half (29-23) and cut their deficit to as few as six (52-46) with 4:51 to play in the game.  Fralick thought it was good test for them, especially after easy wins for them over Lexington (78-33) and Madison (80-54) in their last two games.  "I think it is the mark of a good team when you don't play your best and you are still able to come away with a win.  I think overall it will be a real positive for us.  There were some breakdowns that we had that we can really focus in on heading into a really critical game with Mansfield Senior.  These types of things get your guys attention.  I think it guards against complacency and maybe that's what we need at this point.," said Fralick.

          Kadin Chrastina had 21 points, 18 in the second half, for the Colts and Griffen Robinette had 14 points and 14 rebounds.  Bechtel says they picked up their execution in the second half.  "Kadin only had three in the first half and I thought he really picked up his game and got some shots to fall a little bit better.  That opened up the shots for Leedy and Snyder out on the perimeter.  Griffen did a great job of rebounding the ball down the stretch and he got some easy baskets too," he said.

          Ashland plays at Mansfield Senior (9-5,6-2) on Friday night.  The Tygers trail Ashland by two games and Fralick says it is a great opportunity for them.  "Our guys are excited to play Mansfield Senior.  They have been a power in our conference, our area, our district for a long time.  It is a fun place to play and we know they are going to bring it and we will have to play extremely well.  I think our guys will be up for the challenge and it would put us in position to have some success and that's what we want," he said.

 

Published 1/25/14

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Ashland Has to be Ready For Anything

 

          Ashland has won its last nine games and that streak has helped them build a two game lead over the field in the Ohio Cardinal Conference.

          They play two "OCC" games this weekend as they travel to Madison on Friday and host Clear Fork (3-6,1-4) on Saturday.

          Last week, Isaac White scored 19 points as Ashland outscored Wooster (12-0) down the stretch to win an "OCC" game (58-53) at Wooster.  Coach Tim Fralick says they made some plays in the late going, but they also got some help.  "To be able to beat two conference opponents we were happy with that.  Friday night was one those games when we felt very fortunate to come away with a win.  Wooster is a nice ball club.  17 days between games we were a little rusty at times.  Our defensive rotations where a little slow.  At the end of the game our guys were able to step up and make some plays.  Unfortunately they missed a couple of free throws that probably would have sealed it for them.  We will certainly take it and run it was a good road win for us," he said.

          On Saturday night, Ashland picked up its game even more as they destroyed Lexington (78-33) in a conference game.  Fralick says they were able to give the Minutemen some problems with their pressure defense.  "I felt our guys were going to be a little bit better off Saturday night after a having chance to get back under the game lights.  I felt like they were ready to execute better that they did on Friday and we certainly did that on Saturday and we played the best we have played all year and made a bunch of shots.  Defensively our pressure and our energy really hurt them," he said.

          Ashland (9-1,5-0), #1 in the Swankonsports.com boys' basketball coaches poll in the large school division, is at Madison (8-5,3-3) in "OCC" play on Friday.

          Madison is without Tyrell Aijan, their leading scorer, with a broken ankle, and Fralick says that means the Rams are going to be different.  "I think they have to re-event their team a little bit because he is a guy that had a huge impact on the game in a variety of ways.  He is a great player.  He can defend, he can create, he can shoot, he can create off the bounce for himself.  He is a tremendous athlete, so when you take away a guy like him from anybody it going to have an affect on them," he told Swankonsports.com on Thursday, "I know they are a proud group that came out this year and did a lot of good things.  Coach Mergel always has those guys playing hard and physical.  So, we are going to have to match that and we are going to have to play just as hard or harder and play physical to put ourselves in good position there."

          Fralick says the Rams are likely to try some new things, so they have to be ready for that on Friday night.  "I think we are going to have to be prepared for some different looks from them defensively.  Lots of times when you loose a key guy or you might be undermanned compared to where you had been you try to find ways to neutralize that.  One way to do that would be to play a different defense than you typically play, a box and one or stuff like that to go up against some of our more efficient offensive players, so we need to be ready that.  We also need to make sure we are still doing what we need to do on the defensive end to keep their point total lower," said Fralick.

 

Published 1/23/15

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Ashland Ready to Play

 

          Ashland has a seven game winning streak, but they Arrows have not played since before New Year's Day.  They do have two Ohio Cardinal Conference teams to play this weekend, and both are good teams, in Wooster and Lexington.

          Coach Tim Fralick says they have been doing some different things over the last couple of weeks in an attempt to stay fresh.  "I know our guys weren't too excited by the cancellation on Friday.  It will be 17 days between games and that will be a long layoff for this time of year, but we have tried to put a positive spin on it be allowing us to do some more cross training stuff and hit the weight room a little harder to in an attempt to keep our guys getting in stronger and more athletic and do some flexibility stuff.  We have tried to vary our workouts so we don't get stale.  When we are on the court our energy and focus is still there.  Hopefully it turns into a real positive where we are well rested and yet read to roll.  We were disappointed we couldn't get on the floor last Friday, but we have to continue to control the controlables and let everything else take care of itself," said Fralick.

          Ashland (7-1,3-0), #1 in the Swankonsports.com boys' basketball poll in the large school division, plats at Wooster (7-2,4-1), #3 in our poll, in a key game in the "OCC" on Friday.  Fralick says Wooster's guards are improved, but it still boils down to controlling Cam Daugherty.  "They have a very good shooter that can open things up inside in Schilling.  He is a guy that has really improved from last year.  With that being said the majority of their scoring is inside.   Daugherty is a force down their with his size and athleticism and that makes for a difficult match-up for any team.  He can score in a variety of ways.  He can face up and get to the rim that way. he can score a little bit with his back to the basket and he does a tremendous job of scoring off of offensive rebounding," he told Swankonsports.com on Tuesday, "Another thing that he has really improved on is his passing out of the post to cutting guards and passing off outlet pass, he is kind of like Kevin Love.  He has his guards running hard because they know if they run hard they are going to get the ball.  We are going to have to do a good job of guarding inside and also make sure we are finding Schilling at all times.  They have three guys in double figures.  They have some nice athleticism and probably a better over skill set than they have had in years past."

          Lexington (6-6,1-3) makes the tip to Ashland on Saturday night.  Fralick says the Minutemen are a dangerous team who is going to get better.  "They are big and strong and tough and coach Hamilton have always done a good job with their teams and gotten them to over achieve I feel like and I am sure that will continue to be the case this year.  They had some hiccups earlier mainly because they had some injuries and sickness on their team coming into the first weekend and that really hurt them and they have lost a couple of close games as well.  I think they are a legitimate league contender now and as the season goes on.  With their size it is another team that you are going to have to do a good job of guarding inside and limiting their second chances," he said.

 

Published 1/14/15

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Ashland's Defense Pretty Good Too

 

          When you are playing as well as Ashland it seems like everything you do is good and for them defense is no different.

          They held Orrville to just 11 points in the first half last week on their way to a (68-31) win over the Red Riders in the Ohio Cardinal Conference play.  Coach Tim Fralick says the biggest difference between the Arrows this year and the Arrows last year is the way the play defense.  "I think that is the biggest change with our team would be defensively.  We have ratcheted up our defensive pressure.  We decided during the summer that with our man to man defense we were going to mix a couple defenses together," he told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday, "We really wanted to be more of a pressure oriented defense where we could create a little bit more for our offense and try to make our opponents a little more uncomfortable.  At the high school level obviously there is no shot clock and we wanted to find ways to speed up the game and get the game open because that is where we feel we are best.  We thought be pressuring and creating more kayos on defense was the way to do that."

          Both Isaac White and Brett Vipperman have been explosive scorers this year, but Fralick says actually they have not seen a lot of junk defenses from the opponents they have seen so far this season.  "We are worked on that stuff in practice, but you don't want to spend too much time working on it because you want to focus on what you do and do that well.  We have worked on it, but we haven't seen too much of it.  When it comes we hope to be prepared for it.  We do have some other weapons around them.  That is one area of big improvement for us I feel not only are our so-called star players improved with Brett and Isaac and Tre (Smith) would be in that mix there, but you have complementary pieces Grant Dembow, Logan Brewer, Drew Dickinson, John Wolfe, Zack Stoops, Brad Sherman.  I feel they are really good complementary pieces.  It would be tough for opponents to do that because on any given night they have the ability to score in bunches as well," said Fralick.

          Ashland (7-1,3-0), #1 in the Swankonsports.com boys' basketball coaches poll in the large school division, hosts West Holmes (4-4,0-3) in an Ohio Cardinal Conference game on Friday night at Arrow Arena.  Fralick says the Knights are going to be physical.  "They are a group of kids that play really hard and are extremely physical.  I have really been impressed by how hard coach Troyer has gotten them to play last year and this year and when you do those things you are bound to get better.  We are just going to have to match that effort and physicality," he said.

 

Published 1/08/15

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Ashland Bolts to the Top

 

          With a big win in an out of state tournament, the Ashland Arrows have taken the top spot in the Swankonsports.com boys' basketball coaches poll.

          With wins over Troy (70-55) and Detroit Country Day (75-45) Ashland improved to 6-1 on the season and were voted as the number #1 team in our coaches poll released on Tuesday.

          Coach Tim Fralick says picked up their execution to a new level over the weekend.  "It was a good weekend for us.  We did a lot of things well.  We played better for longer spurts of time.  (Sunday) was the best I have seen this group of guys play and we are bringing back the same exact team as last year and that is best I have seen them play.  It was encouraging to see our guys continue to work to improve as individuals and work on things we need to help improve the ball club as a whole," he said.

          Ashland claimed Motor City Shootout title with that win over Detroit Country Day on Sunday and Fralick says they played as well as this group has ever played.  "Our guys were excited to beat Detroit Country Day, especially with the way we did it.  We came out really strong.  We are doing a great job of making extra passes.  We are turning down good shots for really good shots right now.  We are shooting the ball extremely well right now and doing a good job of getting inside touches.  Things just started coming together.  We were able to pull out to an early lead and hold onto it and extend it a little bit more the second half," he told Swankonsports.com on Monday, "Being able to do that against a team like Detroit Country Day gives us a lot of confidence and momentum.  They are a traditional power in class "B," which is our division two equivalent.  I'll be honest I think it is going to be similar this year.  They have some things they need to iron out, but with the talent they have by the end of the season they are going to be an excellent team.  We have been able to do an excellent job defensively of making our opponents feel uncomfortable and get them out of their normal rhythm with our pressure.  I think that hurt them."

          The Arrows beat Tim's father's team in the semi-finals on Saturday and that was also a good performance, according to the son.  "My dad's team had a nice group of athletic forwards and they kept working us and they curt our lead to three on a couple separate times, but we were able to extend it out again by getting a couple of stops and executing offensively.  It was kind of bittersweet because it was your dad and I always root for him and my alma matter, but obviously when we go head to head we throw that out the door.  We are happy to get that one as well," said Tim.

          It is a long road trip to Detroit and back, but there is no rest for the weary.  The Arrows (6-1,2-0) play at Orrville (2-3,1-1) on Tuesday in an Ohio Cardinal Conference game.  Fralick says the Red Riders have a physical team that makes outside shots.  "They play hard, they are physical, they have some size, and they have some good young players.  Coach Slaughter always does a nice job with that group.  They have three guards that are all averaging in double digits and we will have to do a good job of making them feel uncomfortable.  They have a lot of rhythm to what they do.  They play a lot in the half court with a little bit slower tempo.  We will have to disrupt them in that because they have some guys that can make nice plays and score form the outside and do a little dribble drive and get in there and score as well," said Fralick.

 

Published 12/20/14

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Ashland Standing Tall

 

          Right now, Ashland stands in a share of first place with Mansfield Madison and Wooster in the Ohio Cardinal Conference, all three have 2-0 conference records.

          Last Friday, Isaac White scored 20 points and the Arrows (4-1,2-0), #2 in the Swankonsports.com boys' basketball coaches poll in the large school division, beat perennial power Mansfield Senior (59-57) in the "OCC" play.

          Coach Tim Fralick says it is a win they will treasure because it came against Mansfield Senior.  "They are still a very good team.  They lost some talent from last year, but they still have some talent there.  The have some young kids that are still learning how to play.  Pressure wise and athletically you just don't see that, so they are tough to prepare for.  They are extremely tough out, we got one, and we are certainly going to take it and run.  It puts us in good position in the conference.  We have only one kid on the team Isaac White, a senior, that as a freshman was on a team that beat them, it has been quite a while.  We are certainly happy with that," he said.

          On Saturday, Fralick gets to coach against his dad Gary for the second year in a row.  Last year, it was dad that got the win in a close game and his son wants to get him back.  "We need to move forward are focus on our next opponent.  We do play Troy High School in the Motor City Roundball Classic Saturday and that just happens to be my alma mater on the northern side of Detroit.  It is not only my alma matter but my dad was and is the coach there.  I played for him and graduated in '99 and we were fortunate to have some good ball clubs and he has stayed there since.  We played them last year and they had a really good team and they won their conference.  They actually ended up beating us on a buzzer beater," he told Swankonsports.com on Tuesday, "It was kind of a tough one to take.  We feel like we have a little better team than we did last year.  I don't know if they are as good as they were last year, but they certainly have some pieces that could come together and be awfully good.  It's a big school with over 2,000 kids with a lot of talent, so we are going to have to play well.  It's an opportunity and hopefully we can bounce back with a "W" from last year."

          Tim Fralick says coaching against his dad is different, but he looks forward to it.  "Last year we played on the 26th, the day right after Christmas.  Christmas Day spending the whole day with him cutting Christmas ham and doing whatever families do, always something kind of cheesey so top speak, but everybody enjoys doing it, playing board games and stuff like that.  Then the next day we are going at it as competitors.  We certainly respect each other and we root for the other's team any other day of the year.  But, Saturday it will time to get after it a little bit in a great high school basketball game," said Fralick.

 

Published 12/24/14

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Ashland Pumped to Play Mansfield Senior

 

          Ashland is playing some excellent basketball, maybe its best in quite a while, and now they face their personal "Waterloo" in the Mansfield Senior Tygers at Arrow Arena on Friday night.

          After an opening night loss to Medina (49-42), the Arrows have strung together wins over Sandusky (69-56), Clear Fork (65-41) and Norwalk (57-33), each more impressive.

            Coach Tim Fralick says they are really putting things together.  "I think we had a good weekend, we played well.  We improved from the weekend before where I though we had played well for shorter spurts and we were able to really extend those spurts.  We were able to continue to do what we want to do on both Friday and Saturday.  We try to make our opponent uncomfortable this year more than any other year.  We want to push the ball.  We want to pressure defensively.  I think we are able to do those things and over the course of time I think we were able to wear our opponents down," he said.

          They have some excellent scorers like Brett Vipperman and Isaac While, but Fralick says a big difference from last year is the way they are defending.  "We made an adjustment this summer to what we are doing in our man to man.  We play man to man about half of the time and lots of time we will go to it full time when it comes to crunch time the last three or four minutes of a tight game.  We made an adjustment of where we are pressuring more.  I'll just call it our five p-defense.  We try to give our guys a bigger concept of what we are trying to get done.  They really did a nice job this summer when we put it in before we went to shootouts and team camps of adjusting to that scheme and that philosophy.  I feel like it has carried over here to the season now that we have had more time to work on it.  It has been a huge bonus for us and we feel like we have the depth this year and the athleticism to play that kind of defense for the duration of any game," said Fralick.

          Ashland (3-1,1-0) hosts Mansfield Senior (0-2,0-1) on Friday night.  Fralick says the Tygers play different than anyone they play all year long.   "There is nobody like Senior High in our area or our conference.  They are by far the most athletic team that we play.  They pressure the most defensively .  They just have a winning tradition.  No matter who they have they believe they are going to go out there and win games.  It is always going to be a quality game for us and a challenge," he told Swankonsports.com on Thursday, "I know our guys are really looking forward to it as they always do.  We have had numerous close games with them over the last few years, but unfortunately we haven't been able to get them.  We have had some really tight games that could have gone either way, but we haven't been able to get it done.  Our guys are hopping to change the course of that streak."

          It's early and Mansfield Senior is winless, but Fralick says that the Tygers are still a very talented team and one that will be hard to beat.  "They haven't had the start that they have wanted in losing to Madison and North Canton Hoover.  They are a team with their athleticism and their youth that is really going to improve as the season has goes on.  Even from Friday to Saturday they really played much better and we are going to have to be prepared to play against a typical Senior High team that is going to do a lot of things well, especially defensively," he said.

 

Published 12/19/14

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Ashland Getting Ready For Clear Fork

 

          Ashland expects to be a factor in the Ohio Cardinal Conference race this year and they play their first conference game on Friday night in the valley against Clear Fork.

          They started the season last week with a loss at Medina (49-42) on Friday and a win at Sandusky (69-56) on Saturday.

          Against Medina coach Tim Fralich says they got intimidated a little bit and didn't shoot the ball very well.  "We went up to Medina on Friday and unfortunately didn't shoot the ball very well.  There were a lot of factors that went into it.  Medina is very good defensive team.  Maybe their best defensive weapon is seven-foot Jon Teske, who is headed for Michigan.  He disrupted half of the shots we took.  We just got behind early and unfortunately we didn't recover.  I thought it had to do with first game jitters too.  Also seeing the big fella, missing a few early, having some blocked and it was kind of a snowball effect.  We had multiple chances as we cut their lead to three twice in the fourth quarter.  I was proud of our guys for bouncing back. It was not a good game for us, but we did hang in there with a good team," said Fralic.

          Then against Sandusky on Saturday night they were able to get the game going a little faster and Fralich says that was a little bit more to their liking.  "We bounced back the next night against a much improved Sandusky team.  Coach Irish is doing a nice job and they have some good young players.  It was a battle for quite a while then we opened it up midway through the third quarter.  It was an up and down game, both of us played fast.  I think our commitment to consistency really paid off.  We had big, big numbers from Brett Vipperman with 27 points and 12 rebounds.  He had 17 points and nine rounds against Medina.  He had an excellent weekend," he told Swankonsports.com on Tuesday, "Logan Brewer really chipped in for us.  He hit four threes for us at Sandusky to open up that game.  Drew Dickinson was a horse on the glass for us as well.  We got contributions from a number of guys and we certainly didn't think we played our best ball."

          When facing the Colts (0-1), a (75-47) loser to Ontario last week, Fralich says they know who they need to stop.  "Chrastina and Robinette are their go to guys.  I think they are trying to feel out their roll guys and see who fits best with what they want to do.  One things is for sure and that is coach Bechtel is going to get a lot out of them and he is going to get them to play hard, play tough and play good defense.  We are going to have to do a great job on Chrastina and Robinette.  Chrastina is a three, four year varsity guy with a lot of experience.  He s very athletic and has the ability to do a lot of things inside and outside, he can score, and causes a lot of havoc defensively.  He kind of has the freedom to roam around and make deflections and steals.  Robinette is a guy that can really get on the glass and has expanded his role to be more of a perimeter and post guy.  We will have our hands full with those two.  We haven't played particularly well there in the past, so hopefully we can change that," said Fralich.

 

Published 12/10/14

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Ashland Already Battle Tested

 

          Ashland is one of the preseason favorites to win the Ohio Cardinal Conference this season they played a tough preseason schedule to get them ready.  Their first regular season game is Friday against a very good Medina team.

          With most of their roster back from last year coach Tim Fralich says they were able to pick up where they left off and get better as a team during November.  "We have seen some improvements here, and that is what you want to see on a day to day basis from week to week and scrimmage to scrimmage.  I think every coach before their opener would like to extend their practice for another week or so to work out some kinks and work on some special situations, the little things that maybe you just haven't had the time because their is so much to do and you don't want to overwhelm your guys you want them to be able to play free and have things be somewhat simple to them so they can play hard," said Fralich.

          The Ashland coach says they were not afraid to play some of the best teams in the state during their scrimmage schedule and he feels they did pretty well too.  "We have had some really tough scrimmages.  We had Mentor High School come to our place and they are very good and are tough and play hard.  I thought we competed pretty well against them.  We went down to Olentangy Liberty against them and Licking Heights.  We got beat up a little bit by Liberty and we took it to them a little bit in spurts.  They are going to be a pretty good team," he told Swankonsports.com on Tuesday, "We played a pretty tough, and strong inside Dalton team.  Over the last two weeks we played with a lot of energy and pop and made a lot of shots.  Initially we hand Medina Highland and Twinsburg, which were good scrimmages.  We really challenged ourselves in the preseason and we hope that helps us in the season."

          The Arrows tip off their 2014-15 season at Medina on Friday night in non-conference action.  Fralich says they are going to face a very good big guy.  "Medina had a great team last year.  I think they won 18 or 19 games.  They have some very good players starting with their big kid Jon Teske.  He is 6'10" and has been offered by Ohio State and Michigan and he is committed to Michigan.  He is a typical coach Beilein, University of Michigan kind of guy.  He is more of a skill guy.  He can handle it a little bit.  He shoots the ball well and passes it, so he offers some challenges for you on the defensive end he moves well and he is long, so he is a big time shot blocker.  We are going to really have to go after him and use the shot fake to kind of get him off balance a little bit.  They are going to do a lot of things defensively so we have to be ready for that as well," said Fralich.

 

Published 12/03/14

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Ashland Looking at Big Things

 

          Ashland closed last season by winning nine of their last 14 regular season games and the Arrows have everybody back and that bodes well when in comes to competing for the Ohio Cardinal Conference title.

          This year, coach Tim Fralich says they are getting better leadership and they are tougher than they were a year ago.  "We realize that we have a lot of experience back.  We had eight guys that played significant minutes for us last year and every single one of them is back.  Also, we have a lot better leadership than we did last year.  We have everybody back, so they are the same personalities, but Isaac White and Bret Vipperman have put in a lot more time to find out what is means to really be a good leader and take their leadership to a new level not just by example, but vocally.  I have been really impressed by how they have improved in those areas.  I think we have more toughness just having a year of maturity under their belts and going through some of the struggles that we did early on last year and kind of rising up from it and finishing the year really strong I think that naturally makes you a tough group an a more competitive group," said Fralich.

          There some saying Ashland is one of the better teams in the area and Fralich says they have that potential.  "We think we have what it takes to be a good team this year.  Obviously there are a lot of factors that go into it.  Hopefully we stay healthy and hopefully our leadership continues to grow and our guys continue to learn to play with each other at a whole new level.  We were doing that pretty well at the end of last year, but we need to take that to a different level and understand each others weaknesses and strengths and giving up good shots for great shots.  We do have a chance to be good , so we are excited about it," he said.

          If they are going to reach their goals this year, Fralich says they have to be better on defense and more aggressive when it comes to defending the other guys.  "Defensively we need to ratchet it up another notch.  In the past defensive we have sort of sat in the gaps and been more of a team that hasn't given as much resistance pressure wise and really try to force teams to shoot contested outside shots.  At the high school level you have more success if you have athletes and get up and pressure and create turnovers and steals.  When you can create offense from your defense that really puts you in a lot better situation.  That is something we need to do a much better job of.  We have focused on that in the off season and done a better job of that," he said.

          Can Ashland win the "OCC" this year?  Fralich thinks they are in the mix, but he understands that there are a lot of good teams in the league too. "There are a lot good teams in our conference and year in and year out I am impressed top to bottom.  When you look at us, we finished tied for fourth in conference last year and we have everybody back.  We would be disappointed if we didn't finish ahead of that and put ourselves in position to compete for a league championship.  If things go well for us and we get some balls to bounce our way and some good momentum early on in the season I think we could put ourselves in position to compete for a league championship," he told Swankonsports.com on Tuesday, "When you look at other teams Lexington is a team that had some really good young players, Wooster has really talented group of guys, and Mansfield Senior is team that is going to give teams in our conference a lot of trouble because they play so differently than everybody else.  It is not like you get a chance to play a Mansfield Senior like team around here often.  They are going to get up and pressure you and force you do things that you don't typically do."

 

 

Published 11/19/14

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Ashland Wants to Test Olentangy Throwing the Ball

 

          Ashland is another North Central Ohio area football team that is not a stranger to the football playoffs.

          They are in for the eighth time.

          As the eighth seed in their division two region the Arrows (6-4) will play on the road at top seeded Olentangy (10-0), now coached by former Crestview boss Mark Solis.

          Solis actually took over the Crestview program after the previous coach Rick Brindley left to become the athletic director at Ashland, a job he still holds.

          They have won four their last five games and Arrows coach Scott Valentine believes they are playing pretty good football right now.  "I think we have really gotten better each week and it has been key for to do that and especially at the end of the year.  I think we are playing pretty good football.  We just have to make sure as we get into practice here that we get ourselves ready.  I feel pretty good about how our guys are playing," he said.

          Valentine thinks they have pretty good personnel on defense, they just need to be sure they are playing consistently on Friday and not allowing the big play.  "Anybody that is in the playoffs is a good team.  Defensively you are going to have to limit big plays, you are going to have to tackle well and then you are going to have to execute your offense," he told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday, "I think defensively we have had our spurts were we have tried to do too much or haven't played our assignment and that has gotten us into trouble, but overall I have been pretty pleased with how we have played defense,"

          Olentangy beat rival Olentangy Liberty by a point and Mt. Vernon by a touchdown, but they have won all of the rest of their games by at least 33 points.  They have never scored less than 35 in a game.  Valentine says normally they get off to a pretty good start.  "I think their offense usually gets them out in front.  They have been in front early in the game.  Teams are always trying to battle back, so defensively that is going to be the task to try and contain them and keep them from getting points early and not give up those big plays," said Valentine.

          Ashland throws the ball more than anybody in the Ohio Cardinal Conference and Valentine says they want to force the Braves to defend the pass.  "Offensively with the way we like to throw the ball they are in a league that doesn't have a lot of people that throw the ball the way we do.  They are in a league that runs a lot.  It is going to be to our advantage if we can make them defend the whole field," he said.

 

Published 11/06/14

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For Ashland the Most Important Thing is Winning

 

          Ashland is hanging on to the seventh spot in their division two computer region, but they do not control their own density when it comes to making the postseason.

          They lost that control when Mansfield Madison beat them (41-25) in an Ohio Cardinal Conference game last week.  Coach Scott Valentine says it was an excellent game and Madison just made a few more plays than they did.  "It was a great game.  Unfortunately in the first half they executed some things on offense and we didn't execute some things on defense and they got up on us.  Our kids fought back and we had an opportunity.  We had a couple of stalled out drives in the fourth quarter that could have got us the win.  It was two good teams and in the end one is going to win and one is going to lose," he said.

          Quarterback Grant Dendow completed 32 of 56 passes for 366 yards against Madison.

          Ashland (5-4,4-2) plays host to Lexington (0-9,0-6) in an Ohio Cardinal Conference game on Friday night.  The Arrows trail leaders Wooster and West Holmes by a game, but would need big upsets to have a chance at the league title.

          Lexington lost (64-15) to Mansfield Senior last week, but Valentine says the Minutemen will come to Community Stadium and play hard.  "Like I told our kids they are a group of kids that except for a few seniors are all coming back next year and they have kept improving all year long," he told Swankonsports.com on Tuesday, "I know they are going to get better this week an their coaching staff is going to do a great job top getting them ready and they are going to go out and play hard.  If we aren't ready, like with any game in the league, you are going to get beat.  It is about if we are ready to play a four quarter game."

          The Minutemen have wanted to be a run team and they have concentrated on that, but Valentine knows Lexington could come out with any kind of game plan.  "There is nothing to lose there as far as what they can do.  I know they have tried to stick to the stuff that they are going to be doing, but on week 10 they can try a lot of different things.  We just have to prepare for what we plan on seeing and adjust to anything else that might come up," he said.

          As far as the playoffs are concerned Valentine says the only thing they control is beating Lexington.  "I told our kids if we don't win Friday then nothing else matters.  That is the most important thing and the other people in our region have some tough games.  You win and you worry about that after the game and hopefully get that opportunity to play week 11," he said.

 

Published 10/29/14

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Ashland Faces Madison in Big Game

 

          Ashland goes to Madison on Friday night with a lot on the line for both sides.  The Arrows still have a chance at a piece of the Ohio Cardinal Conference title and both can make the playoffs.

          The Arrows are fourth in their region in division three and Madison 10th in theirs in division four.

          Ashland (5-3,4-1) pounded Clear Fork (42-7) last week as quarterback Grant Denbow completed 17 of 23 passes for 359 yards and five scores.  Coach Scott Valentine says they went to the valley with a plan an executed it.  "That is one thing that we said going down there that we had to be ready to play four quarters.  I thought that we got a good start and offensively made some plays and defensively got some stops that allowed us to get out to a lead and then finished the game off," said Valentine.

          They were inexperienced on offense to begin the season, but Valentine says they have shown a lot of improvement in the way they have played on that side of the ball.  "Definitely on the offensive side of the ball we are playing more consistently then we were earlier.  I thought on defense we were pretty consistent, but still giving up the big play here or there, that is always a concern," he said.

          Madison (5-3,3-2) has won three straight games with victories over Lexington (21-8), Clear Fork (49-27) and Orrville (50-16) over the last three weeks. 

          They have been pretty balanced run and pass during that stretch.  Valentine says the Rams have athletes all over the field.  "The thing with them offensively is they are doing a couple different things and throwing the ball a little bit more and have had a lot of big plays.  So, for us defensively it is very concerning.  We have to make sure we can contain those big plays," he said.

          On defense, the Rams are back to where they were at the start of the season.  Valentine says they will bring a lot of pressure and get up in their face on defense.  "Defensively they like to play man to man and play some match up zone and really bring some pressure or get after you a little bit," he told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday, "We are going to have to prepare for those sorts of things and be able to execute our offense against that."

 

Published 10/23/14

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Ashland Has to be Focused

 

          Ashland, along with Wooster, trails Ohio Cardinal Conference leader West Holmes, by a game in the standings with three to play, and they need some help because West Holmes has already beaten them.

          The Arrows (4-3,3-1) beat Orrville (49-6) last week, scoring three times in the first quarter.  Coach Scott Valentine says they played a pretty consistent game.  "We felt really good about the way everything went.  Offensively we were really efficient with the things we did.  We executed our stuff.  Defensively we kept them from big plays except for the one in the second half, but overall it was a good game for us," he said.

          They have the reputation of a high octane passing game and they still get in a five wide formation a lot, but Valentine says they have been running the ball a little more this year.  "As we got into the season we started to look at running the ball a little bit more.  We kind of try to take what the defense is going to give us.  We ended running the ball against some teams because they had four men to our five guys inside.  If you are going to do that you better be able to run the ball," he said.

          They gave up only 120 yards to Orrville last week a 78 of those came on a touchdown pass in the third quarter.  Valentine likes the improvement of the defense, but he says they have to quit giving up the big plays.  "I think we have gotten better, but we still have a lapse every once in a while where we give up a big play.  Those are things that you have to keep from happening.  Some of those might be mental mistakes and some of them might be communication mistakes.  That is something that we really have to make sure we get figured out these next few weeks," said Valentine.

          Ashland plays at Clear Fork (3-4,1-3) in an "OCC" game on Friday night.  Although the Colts have been giving up some points, Valentine says they still have some explosiveness on offense.  "Clear Fork is always a tough place to go down and play.  We have to go down there and play.  They have some really good athletes.  Chrastina is a very good athlete," he told Swankonsports.com on Monday, "He really hurt us last year with the things they did offensively, so defensively we are going to have to be ready to contain him.  Defensively, they are a regular Clear Fork team they are going to come up and hit you and run to the ball."

          Chrastina had 338 total yards in a (49-27) loss to Mansfield Madison last week.  Ashland beat Clear Fork (31-30) last year.

          Trailing West Holmes by one game, Valentine says this is another must win for them.  "We have to keep ourselves one game back and hopefully somebody can help us with and beat West Holmes," he said.

 

Published 10/14/14

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Ashland has to keep Pace

 

          Ashland remains a game behind West Holmes in the Ohio Cardinal Conference standings and they need to keep winning if they are to have a chance to share the title.

          Last week, they had less than 160 total yards, but they beat Mansfield Senior (30-25) in an "OCC" game.  Coach Scott Valentine says they were able to take advantage of some short fields.  "I think the big thing was we got our special teams going.  We got two big kickoff returns from Andrew Koerper last week that really gave us a short field.  Offensively that helped us and we were able to take advantage of it. Our defense made some big plays for us also," he told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday, "So, offensively we didn't have to drive the field, which is something we have had to do quite a bit this season.  For us to take advantage of those opportunities was really big."

          This time they were able to put away a close game and Valentine hopes that helps to build their confidence.  "We have lost quite a few one possession games that could have gone either way.  We played good enough to win and we didn't.  Sometimes that can turn you down and kids don't keep going.  Our kids have kept going and that was a big win last week," he said.  All three of the Arrows "OCC" games has been decided by a touchdown or less.

          Orrville (2-4,1-2) comes to Ashland (3-3,2-1) for an "OCC" game.  Valentine says the Red Riders still possess some game breakers and you can't allow them to have big plays.  "I think like every year they have some athletic kids and some kids that can make plays, so from a defensive standpoint you have to make sure you don't give them the big plays.  Then offensively we just have to execute our stuff.  They like bringing pressure, so for us we are going to have to be able to get the ball out of our hands and protect our quarterback when we are throwing it," said Valentine.

          West Holmes plays Mansfield Senior this week and they have Wooster left to play too.  Valentine says they want to be in the right position to take advantage of a possible loss by the Knights and do that they must keep winning.  "That is one thing that we talked about after our loss to West Holmes that is up to us if we want to be in there and if they win out they deserve to be the champ.  If not, we want to be there and in position so we can get a share of that," he said.

 

Published 10/09/14

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Arrows Need Win to Stay in "OCC" Race

 

          With a loss last week to West Holmes, Ashland almost must have a win this week at Mansfield Senior if they are to remain a factor in the Ohio Cardinal Conference race.

          Last week, the Arrows spotted the Knights a 20-point fourth quarter lead before falling just short (34-28) and losing their first league game of the season.

          Coach Scott Valentine says they gave up too many big plays on defense and it cost them.  "It is too bad because we gave up some big plays.  They are a good football team, but we gave up some big plays because of missed assignments.  As we look back on it it is something we can get better at.  We have talked about missed assignments and we can't have those and it hurts us against good football teams," he told Swankonsports.com on Thursday, "Our kids battled for four quarters and had an opportunity if we could have gotten a stop and maybe get a tie or even a win.  I was proud of the way our kids fought we just have to get better at some things."

          Ashland (2-3,1-1) plays at Arlin Field against Mansfield Senior (3-2,2-0), #5 in the Swankonsports.com football coaches poll in the large school division, in "OCC" play this week.  Valentine says with the Tygers ahead of them in the standings this becomes a must win.  "I think in our league there is a lot of possibility for people beating other people.  The one thing that we know is Mansfield is one of the teams that hasn't been beaten in the league yet and if we want a shot we are going to have to beat them first.  That is why this is a very important game for us," he said.

        The Tygers have put up 95 points in "OCC" wins over Clear Fork (62-41) and Orrville (33-14) and Valentine says they just hope to slow them down.  "One thing you know is you aren't going to be able to stop them completely, but you want to make sure that you try to contain all of the big plays they can get and have been making.  One thing we focus on defensively is playing fast and trying to contain them and trying to stop them from getting big plays," he said.

          Ashland features a wide open offense that often scores quick TD's.  Valentine says they are not going to change their approach much just to keep the ball away from Mansfield Senior.  "I think you always try to think about if you can keep the ball away from them that keeps them from getting big plays, but with our style of offense when the opportunity comes for you to make a big play you have to make it.  It is kind of our approach that we are going to take what they give us.  If it's a big play we'll take it and then hopefully play good enough defense to keep them out of the end zone," said Valentine.

 

Published 10/03/14

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Ashland Faces West Holmes

 

          Two teams that won their Ohio Cardinal Conference openers last week play on Friday night at Community Stadium when Ashland plays host to West Holmes.

          Ashland broke a (7-7) halftime tie with two third quarter scores and went on to beat Wooster (21-14) last week.  Coach Scott Valentine says their defense kept them in it until the offense was able to start clicking.  "We struggled a little bit in the first half offensively, but our defense did a nice job and kept them contained except for a couple of big plays.  Defensively we got a touchdown, but the offensively we got it going to the second half and that allowed us to get the win," he said.

          In a day and age when lots of points are being scored everywhere the Arrows (2-2,1-0), #4 in he Swankonsports.com football coaches poll in the large school division, have yet to allow 30 points in a game this year.  Valentine says they have been getting a lot of guys to the ball carrier.  "I think our kids are playing fast and we are getting to the football and we are tackling pretty well.  Now, this week against West Holmes we have another challenge because of the things they do, so we are going to have to get a good week of practice in," he said.

          The offense has been a little slower to come around this year.  Valentine says they haven't had the explosiveness to make up for the big mistake.  "It seems like we execute then if we have a bad play and it puts you back we are having a tough time overcoming some of those things.  That is one of things that we are trying to work on to be more consistent and not have a bad play and when we do be able to overcome the play and keep drives going," said Valentine.

          West Holmes (1-3,1-0) downed Mansfield Madison (34-21) in their "OCC" opener.  Valentine says he wasn't surprised by the at all by the performance the Knights put together last week.  "They played a good non-league schedule.  Triway is a  very good football team.  Then they played New Phily, who is always a good football team and then Coshocton.  So, it wasn't like they didn't play a good schedule," he told Swankonsports.com, "Then you get in the league, and everybody starts over, and you get a little new life, and they definitely did a nice job against Madison the other night."

          West Holmes has the reputation of a power running team, but Valentine says they have been doing some different things this season too.  "I think they want to run the ball first, but I think they have been more balanced with the quarterback bootlegging with the option to pass, but he is still a good runner.  I think they run a lot, but they are able to pass the ball with the bootleg," he said.

          To improve to 2-0 in the league, Valentine says they have to win the trenches, score in the red zone and make some plays in the special teams.  "Defensively, we are going to have to control the line of scrimmage, but also be great tacklers because they always run hard and if you don't tackle them they will make yards.  Offensively, I think it's take advantage of our opportunities.  Like anytime special teams is going to be a big part of that game too, so we have to be on top of our special teams," said Valentine,

 

Published 9/23/14

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Ashland Ready for "OCC"

 

          Ashland may have lost two of their first three games, but that doesn't mean they aren't going to be a factor in the Ohio Cardinal Conference race.  They are likely to be a real factor.

          Last week, Tiffin Columbian's Cliff Miller scored with less than a minute to play to give the Tornadoes a (23-20) win in non-conference play.  Ashland coach Scott Valentine says both sides played well.  "It was a great high school game.  Two teams battled right down the end.  They scored with 30 seconds to go and we still had a chance right there at the end to try and score.  Those are great high school football games and two good teams," he said.

          Ashland has a new quarterback this year in Grant Denbow.  He completed 26 of 39 passes for 278 yards two scores against Tiffin.  Valentine says they matured a bunch on offense.  "We were definitely young as far as varsity playing time and lost a lot of guys on offense, but I think we have gotten better and have hit our stride, but we are still hurting ourselves with some things.  That's the disappointing thing when we look back at it.  We missed a few opportunities.  We have to get more consistent, but we have made some jumps," said Valentine.

          Defense has been the Ashland mainstay over the years and they have played pretty well on that side of the ball this year, especially the last two weeks.  Valentine says they have been fundamental.  "There is no doubt.  I think our kids are playing fast and they are hitting and we are doing a pretty good job of tackling.  There are still some things we have to get better at, but I think defensively we are doing a lot of good things and we just have to keep getting better on that side of the ball," he said.

          Ashland lost on week one to Wadsworth (26-15) and beat Dover (16-14) on week two.  Valentine says that tough non-league schedule gets them ready for conference play.  "There are some different philosophies on non-conference schedules, but our staff believes that you have to play some people that are good to find at where you are at with a couple of different styles to prepare yourself for your league because that is always one of your goals to win your league and I think our non-league schedule definitely does that for us," said Valentine.

          Ashland (1-2) plays at Wooster (1-2) in their "OCC" opener on Friday night.  Wooster also lost a tough one to Akron Green (21-20) last week.  Valentine says the Generals, led by quarterback Cam Daughtery, are very athletic.  "They are always athletic.  They have some skilled guys that can run around.  They have a quarterback that this is his third year under his belt.  When you have an experienced guy like that has been through the different battles.  He is a guy that we have to ready to contain.  They have some big skill receiver wise," he told Swankonsports.com, "Defensively we are going to have to find a way to stop him from making big plays.  Defensively, we saw them scrimmage Dover and they run to the ball.  Those are things that we are going to see from everybody in our league."

          Something they had to deal with when playing Dover a couple weeks back is speed and Valentine says you have to know what your up against.  "You have to adjust your pursuit angle to what they are speed wise.  Sometimes if you don't take the right angle you can give them big plays.  We have to make sure we understand the speed that they have and make sure we adjust to that," he said.

 

Published 9/15/14

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Ashland Meets Tiffin Columbian in Crucial Match-up

 

          Ashland and Tiffin Columbian are two of the most consistent winners in northern Ohio and they face each other in big non-conference game at National Field in Tiffin on Friday night.

          The two schools are both 1-1 and share the #5 sport in our first Swankonsports.com football coach's poll in the large school division.

          Last week, Ashland scored with just over two minutes to play on a Grant Denbow run to upend Dover (16-14) in non-conference play.  Coach Scott Valentine says they did a great job of containing the wide open Dover offense.  "It was one of those games that I felt really good about we played well.  Our defensive staff put together a great game plan.  Our kids went out and held them to 14 points and we made plays on offense to help us win the game," he said.

          Valentine says they made some adjustments to match the concerns that Dover presented them and it worked out pretty well.  "The thing was we made a lot of changes.  We put some guys in some different positions for speed purposes because their quarterback was very quick and contain wise we needed to contain him.  Offensively I thought we made some big strides there too.  And special teams we didn't give up a lot of big plays.  I think in all three phases of the game we improved last week," said Valentine.

          Columbian lost the opening week of the season to Clyde (23-20) and then hammered Maumee (48-21) last week.  Tiffin has been the dominate power in the "NOL" over the last decade and Valentine says they are good again this year.  "I think they are a typical Tornado team.  They have big guys up front.  They have running backs that run hard.  Defensively they are very aggressive and come down hill and get you.  It's kind of like going back to week one we are going to have to be ready for a physical football game like we did against Wadsworth," he said.

          This is the first match-up in recent memory at least between the two schools and Valentine says it should be an exciting game for fans to watch.  "That's why when we talked to each other about scheduling the game we knew it would have some interest because of them being one of the top teams every year in their league and hopefully we want to be in the top of our league every year," he told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday, "In non-league games that's what it is all about trying to play someone good.  I think it is going to be a real good football game."

 

          And to the winner will come a lot of playoff points too and Valentine says that makes this game very important to both sides.  "We feel that if we can win that game they are going to win a lot of games in their league.  You never know once you get in your league and things happen," he said.

 

Published 9/11/14

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Ashland has to Get Better

 

          Ashland is a football program that is a consistent winner and one reason is they are constantly trying to get better.

          They play the Dover Tornados this week.

          They lost on the opening night of the season to Wadsworth (26-15) but coach Scott Valentine was pleased they didn't quit and that was shown by the fact they scored twice in the fourth quarter of the game.  "To get some things going late for us was important because of where we were and that is one thing that we look for playing four quarters and I thought we really did that.  We need to become more consistent early on.  We gave up a big play on special teams, which you never want to do against a good team.  There are some things we need to get better at," he said.

          Valentine says they were really on the edge of making some big plays against Wadsworth it is just a matter of execution.  "Offensively we had some opportunities.  We scored a touchdown right before half that got called back because of a holding penalty that would have made it 12-7 hopefully going into the half.  We talked about how we can't keep hurting ourselves with penalties.  Special teams is place where we need to get better," he told Swankonsports.com on Monday, "I thought overall we did a pretty good job tackling and blocking, but those are things we still need to get better at.  They played some man coverage and we just missed on about five passes just off our finger tips.  I told them that is 35 points right there and half of those would have won the ballgame.  Those are things we have to get better at here this week."

          Dover beat a team form Canada (49-0) in their first game last Thursday.  Ashland and Dover have battled for a number of years and Valentine says this is just another very good Dover team.  "I think they are a normal Dover team.  They spread you our and they have quick guys they like to get the ball to.  Defensively it is the same thing they use their speed to get pressure on you when we spread them out.  For us this a team we practice against all summer long, unlike Wadsworth where we are going against a team that does some completely different.  We just have to get better on some of our stuff," said Valentine.

          The key for this week is the get better.  Valentine says he challenged the players on Saturday morning.  "That is what I told our kids on Saturday.  Half of the teams in the state lost their first game now where do you go from there?  We are one of the teams that lost, but are we going to get better?  Some teams get satisfied with a win and don't get any better.  So, we have to take a big jump this week, so that is going to be an important thing for us," he said.

 

Published 9/02/14

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Ashland Ready to take First Step

 

          Ashland has one of the more consistent football programs in North Central Ohio and the Arrows are ready to go again as they face Wadsworth in their season opener on Friday night.

          After scrimmages against North Canton Hoover and Brunswick, Ashland coach Scott Valentine believes they are well prepared for their first real game.  "I think we have had two good opponents in our scrimmages and that have allowed us to see some things that will need to get better at.  I think our kids have come out to practice and I think they have worked hard to get better," he said.

          They are known for their five wide sets and wide open offense.  Valentine says they not going to change much.  "I think we have some guys in some places.  We have to become a lot more consistent in some of the things we are doing.  I think for our guys overall it has been a pretty good preseason and now we are into game week so we really have to get going," he said.

          On defense the Arrows have some new guys this year, but Valentine says they have been tested against good personnel this month.  "We have a lot of inexperience and not a lot of guys with varsity time out there.  We will see when we get into those Friday nights, especially that first game with the nerves going sometimes you react differently.  I think our guys have been under the gun a little bit and I think they will respond okay," said Valentine.

          Ashland plays a more difficult non-conference schedule than anyone in the "OCC" and Valentine says the Grizzlies will be tough to deal with on Friday night.  "I think they are the same type of team.  They are going to try and run the ball out of the "I" backfield.  They have a couple of skilled guys that they put out wide and try to get the ball too.  Defensively they have a good core of linebackers that run to the football.  Those are things that we are going to have to prepare for," said Valentine.

          With Wadsworth's concentration on the run game, Valentine and his staff know they are going to have to be able to compete at the point of attack if they want to slow the Grizzles down.  "That is the one thing that scrimmage wise for us the two teams that we faced this year they got in the "I" and came at you.  With our offense you don't see that a lot.  We can try and do that, but against somebody that does that it really helps you.  Our two scrimmages gave us a good look at it," he said.

 

Published 8/26/14

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Ashland has Things to Work on

 

          It seems that Ashland is always one of the better teams in the Ohio Cardinal Conference and this year should be no different.

          They played North Canton Hoover in their first scrimmage on Wednesday.  Coach Scott Valentine says they found out that Hoover was pretty fast and they had to find ways to control that speed.  “You always think you are doing some stuff and you’re going fast in practice and I think it was good for our kids to see someone else because we saw the speed that they had and the things that thay did were definitely a raise from what we did practice wise.  That is one of the things that we talked about that we need to get more of that speed into our practices.  It was a very good day as far as learning and stuff, so now we have to go get better,” said Valentine.

          Sometimes simulating that speed in practice can be a difficult thing and Valentine says that’s why scrimmages are important.  “Your first level guys are your first level guys for a reason.  That is because they are a step quicker or a step faster than the guys that you have below them.  Until you see guys that are the same or maybe a step faster or quicker you just can’t simulate that, so that is the good thing,” he said.

          They say speed kills and it often does, but there are ways to control that and Valentine says you have to be able to take the proper pursuit angles on defense.  “Our first series we struggled with that because we were taking bad angles, but the good thing about it we got into the second and third series and out guys adjusted to that speed.  That’s what you hope that your kids know that sometimes that guy might be faster so my angle of my pursuit needs to change.  That was the positive out of today we made some adjustments to that and got better as we got going,” said Valentine.

          With one more scrimmage before opening the season with Wadsworth in a little over two weeks, Valentine says they clearly have things to work on in practice.  “The game is still blocking and tackling and defensively getting off blocks.  Those are the things we definitely have to get better at between now and when we go against Brunswick a week from Friday,” he told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday, “There were things that showed up (Wednesday) that we have to get better at.  We have to take that jump because if you don’t take that jump then you are already into week one and that can be trouble.”

 

Published 8/14/14

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Ashland will Adjust

 

          Ashland has what every high school football program in North Central Ohio wants, consistency.

          A bad year at Ashland means six or seven wins and a good year means 10 or more and a deep playoff run.

          Last season, the Arrows finished second in the tough Ohio Cardinal Conference, their only loss in the league coming to champion Mansfield Senior.

            Coach Scott Valentine, the winningest coach in program history, says he feels they got some good things done in the off season heading into preseason practice last Friday and that is important.  “I think like every year you have different variations of kids playing sports.  This was one those years when we had a lot of kids involved in winter sports and also spring sports, so that led to our numbers maybe being down a little bit.  For the most part our guys that weren’t involved in the sports for the most part were in the weight room and put in the time that they needed too,” he told Swankonsports.com, “Then we got into our summer program, you like kids to be kids and get some time away, but when our kids were in town and not on vacation and got into some conditioning.”

          Ashland was one of the first school’s in this area to go with a spread offense and feature an aggressive passing attack.  Valentine says the seven on seven competitions they participated in in June are a key for them, as long as they keep them in focus.  “For us with the way we throw the football there are some good things that you get out of it you just hope you don’t develop some bad technique stuff during that time.  You can get into some bad habits.  Overall I thought we competed against some pretty good teams and they showed some things that we really need to work on.   As we always say it comes down to if you can block and tackle once you get the pads on,” said Valentine.

          The Arrows are replacing some kids at the skilled positions and they are going to be young there, but Valentine doesn’t anticipate a big change in the way they go about things on offense.  “We really like the things we do. We have a few skilled guys back, but we are young in those skilled positions.  We are going to have to play to the strengths of those guys.  We feel good about those guys being out in space and maybe making a guy miss or breaking a tackle.  If we get into it a little bit more and find out a little bit more about our guys.  We are going to be little bit the same and a little bit different,” he said.

          However, there are always going to be some tweaks in any team’s approach from year to year and Valentine says that will be the case with his team in 2014.  “I heard Larry Kehres from Mount Union talk once, and with the success they have had you always listen to those guys, and he said they look for the players that are going to make plays for them and the looked at how they could best use those talents and what they had to do.  So, I think that’s what we try to do every year.  We look at guys that are going to be playmakers for us on both sides of the ball and what allows them to use those strengths to help us be successful,” said Valentine.

 

Published 8/05/14

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Ashland Hitting Their Stride

 

          It has taken a while, but the Ashland Arrows are starting to play the kind of baseball we are used to seeing from the Arrows.

          They won their first tournament game with ease and now they are setting their sights on punching a ticket for the division one district tournament.  They play Fremont Ross (7-17) in the sectional finals at Fremont on Thursday, weather permitting.

          Last Saturday, they drilled Marion Harding (12-0) in a semi-final game at Marion in a game that coach Rob Lavengood describes as one their best efforts of the year.  "We played one our best games of the year.  We got a great pitching performance from Collin Lefelhoc.  He threw a one-hit shutout on just 75 pitches, you can't ask for much more than that.  Defensively we played as well as we have played all year long.  We made some really nice plays in the field and we were errorless for seven innings and I'm not sure we have had too many games where we could say that.  We swung the bats well," he told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday, "We had 16 hits overall as a team and we had some hits with runners in scoring position.  Really in all three areas of the game we were pretty solid.  When you can do that you are going to put yourself in position to win a lot of games."

          Ashland (8-13) played Ohio Cardinal Conference leader Madison pretty tough last week and beat Firelands Conference leader New Loudon last Friday.  Lavengood says they might be at the top of their game.  "Over the last week or so with have played petty good baseball and hopefully we can continue to do that as we head into the sectional finals against Fremont and see what happens.  We made a few changes defensively to allow us to be a little more athletic in the infield, especially up the middle and it has paid off and hopefully those guys continue to play well," he said.

          There are no two ways about it the Little Giants have struggled like a duck in a desert over the last month.  Lavengood says they have found it hard to compete.  "They got off to a pretty good start this year at 6-2 and then they have really struggled ever since.  Their record right now stands at 7-17, so they have lost 15 of their last 16 games, but they play a pretty good schedule against teams like Toledo St. Francis, Toledo Central Catholic, are few teams in their league, Findlay, who has a real nice team, so they do play good competition.  They are playing on their home field, so we are going to have to go on the road and play well," said Lavengood.

          The Ashland coach says it is going to be important for them to get off to a good start and establish control in the game.  "I told the kids (Wednesday) night after practice that despite the fact that they are struggling when you go on the road the longer you let a team like that stay close the more confidence they can build and believe in the fact that they can win.  We have to get off to a good start and put some runs on the board and settle in and hopefully put them away early," he said.

 

Published 5/15/14

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Ashland Making Too Many Errors

 

          Ashland will host Firelands Conference leader New London in a non-conference game on Friday afternoon as they prepare for the post season tournament, which for them begins Saturday at Marion Harding.

          The Arrows (6-12,5-7) lost two games to Ohio Cardinal Conference leader Mansfield Madison (4-1 and 5-0) this week.  Coach Rob Lavengood says they got good pitching, but not good fielding.  "We didn't pitch real badly.  We actually pitched really well in both games.  Collin Lefelhoc on Tuesday night and Nick Zurcher on Wednesday both pitched very well against a good hitting team. Where I was disappointed is in our defense and our hitting.  Tuesday night we had seven errors and Wednesday night we have five errors.  So, we gave up a handful of unearned runs.  We did not swing the bats very well on Wednesday at Madison, we only had three hits.  We actually out hit them Tuesday six to four.  There we definitely some good things that we can take out of the two games against Madison, but there are also some disappointing things especially how we played on defense," said Lavengood.

          Ashland travels to Harding on Saturday morning for a first round game in division one and Lavengood says they can't afford to make a bunch of errors.  "You can't give the other team extra outs, you can't force your pitchers to make extra pitches.  You aren't going to beat good teams if you can't make plays.  That was certainly the problem against Madison this week.  I think realistically, and I think if your ask (Madison coach) Doug (Rickert) he would say the same thing, Tuesday was probably a 2-1 game and Wednesday was a 2-0 or 3-0 game.  That definitely makes a difference in how the game unfolds in the late innings, the fifth, sixth, seventh inning if it is only a one or two run game," he told Swankonsports.com on Thursday, "Does the pitcher make a couple of mistakes.  It is a lot easier to pitch when you are up four or five runs compared to being up one or two runs.  It would have been interesting if we could have kept it close throughout that game if we would have been able to make some plays down the stretch and get a couple of clutch hits but that wasn't the case."

          Lavengood is a graduate of New London and he says he looks forward to match-up against the Wildcats (13-3) and he knows they will come ready to play.  "They were looking for a game and I was actually trying to find someone top play Friday to get us ready for tournament Saturday morning against Marion Harding.  I always look forward to seeing some people from New London, where I grew up.  They have a very good team, so it will be a good tune up for us because I am sure they are going to bring their "A" game and want to come down and knock off the division one team in the area as a division three school, so it's a big game for them as well," he said.

 

Published 5/09/14

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Ashland Leaves Ducks on the Pond

 

          Ashland stranded 10 runners, three times striking out with runners in scoring position, and lost to Clear Fork (5-2) in an Ohio Cardinal Conference baseball game on Tuesday.

          Travis Born went the distance for the Colts (6-8,3-6) and Ashland coach Rob Lavengood says they were never able to get the big hit off of Born.  "I thought we swung the bats pretty well at times (Tuesday) against a pretty good pitcher.  I mean the Born kid from Clear Fork, I think he is a four year letter winner and a pretty solid pitcher.  I thought we hit the ball well at times, but we just couldn't get the clutch hit where we were able to push across more runs while they were able to do that and that was really the difference in the game is they came up with a couple of clutch hits and we didn't.  I think we did some good things we just didn't find a way to get a "W," said Lavengood.

          The Arrows (6-9,5-4) did steal a couple of bases, but they also were caught stealing once and picked off another time.  Lavengood says they couldn't get their running game going Tuesday and that has been a key to their success this year.  "That is certainly one of things we have been able to do throughout the year is to steal bases and take extra bases on hits and utilize our speed.  Unfortunately we weren't able to do that quite as much (Tuesday).  Born does a nice job holding runners on so we weren't able to seal as many bases as we have been able to do over the last few weeks," he told Swankonsports.com on Tuesday night, "Sometimes the wrong guy got on base, not that we don't everyone to get on base, but our faster guys didn't get a chance to do some things on the bases as much as some of the guys that don't quite have as much speed.  That factors in to what we can do offensively."

          With game tied 2-2 in the bottom of the fifth Ridge Winand led off the inning with a single for Clear Fork and stole second and scored on a ground ball by Born.  Then in the sixth he doubled and stole third and scored on a single by Lee Snyder.  Lavengood says Winand is a difference maker, but they have to play smarter on defense.  "He is a great athlete and he has a lot of speed on the bases.  He was able to steal a couple of bases and get himself into scoring position.  Now from our aspect we have to do a little better job of holding him on.  Our pitcher fell asleep and allowed him to steal third and those are things that we have to improve upon.  We also had few mental mistakes in the fifth inning when they scored a couple of runs that allowed them to make a 2-2 game into a 4-2 game.  We have to do a little better job of understanding where we need to go with the baseball and knowing what we have to do before the ball is hit to us.  Those are things that 15 games into the season we have to do a little better job of.  I thought Collin Lefelhoc threw a pretty good game.  Some of the little things ended hurting us," said Lavengood.

 

Published 3/30/14

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Ashland Back at .500

 

          Ashland is starting to round into form as they got a second straight outstanding pitching performance from Collin Lefelhoc and beat Mansfield Senior (10-1) on Wednesday afternoon in Ohio Cardinal Conference action.

          After beating the Tygers (12-8) on Tuesday, coach Rob Lavengood says they turned in a much better effort on Wednesday and it started with the guy on the mound.  "I was really pleased with how we played (Wednesday) night.  We got a great pitching performance from Collin Lefelhoc.  He went the distance and only gave up four hits and only threw about 85 pitches in seven innings.  He did a great job of just pounding the strike zone and giving himself a chance to be successful.  We also pounded out 15 hits.  Overall it was a good night for the Arrows and really we played much better than we did (Tuesday) night in the game at Mansfield.  I just thought we were a little sloppy (Tuesday) night, but we were pretty sharp (Wednesday) and played good defense behind a good pitching performance and overall it was a good game," said Lavengood.

          Successful high school pitchers are ones that trust their stuff and don't nibble and Lavengood says that is something that Lefelhoc has been very good at his last two outings.  "I made a point to point that out (Wednesday) after the game to our other pitchers saying I hope you learned something from Collin, not just (Wednesday) but Saturday.  Collin pitched against a very good Massillon team and beat them in eight innings 2-1 and Collin threw a complete game and threw 82 pitches on Saturday.  Again he was pounding the strike zone and throwing strikes," he told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday, "It is so important at the high school level to not give up walks and not fall behind hitters and if you can do that you can be a pretty darn successful high school pitcher.  He showed the last two times out how to do it the right way.  He has really solidified himself as our number two pitcher behind Nick Zurcher."

          With at least seven runs each over their last threes games Ashland has started to do some things on offense.  Lavengood says that has allowed them to get their running game going.  "We were a little inconsistent early on, but here over the last week we have really started to swing the bats better and that is definitely good to see because I think we can do some things offensively.  We have good team speed, but as I have said before you can't steal first base.  You have to find a way to get on base and put pressure on the defense, so it is good to see our guys starting to heat up at the plate and start to swing the bats a little bit better," he said.

          Ashland (6-6,5-3) plays Wayne County Athletic League power Hillsdale on Friday, competes in a tournament at Newark on Saturday and then plays slumping Clear Fork in their "OCC" series next week.

 

Published 4/24/14

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Ashland Faces Wooster This Week

 

          If the weather continues to get better Ashland will play Wooster in two Ohio Cardinal Conference games this week and its a chance for the Arrows to get back into the conference race.

          Unfortunately, the weather has made it very difficult for baseball teams this year.  Ashland coach Rob Lavengood says they just haven't had much of a chance to develop any consistency in their play.  "It has been really frustrating.  This has been the worst weather in the spring that I can remember in a long time.  It is just frustrating for everyone the players, the coaches, the fans.  You get a game in and then you have to go back inside for a few days and then you might get another game in and you have to go back inside for a few days.  It is difficult for the players to get any type of continuity to really settle into the season and to get any type of rhythm with as many days that we have had to adjust what we are doing with practices and games, so hopefully things get better in a hurry," said Lavengood.

          It is not just than canceling of games, according to Lavengood, but more so the inability to get outside and practice things that coaches need to review with players.  "It is not so much the games, but we can't even get outside to practice.  We have only been able to practice on our field twice so far.  Now we have been able to get on the turf a few times and then we have been inside the rest of the time.  So, to really evaluate your team defensively and where guys might be able to help in certain areas and to be able to get outside and work on some situation type things at practice," he told Swankonsports.com on Tuesday, "We just haven't been able to do some of the things we have done in the past.  It kind of puts behind and all of the sudden we are in mid-April and there are things we haven't had a chance to work on that we have worked on in past years."

          Ashland (2-4,2-2) plays at home against Wooster (4-2,3-1) on Wednesday if the field conditions will allow and then the teams play at Wooster on Thursday.  The Arrows trail Madison by two games and Lavengood says this is a big series for them.  "It is a big week for us.  Right now, Wooster is 3-1 in the conference.  They beat Orrville twice the first week in a couple of really close games.  Last week they spilt with Clear Fork.  In talking to a few other coaches they have a nice team and we are going to have to come ready to play.  We are kind of coming off a rough doubleheader at Shelby where we lost two one run games where we maybe didn't play our best baseball.  I would like to think if we make a few plays here or there, come up with a big hit, we could have won both of those games.  It would be nice for us to bounce back and have a couple of good games against Wooster and get a couple of wins," said Lavengood.

 

Published 4/16/14

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Ashland Right There

 

          Ashland topped Orrville (4-2) on Wednesday afternoon to remain a game back in the Ohio Cardinal Conference race and the Arrows look like they are going to be real factor this year.

          On Wednesday, Ashland got a solid effort on the hill from senior Nick Zurcher, who allowed only four hits and coach Rob Lavengood says they played really good defense too.  "We got a great performance on the mound (Wednesday) night from Nick Zurcher.  He gave us a complete game victory and any time you can get that you are happy.  He was very sharp.  His pitch count was right where it needed to be.  He threw a lot of first pitch strikes.  He was aggressive in the zone.  He only had two walks.  He struggled a little bit with his command in the opener last week against Lexington," Lavengood told Swankonsports.com after the win over the Red Riders, "He was much better (Wednesday).  Not only did he give us a great pitching performance, but we played great defense behind him.  Anytime you get good pitching and good defense you know that is a good recipe for winning baseball games."

          A real key for the Arrows this year will be that ability to play defense, something they struggled with a year ago.  Lavengood says they more than did the job against Orrville.  "We did struggle defensively last year.  We just weren't real consistent with making plays behind our pitchers and that hurt their pitch count and put them in some difficult situations and they had to pitch with guys on base and in situations where they shouldn't have, but that wasn't the case on (Wednesday).  We played some nice defense behind him and we made some nice plays and really picked him up on a couple of balls that were hit hard and guys made plays on them," he said.

          Ashland (2-1,2-1) is at Orrville (1-3,0-3) for the second game in the two game series on Thursday night.  Lavengood says the team that wins the "OCC" this season is going to be the team that doesn't take anybody lightly and is ready to play every night.  "You not only have to keep winning, you have to come ready to play every night.  There is a lot of parity, there is a lot of balance in the league.  There are some very good pitchers across the board in the league.  It is good baseball.  Anyone can beat anyone on a given night.  We have to keep plugging away and taking one game at a time.  We have to go over to Orrville (Thursday) night and get a sweep and keep ourselves in position to compete with the rest of the teams in the league for a conference championship," said Lavengood.

 

Published 4/10/14

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Ashland and Lexington Square off in Opener

 

          Ashland travels to Lexington on Tuesday for what will serve as both the Ohio Cardinal Conference and season openers for both teams.

          Ashland was not scheduled and the Lexington's games were claimed by Mother Nature.

          Rob Lavengood, the Arrows coach, says his kids really want to get on the field and show what they can do.  "Our kids are excited to start the season and looking forward to playing our first game.  It is supposed to be a great day weather wise (Tuesday).  It is really the first great day we have had basically since the fall I think.  It should be an exciting day and hopefully our kids are ready to play and we have a good outing and give ourselves a chance to win against a very good Lexington team," he told Swankonsports.com on Monday, "They won the conference last year.  They have three pretty good pitchers coming back.  They should be pretty tough.  Hopefully we give them a pretty ball game."

          Could Tuesday be a pitcher's battle?  Lavengood knows they are going to have to take advantage of their opportunities to score runs against the Minutemen.  "Pitching is always the key no matter what team you are talking about.  Lexington has three pretty good ones in Zach Temple, Brody Basilone and Evan Lee.  Regardless of who we face (Tuesday) it is going to be a solid pitcher.  Our guys are going to have to step in their with confidence and have quality at bats, put the ball in play, and scratch across some runs whenever we get the chance.  Hopefully Nick Zurcher gives us a quality outing on the mound and we play good defense behind him and hold them down offensively as well," said Lavengood.

          The Lexington baseball twitter account tweeted Monday night that Basilone would get the call against Ashland on Tuesday.

          Lexington, the defending "OCC" champions bludgeoned some teams last year and Lavengood says they have to do a good job of controlling the Lexington offense.  "Usually early in the season the pitching tends to be a little ahead of the offense.  So, I don't look for a high scoring game (Tuesday), but you never know what might happen because both teams probably haven't been able to get outside a lot because of the weather.  We did a chance to get on our field for a scrimmage on Friday, which was nice.  We got a chance to see some things and iron some things out.  So, hopefully that will pay some dividends for us as we head into our first game on (Tuesday)," he said.  

          Lexington put away the "OCC" title last year with two wins over Ashland (13-4 and 6-1) on the final week of the regular season, but a lot of their offense graduated last June.

 

Published 4/01/14

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Ashland Kicking at the Stall

 

          Ashland hopes they can put a pretty good baseball team on the field this spring, but they need a chance to prove it.

          They had three scrimmages to play this week, but coach Rob Lavengood says they have not been able to play any of them.  "Unfortunately there isn't a whole lot you can do about the weather and it hasn't been very good so far.  We are still supposed to open up next week.  I know we are all still in the same boat.  I don't think anyone has had a chance to get out on their field a whole lot, but still its frustrating, your kids are excited.  You are looking forward to getting your scrimmages in to get ready for the season and you have to cancel them.  We had scrimmages scheduled for Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday of this week and we haven't been able to play any of them yet because of the weather.  Hopefully the weather warms up and dries out soon  so we can get outside and get on with the baseball season.  It has definitely been a frustrating start so far," said Lavengood.

          A scrimmage against Crestview has been rescheduled for Friday and the Arrows open the regular season next Tuesday and Wednesday against the defending Ohio Cardinal Conference champion Lexington Minutemen.

          Being inside Lavengood says it has been hard on the pitchers and making sure they are confident in the field.  "Those are two big parts of the game and if you are going to be successful you better have good pitching and good defense.  We have tried to do as much as we can when we are inside to get guys ready.  Our pitchers have been throwing live in the cage to batters.  Our batters are getting to see live pitching," he told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday, "Our pitchers are throwing to batters, but still it is not quite the same as being out on a mound and being outside in the elements in those situations.  We have been able to get on the football tough four or five times for practices and one scrimmage, but it still not being out on a baseball field.  There is just so much you can do to be ready.  Hopefully when it's time to play games the guys are going to be ready to go and play well and give us a chance to win ball games."

          Lavengood admits his players are a little frustrated that they have not been able to get much competition.  "Our guys are frustrated.  Our scrimmage (Wednesday) was supposed to be at Kent State University against a real good Massillon Perry program.  Our kids were excited and ready to go up there and play a quality opponent and play on a really nice facility and with this weather you really can't scrimmage in that because you don't want to put your pitchers in a position where they could get injured.  They were bummed.  They were excited to go and it just didn't happen," he said.

 

Published 3/27/14

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Ashland Looking for Answers

 

          Two years ago Ashland was the Ohio Cardinal Conference baseball champion, but this year they are going to have to have a lot of younger kids step up if they are going to be competitive.

          Coach Rob Lavengood says they do not have a lot of experience coming into the season and they are going to have to mature quickly.  "We have a lot of question marks to answer.  I like a lot of the young guys in the program.  The question is are those young guys going to be ready to win varsity games this year or not.  That is a big question that we are going to have to find answer to as we get ready to start.  We only have four seniors, so not a lot of seniors on the roster, but I think we have a good group of juniors and a good group of sophomores that are going to fill in other spots on the roster and mix in with our four seniors and hopefully our guys grow up in a hurry and put ourselves in a position to win.  I think there is some talent there it is just whenever you have to count on sophomores and first year juniors to win varsity games you are not sure what you are going to get," said Lavengood.

          A lot of that youth comes on the mound and Lavengood says a number of guys that were successful at the junior varsity level are going to have to make that transition to varsity.  "It definitely starts with pitching and defense.  I guess that is where some of our question marks are going into the season is on the mound.  We have one pretty solid starter returning from last year in Nick Zurcher, he is one our seniors, and our number two starter last year, and was the quarterback on the football team, but after that we really don't have any varsity innings coming back," he told Swankonsports.com. "We have some guys that pitched some very good innings on the JV team last year and now they are sophomores and juniors this year that are going to be competing for varsity innings and I think there are some talented pitchers in that group of guys, but it's just a matter if they are ready to step on the mound and win varsity games this year or are they going to have a one year learning curve this year before they become solid varsity pitchers next year."

          Ashland is one of those teams that needs to get some time on the field before they start playing games for real in a less than three weeks.  "Those are questions we are going to have to answer as we get into the preseason and hopefully get a chance to get some scrimmages in before we start playing games and kind of iron our some of those things we need to do," said Lavengood.

          Ashland opens the season with a pair of Ohio Cardinal Conference games against defending conference champion Lexington on April 1 and 2.

 

Published 3/12/14

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Ashland Facing Some Unknowns

 

          Ashland tangles with Mansfield Senior in the division one super sectional final at Galion High School on Thursday night.

          The Arrows (12-11) have won their last five games, including a (69-41) win over Fremont Ross in a first round game last Friday night.  Coach Tim Fralich says they were able to start the game quickly, which is something they have done recently.  "We kind of came out the same way we have the last four or five games.  We were able to get after them early and create some havoc defensively and get the game opened up and get our shooters some more open looks through that open game.  Some guys were able to  knock some down here and there just like they had in the previous four games.  It just had a snowball effect as we were able to get some momentum and build some confidence.  We just kind of put the pedal to the metal there and it was just one of those nights that things were going our way and things have seemed to go more and more our way as they season has gone on," he said.

          Point guard Trey Smith had 18 points to lead four Arrows in double figures and Fralich says they are really clicking on offense.  "We feel like we have a group of guys that are capable of knocking down some shots at a high rate.  They shot the ball pretty well last year and they put a lot of time in in the off season.  Although some of them struggled here at the beginning of the year we knew it was just a matter of time before they started knocking some down," he told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday, "Once you start knocking some down then the defense has to start guarding you differently.  You are able to space the court out and get to the hoop a little bit more and be a little bit more versatile in how you attack things.  Our average if you were to jot down the points per game over the first half of the season and then the second half we are probably about 15 points higher in the second half of the season, we have really turned it up a notch and also defensively in how we are pressuring the basketball."

          Mansfield Senior (15-7), #5 in the final Swankonsports.com boys' basketball coach's poll in the large school division, continues to prepare and play as controversy swirls around them.  Robert Singleton, the Principal of the Integrated Learning Center, and four teachers have been placed on paid administrative leave.  The district will not say if it is related to a situation which resulted in the forfeiture of a basketball game.  Head coach J.T. Reese did not return calls made by Swankonsports.com to ask for comment on the Ashland game.

          Donovyn Benson, ruled ineligible for the remainder of the season, was the leading scorer in both the Tygers wins over Ashland during the regular season.  Fralich says they were able to hurt them by consistently getting the ball inside.  He knows the approach will be different this time.  "That's a good question.  We know that they are still a very good team and we are going to have to play well to beat them.  They are a different team.  They don't have that inside presence.  He scored 22 points on us in each of the first two games.  We didn't do anything specifically to really clamp down on him or double him or doing any specific kind of zoning actions.  I guess maybe we should have done it in hindsight.  They were able to pound the ball inside to him and he can score around the basket with a great touch.  They were able to give their shooters some open looks and play off of a close out and really attack the rim and they were already able to attack them rim at a really good rate,' said Fralich.

          The Ashland coach says they expect the Tygers use more pressure defense in the full court and try to spread the floor when they have it.  "Overall they are going to try and turn it into a positive.  I am sure they are going to come out and pressure more.  We have seen them pressure more in recent games.  They have run a diamond press and did some running and jumping in the full court.  Then they are going to try and space you out a little more offensively to create some driving lanes, which they are really good at," he said.

 

Published 3/06/14

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Tempo is the Key For Ashland

 

          Ashland opens up play in the division one tournament at Galion on Friday night as they meet Fremont Ross.

          With wins over Massillon (66-63), Orrville (65-52), Mansfield Madison (54-35) and Clear Fork (67-50), the Arrows have won four straight heading into the tournament.

          Coach Tim Fralich says they are playing some pretty good basketball heading into the post season.  "After kind of resetting our goals there after a slow start going 2-7 we had a lot of team talks about the mental piece and moving on.  Our goal was to go 9-4 and get to .500 and we were able to do that.  That was a tough goal considering we were 2-7 and didn't look like a very good ball club at times.  We played a lot tougher and we played better as a team in pushing the basketball and pressuring a lot more defensively, which is what we have had success with in the past.  We have won four games in a row and they were against quality opponents.  We are pretty happy with our progress overall and we hope we can keep it rolling here.  It's about surviving and advances and keep playing hoops," said Fralich.

          Fremont Ross has had some ups and downs this year, they have lost three of their last four.  Fralich calls the Little Giants a physical team that likes to pound the ball inside.  "Not being in our area we didn't know much about them until this week.  We watched a bunch of film on them.  We did get a chance to see them play live once.  They are a team that has a lot of size.  They start 6'4", 6'5" at the forwards, their point guard is actually 6'5", he is the coach's son.  He is going to Defiance or Capital to play college hoops.  They like to pound the ball inside and their point guard posts up as well.  They will shoot it and just attack the glass," he told Swankonsports.com on Thursday, "Their forwards are bigger, burlier kind of guys.  They will throw it in there at the drop of a hat.  They aren't hesitant.  Their guards will throw it in there if there is just a sliver of an opening.  So, we have to do an excellent job of limiting their points in the paint.  They are not an excellent shooting team, but again they can get it to the hoop.  They can create and get some easy points in the paint."

          A lot of Ashland's success lately has been getting out and running the floor.  Fralich believes the Little Giants will have trouble guarding them if they do that on Friday night.  "Our guys have been doing a better job of executing our game plan.  We need to get the game open.  They don't necessarily want the game to be an up and down game.  We believe that kind of game is kind of in our favor with our shooters creating some things offensively in open space," he said.

 

Published 2/28/14

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Ashland Finishes Regular Season with Three "OCC" Games

 

          It's the final week of the regular season and Ashland still has three Ohio Cardinal Conference games to play Orrville on Tuesday, Mansfield Madison on Friday and Clear Fork on Saturday.

          After that they play Fremont Ross in the division one tournament at Galion High School next Friday. 

          Coach Tim Fralich is hoping the Arrows (8-11,3-8) can kind of catch fire here at the end of the regular season.  "There is always a chance for us to do that and improve and get some momentum going into next week and the tournament in this case.  I think our guys are just excited to get to play some conference opponents to right the ship here in the conference.  We haven't done nearly as well as we would have liked at this point in the conference and we want to go out there and play well and to notch a couple of wins would be great for us and it would gives us a little momentum going into the tournament.  We are fortunate this year to just have five teams in our sectional.  Being the number two seed we got a first round bye and we don't have to play Tuesday and I think that helps us, especially having a three game week.  It gives us a little chance to rest and really prepare for Fremont Ross," said Fralich.

          The Arrows are at Orrville (12-8,6-6) on Tuesday night and Fralich says they will have to deal with one of the better players in the league in Orrville's Trevor Summers.  "They have been a little up and down.  They have had quite a few ups during the year.  They are a bit of a surprise team.  They have had a couple of transfers come in that have really helped them at the guard position.  You can tell that those guys have brought some toughness to them and have given them even a better ability to shoot the basketball.  You can see that a couple of their other guys really put time in the off season as far as getting shots up and becoming better basketball players," he told Swankonsports.com on Tuesday, "Luke Smith shooting the three at an extremely high rate and Trevor Summers is shooting it at and even higher rate.  When you talk about player of the year you always have to throw in there Brady Arnold, with Mansfield Senior's success every year, you always have to look at one of their guys, Benson has to be up there, but Trevor Summers has to be right up there too.  He is shooting 46 percent from three and from the field about 50 percent and about 75 percent form the line.  He is an extremely efficient player."

         Then it is over to Mansfield Madison (5-15,2-10) on Friday night to meet the improving Rams, who just beat Orrville (54-47) last Friday after the Red Riders beat Mansfield Senior (55-54) the week before.  Fralich knows Madison is better than the first time they played them, a (69-49) win for Ashland.  "I think Tim (Mergel) is doing a great job over there.  He has a lot of young  guys.  He is certainly improving his squad and they are playing hard and they are continuing to play tough like most Madison teams have,  we are going to have to be prepared.  I was thinking we would see a couple of new things and try to mix it up a little bit against us.  No matter what they do we have to remain aggressive and continue to try and play Ashland basketball by pushing the basketball and being extremely aggressive on the defensive end.  We have also been doing a better job of just making our own plays, making those little sacrifice plays that give us more chance for success,  If we do that we feel it puts in position to win.  I think the guys are excited to go over there and play in a new gym," said Fralich.   

 

Published 2/18/14

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Ashland Finally to Play Clear Fork

 

          Ashland and Clear Fork were supposed to play way back on week two of the boys' basketball season and after three different cancellations they are going to play on Wednesday at Clear Fork and then the final day of the regular season, next Saturday, at Ashland.

          Arrows coach Tim Fralich says this year has been a different one that's for sure.  "I have never been part of something like this before with five postponed games whether it was early in the season with the football playoffs with Loudonville, three snow ones, and the power outage out there.  The funny thing with the power outage out there is we are on the bus ready to get going and about 6:45 the power comes back on, but at that point the officials had left and their players had left and the fans.  Hopefully we will get to play them (Wednesday) and again on the 22nd, so we will play them twice in 11 days," said Fralich.

          Clear Fork (6-8,3-6) has struggled at times to find the right combination this year, but Fralich says they understand what they are supposed to be.  "Coach Bechtel does a great job with them they play really tough.  They play well within their motion game.  They do a good job of finding their key players too.  I think their role guys understand what their role is and that is to get (Ridge) Winand and (Kadin) Chrastina the ball in scoring positions that they are comfortable with because they are dynamic scorers.  At the same time they do a lot of little things for them and they can knock down open shots," said Fralich.

          With both teams featuring the up tempo game, Fralich says it should be a game with a lot of fast paced action.  "They are a good ball club and I think we are a similar type team.  In a lot of ways our perimeter is our strength with the depth and experience that both have there in that area.  I think it will be a heck of a game, up and down a little bit too.  They have been pushing the ball a little bit more than they have in the past and we are going to continue to push that basketball," he said.

          Ashland (7-9,3-6) plays at home against Lexington (11-8,5-6) on Friday night in league play and Fralich says a (44-30) loss at Lexington last month was sort of a low water mark for them.  "That was probably a low point in the season for us.  We were really struggling at 2-7 after that game and now we are sitting here at 7-9, so we have really turned it up a notch here.  That game got us to really look at a lot more film and sit down and talk about who we are as a team an where we are going as a program," he told Swankonsports.com on Tuesday, "I think we have some things figured out and the guys have bought into it and we have been able to head in a different direction since then.  I think we are a much better offensive team than 30 points and it has showed here in recent games.  We have been pushing the basketball and applying a little more pressure and that has been able to create some offense too."

 

Published 2/12/14

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Ashland Faces Clear Fork, Wooster

 

         Its seems like games between Ashland and Clear Fork in boys'  basketball this year are cursed.  It seems like there is always something in the way of getting them played.

          On December 6 the game at Ashland was cancelled due to hazardous road conditions.  The they tried to play on January 18 at Clear Fork and the power went out.  The game at Ashland was rescheduled for Wednesday... enter winter storm "Nika."  When did we start naming winter storms by the way?

          Both teams are playing some pretty good basketball right now.

          Ashland (5-9,2-6) took West Holmes, the second place team in the "OCC" to the wall last week (71-65) after loosing to first place Mansfield Senior (64-61) at the horn the week before, then they beat Shelby (75-61) on Saturday.

          Coach Tim Fralich thinks they are playing pretty well.  "I think we have shown improvement here over the last few weeks.  We lost a close one there to Senior High in a game that we really wish we could have back on a buzzer beater.  We played West Holmes pretty tough there.  We went through one stretch at the beginning of the fourth where they outscored us 10-0 and that ended up being the difference in the game that we lost by six.  Brady Arnold is a pretty tough cover for just about anybody.  We have played a lot better and we were able to beat a Shelby team that we feel is a pretty good team.  Coach Schwemley does an excellent job with them and they play really hard.  Their big kid Kehres is an excellent player and he has been putting up some big numbers and he certainly did that against us too," said Fralich.

          If they get to play Clear Fork (6-7,3-5) on Wednesday, Fralich says they have to contain the Colts two big guns in Ridge Winand and Kadin Chrastina.  "They are on of the best one-two punch guards in the area and the conference.  They have put up some big numbers.  They count on them to put up big numbers.  They have taken a lot of shots for them.  They do a little bit of everything.  They shoot the three well and have made a number of threes throughout the year.  They have also shot a lot of free throws and they do a lot of that by getting to the rim and attacking.  Not only do they have a good skill level, but they are athletic, so they can jump up there and finish around the rim and finish through contact," he told Swankonsports.com on Tuesday, "When you talk about Clear Fork those are certainly the first two guys that come to mind, but they have some tough, physical role guys around them that make them a quality team.  They had some tough breaks early on, kind of like we did, and had kind of one their better players out in Kadin, and we had Drew Dickinson out for six games."

          Fralich looks for the this to be another close game and they have to find a way to win these types of games.  "We feel we are kind of similar type teams, so it should be a heck of a conference match-up.  We expect it to be one of those games that goes down to wire.  For whatever reason this year we have lost a lot of close games and I think some of that is due to not having seniors and understanding how to make plays come crunch time and I think through experience we will do a better job of making those plays and have attention to detail and be focused in on what we need to do in those critical situations," he said.

          Ashland is at Wooster (7-10,6-6) on Friday.  The Generals lost to West Holmes (73-60) on Tuesday night when Brady Arnold scored 40 on them.  Ashland beat Wooster in their first meeting (46-39), but Fralich knows winning at Wooster will be tough.  "We have done some different things over the years to defend their size.  They have just been so much bigger than us.  We have been fortunate we have had some guys come up and make some big plays against them and we have shot the ball well against them, so hopefully we can continue to do those things.  They are a team that is playing pretty well right now.  We are going to have to do a good job.  The Daugherty kid is dynamite for a guy 6'6" to be able to move and do some of the things he does is pretty darn good at our level.  They are a team that has some good quality role guys around him that are capable of stepping up and having good nights in O'Brien, and Beckett too, and a number of other guys," said Fralich.

 

Published 2/05/14

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Ashland faces "OCC" MVP

 

          Last week, Ashland played "OCC" leader Mansfield Senior and this week they get West Holmes, the second place team in the conference.

          Last Friday, Isaac White scored 28 points and Ashland took Mansfield Senior right to the end before losing (64-61) when Jalen Reese executed a three point play with just over a second to play.

          Arrows coach Tim Fralich says they certainly had their chances in the end, but they just came up a little bit short.  "We certainly didn't do everything right that's for sure, that would be almost impossible to do, but we played hard, and competed, and gave ourselves an opportunity.  We were down 11 two separate times in the first half and we fought back and we took our first lead with about four or five minutes left in the fourth.  We had plenty of opportunities.  It was one of those things were we just weren't able to make a play down the wire offensively when we really needed it," he told Swankonsports.com on Monday, "There were a couple of balls that squirted loose that didn't go our way.  I know our guys were very disappointed in it.  At the same time we thought we did some things well and we certainly thought we showed some improvement over the last couple of weeks. We are happy about that and we are just trying to get better and try to take the positives and roll with it."

          The first meeting between the Arrows (4-8,2-5) and West Holmes (11-4,7-2) was way back in November and the Knights won (58-55) when the Arrows missed a tying three at the horn.  Fralich says they have to play with the same kind of energy as they did last week.  "We expect it to be tight like it was the first time around.  We have a little bit of a chip on our shoulder.  We had our opportunities there and we just feel like that has happened to us a couple of times through the course of the season.  I think our guys will be ready to compete with them and play well.  We have played better over the last few weeks, but we realize they are one of the better teams in the conference and we are going to have to come out with that same level of intensity and that same completive spirit  and that same work ethic that we did against Senior in order for us to get a win," said Fralich.

          Obviously the focus of the Knights is senior guard Brady Arnold, who scored 27 points in the second half of West Holmes (66-53) win over Lexington last week.  Fralich says they have to make Arnold earn his points.  "They have Brady Arnold, who is a keck of a player and probably conference player of the year and I'm not going out too much on a limb by saying that.  He averages 25,1 point per game and he is pretty efficient too.  He is not a big time volume shooter.  He shoots a pretty good percentage from the floor, from the three and the free throw line.  He is a guy that we will have to zero in on and try to do a good job of making him a volume shooter.  If we can hold in the high teens we will put ourselves in good position.  They play awfully hard.  They are going to come out and pressure us defensively and play some diamond, some full court man, some 2-2-1, and kind of run and jump a little bit in the full court with Arnold.  We are going to have to do a good job of getting out and going with it and take care of the ball,' said Fralich.

 

Published 1/28/14

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Ashland Finds Something

 

          Struggling offensively for most of the season, Ashland exploded last week in an Ohio Cardinal Conference win over Mansfield Madison.

          Isaac White scored 25 points and Brett Vipperman added 19 as the Arrows beat Madison (69-49) last Friday.  Coach Tim Fralish says got back to some things they are good at.  "I think our guys bought into some of the things we were emphasizing through the course of the week in practice.  They got excited about getting back to emphasizing like running and being more aggressive defensively.  They stepped up and made some plays.  Some shots fell for us that for whatever reason hadn't been falling for us on and off for most of the season.  We were able to take a deep breath and take the weight off our shoulders and just play ball.  We were impressed and it was fun to watch the guys play with that kind of energy and aggressiveness,' said Fralich.

          On Wednesday night, they host Loudonville (4-8), a (64-48) winner of Hillsdale on Tuesday night, in a non-conference game.  Fralich says the Redbirds have some players, most notably Garett Quickle.  "Oiuckle is a nice player.  He is athletic.  he is a scorer.  He causes havoc defensively with his speed and quickness.  Earlier he was averaging 17, 18 a game, I think he is averaging about 16 now, but is capable of putting up big numbers.  We will have to do a good job against him.  Coach Seboe does an excellent job with what he has year in and year out.  We just have to be prepared for just about anything.  He has been known to play a lot of different defenses and mix things up with some junk defenses and be creative with how he attacks different teams," he said.

          After the success against Madison, Fralich says they just have to continue to do the things they do well.  "Overall we just need to do what we do and stay the course with that.  Try to push the ball and create a little more havoc at certain points in the game defensively.  In looking at our schedule we have 11 games in 22 days," he told Swankonsports.com on Tuesday, "We have three these games coming up here that have been postponed with Loudonville with the football playoffs and then weather and Clear Fork with the weather and then a power outage.  The crazy thing with that one was we were in the parking lot ready to head back to Ashland and the lights come back on, but at that time the officials had already left, Clear Fork's players had left, the fans had left.  We are trying to keep these boys fresh and limit their court time here from time to time and do a lot more film work."

          On Friday night, it's a return to Ohio Cardinal Conference action for the Arrows as they host "OCC" leader Mansfield Senior (10-1,8-1), #3 in the Swankonsports.com boys' basketball poll in the large school division.  The Tygers won the first match-up (56-41) in Early December.  Fralich says against the Tygers sometimes you have to change your approach.  "We have done that is the past with them,  sometimes we have and sometimes we haven't, I guess it depends on the flow of the game and how we feel we are playing and how they are playing going into that game.  They always bring a different level of defensive pressure and athleticism that you don't typically see around here.  It is something that our guys are going to have to make in game adjustments too.  We are certainly going to have to handle their pressure and take care of the basketball and get good shots.  They are able to hurry you up so much we want to play fast, but we want to play smart.  They are able to hurry you up so much that we were putting up fast and bad shots, so its almost like a turnover and its coming back down the other way.  We have to make sure we get good looks," said Fralich.

 

Published 1/22/14

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Ashland Wants to Start Running Again

 

Click here to listen to an interview with coach Tim Fralich

 

          It has been a disappointing season so far for the Ashland Arrows, but they have a chance to get that turned around during the second half of the season.

          Ashland is last in the Ohio Cardinal Conference in scoring this year.  Coach Tim Fralich says there have been a number of factors that have led to the lower output.  “We haven’t had a lot of depth and we have had out big man out for six games with mono.  Once that happened we decided not to put as much emphasis in pushing the ball and running.  That may or may not have been a mistake.  We thought that gave us the best chance to win at that time.  With him being out we were able to generate some depth.  Now that he is back we feel we are eight, ten deep and we can get out and go.  That is what our strength is,” he told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday, “Over the last couple of games defensively we have tried to apply some more pressure.  We are a team that can shoot the ball pretty well.  For whatever reason we haven’t put the ball in the hole as much as we are capable of.  We hope that it is just a matter of time here, hopefully sooner than later, that we kind of have a break through night and get some confidence going that will help us finish up this season strong.”

          Ashland (2-7,1-4) is at home for Mansfield Madison (4-7,1-5) in Ohio Cardinal Conference action on Friday night.  Madison is coming off a win over Lexington (46-41) on Saturday night and Fralich says the Rams will come in with some confidence.  “They had a good win there and they have a good young team.  Coach Mergel certainly has them playing hard as he always does.  I’m sure that got some confidence for them and they want to build on that and get a streak going.  We are just going to have to play our game.  We are at the point, certainly we will have some keys against them, but we have to get back to what we do and try to continue to be strong defensively and on the glass where we have seen some improvement.  Offensively we have shifted some gears toward.  Hopefully we can get out there in the open court and make some plays.  They have some young guys out there that shoot the ball well and can penetrate and finish.  They get out a little bit and pressure defensively too with some man-to-man, diamond, and run and jump action,” said Fralich.

          It’s a double weekend in the “OCC” for the Arrows as they travel to Clear Fork (3-6,1-4) on Saturday night.  Fralich is concerned about the Colt guards Ridge Winand and Kadin Chrastina.  “(Winand) is a nice player.  He is a bigger guard for our league and athletic.  He can step out and shoot it and get the ball to the rim.  When we saw him earlier in the year they were doing a great job of getting him the ball in transition and really pushed the ball at got it to him in the open court.  He is really able to create for himself and his teammates.  Chrastina I think will be back.  He is a guy that really gives them a huge one, two punch in the back court.  We will have to do a good job containing their back court and they are always a physical team,” he said.

 

Published 1/16/14

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Ashland Has to Get on Those Boards

 

          Ashland got its first Ohio Cardinal Conference win last week and hopefully they have started to turn things around a little bit as they meet Lexington in a conference match-up this Friday night.

          Coming out of the holidays coach Tim Fralich says they were hoping for a better record (2-6,1-3), but all things considered he believes they are heading in the right direction after a (46-39) win over Wooster.  “We would love to be record wise in better position coming out of the break.  Our expectations were higher, but unfortunately we had some tough breaks here and there.  The ball just didn’t bounce our way in few close games.  Our big guy was out with mono for all but two of those games.  Coming off the New Year’s we played Wooster at home on Friday,” he told Swankonsports.com on Monday, “Although it wasn’t pretty we found a way to win and we did a much better job on the defensive glass, especially in the second half and that has been a key point of emphasis for us.  We fell as a team we do enough other things well that if we can do a good job of the defensive glass with the other teams having a little bit more size and athleticism we are going to be in a lot of games and give ourselves a chance to win.”

          Ashland was scheduled to play Loudonville (2-5) in a make up game on Tuesday night, but the weather might get this one and Fralich says they have turned their attention to Friday night.  “That game against Loudonville was supposed to be our opener and now it looks like it is probably going to be postponed again.  That cold air isn’t quitting until probably Wednesday afternoon, so we are looking ahead to Lexington,” he said.

          Lexington (6-4,2-2) will host the Arrows on Friday night.  Fralich says this is another good Lexington team they will be facing.  “Coach Hamilton has done a very nice job since he has taken over the program.  They might not have had as much talent as Jamie Feick had, but they are close and he just gets those guys to play so hard.  They do a very good job defensively, and on the offensive and defensive glass.  They are typical a team that is going to try and pound the ball inside as they usually have a lot of size.  They do a good job of emphasizing those things and working on those things and making them true strengths for them for the entire season, so we know we are going to have our hands full.  It’s a rivalry game and it will be on the road.  We lost twice to them last year and both of them went down to the wire, obviously we are hoping for a different outcome this year.  Our guys need to go out there and continue to get better here in the new year.  Again we feel like if we do a good job on our defensive glass that we will give ourselves a chance to win the game,” said Fralich.

 

Published 1/07/14

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Being Physical a Key for Ashland

 

          Ashland is seeking its first Ohio Cardinal Conference win on Friday night when they host Orrville.

          They have lost tough ones to West Holmes (58-55) and last week to very talented Mansfield Senior, #1 in the Swankonsports.com boys’ basketball coach’s poll in the large school division, (56-41) at Pete Henry Gym.

          Coach Tim Fralich says they just got behind by too much early in the game.  “It is tough to do that against any team, but especially against a team as good as Mansfield with the type of pressure that they put on you it can make it a tough hill to climb when you get down as much as we did.  We were down 17-3 after the first quarter and then from there they beat us by one point.  We end up losing by 15.  We definitely feel like we didn’t fold the tent and our kids kept competing and playing hard.  We didn’t just go in there to compete with them for three quarters, we went over there to win and we were unable to do that, so we were disappointed with that,” he told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday, “The next time around we get them at home and hopefully we will see them in the sectionals and will be able to put four quarters together.  They are a very, very good team.  We thought without Keon (Johnson) they might be down a little bit compared to last year, but that is not the case.  They have a transfer in from Lima Senior.  They have a group of guys that have been waiting in the wings for their turn and they have been taking advantage of that.  They will be tough to beat anytime we play them.”

          Orrville (2-2,1-1) pulled a mild upset last week in beating Wooster (49-48) in league action.  Fralich says the Red Riders are very physical.  “They are tough defensively.  On the glass they are physical and are strong athletes.  They are kind of a typical Orrville team.  Throughout the course of last season they showed a lot of improvement.  They have a lot of those guys back.  They may have only lost one or two guys of the seven or eight they were playing.  We expected them to be better this year and they are better.  They have had a lot of close games where they were able to squeak it out and that provides confidence for a team a lot of times and can really propel them to have good seasons.  We are going to have to do a really good job of matching their physicality and defensive rebounding because they have a lot of big, strong guys inside that do a good job of giving their team second chances.”

          With as good as Mansfield Senior is the battle in the “OCC” maybe for second place and Fralich says they want to be in that conversation.  “There might be a decent gap between first and second through eighth in our league, but that’s yet to be determined.  We would like to be a factor in that and focus on getting better each and every day with our young group.  They are extremely talented and there is still a good group of teams in our league.  Mansfield is fortunate to have quite a bit of talent and quite a bit of depth and a lot of seniors.  Their seniors are good leaders for them.  They have that senior sense of urgency to them.  I just think teams are going to have to play extremely well against them.  It will probably have to happen at home too.  I don’t know if they are going to lose a game at their place.  We have a lot teams that can compete for a top spot and we think we are one of those teams,” said Fralich.

 

Published 12/19/13

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Ball Handling, Defense Keys For Ashland

 

          Ashland suffered a set back to the Northern Ohio League favorite last week and they will face another team from that same league on Tuesday night in non-conference play.

          Last Saturday, Norwalk (1-0), #2 in the first Swankonsports.com boys’ basketball coach’s poll of the season in the large school division, downed the Arrows (72-61) in a non-league game.  Ben Haraway scored 25 points and Jeff Thomas added 20 for the Truckers.

          Ashland coach Tim Fralich says the Truckers are just a very good team.  “I would consider Norwalk very good.  They have some very talented players.  Jeff Thomas is a division one commit to Georgia State and Ben Haraway committed to play at Malone University and I think he has a chance to be an exceptional player in that conference.  Then they have some really good complementary pieces.  The (Jordan) Johnson kid is a wing that is extremely athletic.  He is a sprinter on the track team and won the “NOL” 100 meter dash.  He is going to Malone to play football.  They have a tremendous shooter in the (Grant) Hull kid.  He really forces you to space out the floor and the other kids are going to create,” he told Swankonsports.com on Monday, “They have another couple of guys coming off the bench that are really athletic.  They are certainly one of the better teams in the area and have a chance to have an exceptional year.  On top of that they are very well coached and coach (Steve) Gray does a nice job with them.”

          Norwalk had a four point lead after one quarter and it became 11 at the half.  Fralich says they weren’t able to get close enough.  “Unfortunately we weren’t able to hang with them like we wanted to and give ourselves a chance at the end of the game to win it.  It was always a 10 to 12 to 13 and then back to a seven, eight point spread.  We weren’t able to cut it to five points after that first quarter.  We saw some good things from our guys overall.  We improved from our first game.  We will watch film and try to improve and get ready for Sandusky,” he said.

          The Sandusky Blue Streaks (1-1) come to Ashland on Tuesday night.  Fralich says they offer a lot of athleticism.  “They have a sophomore guard.  He is a very good player for them.  He is playing the point guard.  He has really added some athleticism and a defensive presence to their team and he is a very good driver.  He is good at creating for himself and his teammates.  He is a guy that we are certainly going to have to key in on.  He has had double digit points in both games and he had over 20 in one of those games.  Delk is a returner for them and was very good player and he is back.  They also have some guys that crash the offensive glass strong,” said Fralich.

          They are going to have to make shots, but Fralich says they need play great defense and compete on the boards.  “We certainly have to contain penetration against them.  We have to do a good job on the defensive glass, which is something we have to do as a team each and every night to give us a chance to win.  We have to be able to handle their pressure.  They are going to change up their defenses and do some full and half court stuff, some man, some zone.  We have to remain aggressive, yet smart,” he said.

 

Published 12/10/13

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Ashland Has things to Work on

 

          Most of the time you don’t open your season with a conference game, but that was the case this year for the Ashland Arrows and it was a tough loss.

          A three pointer bounced off the rim in the final seconds and the Arrows fell to the West Holmes Knights (58-55) last Saturday.

          Coach Tim Fralich says it was certainly a game they could have won and they have been working on their offense and defense this week in practice.  “As a coach you are never fully content typically with the play of your guys.  That was certainly the case on Saturday.  We left a lot out there.  I think our guys know that, especially after watching film.  We played selfishly in the first half and in the second half we really improved in that area and made some extra passes and passing the ball up the court instead of just dribbling it and setting screens and cutting with a purpose,’ he told Swankonsports.com on Tuesday, “In the second half we just had too many defensive breakdowns, mainly defensive rebounding.  It really hurt us, especially in key situations.  We have been focusing on those two things over the last two days of practice.  I think we will make improvements on those and put ourselves in a better position for this weekend.  Opening up on the road in the conference isn’t easy.  They had some nice production from guys outside of Brady Arnold that we didn’t necessarily anticipate.  If they can continue to get that they are going to have a nice ball club this year.  Their new coach, coach Troyer, has them playing hard.”

          Ashland plays host to Clear Fork (1-0) in their second Ohio Cardinal Conference game of the season on Friday night at Arrow Arena.  Clear Fork blitzed Crestview (80-46) in their first game as Ridge Winand scored 31 and Kadin Chrasina added 20.  Fralich says they have to make those guys take tough shots.  “Clear Fork has two of the better guards in our league in Chrastina and Winand.  We are going to have to do a really good job of forcing them into tougher shots.  They are good players and they are going to make some tough ones and we will tip our caps to them, but we have to make them shoot tough shots and hopefully force some misses and get that first miss is probably the biggest key for us.  That was our Achilles Heel on Saturday night.  They always play well against us.  For whatever reason since I have been at Ashland we haven’t played our best games against them.  They have kind of had our number.  It would be nice to play well and get evened up here in the conference,” he said.

          The last two seasons Norwalk has been the best basketball team in North Central Ohio and the Truckers come calling to Ashland for their opener on Saturday night.  Fralich says they have great personnel led by Jeff Thomas and Ben Haraway.  “Norwalk is one of the best teams in the area.  They return one guard-forward in Thomas and a point guard in Haraway.  They are both legitimate college guards.  Haraway is committed to Malone and Jeff Thomas committed to Georgia State.  Whenever you have, especially in our area, two legit college players you know you are really going to have your hands full.  Coach Gray does a tremendous job with them.  He has a ton of experience to draw from.  He will mix things up offensively and defensively.  We just have to be prepared to handle any kind of situation they throw at us and continue to be aggressive,” said Fralich.

 

Published 12/4/13

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Ashland Ready to Contend

 

          Any discussion about the Ohio Cardinal Conference boys’ basketball race begins with Mansfield Senior, but perhaps right after that is the Ashland Arrows, who have two of the better players in the league in Isaac White and Bret Vipperman.

          Coach Tim Fralich says they continue to count on a lot of guys that that are underclassmen and those players are going to assume big roles with this year’s team.  “It has gone pretty well so far.  We have shown improvement for the most part from scrimmage to scrimmage and that is what we want from our guys to improve everyday.  We have had some good ones and have been able to play against some teams that have different styles and different systems.  Hopefully that will put us in position to play against all of the teams we will have to play against throughout the year.  We are really young.  We do return four starters from last year,” he told Swankonsports.com on Tuesday, “Those starters are now juniors, so we are really relying on them to be seniors and provide senior leadership. We only have one senior and he was a JV guy last year.  He knows he is a guy that won’t play a whole lot for us.  We won’t rely on him much in game situations, but he plays hard and is an energy guy and he is a good guy to have in the program.  We have three sophomores we think will contribute for us.  They are going to have to step up and get a little bit tougher and have a little bit more urgency to them because they haven’t played at the varsity level.  Then we have a freshman, who has stepped up and shown us he can be a contributor at the varsity level.”

          Fralich knows they have some talent and he thinks those guys have worked hard in the off season to get better.  “We are young and that will be good for us as the season goes on because our zeal is a little higher.  We are happy with the progress of our key guys like Isaac White, he was first team all conference, third team all district, averaged 15 points a game and really became an all around player as the season went on and we are expecting a lot of productively out of him.  Bret Vipperman and Trey Smith were honorable mention all conference and honorable mention all district.  Bret averaged 10 points a game and six boards.  He put a lot of time into his game in the off season.  He has gotten a lot stronger and we expect big things from him.  Trey has done the same in the off season.  We expect him to be a little bit more of a scorer and continue to distribute for us, be a defensive stopper and create chaos for us on defense like he has done and also become a better team defender, which he is doing each and every day,” said Fralich.

          Ashland really isn’t very tall and that means they are going to have to work hard to play defense in the post and get rebounds.  Fralich says they are working on those things.  “When we went out and scrimmaged against multiple different teams and we played a team that really pounds the ball inside and had some big strong guys and they hurt us in the post.  We hadn’t worked too much on post defense.  We had really focused on guarding on the perimeter and help and recover and rotations, but we really hadn’t done much in the post.  So, we have really focused on guarding the post and doing our early work and how we wanted our footwork to be depending on where the ball is and different screening actions.  As always we need to keep working on our rebounding.  We are one of the smallest teams in the area even though we are one the bigger schools.  We have done a decent job of team rebounding.  This year we are bigger, but we are young.  We are not as physically strong or developed to where we can just jump up and get a rebound and sky above everybody.  We are going to have to focus on creating contact and have everybody rebound,” said Fralich.

 

Published 11/20/13

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Winning on Ashland’s Mind

 

          No matter what happens in terms of the Ohio Cardinal Conference or the playoffs the Ashland Arrows expect to finish this season better than they did last year and they can do that with a win at Lexington on Friday night.

          Right now, the Arrows are a game behind unbeaten Mansfield Senior in the “OCC” and would also need an upset of the Tygers by rival Mansfield Madison to get a share of the title.  Ashland is also ninth in their computer region, just one spot from the playoffs, but they are almost two points behind eighth place Columbus St. Charles.  They need some other things to go their way like a Sandusky win over Bellevue and again a Madison win over the Tygers.

          In beating Madison (42-0) last week Arrows coach Scott Valentine says it was a compete performance against the Rams.  “That is one of the things that we challenged our kids throughout the week.  We just felt we didn’t play a good first half the week before and really hadn’t played a good four quarters, but I felt our kids came out in our seniors last home game and put together a good four quarters,” he said.

          Lexington (1-8,0-6) has had some struggles this season and they will carry a seven game losing streak into the game.  Offensively, the Minutemen have done some good things this year, including scoring more than 30 points in losses to Ontario, Madison and West Holmes.  Valentine says they have some guys that can make plays.  “I think they have some dangerous weapons there and if you don’t contain those guys they will make big plays, quarterback wise and things like that.  From our standpoint we just have to make sure we are ready each play, read our keys and stop those big plays from happening,” he said.

          The Minutemen have had some problems being consistently physical this year on defense, but Valentine says they will try to get into the backfield and cause problems.  “I think defensively they are trying to do some things coverage wise they can catch you if you are not careful,” he told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday, “With us throwing the ball we have to read those coverages and execute our routes against what they are doing coverage wise.  They run a six man front, really a 4-2, and they will bring backers.  It’s a concern anytime for us to pick up those guys rushing.”

          Over the last decade Ashland and Lexington have become pretty serious rivals.  Valentine says he knows the Minutemen will be ready to play.  “We talk about the year they came over here and they were approaching an undefeated season and we were having not a very good year.  We went out and played well and I think it ended up 9-7, or something like that, late in the game they kicked a field goal to win it.  So, it doesn’t matter record wise where people are with our teams, we go after each other every year,” said Valentine.

          The conference and playoffs aside Valentine says a win will accomplish one their preseason goals.  “Our kids came into this year, we have been 6-4 the last two years, good years, but our kids wanted to make sure that they broke that string of 6-4, so that is a big thing for us as we approach this game.  We want to end up 7-3 and not 6-4,” he said.

 

Published 10/31/13

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Ashland Riding High

 

          After a big win over Clear Fork last week the Ashland Arrows remain in second place in the tough Ohio Cardinal Conference, a game behind Mansfield Senior.

          They play host to the Mansfield Madison Rams on Friday night.

          Last Friday, they rallied by scoring 20 straight points in the second half to beat the Colts (36-35) in an exciting game.  Coach Scott Valentine says he is proud of his kids effort in the third and fourth quarters.  “I was proud of the way our kids kept battling and came out in the second half and made the plays we needed to win,” he said.

          With the way their offense can score points, Valentine says they are really never out of a game.  “We have had some teams in the past that have done that and we always bring up some of those things and I think our kids understand that with some of the things we do on offense can help us never be out of a game as long as we keep battling and we end up playing pretty good defense then,” he said.

          Ashland (5-3,4-1) has had great success under Valentine, wining more “OCC” titles than any other school.  He says their younger players learn what takes to be winners from guys older than them.  “I think part of that is they see examples or they hear about examples and learn from some of the older guys.  As long as they are willing to learn and take that with them that is going to benefit them down the road,” he told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday, “That is one of the things we stressed when you are younger you get an opportunity to learn from some guys that have been through a lot of the wars and the battles and have learned things form other people.  You have to learn as a player and if do that you have a chance to be pretty good.”

          There is no doubt that Madison wants to run the ball and Valentine says they have to be very good tacklers.  “They are going to run it at you.  They are one of those teams in the league that you know you have to strap it up and play four quarters against them running the football and make sure you tackle them because if you don’t they are going to get big plays,” said Valentine.

          Madison (3-5,2-3) has won two of its last three games and lost to Clear Fork (24-22) in the third game in that series.  Valentine believes the Rams have sort of hit their stride.  “Anytime you have some of those injury problems it takes some adjustment.  I think that is something that they have done.&nbs