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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.  Their coaching staff does a great job.  They have settled in on some things and you better be ready to stop them,” he said.

 

Published 10/24/13

© Swankonsports.com

 

 
 

Second Place Teams in the “OCC” to Clash

 

          Like they always seem to do the Ashland Arrows have gotten better as the season has gone along.  They have won three of their four Ohio Cardinal Conference games and four of their last five overall.

          Quarterback Nick Zurcher threw three touchdown passes and ran for another in last week’s win over Orrville (30-10) in conference action.  Coach Scott Valentine says they expected a good game against Orrville and that’s what they got.  “We went into that game knowing that they were a good football team and they played some good people.  The only games they had lost were to good people.  We knew it was going to be a test and a battle.  I was happy with the way our kids came out and got the job done,” he said.

          In their first two games Ashland lost to two pretty talented squads who have good records in Wadsworth (6-1) and Dover (5-2), but they learned from those losses. Valentine says they have gotten better on both sides of the ball.  “They first two games for us were against some really good opponents that have only lost a couple of games.  I think for us up front we had some guys that hadn’t had a lot of playing time.  Anytime you are trying to get those guys to play together that’s important.  I think we have really gotten better up front,” he told Swankonsports.com on Tuesday, “I think defensively we have definitely become better tacklers an understanding everything defensively from a team concept because again we had to replace a lot of guys on defense.”

          On Friday night, Asland (4-3,3-1) plays host to Clear Fork (5-2,3-1), who has also won four of its last five.  Valentine thinks the Colts have shown a lot of improvement too.  “When you look at them on tape they are doing a lot of things and getting better at some things.  There is no doubt this is going to be one of those games that everybody is going to have to play four quarters and it could come down to the last possession,” he said.

          Like Zurcher, Clear Fork quarterback Kadin Chrastina has enjoyed some huge games this year.  He has run for around 500 yards against the Colts last three “OCC” opponents in Lexington, Wooster and Mansfield Madison.  Valentine says they will have to do their best to contain Chrastina, who never came off the field last week against Madison.  “You are not going to stop him.  You have to contain him.  You have to make sure you read your keys and you always have to have somebody account for him.  He does so much for them on both sides of the ball and special teams wise he does.  You just have to find a way to contain him some,” he said.

 

Published 10/16/13

© Swankonsports.com

 

 
 

It’s Back to Winning for Ashland

 

          Like all six teams they have played this year, the Ashland Arrows found out last week that Mansfield Senior is pretty good, but their assignment this week is to get back on the winning trail.

          Ashland (3-3,2-1) did something that Clear Fork and Orrville couldn’t do when facing the Tygers and that is score.  Still Mansfield led 17-0 at the half and went on to beat the Arrows (30-14) last Friday.  Ashland coach Scott Valentine says the Tygers are just very good.  “They are a good football team.  There is no doubt that they do a lot of good things and have a lot good skilled players that make plays for them.  It was one of those things that they made a lot of plays.  We gave them a couple of things, but there are very good football team  and they are going to keep being successful,” he said.

          If they reach the playoffs this year Ashland might see another team like Mansfield Senior again or they could see the Tygers themselves.  If they do, Valentine says they certainly learned some things from last week’s loss.  “For us when you play a team that has the speed they have you have to take better pursuit angles and you have to tackle better defensively.  Then offensively we have to sustain our blocks better because of their quickness and getting off those blocks.  Those are some things we took away and want to work on this week as we head into this Friday,” said Valentine.

          Ashland is at Orrville (4-2,1-2) on Friday to face the Red Riders, who lost a tough one (28-23) to West Holmes last week when time expired with Orrville inside the Holmes 20 in Ohio Cardinal Conference play.  Orrville was one of the first schools in this area to feature the spread formation.  However, Valentine says this year they have went away from that a little bit.  “They are doing some different things and are giving you some different formations.  They try to outflank you and get you out of position.  They have been able to do that and get some big plays.  For us it is about recognizing the formations they are in and the things they are doing and try to make sure we contain their running game,” said Valentine.

          Also, Orrville has played some pretty solid defense this year.  Valentine says the Red Riders like to bring some pressure.  “Their defensive guys run to the football.  They are very active.  They like to blitz and put you in pressure situations and try to have you make a mistake, so those are some things that we are going to have to handle,” he said.

          Mansfield Senior now leads Ashland, Clear Fork and West Holmes by a game in the “OCC.”  So, Ashland needs some help to get a piece of the conference title, but Valentine says most importantly they have to take care of their own house.  “I told our kids that there aren’t many years in our league that a team goes undefeated in the league.  For us to get that opportunity we have to make sure we take care of our business.  I told them if Mansfield Senior does it then they deserve to be champs.  The important thing for us is making sure we take care us what we can take care of,” said Valentine.

 

Published 10/9/13

© Swankonsports.com  

 

 
 

Ashland Must Defeat Mansfield Senior Speed

 

          Ashland and Mansfield Senior share first place in the Ohio Cardinal Conference after two weeks and they play each other at Community Stadium in Ashland on Friday night.

          The Arrows (3-2,2-0) know about handing someone their first defeat of the season.  They did it last week to West Holmes (48-21) in Millersburg.  Coach Scott Valentine calls it a great overall performance by the Arrows.   “I felt really good about a lot of things we saw on tape and they way our kids battled for four quarters,” he told Swankonsports.com on Monday, “Defensively as far as keeping them out of the end zone after they were scoring a lot of points per game.  Overall, it was a great team win.  I told them to enjoy it over the weekend, but when we come back on Monday we have to be ready to go.”

          Valentine says they were able to stop the big run play and that was a real key is slowing down the Knights.  “I think a big thing was not giving them the big long runs that they had in the first four games.  They had a lot of runs over 50 yards.  Their kids run hard and I thought that was really one of things making them have to earn it and that led to a lot of good things for us,” he said.

          Mansfield Senior (5-0,2-0), #1 in the Swankonsports.com football coach’s poll in the large school division for the fourth straight week, has been very impressive on the both sides of the ball.  They have outscored their two “OCC” opponents, Clear Fork and Orrville, by a combined score of 85-0.  Valentine says the Tygers just have a lot of speed.  “There is no doubt they are a good football team.  They have playmakers all over and they are tough to contain.  They do a good job running the ball and throwing the ball both.  That puts a lot of pressure on your defense.  With their speed on defense they can run and stop you from making big plays.  Those are things we are going to have to take a look at and see where we can kind of help ourselves to be successful on Friday,” said Valentine.

          When it comes to slowing down the Tygers, Valentine says if they don’t have the ball they can’t score.  “I think part of it might be to keep the ball away from them.  Form our standpoint that might change a little bit of what we do.  If we can keep the ball away form them and keep it in our hands and convert third downs that is going to help our defense.  Other than that I just think you have to be great tacklers in the open field because they have the speed and if you let them get out of there and don’t make that first tackle it’s going to be a big play,” said Valentine.

          And when they have the ball, he says they can not hesitate at all.  They have to take it right to them.  “I think you have to find areas where you can go at them whether it is running or throwing the ball.  Your guys can’t dance around.  They can’t try to make moves they just have to get up the field and sometimes that turns into a big play.  You can not be a lateral type team and expect you are going to get around the edge on them,” Valentine said.

 

Published 10/1/13

© Swankonsports.com

 

 
 

Ashland Where they Want to be

 

          After winning last week against Wooster with another win the Ashland Arrows have a chance to separate themselves from some of the rest if the Ohio Cardinal Conference.  It won’t be easy they played talented West Holmes.

          Last week, they topped Wooster (38-17) in a game that was stated on Friday and ended on Saturday night due to the storms that roared through North Central Ohio.

          Coach Scott Valentine says it was a win that put them in good position.  “You always want to win that first game in the league.  It was definitely unusual circumstances.  I have only been through one other game when we had to go to the next day.  I thought our kids were able to make some adjustments and it was definitely good to get the win,” said Valentine.

          The game was tied at 14 when it resumed on Saturday at Community Stadium, but after that it was pretty much all Ashland.  Valentine says their defense kept them in the game early.  “We gave them a touchdown offensively and we gave them one big play on defense.  On Saturday night when we came back the defense really held us in the game because we struggled a little bit on offense and we put them in some bad situations turning the ball over.  They battled and kept us in the game until we got things straightened out on offense,” said Valentine.         

          Turnovers were about the only thing that could stop the Ashland offense.  Valentine says they are going to have to work on securing the ball.  “When you look at some of the things that happened they were just some things that don’t normally happen,” he told Swankonsports.com on Monday, “We saw a blitz and tried to get away and didn’t tuck the ball away and that led to a turnover.  We had a missed handoff just with a lack of connection about what was going on.  Those are things that you have to keep from happening.”

          Ashland (2-2,1-0) makes the trip to West Holmes (4-0,1-0) in their second “OCC” game of the season this Friday night.  The Knights have averaged better than 50 points a game, including a (42-14) win over Mansfield Madison in their league opener.  Valentine says they are talented.  “They are a good football team and the kids they have back are really carrying the load for them.  It is going to be one of those games that hopefully we can slow them down a little bit because they have definitely been scoring a lot of points,” he said.

          He says sometimes with the rhythm of a game you just have to be able to score points.  “It’s a team game and when one area is struggling the other is got to carry you.  When you go in sometimes you anticipate you are going to have to score some points with as much as they have been scoring,” said Valentine.

          With Mansfield Senior playing Orrville this week, the four teams that won “OCC” games last week play each other. Valentine says that gives them an opportunity.  “That is the thing about the league you have to try and get wins and get them every week.  With all four teams that won last week are playing each other, so that means its going to leave two people that won’t have a loss in the league and that is a big jump up on people to start the league,” said Valentine.

 

Published 9/24/13

© Swankonsports.com   

 

 
 

Ashland Has to Stop Big Plays

 

          Over the last several years the Ashland Arrows have used a strong non-conference schedule to propel themselves into contention for the Ohio Cardinal Conference crown.

          Two years ago the Arrows lost all three of their conference games and went on to win the “OCC” title.

          They earned their first win of the season last week when they blasted Sandusky (41-13) at Community Stadium.  Coach Scott Valentine says that was one they had to have.  “The first win is always important and we were able to get that one after a couple of tough weeks.  That is one that you really like to have,” he said.

          Ashland has been young in some spots this year and Valentine likes the progression that he is seeing from his team.  “We are getting better each week and that has been the most important thing.  If we can keep getting better that is going to help us as we get into conference here.  I think we have and we are trying to get better another week,” said Valentine.

          Wooster (0-3) will be at Ashland to kick off “OCC” action on Friday night.  The Generals have lost to Medina Highland (45-17), Wadsworth (14-13) and Chagrin Falls (28-15) over the first three games.  Valentine says Wooster has played a great schedule too.  “You look at their non-conference schedule and they play very good people.  You can see on tape how they are playing.  They have some playmakers.  They have a lot of things that concern you and that is what we have been trying to get ready for this week,” he said.

          Wooster has number of outstanding athletes on its roster.  Valentine says they have some guys that can score from anywhere on the field.  “That is the scary thing.  They are similar to Sandusky.  It seemed like Sandusky had a lot of big plays in their games and Wooster is the same way.  If you don’t contain them they can make big plays at anytime.  That is the thing that you have to be ready for on defense,” said Valentine.

          Like a lot of teams these days, Valentine says the Generals are trying to get those athletes the ball in space and force the opponent to make the tackle.  “They have shown some balance where they are trying to get the ball to their guys.  They try to get their backfield guys the ball in space and have guys blocking for them outside.  They do spread it around and are balanced in that aspect of the game,” he said.

          Ashland’s offense has scored 40 plus points the last two weeks and Valentine says they are working hard to find a way to make some plays against an aggressive Wooster defense.  “Defensively they run to the ball and coverage wise they have been able to cover some people.  We need to find out where we can attack them with our offense and how best to do that,” he said.

          Ashland has won more “OCC” football titles than any other school and Valentine says a good start can be a key.  “There is no doubt that the first one is important.  The thing with our league is I don’t think anybody has gone through undefeated for a while, so you can’t say it is over if you lose it.  But, you are always a step behind somebody, so the first one in the league is always important,” he said.

 

Published 9/18/13

© Swankonsports.com    

 

 
 

Ashland Ready to Win

 

          Ashland has played two pretty good football teams over the first two weeks and came up empty and their coaching staff is putting an emphasis on coming up with the win as they host Sandusky this week.

          Last week, the Arrows (0-2) had 426 total yards and scored 28 points in the second half only to lose (47-42) when Dover scored in the final minutes.  Coach Scott Valentine thought they did some good things against the Tornadoes.  “I think we played a lot better.  I think we competed a lot better, especially in the second half.  We saw some improvement in some areas.  We didn’t have a great first half defensively.  We had to adjust to some of the things they were trying to do.  I thought our kids made some adjustments in the second half that allowed us to make some plays and get us back in the game,” he told Swankonsports.com on Monday, “It was disappointing because when you come all of the way back you want to win them.  We saw some positives, but we have to keep getting better because we want to get some “W’s” now.”

          Nick Zurcher passed for 274 yards against Dover and Valentine says the offensive line was able to give him some time to throw the football.  “We came in and we had worked on some things all week to get better up front.  I thought our guys not only did a great job running the ball, but with pass blocking in giving our quarterback more time.  Those are things that really helped us last week,” he said.

          Sandusky (0-2) has given up some points over the first two weeks of the season in loses to Fremont Ross (64-30) and Sandusky Perkins (47-7) last week.  Valentine says those were two excellent opponents.  “They are like they have been the last couple of years.  They have real good athletes.  Their first two games were against good teams.  They played Fremont Ross and Sandusky Perkins.  They are in a similar spot like we are in that we have played two tough opponents early and weren’t able to get a win.  It’s going to be whoever gets the job done and comes to play this Friday,” said Valentine.

          He says the Blue Streaks still have some home run hitters they can get the ball to.  “As you contain them you have to make sure that you are in spots where you don’t give up and big plays,” he said.

          Valentine says they understand that this is pretty much a must win for them as far as their season as a whole is concerned.  “We are in a situation right now where we have had two tough games, but you can’t sit back and worry and feel sorry for yourself.  You have to get ready for the next one and go out and get the job done,” he said.

 

Published 9/10/13

© Swankonsports.com

 

 
 

Ashland Needs Third Down Execution

 

          Ashland played a good first half last week, but that wasn’t good enough for the Arrows.

          Wadsworth put up 21 third quarter points and went on to beat the Arrows (35-7) on the opening night of the season.

          Coach Scott Valentine says Wadsworth was able to put some drives together in the second half.  “I thought we played a good first half.  We missed a couple of opportunities offensively to put up a few more points.  Came out and did a lot of things defensively that we wanted to do,” he told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday, “In the second half they came out and took the first drive right down the field on us.  Then we pinned them back and they took it 99 yards and got up two scores.  We just couldn’t put anything together offensively.  We moved the ball, but just couldn’t finish drives.  We just have to learn to finish that second half.”

          High school football is often times a game of big plays, however, you have to be able to drive the ball too, especially against good teams.  Valentine says they are working on their third down efficiency.  “One of  the things that we are working on this week is finishing on third down and getting first downs because we were able to move down the field, but we got down in that shortened field and had some trouble on third down getting the first down.  We had a couple of penalties that didn’t help.  We need to sustain blocks like usual,” he said.

          Getting those first downs when you are down near the red zone is especially tough.  Valentine says you have to win those individual battles.  “You are down in that area and lots of times defenses like to blitz, bring pressure, and try to go man to man.  In those situations you have to win some man to man battles.  We had some guys open and just missed them a little bit.  Like I said some penalties hurt us too, but we will get better this week,” he said.

          Ashland travels to Dover (1-0) on Friday night to meet the Tornadoes.  Dover beat a team from Canada (60-13) in their opener last Thursday.  Valentine says this is another good Dover team.  “Like every year they are a good football team.  They have had to replace a lot of guys this year, but they have guys in their program that are ready to go.  They are a team that has a home field advantage.  They just put in field turf.  They opened up last week with that.  Traditionally they are always pretty good,” said Valentine.

          Valentine says Dover does a lot of things they do.  “They do a lot of similar things that we do.  They move into some different formations a little bit more.  Their quarterback is a guy that has to be able to throw and run the ball.  They are about the same they have been every year,” he said.    

 

 
 

Ashland Getting Better

 

          Ashland is a program that expects to win and this year is no different.

          They open the season this Friday on the road at Wadsworth against the Grizzlies.

          Coach Scott Valentine, who has won more Ohio Cardinal Conference games than any other coach, says his players have really learned a lot during the preseason.  “Our kids have come back and are really learning from what they are seeing on the video from our scrimmages and video from our practices.  They are working to try and get better and that’s all you can ask as a coach to have kids that really want to work on a daily basis,” he told Swankonsports.com on Tuesday, “I think we are headed in the right direction.  You never know until that first game how things are going to turn out.  I am happy with where we are heading and hopefully we can do a lot of good things.”

          However, the coach knows that playing well in scrimmages and playing well in games that count can be two different things.  “The emotion is a lot different and that is one the areas that you have to keep in check with your kids is their emotions because sometimes they try to do way too much and get out of position and things like that.  That is all part of that first game in finding out how you kids respond if something doesn’t go right.  Games are definitely different than scrimmages,” he said.

          Valentine says there really aren’t going to be many surprises in the game Friday night.  He says they know what they have to do.  “Offensively both of us do what we are going to do.  We throw the ball around and do things and their offense is running at you and play action pass.  After playing each other for two years there is not a lot of difference in what we do.  Now you are working against that on a daily basis and try to make sure you cover your bases coaching wise and that your players understand what they are going to have to do in certain circumstances,” said Valentine.

          Wadsworth hasn’t changed much.  Valentine says they are a run first team.  “They have their 1,000 yard rusher coming back.  He does a great job.  Thy have a fullback that does a great job blocking, but when he carries the ball he has some speed and when he gets through there he can get away from you.  There is no doubt we are going to have to be ready to stop the run,” he said.

          However, Wadsworth will run some misdirection plays and they are pretty good with the play action pass, according to Valentine.  “They do some misdirection stuff.  Their trap play is big on that.  They fake to the tailback and all of the sudden that fullback is popping through there.  Then they run the counter play with the tailback a little bit.  Then they have a couple of reverses that they run.  They try to catch you downhill and then beat you with the misdirection,” he said.

          Valentine says the Grizzlies are pretty good on defense too and they are going to have to be very good at finding the holes.  “Defensively they have probably six or seven kids back from last year’s defense, so those guys have matured and you can tell they know what they are doing.  They run to the football and they are good tacklers.  They are pretty solid on defense.  We are going to have to find some places where we can get some plays and get our going in position to make some big plays for us,” said Valentine.  

 

 
 

Ashland Making Progress

 

          Ashland is predicted to be one of the top teams in the Ohio Cardinal Conference again this season, but if they are going to do that they are going to have to mature quickly as a team.

          They play Brunswick in their final tune-up on Friday night and then open the regular season with Wadsworth next week, followed by traditional powers Dover and Sandusky before opening the “OCC” portion of their schedule.

          Coach Scott Valentine, who has been the head of the most consistently successful program in the “OCC,” says he has seen some steps in the right direction from his young kids.  “I think we have seen some growth from some guys.  We don’t have a lot of varsity guys coming back with a lot of playing experience, but we thought our guys that have been waiting their turn have really shown some improvement in some things.  We have learned a lot from the first scrimmage so hopefully we can show that gain as we keep going through the season,” said Valentine.

          The coach has been impressed by how on defense they have been hungry to get to the ball carrier.  “I felt good about the way we ran to the football on defense and used our shoulder pads.  We have to get better at tackling overall, but I felt that was the one thing was that pursuit of the football was a really positive thing that we liked to see,” he said.

          However, when you get to the guy with the ball you have to be able to take him down and that is not something that has happened on a consistent basis for the Arrows.  Valentine says that has to change.  “I think defensively tackling.  We have to get better at that.  Wadsworth, we have been able to see them in scrimmage, and we are going to see a big back that can run,” he told Swankonsports.com, “We see that every year, so we are going to have to become good tacklers.  We need to finish our blocks on offense.  I think we are getting better, but we have a ways to go as far as finishing the play out blocking wise.”

          Ashland has been consistent because they have had kids that understand the tradition and want to be part of it.  Valentine says when the time comes you have to be ready to play.  “That is something that over the years we have tried to emphasize.  You can’t just show up and think that things are going to get done.  There is a period of time where nobody is playing on Friday night that you have to get some work done and then you get started you have to keep improving.  I think our group of kids are working hard and hopefully that can play out as we go through the season,” he said.

          In the final scrimmage against Brunswick Valentine wants to polish game like situations so they are ready to execute those come the opener.  “I think that is when you get into actual game situations.  You get into your down and distances.  We talked to our kids about how important it is to make adjustments on the sidelines and then be able to take it to the field and get those adjustments made on the field,” he said.  

 

 
 

Ashland Gets Tournament Win

 

          Ashland got only its second win in May on Monday night, bu it cam in the division one sectional tournament at Madison where they beat Mansfield Senior.

          The Arrows (9-13) cruised past the Tygeres (11-1) in five innings.  Coach Rob Lavengood says they did some good things on the mound and at the plate.  “It was really good effort.  It was probably our most compete baseball game that we have played in two or three weeks.  We got a really good pitching performance from Nick Zurcher.  He only game up three hits in five innings and one run.  We played pretty solid defense behind him and we swung the bats well. So, those were good signs.  It was nice to see us maybe turn the corner a little bit (Monday) night and get a win and play as well as we did.  Hopefully that carries over to some big games later this week against Lexington and then Norwalk,” said Lavengood.

          The Ashland coach hopes this turns the momentum around in right direction for them because they have some tough games this week.  “We have had a couple of different momentum swings that we have had throughout this year.  We started the season of playing pretty well at 7-3 and then before (Monday) night we lost 10 of 11 games to drop to 8-13.  We have lost some tough games along the way, but regardless they are still losses,” he told Swankonsports.com o after Monday night’s victory.  “It was nice to get a win (Monday) and hopefully turn things around and hopefully get things headed back in he right direction.  We need to get our kids just playing with some confidence and gong into the game feeling good about our chances to win a baseball game.”

          Ashland is the defending “OCC” champion and this spring they have a chance to play spoiler as they host first place Lexington on Tuesday.  The Minutemen lead Wooster by a game.  Lavengood hopes they play inspired baseball.  “(Tuesday) night they come to our place.  I am sure they are going to be focused and locked in to play well because if they beat us twice they can win an outright conference championship.  Hopefully we can give them a battle and make them play their best baseball if they are going to win a conference championship.  I think our kids are going to ready to go against Lexington and hopefully we have a good performance,” said Lavengood.

          The Arrows biggest game of the week comes Thursday in the sectional final against Norwalk (23-4), the outright Northern Ohio League champion.  Lavengood says that will a huge challenge.  “They have a really nice team.  We played them right at the beginning of the season.  We had a three way doubleheader at their place with them and Sandusky Perkins.  They beat us pretty good.  We are hoping with our ace on the mound Wednesday night we play baseball they way we are capable of playing.  Hopefully, we can give them a good game and give ourselves a chance to win a sectional championship,” he said.    

 

 
 

Ashland Learning

 

          It has not been a season that Ashland High School baseball fans are used to, but things are starting to turn around for the Arrows… maybe.

          They lost (5-2) to the second place team in the Ohio Cardinal Conference, the Wooster Generals, on Saturday.

          Coach Rob Lavengood saw some good things from his team.  “Well, I saw signs of a turnaround.  Now we just have to put it together and get a “W” and I think that will go a long ways in gaining that confidence that we need as we get ready for tournament.  Defensively, we didn’t have an error Saturday, so that was a good sign.  Tyson (Vogel) threw the game for us.  He struggled a little bit the first few innings, but he settled in and threw a really good fourth and fifth inning.  It was probably the best two innings he has pitched in two weeks,” he told Swankonsports.com on Monday, “There were definitely some sings Saturday that were good for us as we head into this week and we hope it carries over and gives a chance to get some “W’s” this week.”

          Ashland (7-11,5-5) plays at West Holmes (12-7,5-5) in “OCC” action on Tuesday.  This has not been the season the Knights expected either, but Lavengood says that has been due to injuries.  “I think they have kind of righted the ship a little bit and started to play some pretty good baseball here these last couple of weeks.  They have struggled through with some injuries the first part of the season to their pitching.  They are trying to get things straightened out for tournament.  I think they are in position to make a nice little run because it sounds like the Baird kid is getting healthy, their number one.  The Snyder kid, who has hardly pitched at all has finally started to throw a little bit these last couple of weeks.  If those two guys are healthy they are as good as anybody in the area.  I would hate to have to face them come tournament time, that’s for sure,” said Lavengood.

          With the West Holmes pitching staff back in tack Lavengood says that means they have to have a good approach at the plate to have any success.  “We have been talking to our kids here the last couple of weeks about making sure we have a good at bat every time we step into the batter’s box.  We need to know our zone and not expand our strike zone, swinging at strikes and laying off balls and making the starting pitcher for the other team make some pitches.  These are some things we have struggled with the last couple of weeks. Saturday even though we only scored a couple of runs off a very good pitcher, the Buckingham kid from Wooster, their number one, I thought we had some pretty decent at bats, so I’m hoping that will finally show up in he box scores this week as we face West Holmes,” said Lavengood.    

 

 
 

Ashland Needs to Pick it Up

 

          The high school baseball season is short, 27 days to be exact, and you really can’t afford any prolonged slumps.

          Unfortunately that is just what the Ashland Arrows are in at this point in the season.  After a loss in an Ohio Cardinal Conference game to Mansfield Madison (15-5) on Wednesday evening the Arrows have lost seven of their last eight games.

          Coach Rob Lavengood says they haven’t been making good pitches and they have been making a lot of errors and that adds up to losses.  “We are definitely going through a pretty rough stretch.  We started the year 7-3 and now we have lost seven of our last eight.  The old adage is you win games with pitching and defense and we have been struggling quite a bit in those two areas for the past two weeks or so.  (Tuesday) and (Wednesday) against Madison was no different.  When you give up 24 runs in two days you are not going to win too many games,” he told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday night after the loss, “Again it starts on the mound.  Our pitchers have really struggled with their location recently.  When we have thrown strikes we have caught a lot of the plate and at times we are struggling finding the strike zone. When we fall behind and we are throwing 3-1 pitches and 2-0 pitches the other team is sitting fastball.  When we throw strikes they have been hitting it.”

          Lavengood says Madison played well, but they didn’t given themselves much of a chance.  “You have to give them credit, Madison swung the bats extremely well this week against us, but he have to do a little bit better job on the mound of hitting our spots and working ahead in the count.  Then we have to do a better job of making plays behind our pitchers, so they don’t have to throw extra pitches and get extra out every inning,” he said.

          It is not a lack of effort for the Arrows. Lavengood says they have just had trouble throwing quality strikes and they have not been making the routine plays in the field.  “It’s not like our pitchers are stepping on the mound trying to throw balls.  They are working their tail off.  They are trying and sometimes the harder you try, the harder it is.  There are two things that are frustrating that really put you in a hole and that’s walks and errors.  We have really struggled in those areas.  We have given too many free passes and we have made too many errors.  That is a recipe for disaster when you are trying to win games against good teams,” said Lavengood.

          In most cases the Arrows have been scoring enough runs to win, but Lavengood says they have been putting themselves behind the eight ball too many times early in games.  “The thing that has really hurt us here recently is we have fallen behind early and not just 1-0 or 2-0 we have fallen behind six, seven, eight to nothing the last couple days.  That limits a lot of what you can do on offense.  One of the things that I think is a strength of ours offensively is our team speed.  Our ability to steal bases, bunt, move some guys over, do some hit and run and do some things to put pressure on the defense.  When you are down six, seven, eight to nothing you are not going to sacrifice bunt.  You are certainly not going to steal too many bases.  If you get thrown out down six or seven that doesn’t make you look very smart, so we have really been limited in what we can do because we have fallen behind big.  We have got to get off to better starts our pitchers have to give some quality innings early in the game to give us a chance to do some things offensively and get things rolling and we just haven’t been able to do that.  (Tuesday) night against Madison we are down 8-0 after three innings and (Wednesday) we are down 9-0 after three innings.  There is not a whole lot you can do to be aggressive offensively when that’s the case,” said Lavengood.      

 

 
 

Ashland Gets Big Win

 

          Ashland broke a three game losing streak and earned a big win over Clear Fork in Ohio Cardinal Conference play on Tuesday night.

          The Arrows downed the Colts (10-5) to remain in a share of second place in the “OCC,” game behind Lexington.  The Minutemen beat Mansfield Madison (9-3) on Tuesday.

          Arrows coach Rob Lavengood says they played better defense than they have for most the season.  “(Tuesday) was definitely a good start.  We saw some good things that we hadn’t quite seen in the last week.  I thought defensively we played much better.  We made some nice plays.  I thought we had some clutch hitting, especially with two outs and runners in scoring position to be able to put some runs on the board.  It was nice to see Tyson Vogel get a complete game victory on the mound,” he said.

          Ashland (7-6,5-1) is the defending champion and Lavengood says they need to get on a streak of good play here.  “When you get into a grove where you playing with confidence and playing well that can carry into a four, five, six game winning streak.  On the flip side if you go through a stretch were you aren’t playing very good baseball and you have a week where you play four or five games you can quickly get yourself into a tough losing streak.  Coming into the game we had lost three straight and it was nice to get back on the winning side of things and hopefully that will carry through (Wednesday) when we go down to Clear Fork and hopefully we can get a sweep,” said Lavenood.

          If the rain gets out of the area in time, the Arrows will play Clear Fork (6-6,0-6) in the valley.  Lavengood says Lexington is a strong team, but this race is far from over.  “There are a lot of games still to be played.  I think there are a lot of pretty good teams in our conference.  Lexington is definitely off to a good start and they are very solid ball club, but they still have some tough games on their schedule,” he told Swankonsports.com on Tuesday night, “Anything can happen, especially when we get into May when everyone starts to get into the sectional tournament and you have to shuffle your pitching staff and you might not be able to throw your one or your two in league games once your get into the tournament.  That really challenges your pitching depth.  You kind of find out who has solid number three and four starters that might have to pitch in conference games.”

          Last season, Ashland was able to win the conference title with basically two pitchers, both whom have graduated.  Lavengood says they have used basically four pitchers this season, but they made need more, especially next month.  “That was one of our concerns coming into this year that we weren’t sure how deep we were.  I think that is still a concern that we have.  Fortunately we have been able to mix and match situations and we have only had to throw basically four guys.  That might change over the next couple of weeks.  Nick Zuecher will have the ball (Wednesday) at Clear Fork.  He is really our number two guy.  Austin Bouque and Corey Gets have given us pretty solid number three and four guys.  Those four guys have really thrown the bulk of our innings.  We are still not as deep as I would like, but so far we have been able to use those guys as starters and also for an inning here and a inning there in relief and really not have to go and deeper than that,” said Lavengood.   

 

 
   

Defending “OCC” Champs Lose to Mansfield Senior

 

          Ashland coach Rob Lavengood has been harping on the lack of fundamentals and Wednesday it bit them in the butt.

          In the first game, a continuation from Tuesday, they beat Mansfield Senior (8-4), but they were stunned in the second game (3-2) at Bud Plank Field.  The loss dropped the Arrows (7-4,4-1) from a share of first place in the Ohio Cardinal Conference.  Coach Ron Lavengood was disappointed in the effort, especially in the field.  “We have been talking over the last few weeks about how we have struggled defensively making plays and having three, four errors every game.  It came back to hurt us in the second game (Wednesday).  We had five errors and gave up three unearned runs.  You have to make plays.  We have been struggling and we continue to struggle.  We just have to get better.  You just can’t afford to force your pitcher to make extra pitches every inning and give the other team four or five outs every inning because you are not making plays.  On top of that we just didn’t swing the bats very well.  We only had four hits and two runs,” said Lavengood.

          Mansfield Senior (2-7,1-4) won its first conference game of the season and Lavengood says the Tygers are clearly better fundamentally than they have been in recent seasons.  “You have to give Mansfield a lot of credit.  I thought their pitchers threw strikes and I thought defensively they made some plays.  They gave themselves a chance to win and that’s what you have to do.  You have to tip your hat to them,” he said.

          Lavengood says there is no time for pouting.  They need to get right back at it because they play a talented Wooster (6-2,3-1) team on Friday on the road.  “We have a big one coming up Friday, a makeup game against Wooster on the road from last week.  So, we will see how we bounce back.  It will be interesting to see how the kids react to the loss (Wednesday).  We’ll come in (Thursday) and have a good practice after school if the weather cooperates and lets us get on the field and do some things defensively.  Hopefully we can bounce back and get back on the winning track against Wooster,” said Lavengood.

          Last year, Ashland won the “OCC” and advanced to the regionals.  Two years ago they finished second and lost in the district tournament.  Lavengood says they need to develop some leaders.  “That is a huge loss.  We had some guys that were on the team last year that were three and four year lettermen that had been through the wars for quite a few years.  They knew how to go about their business and they knew how to lead by example as well as being vocal leaders on the field.  Right now we are trying to search for some of that.  We have a few guys that were part of our success the last couple of years at the varsity level, but those guys were able to fly under the radar and follow by example the kids that graduated last year,” he told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday, “Now they are being put into those roles where they are the leaders.  Hopefully, they are ready to kind of get us through some of the tough times like (Wednesday) and keep us working hard and plugging away and showing some of the younger guys how to go about their business and bounce back from a tough loss.”

 

 
   

Ashland Sits on Top

 

          Well, it is so far so good for Ashland, kind of.

          The Arrows (4-2,3-0) are the co-leaders in the Ohio Cardinal Conference along with Lexington.  They have played well at times, but not nearly as consistent as they would like.

          Like everyone else pretty much, including the Indians, Ashland was rained out of Wednesday night and coach Rob Lavengood says they wanted to play because they had good momentum.  “It is doubly disappointing when you are coming off a nice win like we had a Tuesday.  We had a nice win against Wooster 4-2 Tuesday night.  The kids were excited about playing (Wednesday).  It is just unfortunate that we got rained out.  We are supposed to play on Thursday night, but that probably isn’t going to happen.  Who knows when that game is going to get made up.  I think our kids are just kind of anxious to get back on the field and build off a win from Tuesday,” said Lavengood.

          Although the game is scheduled now for Thursday things don’t look to promising after heavy rains most of Wednesday.  Lavengood says he is hoping this is not a repeat of 2011.  “We saw that two years ago.  We had just an awful spring.  We got some games backed up at the end of the season where we had to play three, four conference games within a short period of time.  We end up losing a couple of them and losing conference championship.  Now, last year we had a great spring and I don’t think we had to make up any of our conference games,” he told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday, “We were fortunate enough to have two really good pitchers and we were able to keep them on schedule and win a conference championship.  You are kind of at the mercy of the weather when you are talking about baseball in springtime in Ohio.  If you run into bad weather you are hoping your kids can adjust to the situation and themselves in a position to be successful when it comes time to play those games.”

          Lavengood knows there are some things that need to be improved if they are going to continue to win.  The first thing is better defense.  “We have done what we have had to do to win.  We have kind of been a little up and down.  We started the season off by playing three pretty solid games.  Then we stumbled over the weekend and then really (Tuesday) night despite winning 4-2 and getting a big win against Wooster defensively we were awful.  We were lucky to win.  We had eight errors.  Tyson Vogel pitched one heck of game and only game up three hits.  He was able to get us out of jams the whole game because of how well he pitched.  We didn’t play very good defense at all.  That is something we have to become better at because eventually those errors are going to hurt you and they are going to cost you games,” he said.

          If the weather clears up and Ashland plays Wooster (4-1,2-1) on Thursday, Lavengood knows they will be playing a a very strong Wooster team, led by Nick Buckingham.  “They have a nice team.  Buckingham pitched against us (Tuesday) night and he pitched very well.  He had eight strikeouts and only gave up five hits.  He has a very good curveball to go with a pretty good fastball.  We were able to scratch across four runs and manufacture some things by bunting and moving runners.  We were happy to get out of there with a win.  Wooster has a nice team and that was their first loss.  They are definitely going to have some say in the “OCC” before it is all said and done,” said Lavengood.

 

 
   

Ashland Gets Big Win to Start the Season

 

          Ashland, the defending Ohio Cardinal Conference, lost many of their players to graduation, but they are not going to give up their conference title without a fight and it looks like they have plenty of fight in them too.

          The Arrows (1-0) beat Cleveland St. Ignatius (6-5) on Monday in a non-conference game.  Coach Rob Lavengood says that win gave them an immediate blast of confidence heading into the conference schedule.  “It makes us feel really good.  You always want to get the season off to a good start with a win.  We got a quality win against a quality opponent and that makes it even better.  On top of that it was the 1,000 win in Ashland High School history for baseball.  That makes it even a little bit sweeter.  It was a big win and I’m excited for our kids.  It was definitely a good way to get the season started,” said Lavengood.

          High schools sports are often times games of momentum.  Lavengood says they got two kinds of momentum on Monday.  “You can talk about momentum in a season and you can talk about momentum even in a game.  We saw that (Monday).  We were able to jump out to a 4-0 lead after one inning.  That allowed our kids to settle in and play with confidence.  It allowed our pitchers to pitch with a lead.  They were able to pitch with confidence and that just makes a big difference,” he told Swankonsports.com after the win, “It was nice to get out a good lead.  We saw some really good things from some guys (Monday) that make us fell a little bit better about our team coming into the season.  Hopefully this is a win that gives our kids a lot of confidence as we head into our conference opener (Tuesday) against Orrville.”

          Last year when Ashland won the “OCC” title and advanced to the regional final they had the habit of scoring early.  Lavengood hopes they can do the same kind of thing a bunch of times this year.  “We had some pretty good pitchers last year, but we also put them in some pretty good positions where we were able in many games to score early and then settle in and pitch with a lead.  It is an awful lot easier as a pitcher when you are up 2-0, 3-0, 4-0 in the first or second inning, so you can just settle in and be aggressive on the mound and throw strikes and go after the other team.  You can pitch to contact and use your defense behind you.  That carried right into our game (Monday) because our pitchers got the chance to pitch with the lead right form the start,” said Lavngood.

          Defense of the league title begins on Tuesday when the Arrows host the Orrville Red Riders.  Lavengood knows this will be a key conference game against a good team.  “Orrville should be good.  They have a good team coming back.  They have their top two pitchers back from last year.  They have played a lot of young guys the last two years.  Those guys are juniors and senior this year.  We are going to have a good test (Tuesday) in our conference opener and we are excited heading into (Tuesday) after a win (Monday).  I will have my ace on the mound in Tyson Vogel, so hopefully he has a good start.  Hopefully our guys play well again and give ourselves and opportunity to get our first conference win,” he said.  

 

 
   

Ashland Has Some Steps to Make

 

          Ashland is the school that holds the trophy for baseball champion of the Ohio Cardinal Conference and they have the mind to defend it, but it won’t be easy.

          West Holmes, Lexington, perhaps Madison, Orrville, Wooster and Clear Fork have good teams.

          Pitching will likely be the key to Ashland’s success.  They are attempting to replace their top three pitchers for last year when they reached the regional final.  Coach Rob Lavengood says they have been able to get some scrimmages in the books.  “We are still trying to figure that out.  We haven’t had a chance to be outside on the baseball field yet.  There are still lots of things we need to figure out once that happens. We do have football turf and we were able to get a couple of scrimmages in there.  We saw some good things and we saw some things that we still have to work on.  We are still a work in progress.  We still have some question marks to find out the answers to those as we head into next week as we open up our season, so we will see what happens,” he said.

          Lavengood says he wants his pitchers to throw strikes and get ahead in the count.  He says that is the most important thing.  “That is what my pitchers have heard form me over the last week and through the two scrimmages we were able to have.  Saturday we scrimmaged a very good Cleveland St. Ignatius team and our pitchers didn’t give up a lot of hits, but our ball to strike ratio was one to one and we put guys on by walking guys.  The most important thing is throwing strikes.  Our pitchers hear it all of time that the most important pitch is strike one.  You have to work ahead in the count to give yourself a chance to be successful and right now that is something we have to improve on,” said Lavengood.

          Ashland will have a different sort of offense this year, one with less power and more speed.  Lavengood says they have a lot of work to do.  “It is still a work in progress.  Lots of times pitching is ahead of hitting at this point of the season and that is kind of what we have seen so far.  Our bats need to com around a little bit.  Some guys are swinging the bats fairly well and other guys are struggling a little bit.  We haven’t had a lot of opportunities to swing the bats outside in situational type things.  We are going to have to get ready soon,” he told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday, “We open up the season in less than a week and that’s when the games start to count.  Hopefully the fact that we were able to get a couple of scrimmages in already and maybe another one later this week that our guys are going to get some of the rust off and get a chance to see live pitching.  That will give them a chance to have some successful at bats when we start playing games next week.”

          Ashland plays its first two Ohio Cardinal Conference games next Tuesday and Wednesday against the Orrville Red Riders.  Lavengood says they better be ready.  “That is going to be a very important match up in the conference.  Orrville is going to have a very good team this year.  They are going to have their top two pitchers back.  They were extremely young last year, so I think they are going to have a solid team.  To jump right into the conference schedule with them as your first game, if that is when we open hopefully our guys are going to be ready to go.  I think it was that much more important that we were able to get a couple of scrimmages this week to get ready for the opener,” said Lavengood.

 

 
   

 

Ashland Has to be Different

 

          Ashland is the defending Ohio Cardinal Conference baseball champion and if they are going to defend that title they are going to have to do it in a different way against strong competition.

          Coach Rob Lavengood, in his third season as the head coach, believes they have the talent to make some noise in the “OCC” this spring.  “I think we have a chance to be real competitive again this year, but we graduated some real good players.  We are going to have to fill some of those roles.  We’ll find out when we get outside and start playing some scrimmages and games and kind of find out where we are at.  We definitely have some question marks to fill and time will tell,” he said.

          Ashland had one of the most talented pitching staffs in Ohio last year leading the Arrows to the division one regional finals.  Lavengood admits they need to have guys step up.  “We graduated three very good pitchers with Adam Schaly, Aric Harris, and Zach Bernhard.  Two of them are pitching division one baseball and the other one is playing college football.  So, those are some big shoes to fill.  We are going to have to have some JV guys that pitched for us last year step up and fill some of those spots.  We fell like we have some quality arms and hopefully those guys are up to the challenge,” he said.

          Lavengood says they will need to find a different way to score because they won’t have the kind of power they have had in his first two years.  “Actually I do like our lineup.  We are going to have a different lineup then we have had the last couple of years.  We had a couple of big boppers the last couple of years in the middle of the order with some power.  We don’t quite have that this year, but we have a lot of athletes up and down our lineup that can do a lot of things.  Hopefully we are going to be able to run a little bit more, put some more pressure on the defense and use some of our athleticism to be successful offensively.  I really like the potential of our offense and those are things that we are going to have find out once we get outside,” said Lavengood.

          Going into the season, Lavengood thinks that West Holmes, last year’s runner-up, is the favorite to win it all this season, but there are at least seven pretty good teams in the conference.  “I think our league is going to be very strong from top to bottom this year.  There aren’t a whole of games on the schedule in our league that you can say I feel pretty good going in that’s a “W.”  Up and down the standings you are going to have to come to play every night.  I think coming into the season the clear favorite has to be West Holmes.  They went to the final four last year in division two.  They have their top two pitchers back in Gabe Snyder, a senior going to Wright State and Butch Baird, a junior that is getting a lot of looks from division one schools,” he told Swankonsports.com on Monday, “With the one two punch on the mound that they have I would says they are the clear favorite, but that’s why you play the games and you never know what might happen.  Other than that Madison is going to be much improved this year, Lexington should be pretty good, Wooster I think is going to be pretty solid, Orrville is going to be pretty strong, Clear Fork is going to strong.  You can point out about every team in our conference and it’s going to be a tough game.”

 

 
   

Limiting Bad Turnovers a Key For Ashland

 

          Ashland faces the huge task of upsetting Ohio Cardinal Conference champion Mansfield Senior in the division one sectional tournament at Galion High School Friday night.

          However, they may have gotten some help due to Mansfield Senior’s misfortune.  A source close to the Tygers program told Swankonsports.com on Thursday that Donovan Benson, the team’s second leading scorer and leading rebounder, would be out for at least three weeks and would not see action against Ashland.

          The Arrows emerged from Madison’s slow down tactics in Tuesday’s semi-finals to beat the Rams (50-19) for the third time this season.  Arrows coach Tim Fralich says they eventually got the pressure going in order to speed he game up.  “Madison came out and tried to stall.  They got out 2-0 and 4-2 and they just brought the ball out on the floor and spread it out looked to milk the clock.  It had our guys a little rattled there.  We aren’t use to seeing that, but we stayed the course.  We guarded pretty well overall, but we didn’t force any turnovers or to shoot quicker shots.  It was a very unique situation to be in,” he told Swankonsports.com on Thursday, “Once we had an opportunity to sort of gather ourselves and talk about it, we couldn’t us a timeout because they had the basketball, we changed our defenses up a little bit and did more trapping, came out and pressured a little  more.  We forced them to play a little bit higher tempo and we were able to force some turnovers.  That was a critical quarter for us, the second, it gave the opportunity to get the ball in our hands.”

          Now, Mansfield Senior (19-3), #2 in the Swankonsports.com boys’ basketball coach’s poll in the large school division, will not want to slow the pace down at all.  Fralich says they want to play faster.  “They are going to play fast and they aren’t going to do anything different.  They are really affective at playing fast and they have the athletes to play fast.  We are going to have to be prepared to guard them in transition and send extra guys back on defense and try to change things up to keep them off balance a little bit.  Hopefully by doing that we can slow them down a little bit.  You can’t count on completely slowing them down, but you can slow tem down a little bit.  You can force them to move the ball and do some different things,” said Fralich.

          Keon Johnson is the two time “OCC” player of the year and headed to Winthrop on a scholarship is the key to anything Mansfield Senior does.  Fralich says they want to contain him.  “Anytime you talk about Mansfield Senior, you have to talk about Keon Johnson.  He is a guy that is capable of putting up a boatload of points.  He also creates quite a bit for his teammates.  We are going to have to do a really good job on him.  Not one guy can guard him he is so quick and so explosive.  As a team if we can commit to bottling him up, just force him to shoot some tougher shots and if he going to get his points, he has to do it a little more inefficiently where he has to shoot a lot more shots to get there,” said Fralich.

          Johnson may need to score even more without Benson.

          Turnovers can never be avoided against Mansfield Senior, but Fralich says they can’t be turning it over in their own end because leads to easy points.  “If you can eliminate those big spurts you give yourself a better chance to win.  They do have that ability to get a couple quick steals.  Our problem with them the second time around he played them was they turned us over, they got steals that led to just wide open layups.  We need to cut down our turnovers overall, but if we are going to turn it over it can’t be way out on the floor.  It has to be an aggressive turnover by pushing the ball, not just allowing them to get layups,” said Fralich.

 

 
   

Ashland has to be ready for Anything

 

          Ashland struck first in their two game series with Madison, but it is the Tuesday night match-up in the division one sectional semi-final at Galion High School that both sides want the most.

          To the winner goes a chance to upset Ohio Cardinal Conference champion Mansfield Senior on Friday.

          Ashland (13-9) downed the Rams (60-36) last Friday in an “OCC” game.  Ashland coach Tim Fralich says there aren’t going to be many secrets in the game.  “You have some familiarity with them you just went over a scouting report on them, you’ve watched film, you have seem them live.  You have probably reviewed that film as a team the day after the game and you are going over the same stuff (Monday) and (Sunday) in practice.  You are definitely familiar with the group.  We are starting to be at a point in our program where we are not going to hide too many things.  We are going to try to do what we do and see how they attack us and make adjustments from there,” said Fralich.

          Considering Ashland won by more than 20 point just last week, Fralich believes the Rams (2-20) will make some changes to their game plan come Tuesday.  “I think coach Mergel has a good young group and they are working hard and they are doing a lot of things well.  They have struggled a little bit there.  I would think they are a team that is probably going to give us something very different from what we saw Friday night.  We just have to be prepared for anything and try to be aggressive no matter what we see from them and try to do the right things and play the game the right way,” he said.

          Despite their record Fralich doesn’t believe that Madison is a bad team.  He says they can do some things.  “I expect them to try and do some different things to try and slow us down a little bit.  Maybe pressure us a little bit more at times.  Ideally we would like to see a carbon copy of Friday.  I thought our guys played well and forced them into some tough situations.  We made some good basketball plays and we had some high energy.  We realize it’s the tournament now,” he told Swankonsports.com on Monday, “They have a group of seniors and they aren’t going to want their careers to end.  We don’t think it’s going to be where we just walk out there and are able to get a win.  We are really going to have to earn it and execute things that we have talked about doing against a Madison team that is really going to play hard and be physical.  They still do a lot of things well.”

          Ashland has been pretty consistent in their approach since Fralich got the job and he says they aren’t going to change now.  “We are going to do what we do.  We like to mix it up with a little bit of pressure, so we are going to do that and see how they handle it.  If they don’t handle it real well then we probably do some more of it.  We will still mix and match a couple of our defenses just to try and keep them off balance.  That is what we have done all year and we have been fairly successful in doing those things,” he said.

 

 
   

Defense the Key For Ashland

 

          Ashland has the potential to score a lot of points, but lately they are letting the opponent score too easily and they have to sure that up if they are going to be more successful.

          Last Saturday for example they had the early lead on Massillon, but let things slip away in the second half and lost to the Tigers (61-47) in non-conference play.

          Coach Tim Fralich says they like up tempo basketball, but this may have been too up tempo for them.  “We played them pretty tough in the first half.  We were up by six with just a few seconds left in the second quarter.  Unfortunately we through the ball away and they grabbed it and chucked up about a half court shot and drained it, so that was a little bit of a momentum changer for them.  We were up three at the half and then after three we were down three.  In the fourth quarter they made a couple of nice plays.  They stole ball from us and had a couple of dunks.  We don’t see that a lot.  That type of athleticism.  Some of our younger guys where sort of in aye,” he told Swankonsports.com on Thursday, “Unfortunately that had a little effect on us in a little snowball effect where we just didn’t handle the ball like we need too and they were able to get some easy bucket against us.  We ended up losing by 14, but it was a closer game than that we ended fouling in the end and they were able to expand the lead.  We were disappointed.  We felt like they were a team that was beatable.  They weren’t a team where that we would have to go in and play extremely well to win.  We just didn’t do enough things down the wire in the fourth quarter to give us that chance.  In the second half we just didn’t play as well as we did in the first.  We like to play fast, but they have some athletes were they can really get out and play fast.  They were able to turn up the tempo another notch where we just weren’t able to hang with them.”

          With the tournament starting next week, and a possible date with Mansfield Senior looming, Fralich knows they must be better defenders as individuals and as a team.  “We need to get back to playing good overall team defense.  This past weekend both Clear Fork and Massillon had guards that were really good and can create and create off the bounce.  There were times when we just let the ball go right by us.  Our help defense wasn’t as quick as it needed to be.  We hope we can just guard the ball better, keeping it front, and if does beat us having the early help there.  As a whole we just need to guard better as a team to give ourselves here down the wire to help us improve here as we finish up the season,” he said.

          Ashland (12-9,6-7) will be down the road at Mansfield Madison (2-19,0-13) on Friday night.  It was 51-35 Ashland in the first meeting, but Fralich says Madison’s scoring punch is greater now.  “They have a bunch of guys that are averaging four, five, six points a game.  They are playing 11 guys and a lot of them are right around that area.  They don’t have just one dominate scorer.  They have a bunch of guys that are capable of putting up 10 points.  We are going to have to do a good job of defending as a team.  We can’t just focus in on one guy.  We can’t provide extra help or go one catch on one particular player.  We have to sit down and guard as a group.  Another thing we have to do with this group is they are a team that shoots a lot of threes, especially now compared to the first time we played them.  Coach Mergel has brought up a lot of the younger guys and they are jacking a lot of threes.  We have to make sure we get up on them and contest those threes not just let them get comfortable and get their feet set with open looks,” said Fralich.

 

 
   

Rebounding a key For Ashland

 

          Ashland is a basketball team with quality basketball skills, but not much height, and coming up with ways of overcoming that deficiency is how the Arrows are going to continue to improve.

          They lost a tough one last Friday to Lexington (54-51) in Ohio Cardinal Conference play.  Coach Tim Fralich says they just didn’t make the plays at the end, Lexington did.  “That was tough game for us.  You know we lost both games to Lex this year by three points.  In both games we had opportunities to win as did they.  Unfortunately for us they were able to make some nice plays down the stretch.  Their guy Mason Willeke is a veteran guy that has really had a great season.  He made some nice plays down the stretch in both games.” He told Swankonsports.com on Thursday, “Lexington-Ashland is always a big game, it is a rival type game.  We were hoping to get the win against them, which would allow us to share third place in the conference.  It was a real disappointing one for us, I know our guys were disappointed.  I certainly couldn’t fault their effort.  Our guys played really hard.  We just needed to execute a little better. We missed some crucial free throws at the end of the game.”

          However, the Arrows were able to come back on Saturday night and beat Mt. Vernon (63-52) in a tough non conference match-up.  Fralich says this time they were the ones making the plays.  “We bounced back the next night when we played a Mt. Vernon team that had beaten Lex and beaten Clear Fork.  They play in that tough Columbus conference down there.  They have had a nice program for years.  It had been a long time since Ashland had beaten them.  We were able to bounce back and beat them on Saturday.  We were able to sure up some things that maybe we weren’t able to do at the end of the game against Lex.  We made some nice plays down the wire to extend our lead,” said Fralich.

          Due to their lack of height, Fralich says they must do an outstanding job of hustling and checking out so they can rebound the basketball.  “We are just so small.  We are the smallest team probably in Ashland High School history.  I am not saying that to be bad for us or exaggerating it.  I really feel like we may be the smallest team in Ashland High School history.  One the keys for us all year, and continues to be.  If we can do a good job as a team defensive rebounding, with five guys boxing out, five helmets so to speak on the basketball we are going to have a chance to beat a lot of teams.  At the beginning of the year we thought that and we continue to think that.  If we have slipped up in that category that is when we have found ourselves in trouble.  If we keep improving in that area we have a chance to win some game here down the stretch,” he said.

          Ashland (12-7,6-6) will be at home at Arrow Arena for the Clear Fork Colts (10-9,5-7) on Friday night in “OCC” play. Fralich says they must contain the Clear Fork guards.  “We really struggled against their guard play last time we played them.  We went through a stretch in the third quarter when the pressure hurt us.  We were missing open looks.  Defensively we were letting them go right to the hoop on us.  We need to sure up those things for an entire 32 minutes if we are going to put ourselves in a situation where we can really win the game.  The main thing is trying to contain their guard play.  They have got guards who are going to score it’s just a matter of forcing them to shoot a tougher shot and limiting them form their normal scoring output,” said Fralich.

          Clear Fork won the first game 64-54.

 

 
   

Ashland Must Contain Willeke

 

          Ashland continues to show signs of a team that is maturing as we enter the final month of the regular season.

          Last week, the lost to “OCC” leader Mansfield Senior (80-60), but they won their fifth game in the last six by down Shelby (55-52) on Saturday night.

          Coach Tim Fralich says having 26 turnovers is way too many to beat a solid team like Mansfield Senior.  He says the Tygers thrive on the pressure game.  “They just have a unique athlete and that is just the way that they play and they do well playing that way in pressuring and pushing the ball.  Unfortunately for us we don’t play a lot of teams that play that way and when we see that it takes us a while to adjust.  It is tough to simulate that in practice situations.  Not to take any credit away from them they pushed the ball and got some easy buckets.  We had over 15 turnovers in the first half.  When you are doing that against anybody you are going to struggle, but especially against such a good team,” said Fralich.

          The Tygers, #2 in the Swankonsports.com boys’ basketball coach’s poll in the large school division, has lost only three games, all too statewide powers.  Fralich says they are a special team.  “I said last week they have always had very good teams, but they have had some great teams here and there and I feel like this year’s team has a chance to be great.  They have that kind of talent and I think coach Reece is doing a very good job with them.  It will be interesting to see what they do moving forward here.  We need to take better care of the basketball to give us a chance.  You are putting yourself in some pretty bad situations giving up two on ones and three on twos” said Fralich.

          Last Saturday, Ashland held off Shelby and Fralich says they made some good adjustments on defense to take away Grant Fenner.  “They are tied for second in the “NOL” with Willard.  They are always just a very well coached team that plays hard and plays the game the right way.  I have a lot of respect for Troy Schwemley and what he does there.  We knew it wasn’t going to be easy whether if it was here or there.  We came out and did some good things against them.  Grant Fenner got going early.  We made some adjustments at halftime and some of our smaller guys, our better defenders, Jordan Blair and Tre Smith, to try and face guard him and not let him catch the ball.  It prevented him from getting so many touches.  We were able to hold him to six points in the second half,” he told Swankonsports.com, “They really look for him in their offense and I felt that brought them a little bit more out of their comfort zone.  It went down to the wire.  They had a shot at the end of the game to tie it and send it to overtime, but it went in and out.  We were relieved and fortunate to go home with a “W.”  Anytime you get a win over Shelby it’s a good win.”

          Lexington (12-6,7-4), #4 in our poll, comes to Ashland on Friday night for an Ohio Cardinal Conference game.  Lexington won the first meeting (58-55) and Fralich says the Minutemen know what they have to do to win.  “Coach Hamilton has done a great job.  Their kids have done a great job.  They are certainly not as talented as they have been the last two years.  He is getting them to over achieve and play hard and play together.  Those are powerful things when you can put those together.  We are going to have our hands full with them.  We had a tough one at their place.  We lost by three.  We had a shot at the buzzer to win it.  We were down by one.  We didn’t get a great shot off and then we fouled them.  It is a rivalry game.  I think there will be a lot of people here,” said Fralich.

          The Minutemen have some kids that can do a lot of things, but Mason Willeke is their engine on offense.  Fralich says they have to contain him the best they can.  “We are going to have to do a really good job guarding Mason Willeke.  This is a guy that if he is not leading the league in scoring he is right up there.  He is averaging about 21 a game.  He can pour it on you if you don’t do a good job.  He is a great outside shooter.  He can shot fake and get to the rim.  We are going to have to force him to take tough shots.  He is a guy that can still make them, but you are giving yourself a better chance if you are forcing him to shoot the tough ones,” said Fralich.  

 

 
   

Ashland Needs to be Very Good

 

          They did it last year and now the question is can they do it again?  What?  Beat Mansfield Senior when nobody gives them much of a chance.  That is the goal of the Ashland Arrows.

          Ashland (10-5,6-4) has won its last four conference games and they have done it with a young roster, including four starters who are sophomores.  Coach Tim Fralich likes what he sees from his guys.  “We feel like we are playing petty good basketball.  We have won four in a row, all conference games.  We have had some peaks and valleys throughout the course of the season, as is the case with most basketball seasons, because it is a longer season.  We started 5-1, then we lost four of our next five, and then we have won four in a row here,” he told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday, “Obviously we are happy where we are and we have four sophomores in our starting line-up, so I think things are moving in the right direction.  Hopefully we can just keep on improving.  That is the biggest challenge for a coach and a team is to keep moving forward.  If you are in a rut to try and find ways to keep improving and if you are winning to try and find ways to not have the mentality of settling for what’s already been done and they are continuing to push forward and want more as well.”

          One of the big things that has been a difference of the Arrows is they are playing a tougher brand of basketball and that’s what they need.  “A lot of it just has to due with experience.  These guys are now well into the season.  All of them have logged a lot of minutes.  So in an essence they are really not underclassmen anymore.  With the experience they have at the varsity level they are more like upperclassmen.  A lot of them are starting to play that way. We are taking much better care of the basketball.  What we are really doing is we are playing a lot tougher.  We are smaller and we are not extremely athletic and we just not a big, physical bunch, but we have found a way to combat that with an overall team toughness.  They have bought into the fact that being so young and having some limitations, if we are going to be a good ball club then need to really do the little things and play tough to win.  One of my favorite quotes is a Tom Izzo quote, that’s my favorite team and I really like coach Izzo and he says players play and tough players win.  We have tried to emphasize that the little things make you a tough player.  I think our guys have kind of bought into it,” said Fralich.

          Ashland is at Mansfield Senior (12-3,9-0), #2 in the Swankonsports.com boys’ basketball coach’s poll in the large school division, on Friday night in Ohio Cardinal Conference action.  Fralich says to beat good teams you have to be almost perfect.  “The biggest thing and sounds extremely simple is we are going to have to play really well.  We are going to have to string together 32 minutes of good basketball.  We are going to have to play extremely hard and communicate well for 32 minutes.  We have seen longer spurts of that as of late, but we haven’t put it together for 32 minutes.  In order to beat a really good team like Senior High you have to do those things.  They have had really good teams and they have had some great teams.  I think they have the type of teams that could be great.  They go down to Columbus Northland.  They are the number one team in the state and they are up at halftime against them and lose by seven and they were right there,” he said.

          Against Mansfield Senior in specific, Fralich says they must not let Keon Johnson shoot layups and they have to compete with the bigger Tygers on the glass.  “When you talk about them specifically Keon Johnson is dynamic player.  We are going to have to force him to shoot contested outside shots.  If we are able to do that we feel we give ourselves a chance.  When you look at your bigs Robert Jones and Donavan Benson those are two of the better bigs in our league and they are on the same team as the reining player of the year in the league.  We have to really be able to guard inside, plug up those gaps, and do a good job in our post defense and a tremendous job of defensive rebounding.  They have a significant size advantage against us.  They are really athletic and have been known to really attack that glass, so as a team we have to commit to doing a great job on the defensive glass,” said Fralich.    

 

 
   

Arrows Knock Off West Holmes

 

          Ashland is gaining the reputation of giant killers and they like it.

          Last season they beat “OCC” co-champions Mansfield Senior and Lexington at home and Tuesday night they traveled to West Holmes and beat the second place Knights.

          Coach Tim Fralich says they got off to sluggish start, but they never wavered in rallying to win (64-59) on Tuesday night.  “Anytime you can go on the road in this conference and beat a team that is the top part of it you have played some quality basketball.  Some of our road trips are not just a hop skip and a jump.  You have to travel 45 minutes plus.  On a Tuesday night I don’t think you are going to get that typical game day atmosphere that you get on a Friday or Saturday, so you have to try and create your own energy.  We didn’t bring much energy to start the game.  We went down 17-2.  To our guys credit we battled back and by the end of the first quarter we go it to 19-11.  We came back quick enough to make it a game right away,” he told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday, “We never felt like we were completely out of it.  We got some decent shots early, but the ball didn’t bounce our way and we weren’t knocking them in.  We are a good enough shooting team where we feel that when we are getting those kinds of looks it’s going to be a matter of time before we start knocking a few of those in and get some energy going that way and build some momentum.  It was a hard fought second half.  We just made enough plays down the wire to get it done.  Both teams made some good plays.  They really hurt us on the offensive glass at the end.  We had some guys really step up and make some big plays and knock down some big shots. Isaac White and Drew Delaney had tremendous games.  We had Isaac step up and make some big free throws when we needed him to down the stretch.”

          One of keys to the win on Tuesday night was the leadership the Arrows got from their captains.  Fralich says that has been there all season.  “We had a little bit of adversity there early being down 15 right away and our guys responded.  In the course of the game after we were able to scratch back in it was back and forth, back and forth.  When ever we took a blow we seemed to be able to hit back.  I am really proud of our guys for that.  That kind of speaks to the kind of leadership we have on the team.  Drew Delaney, Jordan Blair and Isaac White are our captains and the do a tremendous job.  Drew Delaney is a steadying force for us on the court and off the court.  The guys really follow him and follow his lead and how he is doing things with his energy.  He has really been productive for us throughout the course of the season as a leader.  We set here at 9-5 with four starters that are sophomores.  Jordan Blair has done a great job of helping him in that role.  He is a guy that doesn’t get all of the stats.  He is limited in some ways.  He really is a consistent voice for us on the bench, in practice or on the court.  He is always saying the right things,” Fralich said.

          Friday night, Asland (9-5,5-4) will be at home at Arrow Arena for the Orrville Red Riders (2-11,1-7) in Ohio Cardinal Conference play.  Fralich says games against Orrville are always physical battles and this one will be no different.  “We know Orrville is going to play physical and they are going to play hard.  They are going to come out and want a conference win.  We certainly can’t take anybody lightly.  They are going to be physical and play hard and we better be ready to combat that and play just as hard or harder than them.  We need to take some blows form them and be able to throw a few right back at them.  We have to try and set the tone early on and keep the pedal to the medal,” he said.  

 

 
   

Ashland Still Concentrating on the Boards

 

          Ashland is one of the smallest teams in the area this season, but with shooting and defense they have been able to find ways to win.

          They travel to Clear Fork to face the Colts in an Ohio Cardinal Conference game on Friday night. 

          It was a tough loss last week at Lexington (58-55) for the Arrows.  They had a shot at the end to win the game, but coach Tim Fralich says they didn’t get what they were looking for.  “There were very few times when we were actually ahead in the game, which was early on in the first.  We were up by four.  The majority of the rest of the game we were down.  We kept it within five and we were just waiting for a late push.  Over the last couple of minutes it was a one point, two point game or tied.  We had our chances.  At the end of the game we had the ball with about 20 second left.  We were down one and we ended up getting a shot up.  It wasn’t meant to be,” he told Swankonsports.com on Tuesday, “It wasn’t a great look.  We took it to the hoop and there was some contact, but certainly not enough contact at the end of the game for a foul call there.  It was disappointing with Lex being a big rival.  We are aware that they are a pretty good team in our conference.  We feel we are too and we knew it was a pretty important game.  Fortunately we have an opportunity to play them again at our place and hopefully we can get a “W” here at our place.”

          Ashland (6-4,2-3) visits Clear Fork (5-5,2-3) for a conference game this week.,  Fralich says the Colts are a team that relies on its guards to carry the load.  “They have been up and down.  When they have played well they have played really well.  They have beaten some teams that might surprise you a little bit.  A couple of teams they have lost to would be a surprise too.  I know coach Bechtel does a great job with them.  They will be ready to play.  They have some really good returning guards.  Over the last couple of years Clear Fork has been a team that has been big and strong and had some really good forwards, now they are a team that is really guard oriented.  They have a good one, two and three guard in Corbin, Winand and Christina.  We are just going to have to do a good job of controlling the backboards and making them shoot tough shots,” says Fralich.

          Because they are undersized rebounding has been stressed a lot by the Ashland coaching staff this year and Fralich says that isn’t going to be any different this week just because the Colts aren’t that big either.  “We have been able to combat that pretty well as far as not giving up a ton of offensive rebounds.  Hopefully playing a team the same size as us we won’t take that for granted.  We still make that a focus each and every day in practice.  Hopefully we don’t take it for granted and keep up the good work on the defensive boards.  They are guard oriented like we are and I think it has a chance to be a heck of a game,” said Fralich. 

 

 
   

Ashland at a Crossroads

 

          Ashland is among a number of teams that are good, but don’t appear to be in the class with Mansfield Senior or West Holmes and the Arrows want to be one of those that finishes in the top half of the conference.

          In meeting of two of those teams Ashland (6-3,2-2) is at Lexington (6-3,2-1) in an Ohio Cardinal Conference game on Friday night.

          Last week, Ashland kept things interesting until the final minutes against Mansfield Senior before losing (55-45) in a conference game.  Arrows coach Tim Fralich thought they did not execute really well.  “Against Senior to be honest with you I don’t think we played real well, but we hung in the game.  We stayed competitive.  We forced them to shoot some tougher shots with our different defensive looks.  We turned the ball over way too much.  That is typical against Senior.  They really get out and guard and do some good things, but we still did it just way too much and unforced ones at times,” he told Swankonsports.com, “It’s just one of those games where as a coach you are just pretty frustrated.  You try to go back to the drawing board on some things and break down film and set down and talk your kids about some things they need to do.”

          Due to the point margin, Fralich believes his team can gain some confidence from the result against Mansfield Senior.  “I don’t think Senior played particularly well against us either.  It was kind of an ugly game.  We do have a young group and we are still learning how to be a good team.  We hung in there against one of the better teams in our conference and our area.  I think it will give the guys confidence for when we see them later in the year and maybe again in sectionals,”

          On Saturday night, Ashland bounced back to wallop Sandusky (85-43) in a non-conference game.  Fralich says they were able to shoot the ball better.  “We did some things on the court on Saturday morning.  Sandusky is struggling right now and I think they will be better as the season goes on, but we did what we needed to do to put the clamp down on them and keep the foot on the gas pedal.  We got out to a good early lead.  We stayed the course and our guys kept the intensity level up.  We did a nice job of making good basketball plays.  Some of our kids that have been struggling shooting the ball saw some go in and hopefully that will give us some confidence going forward,” said Fralich.

          Lexington, like Ashland, has been a surprise to a lot of people.  Fralich says coach Scott Hamilton does a nice job of getting a lot out of what he has.  “They are playing a lot of guys.  I think when we saw them live against Willard hey played 11 guys in like the first four minutes.  We have had a chance to see them more lately and they are staying course with that.  They had an abundance to talent over the last couple of years and that’s just not there this year, but they are finding a way with what they have,” says Fralich.

          The Ashland coach knows this is a game that could propel them into the rest of the season.  “This is a big game for both of us.  As coaches in the conference I think we would say that Senior and West Holmes are the top two teams and if somebody can chip them off that’s great.  It’s open in a lot of ways other than that.  This could be a big game to see who can hover around the top there,” he said.

 

 
   

Ashland Tangles With West Holmes

 

          Ashland has yet to play a home game, yet the Arrows have won five of their first six games and they are doing it with a relatively young basketball team.

          They play their first home game on Friday night when they host West Holmes (4-0,3-0), #3 in the Swankonsports.com boys’ basketball coach’s poll in the large school division, at Arrow Arena.

          With such a young team coach Tim Fralich admits that their performance has probably been surprising too many in the area.  “When you lose seven seniors and all of them were contributors in some way, shape or form last year and you have a young group coming in with a lot of sophomores and open up with six games on the road I think if you go 5-1 out of those six you have to be really happy.  We have a group of guys that are working hard right now.  They really have some good chemistry on and off the court.  They put a lot of time in the off season.  It’s paying off them and it’s certainly an exciting time right now,” he said.

          One of the big keys for the Arrows this year has been the players just like each other and there has been a lack of egos.  “I think at any level, any team, and any profession when you have people working together with good chemistry you can play off each other well and you know each other’s strengths and know each other’s weaknesses so you can pick each other up.  Those are important things and our guys are really starting to understand that,” he told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday, “Our sophomore class has played a lot of basketball together from when they were much younger.  I think that really helps too because those guys blend well together.  Our senior group with Drew Delaney, Jordan Blair and Willie Moore have really blended in well with that group too.  They have provided some solid leadership for us as far as just adjusting to the speed of the varsity game.”

          Ashland (5-1,2-0), #4 in the Swankonsports.com poll, is at home for the first time for the Knights.  Fralich says no one should be surprised that the Knights are good.  “Coaches don’t do a preseason poll, but I think if they did they would have Senior and West Holmes right up there of even West Holmes and Senior.  I mean I think West Holmes is a team that could definitely win our conference.  We are aware they are a very good ball club.  They have a lot of good guys back.  They have pretty much their whole team back.  They had some success last year, they were third in the conference behind really good Mansfield and Lexington teams,” he said.

          Everything at West Holmes starts and runs through Brady Arnold, but Fralich says that he is not the only player the Knights have.  “I think they have some guys that have put some time in the gym, especially Brady Arnold and it’s showing.  He is better than he was last year.  Between him and Keon Johnson they guys that are just playing good basketball.  I would say at the end of the year those are the guys that are going to be considered for conference players of the year.  We have to do a good job on Arnold.  He is going to score and do some good things he is just a really good basketball player.  We have to try and make everything that he gets really tough and try to contain him as much as we can.  The two guys down low Brock McCully and Gabe Snyder have played varsity basketball for a number of years now and have a lot of experience, strength and size.  I think they are 6’5” and 6’7”.  They are two division one athletes.  Snyder is supposedly going to Wright State to play baseball and McCully to Kent State to play football.  They are big guys that can really move and have some strength to them.  So, we are going to have to guard inside as well and do a good job on the defensive glass because those guys are horses and can hit the offensive glass,” said Fralich.

 

 
   

Ashland Looking For Another Road Win

 

          Ashland has already done something this year that they didn’t do even once last year and that’s win a conference game on the road.  They would like to do again this week at Orrville.

          That win came at Wooster against the (53-46) Generals.  Coach Tim Fralich says they got some luck along the way.  “Friday night was a really good win for us to be able to go on the road and beat a good Wooster team was important for us.  Last year, we didn’t win one road game in the conference and were 6-1 at home.  To be able to pick up that first one was huge.  We kind of fell into some pretty good circumstances.  Wooster wasn’t shooting the ball particularly well.  Grant Stokes who is just one their guys that is super solid and can really reel in their team when they aren’t doing what they need to do.  He went down with an ankle injury a few plays into the game,” he told Swankonsports.com on Thursday, “He did come back in the second half to play the entire second half and did some good things, but he was laboring on it a little bit.  That did help us.  We had a tremendous second quarter.  We outscored them 20-2.  In the second half we let them get back in the game.  They started pounding the ball inside and we weren’t able to combat that like we were in the first half.  We had some bad turnovers and made it an interesting game.  Fortunately a couple of our guys made big plays down the wire and knocked down a couple of free throws there at the end to seal it.”

          Last Saturday Ashland lost to what a lot of people feel is the best team in the area in Norwalk (58-47) in a non-conference game.  Fralich felt they didn’t play that well, but still had a chance to seal one.  “We knew heading in that that maybe if not the toughest, one of the toughest games on the schedule.  To be honest it was a game where we felt like we didn’t play that well, but we also knew that Norwalk didn’t either.  It was a little bit of a sloppy game, but we held in there.  We were down 12 at half and 11 after three and with three minutes left we were down five.  We had three different chances to cut it within five.  The last chance was with two minutes left and our senior and leading scorer Drew Delaney had a wide open three and unfortunately didn’t knock it down.  That would have put us down by two with two minutes left and you never know what could happen from there.  I know they would ratcheted it up a few notches from that point.  We went there trying to win.  We have been playing fairly good basketball.  It was sort of a moral victory for us and gives us some confidence going forward,” said Fralich.

          Ashland (3-1,1-0), #5 in the Swankonsports.com basketball coach’s poll in the large school division, travels to Orrville (0-2,-1) to face the Riders.  Surprisingly, Fralich says they may have a size advantage on the Red Riders.  “We were looking at their heights on their scouting report and our kids said hey coach we might be taller than Orrville.  We have told the guys that we don’t see one game where we will be the team with more size.  Looking back at previous Ashland rosters we have to be the smallest Ashland team in decades, but we may have them beat as far as height goes with our starting lineup.  We are even smaller coming off the bench,” said Fralich.

          With a lot of guard play involved, Fralich says it is likely going to be an up tempo game.  “We have two smaller teams going at it and I’m sure it will be guard oriented.  The teams will be trying to get up and down the court.  That is what we have seen a little bit from Orrville scouting and that’s what we want to do to.  They are going to be physical and play hard.  They are athletic.  They always have a good handful of athletes over there.  We are going to have to go out there and play really well.  It’s another road conference game and they are going to ready to play,” he said. 

 

 
   

Ashland Starts Quick

 

          The Ashland Arrows began the season by winning the Kory Kirkpatrick Tournament hosted by Marion Harding last week and they open league play Friday night against Wooster.

          With wins over Marion Elgin (48-32) and Marion Harding (49-29) the Arrows start the season 2-0.  Coach Tim Fralich says he has been happy with the progression of his team.  “I think anytime you can go into a season and start it off with two wins you have to be happy for the most part unless you have just a powerhouse of a program and you just aren’t happy with how the little things are going and the way guys are playing.  Where we are at it was a great couple of wins gong into the season.  We showed quite a bit of improvement from our scrimmages,” he said.

          The final was a Saturday afternoon game and Fralich was very pleased with his players approach to the tournament and what they were able to get done.  “We went down there on Friday and we played Marion Eglin and I think they are going to be a team that will end up being pretty tough as the season goes on.  I was impressed by some of their players and their coach too.  I just like their team.  We stayed down there at the Holiday Inn Express,” he told Swankonsports.com, “It was a nice little trip for our guys.  Then the next day we played Marion Harding and it looked like they kind of ran out of gas against us.  They struggled shooting the ball and maybe didn’t have as much energy as they did the night before.  We were pleased Isaac White and Tre Smith got all tournament team and Drew Delaney got tournament MVP.”

          Ashland travels to Wooster (1-1) for a meeting with the Generals in their “OCC” opener on Friday night.  Fralich says Wooster is expected to be an upper division team in the “OCC,” so they will have to be on their game.  “They are one of the most talented teams in our conference.  They are really athletic.  They have a lot size.  We are going to have to play well.  Our guys know that it is a different challenge this weekend with both Wooster and obviously Norwalk.  Wooster has a lot of guys back from last year.  They expect to be good and other teams in the conference expect them to be good.  We are going to have to play well,” he said.

          According to Fralich Wooster has some athleticism and some size too.  He says they will have a height advantage in the post area.  “They will be willing to get up and down with us.  That is a good thing for us because we like to play fast.  While we play fast we have to make sure we are smart and we are handling their pressure well.  We are going to see a lot of pressure from them and on top of that they are really going to try and pound the basketball inside.  Grant Stokes and Cam Daugherty are guys they can run it in to.  We are going to have to guard the ball inside.  We are a small team and they are a bigger team than us.  They have had success on the offensive glass their first two games,” said Fralich.

          On Saturday, the Arrows travel to Norwalk to meet the defending Northern Ohio League champions.  This is an addition to the Ashland schedule and Fralich says they will need to be at their very best.  “We will have to turn around and really strap them on tight against Norwalk.  They are a tremendous team.  They have a lot of talent and a lot of size.  They have guys that know how to play the game.  Between them and Mansfield Senior they have to one and two as far as the best teams in the area.  They are teams that are very competitive statewide.  I could see them making a nice run at things, unfortunately they are in the same sectional.  We are going to have to play really well to give ourselves a chance to win,” said Fralich.  

 

 
   

Ashland Will Win Differently

 

          Last year, Ashland played basketball a little bit like hockey, but this year they are going to have invoke other strategies to win and their coach thinks they can do it.

          Coach Tim Fralich says a trip they took to Michigan signaled a turn around for the Arrows.  “The preseason has gone fairly well, we have improved for the most part for every scrimmage.  We had a foundation game with Cloverleaf last Tuesday. We looked like we took a step back.  We didn’t play very well.  Fortunately we got a chance to take a team trip up to Michigan.  My parents live up there and we stay at their house.  It’s a time to talk about team goals and leadership.  We went up and saw the Michigan State-Oakland game.  We also scrimmaged my dad’s team.  He is a high school coach at Troy High in Michigan.  And three other schools too, one of them is coached by a teammate of mine from college,” said Fralich.

          He says last weekend was a chance to do some team building and that’s what they needed to do.  “It was a chance to for us to get together and do things as a team and be away from everything.  We showed a lot of improvement and stepped up and played better than we did on Tuesday against Cloverleaf.  So far this week we have had a pretty good week and I think we are ready to go,” he said.

          This year’s Arrows lack height and they lack the depth they had last year when they beat both Mansfield Senior and Lexington, but Fralich says they have other skills.  “We have a group this year that is awfully young.  With that inexperience we are probably the smallest team Ashland High School has had maybe ever.  Those are things that are concerning.  We are going to have to be able to rebound.  We are going to have to grow up quick.  Sometimes those things don’t happen over night.  Last year, depth was a serious strength for us being able to sub five for five and play extremely fast and push the ball offensively,” he told Swankonsports.com, “We are not going to get away from pushing the ball offensively, that’s the way we are going to play, that’s our program, but defensively you have to change some things up when you don’t have that depth.  We are going to miss and match some different things and not pressing as much.  Hopefully we will be able to keep teams off balance.”

          Ashland plays in a tournament in Marion on the opening weekend and they are scheduled to play the Elgin Comets of the Mid-Ohio Athletic Conference on Friday night.

          Fralich believes Ashland can be a good team again this year because they can shoot the ball.  “We have a group that has worked very hard in the off season, more so than any off season since I have been at Ashland High School.  We have seen guys really improve from the end of last season until now, which is obviously a great thing to see.  Our skill levels are higher than they have been in the past.  We shoot the ball just as good, or better, than we did last year,” said Fralich.       

 

 
   

Ashland Finishes Season Against Lexington

 

          Ashland and Lexington have become somewhat over a football rivalry over the last decade and they finish the regular season with a game at Community Stadium in Ashland on Friday night.

          On week nine last week, Ashland (5-4,3-3) took Mansfield Madison to double overtime before losing (30-23) in Ohio Cardinal Conference action.  Veteran coach Scott Valentine says his players gave all they had on the rainy night.  “I’ll tell you our kids played their hearts out.  I told them after the game and the next day that as a head coach you can’t ask for more from you players than to give the effort they did.  To battle through conditions like everyone did that night,” he told Swankonsports.com on Tuesday, “The outcome of the game was just hard to take with all of that time and effort, but that’s the game and when you are around it as long as I’ve been you remember times when you experience it on the other side too.  I just felt so bad for our kids, but I told them they had nothing to be ashamed about.”

          Lexington (5-4,3-3) has a first year coach in Dan Studer and Valentine thinks he and his staff have done an outstanding job here in 2012.  “I think they are doing a few things differently.  Dan has put his stamp on things that he likes to do.  I think he and his coaching staff have done a great job this year being his first year and everything.  For us one of the things we told our kids is no matter where the teams have been for a long time here it’s a four quarter game and it’s gone down to the end almost every year, so we are going to have to be ready to play a four quarter game,” said Valentine.

          With Andrew Hunt and Brandon Henderson at the running back spots, Valentine says the Minutemen have great versatility in the backfield.  “The thing about their running game is they can do it either way.  They can pound it at you and then they can get you on a quick spurt and all of the sudden you are sitting there waiting for power and he gets through there with his quickness.  That is the tough thing about them is they bring both dimensions to the running game,” he said.

          Lexington is expected to be without the services of quarterback/defensive back Trent Richwine.  Valentine says that takes a way some things they like to do, but also brings some unpredictability to the table.  “Anytime you lose a player like that to an injury that impacts your team and impacts some of things that you can do.  Those are things that from our standpoint we have to be aware of some of the things that they may do differently personnel wise.  I know last week they used Hunt in the quarterback position with some of the wildcat stuff, so those are things we have to prepare for,” said Valentine.

   

 

 
   

Ashland Excited for the Challenge of Playing Madison

 

          A lot of things would have to fall right for the Ashland Arrows to win another Ohio Cardinal Conference title, but it could happen, and they still have an outside chance at the playoffs.

          Ashland (5-2,3-2) walloped Clear Fork (28-6) last week in a conference game.  Coach Scott Valentine says they were able to force the Colts to some things they didn’t want to do.  “I think our kids came out and we did a lot of the things we wanted to do.  Offensively we still have to be a little more consistent in being able to complete some drives.  Defensively we did a great job of shutting down what they like to do.  In special teams we were able to perform pretty well their too.  Overall it was a pretty good game, but definitely going to have to play a lot better game this week,” said Valentine.

          This week, Ashland travels south to meet the Madison Rams (7-1,4-1), #4 in the Swankonsports.com football coach’s poll in the large school division,  in a big “OCC” contest. Madison has relied on a solid running game and coach Valentine says they know what they are good at doing.  “They are using the things that they can be successful with.  I think there is no doubt that is one of the things.  The stuff they are doing running the ball coach Godsil did a lot of that and I know coach Conway did a lot of that too.  Those are things that they are using and they still spread the ball around quite a bit,” said Valentine.

          A key part of the Madison team is the play of their offensive line. Valentine says they work very well together.  “Those guys work together and they execute their blocking schemes.  I’m sure they are making some line calls up there and things like that, so they are a unit that has really produced a lot this year,” he said.

          At times this year Madison has surrendered some points, such as Wooster (42) and West Holmes (31), but Valentine says they still do a nice job on that side of the ball.  “A lot of those guys play both ways. When you run as much as they do and put that effort in on offense when you get to the defensive side of the all sometimes they other team can tale advantage of things,” he told Swankonsports.com, “They are still good over there.  They run to the ball and they do a good job tackling.  It’s not like they aren’t that good on defense.  They are pretty good on defense too.”

          Ashland has won four the last six “OCC” football titles and Valentine says they are excited to still have something to play for on week nine of the season.  “That’s what I told our kids.  Every year we want to be in a game at the end of the year that has some meaning to it.  There is no doubt that this game has some meaning for both teams.  You have to be excited about that opportunity to do the preparation during the week and get ready to go out and see what you can do on Friday,” said Valentine.

          Right now, Mansfield Senior leads Madison and West Holmes by a game with two to play.  Ashland and Lexington trail by two.

 

 
   

Ashland Travels to Clear Fork

 

          Ashland needs a lot of things to fall their way if they are going to defend the Ohio Cardinal Conference football title.

          They trail Mansfield Senior by two games and have already lost to the Tygers.

          After losing to West Holmes (41-36) and Mansfield Senior (29-15), the Arrows bounced back last week to outlast Orrville (21-6) in league play.  Coach Scott Valentine says their defense put them in position to win the game.  “Our defense had a great game against them.  Unfortunately for us on offense we didn’t capitalize on a lot of opportunities that we had the first half.  We just had some mistakes, but our defense held them in check and then we were able to get some things going in the second half offensively,” said Valentine.

          On offense, the Arrows (4-3,2-2) have lacked the explosiveness that they have had in recent years.  Valentine says it’s not that they don’t have the athletes, they have just been making too many mistakes.  “It seems like now one guy here misses a block or one guy has a mistake here and that has hindered us on certain plays.  It’s not on every play, but on certain plays that dedicate we don’t get a first down and keep us with the ball.  Those are the things when we talk about consistency.  We have got to make those third down plays count and get first downs,” he said.

          This week, the Arrows travel to Clear Fork (2-5,0-4) to face the Colts, who have had difficulties staying with the rest of the league in the second half of games.  “I think there is no doubt that they have some good players.  They have been very competitive,” he told Swankonsports.com, “They have a lot of guys playing both ways.  You have seen improvement from them every week.  I think that is something that going into it that there is no doubt that every week in our league that you better be ready and our kids are going to be ready to be able to play a four quarter game against them.”

          Again due to injuries this season, the Colts have been forced to rely less on their wing-T offense.  Valentine says there is an uncertainly about what the Colts may try to do.  “We rely a lot on our defensive staff and I don’t look a lot, but I know from talking to them a lot that they have done some certain things that have had a wing-t base to it, but each week they have come out with a little something different that you have to be prepared for.  That is something, I guess, that you are not prepared for.  We will have to be ready to make some adjustments by how they come out and what they try to do,” said Valentine.

          Clear Fork has settled in a formation on defense, but Valentine also expects some surprises on that side of the football.  “Defensively, the things we are seeing.  We are seeing a 4-2-5 kind of scheme from them with four guys coming on the rush and then leave their linebackers and defensive backs to adjust to different formations.  It’s a little bit different from what they have done in the past, but still have the flexibility to a lot of different things and come at you from a lot of different directions,” said Valentine.

 

 
   

Ashland Can’t Lose

 

          Ashland has won four of the last six Ohio Cardinal Conference football titles, but if they are going to do it this year they are going to need some help. 

          Mansfield Senior returned an interception for a score and a kick return for a score last week and they beat the Arrows (29-15) at Arlin Field.  Now, the Arrows trail Mansfield Senior and West Holmes by two games in the “OCC” standings.  Ashland coach Scott Valentine says they made some mistakes, but all of the credit goes to Mansfield Senior.  “I think they played a great game.  We did a lot of good things and just had a few mistakes that hurt us.  Those are things that as you play the game that games come out sometimes.  That’s the way in worked out.  Our kids gave great effort and just came up short,” he said.

          The Arrows had almost twice as many total yards as the Tygers, but Valentine says they just could cash in.  “We were always backed up and had to drive it 80 yards.  With field position sometimes you can move it and we had a mistake here or there or they got us in a sack and that put us in a longer situation.  Those are things that you have to work through and get better at those situations.  We have to be able to convert those situations so we can move it down and score,” said Valentine.

          This week, Ashland (3-3,1-2), #5 in the Swankonsports.com football coach’s poll in the large school division, plays host to the Orrville Red Riders (1-5,0-3) in “OCC” play.  Orrville is having an uncharacteristically poor season.  Still, Valentine expects a good game.  “I think they are a team right now that is young and getting better each week.  We know coach Devault will have those kids ready to play on Friday night.  We have said about our league it’s not about where you are record wise or what they are doing it’s about being ready each week to go out there.  If you not ready you are going to get beat.  Our goal is we are going to have to get better at some things ourselves and go out and perform on Friday night,” said Valentine.

          Orrville just has not been able to get their passing game going this year and as a result Valentine says they are running the ball more than maybe they want to.  “I think they are doing some things running the ball a little bit more than is normal for them.  I think that is some of the things that people are giving them and are forcing them to do that too.  I’m not sure that is what they want to do, but they are definitely doing that a little more this year,” he said.

          Two games back in the conference race, Valentine understands they must keep winning to have a chance at another title and that begins this week with Orrville.  “Right now it’s about making sure that you get the job done each week for the rest of the season.  Like we told our kids it starts with this week and we have to get ourselves back on track, and get better, and get out there and get the job done.  So, it’s all about what we can do this week and doing it on Friday night,” said Valentine

 

 
   

Ashland Must Battle Back

 

           A loss last week to West Holmes dropped the Ashland Arrows a game behind Holmes, Lexington, and Mansfield Senior, the team they play this week, in the Ohio Cardinal Conference football standings.

          West Holmes outlasted the Arrows (41-36) in an “OCC” game.  Ashland coach Scott Valentine says the Knights just made a few more plays than they did and that was the difference.  “We knew going into the game that is was going to be a physical contest with two good teams going against each other.  They made a couple more plays that we did and wee made a few mistakes.  That is something that happens during those games.  You just have to move on and get ready to play next week,” he said.

          Ashland (3-2,1-1), #3 in the Swankonsports.com football coach’s poll in the large school division, is at Arlin Field to battle the much improved Mansfield Senior Tygers (4-1,2-0) on Friday night.  Valentine says the Tygers are a better overall team.  “They have their playmakers like they always do.  They defense is doing a nice job of controlling people and they are making some special teams plays.  Those are things you look for in a good football team,” he said.

          There have always been athletes at Mansfield Senior, but a big difference this year is they are competing well in the trenches.  Valentine says with that they have been able to do more things.  “I think there guys up front on both sides are controlling the line of scrimmage and doing a lot of good things.  They are making plays up front that enable those other guys to do the job,” he said.

          Mansfield Senior hasn’t beaten Ashland in a number of years in football, but the same could be said for Clear Fork and Orrville, schools the Tygers beat the last two weeks.  Valentine says the history of the series is not relevant.  “Each year is different and each group of kids is different.  The kids make more of it that anything,” he told Swankonsports.com on Thursday, “It still comes down to who is one the field and who is making the plays and who can get the momentum and keep the momentum and do the job in the trenches and out on the field.  I think that is the big thing in most sports.”

          A game back in the conference standings, Valentine says they know that they must beat Mansfield Senior to stay in it.  “Every week in our league is an important week and you better be ready to play and play at a high level or you are going to get beat.  Each week is important.  After last week’s game we said on Monday it’s time to get ready for Mansfield Senior and I think we have had a pretty good week,” said Valentine.

 

 
   

Ashland Plays Big One Against West Holmes

 

          Will this be the game that determines which team wins the Ohio Cardinal Conference title?  Maybe, but it looks like an outstanding match-up anyway as West Holmes travels to Ashland on Friday night.

          Last week, Ashland (3-1,1-0), #3 in the Swankonsports.com football coach’s poll in the large school division, beat Wooster (26-17) in the first game in the defense of their “OCC” title.  Coach Scott Valentine says they new they would have to play well.  “There is no doubt that Wooster has a nice football team.  Our guys played a good four quarter game.  We were able to come out of there with a win and we were excited about that,” he said.  Valentine was really pleased with what they did on defense against the explosive Generals.  “We were really happy with the way our defense played.  We put them in some bad positions.  We were able to get six turnovers.  Anytime you do those things that’s a good nice performance for us defensively,” he said.

          West Holmes (4-0,1-0), #2 in the large school poll, beat Mansfield Madison (31-28) in double overtime last week.  They were predicted to win the “OCC” this season and Valentine says there are a number of reasons why.  “They have a good group of kids.  They have a great senior class that they have coming through.  They have a junior class behind them that is good.  I think they anticipated everything they are doing right now.  They are a physical run team.  You have to be ready to play up front and control the line of scrimmage.  They like to come after you with blitz and man to man difference.  Those are things we are going to have to prepare for,” said Valentine.

          The Knights ran for more than 230 yards last week against a good Madison defense.  Valentine says you can not allow West Holmes to grind it out against you.  “If you can get them in bad down and distance situations they are still going to run the ball, but it’s tougher for them to get those first downs.  You make them have to get rid of it and you don’t give them that fourth down and one or two,” he told Swankonsports.com, “They are going to go for that a lot of times.  They use four downs to get those ten yards and you have to keep them out of those situations that they are going to use all four downs.”

          Last season, West Holmes beat Ashland (35-31), but it was the Arrows that won the league title.  Valentine knows this game is important, but it isn’t a championship game either.  “I think every game is big at this time of year, especially in league play, but this is one of those that early in the year you have to have.  You are trying to get a win, but then again it’s about every week after that too.  We found that out last year for ourselves having lost to them last year, but still being able to go through the schedule and win the conference.  It’s important that we play four quarters on Friday,” said Valentine.

 

 

 
   

Big Plays a Key

 

          Ashland begins defense of its Ohio Cardinal Conference title on Friday night when they visit Wooster to play the explosive Generals in an “OCC” match-up.

          So far, the Arrows are 2-1, ranked #3 in the Swankonsports.com football coach’s poll, with a loss to Wadsworth (35-28) followed by outstanding performances against Dover (31-14) and Sandusky (58-7) for two straight wins going into conference play.  Coach Scott Valentine says he likes the improvement that he sees.  “We feel like from game one to game three we have gotten better each week.  It is something we emphasize with our guys is you can’t be satisfied we still have a lot of football left to play and we still have to get better at some different things,” he said.  Valentine says they still need to improve more on both sides of the ball, especially when it comes to what is happening in the trenches.  “I think we need to sustain our blocks more in our running game.  I think offensive protection wise we are doing pretty good.  I don’t think we are sustaining and using our feet well enough block wise.  The same thing tackling wise, we just have to finish our tackles with our feet and not leave those feet behind,” said Valentine.

          Wooster has a new coach in former Triway and Cloverleaf coach Doug Haas.  The Generals (1-2) have shown some streaks of good play this year in the win over Wadsworth (20-14) and losses to Akron Garfield (14-12) and Chagrin Falls (56-42) last week.  Valentine says Wooster can do a lot of things.  “I think they have played a tough non-league schedule.  They are team that has gotten better each week also.  It’s going to be about making sure we get ourselves in position to take what ever they are going to do.  Coach Haas has his system in place and we have to be ready that offensively and defensively what they are going to try and do to us,” he said.

          One of the big things this week again for the Ashland defense is their ability to bring down an explosive ball carrier one on one.  “They have had a lot of big plays in the first thee games of the season.  That is one of our emphasis this week is we can’t give them the big plays.  A lot of that comes back to that tackling in space that we had to make sure we did last week against Sandusky.  Hopefully, we got better at it this week to be able to do that on Friday night,” said Valentine.

          As the defending “OCC” champ Valentine understands fully what it means to get off to a good start in league play and he says that’s what need to happen on Friday night.  “I think that first league game is always important to get a good start in the league.  We told our kids that we were in a different spot last year.  We went on and had a good league schedule and did a good job in our league.  It all comes down to getting better each week and being ready to play on Friday night,” he said.

 

 
   

Ashland Must Contain

 

          Ashland tries to take a two game winning streak into conference play as they visit Sandusky to face the Blue Streaks on Friday night in non-conference action.

          Last week, Ashland (1-1) got their first win of the season by downing Dover (31-14) in non-conference play.  Coach Scott Valentine says they played pretty well against an always good Dover team.  “With the beginning of our schedule with Wadsworth the first week and a tough loss there, but to bounce back and beat a team like Dover, especially to hold them to no points in the second half, was a big stride to where we want to get to.  We still have to get better at some things.  It was a good win,” said Valentine.

          With some new kids in key positions on offense, Valentine says the Arrow defense is going to need to carry them in certain situations at least early in the season.  “When you have eight guys coming back and that is something we talked about in the preseason that our defense had to be a big part of a lot of things we do.  I really feel our defense has played well the last two weeks.  The first week we put them in a couple of tough positions.  I think overall we are playing pretty good defense right now,” Valentine said.

          Sandusky (0-2) returns only two players from their Northern Ohio League champion team from last year.  They were hammered by Fremont Ross (52-18) on week one and lost (35-7) to Sandusky Perkins last Friday.  Valentine says the Blue Streaks are better than their record would indicate.  “I told our kids at the beginning of the week that they have played two pretty good opponents and we were in a similar situation last year.  Where we were 0-2 facing them and at that point we were a pretty good football team,” he told Swankonsports.com, “We just hadn’t gotten any wins and that’s about where they are at right now.  They are young and they have some guys in positions.  They have playmakers.  It’s their first home game.  We are on the road and we are going to have to go in and play a good football game to have a chance to win.”

          The Blue Streaks are still blessed with good speed and Valentine says they have to be good individual tacklers.  “We felt coming into the last two weeks that tackling in space is going to be a big thing for us defensively because both of the teams, Dover and Sandusky, have guys that if you don’t tackle them in space and get them down that one guy is one on one and they are going to go and make a big play.  That is something we have stressed the last two weeks and hopefully on Friday we can go out and make sure we get that job done,” said Valentine.   

 

 
   

Ashland Looking For Some Things

 

          Ashland came up just short in their first game of the season when Wadsworth beat them 35-28 last Friday night in the opener for both schools.

          The Arrows had three turnovers and coach Scott Valentine says that was a big factor in why they let the first one get away.  “I was disappointed we turned the ball over a little bit.  That’s one of those things when you are playing somebody pretty good when you turn the ball over it put our defense in some difficult spots.  Overall team wise I was happy with the effort we gave and how we kept battling through.  I think we had an opportunity if we played error free football to get a win and we didn’t do that,” said Valentine.

          On Saturday morning, the coaches and the players watched the tape of the game and Valentine believes they learned something from that experience.  “We watched video on Saturday morning and I think our kids saw how close we are to doing a lot of good things.  There are those little things that you try and emphasize in the preseason, but until you get into the game situation and the kids figure out that those things do mean something,” he told Swankonsports.com, “That’s why we harp on them so much, but sometimes it doesn’t sink in.  I think we learned a lot from the video and now we have to go out and put it to use in practice.”

          Valentine says you always learn something in that first game and that’s why there is often times so much improvement between weeks one and two.  “You just hope your older guys that have been through it can get that point across too.  I think we really have.  I mean Wadsworth was a good football team.  I think our kids competed in the preseason.  It is just one of those things until you get into that game situation that some of those things start to show up.  I hope our kids learned and I think they did now we just have to get back to work,” said Valentine.

          Ashland (0-1) plays host to Dover (1-0,) who beat East Cleveland Shaw (28-27) in its opener last Thursday night.  “We were able to watch them because they played Thursday night against East Cleveland Shaw, a very athletic team.  They weren’t in the best shape.  They got worn down.  A lot of their guys were out in the second half with cramps and things like that,” said Valentine.

          Ashland has played Dover for a number of years now and Valentine says they know what to expect from the Tornados.  “Dover is the usual Dover team.  They lost some good kids, but they have had some kids step into those roles.  They are going to execute things.  We are going to have to be ready to play in that type of game.  They are a wide open offense similar to us.  They are quick and fast on defense.  It should be another game that for us we are going to have to be really prepared and go out and play a good football game,” said Valentine.  Dover beat Ashland 27-26 a year ago.

          Ashland and Dover run a similar offense, but Valentine says he isn’t sure that makes it any easier for the Arrows to defend them.  “I’m not sure it makes it easier.  You just have to settle into where they are looking to make their plays, where their play makers are.  For us defensively how can we get coverage on those guys? How can we adjust to the kid at quaerback they have?  Last year, they had a really good thrower.  This year their quarterback does a nice job throwing, but he can run.  You have to see what they do differently and how you can attack that,” said Valentine.

 

 
   

Special Teams a Key For Ashland

 

          Former Ohio State coach Jim Tressell always said the punt was the biggest play in the game because it changes the momentum.  Of course, he had Ted Ginn.  Ashland’s coaching staff wants to make big plays in the special teams.

          Ashland plays host to Wadsworth on Friday night in their opening game of the season at Community Stadium.  Wadsworth hammered Ashland 45-16 a year ago as the Arrows started the season 1-4.  However, they went on to win the Ohio Cardinal Conference title.

          Coach Scott Valentine says they will be working on tying up some loose ends over the next couple of days.  “We have a couple more practices left and I think if we can get some other things finalized.  We have to make sure we understand the importance of the special teams and taking care of the football.  I think we are setting in pretty good shape, but you never know until you get out there on Friday night,” he said.

          Special teams is sometimes the forgotten part of the game, but not in Ashland.  Valentine says they try to make some big plays that can change that momentum.  “You try to work on some things special teams wise and try to get as good a look as you can get.  You never know until you get out there.  You hope you can make some big plays and keep them from getting some big plays,” he told Swankonsports.com.  Valentine, a varsity coach for almost 20 years, says scrimmages, and their special rules, make things tough.  “In one of our scrimmages we do punt.  You get a live kind of look, but they blow it dead and the same with the preview situation, they blow kickoffs dead and punts dead.  You don’t get the true picture of getting down there and having to make a tackle.  We try to give ourselves as good a look as we can, but sometimes you can’t get the look that you really need,” said Valentine.

          Wadsworth was one of the better big school football programs in the Akron area last year.  Valentine says the Grizzlies don’t hurt themselves very much.  “They were a very good team last year that had a real good group of seniors.  They lost a lot of those guys, but coach Dennison and his staff up their.  They do a nice job and they have a real solid program in place.  We know they are going to come in and do the little things, so we are going to have to make sure we are doing the same things.  We need to be ready to block and tackle when it comes to game time,” said Valentine.

          It’s always exciting on week one of the football season, but Valentine says it still boils down to which team executes better.  “You want to be excited and that feeling of being ready to go and that confidence that you have put in the work and time.  The hooting and hollering and the yelling and screaming is only going to last the first series or two.  Then it’s about who can sustain that emotion and intensity throughout the four quarters of the game,” said Valentine.     

 

 
   

Ashland Working on Getting Better

 

          Ashland is the defending Ohio Cardinal Conference champion, but the Arrows are working to replace some key players from that unit.

          Thursday, they scrimmaged North Canton Hoover in their first meeting with another team this year.  Arrows coach Scott Valentine says after taking some lumps early he was happy with how his kids responded to the challenge.  “I think our kids are working hard and up to this point it was where are we at?  We got a good view of where we are at against Hoover.  They have a nice core of guys coming back that are fast and quick and they like to hit you,” told Swankonsports.com on Thursday afternoon, “It was a good day for us to find out where we were.  I thought our kids got a wake up call because early on they got after us.  It is something sometimes you don’t get in your own practices.  I thought our kids responded and we battled.  I thought we had a pretty good day overall.”

          Valentine says one thing some of the players learned in the scrimmage was that varsity football is played at fast pace.  He says now they need to go forward.  “We talked to our other guys that in practice we need to compete at that speed and that level as much as possible.  I have talked about it and talked about, but I don’t think it sinks in until they see that on the field.  I think now that is going to raise the intensity and level in which we work in practice.  That is a good thing about a first scrimmage.  Hopefully we can progress from there,” says Valentine.

          Ashland has featured some pretty good quarterbacks over the last decade.  Valentine thinks senior Tyson Vogel can do the job for them.  “I think right now that Tyson Vogel, who is our senior coming in, has done a pretty nice job for us.  Nick Zurcher behind him has also doing a nice job.  Right now, Tyson is the guy for us.  As a senior I think he has waited for his chance.  Hopefully, Nick keeps progressing.  We always tell our guys they are one play away from being on the field and you better make sure you are ready to go,” he said.

          Ashland gave up a lot more points last year than a typical Arrow defense.  Valentine says this year’s defense has some experience, but they have to get better in a lot of ways.  “We have some experience coming back.  We have eight guys that toward the end of the season were starters.  They are going to have to play at a high level and they have to get better.  We didn’t tackle as well as we wanted to (Thursday.)  Now we have some things that we have to get better at and work on and concentrate.  If our kids take that to heart and come out and work at it we will improve,” said Valentine.

          Again this year Ashland’s non-conference schedule consists of Wadsworth, Dover and Sandusky.  They went 0-3 against those teams last year.  Valentine says they will be in for a challenge.  “Especially Wadsworth and Sandusky had all of those seniors.  They had all of those skilled players that went to “MAC” schools.  Hopefully, they aren’t going to be as strong, they are going to be good and we know that, but we caught to them on a year last year that they were really strong.  That’s a big part of our non-conference schedule it’s got to be there to get us ready for our conference.  I think those are three good opponents for us and we are going to have to be ready from game one,” said Valentine.

 

 
   

With Tweaks Ashland Moving Forward

 

          Last year, Ashland put together their fourth Ohio Cardinal Conference football title in the last six years with a five game winning streak to close the regular season.

          They finished 6-5 overall after a loss in the first round of the playoffs to New Albany.

          Arrows coach Scott Valentine says they are building to be ready to start the season with another competitive team.  “I have liked the way our kids have worked in the weight room and in the summer with the way we are getting into shape.  We still have a ways to go, but I think our kids have worked hard and hopefully that is going to pay off for us,” he said.

          At times last year, the Ashland defense struggled, which is rare for the Arrows, who have been one of the strongest defensive teams in the area over the last decade.  Valentine says they do have some guys back on that side of the ball.  “On the defensive side of the ball we have quite a few back.  I think we have eight returning starters, guys that started at the end of the year for us.  Those are guys we have talked to about not being complacent thinking they are were they need to be.  They have to get a lot better at some things.  Offensively, we lost three guys up front, we lost some receivers and our quarterback Zach Burnhart, so we have some holes to will there.  We have some guys that have kind of waited their turn there and this is their chance to show what they can do,” said Valentine.

          The preseason part of the schedule is going to be important for the Arrows.  Valentine says they have some competition for positions on both sides of the ball.  “We have some guys that got some playing time last year in some spots, but a lot them now are trying to compete to be the guy that gets the majority of that time.  That’s always good because it helps you get better because they know they have to perform at a high level every time they are out there,” he said.

          Ashland was one of the first teams in North Central Ohio to feature the spread offense and their base offense and Valentine says they are going to continue to do that this fall.  “I think you are going to see a similar style.  Each year wherever your strengths lie, where your playmakers are, you have to find ways to get those guys the ball.  We like the way by spreading teams out that we can get some guys in some mismatch situations.  We still want to keep that style, but some of the things we do may be a little bit different,” said Valentine.  If you are going to run that style, you have to have a pretty good quarterback.  Valentine believes they have a couple of guys that can play.  “We have a senior, who has started for us on defense, in Tyson Vogel, who has been our backup quarterback and has done a nice job and got some reps there.  We have a junior Nick Zurcher, who has put in time.  With Tyson still playing defense, so we need to find some balance.  I think both of those guys are doing a nice job,” he said.

          Ashland will have some guys to replace in the trenches.  Valentine says that will be very important to their success this fall.  “I think always a concern is up front guys.  We have some guys returning on the defensive side, but offensively that blocking part becomes very important for us.  Always a big concern going in is how are you going to tackle.  I think defensively if you are not a great tackling team you give up a lot of extra yards you don’t want to give up,” said Valentine.

          Ashland won the “OCC” baseball title this spring and Valentine thinks that sense of confidence will carry over to the football field.  “We always like to see our guys go into other sports and do well.  We definitely had some guys like Vogel and Gabe Bradshaw and some other guys that played on that baseball team.  Those are all guys we are going to be counting on football wise.  You always talk about success breads success with some confidence things and how those guys perform.  We have a lot of guys in basketball and wrestling.  When you go from sport to sport you hope that confidence carries through.  I think we have seen that over the years,” said Valentine.  

 

 
   

Ashland One Step Away From State Tournament

 

          Ace Adam Schaly went the distance and struck out seven and Derek Ward, Zach Bernhard and Brock Landrum had consecutive RBI hits in the first inning and the Ashland Arrows beat Oregon Clay 5-2 in the division one regional semi-finals Thursday evening at Bowling Green State University.

          Schaly, unbeaten on the season, struggled a little bit early in the game walking two and giving up two hits over the first two innings, but he seemed to get stronger as the game went on.  Coach Rob Lavengood says he battled hard all day.  “If you ask him he would probably admit that he didn’t quite have his best stuff, but him on a day where he doesn’t have his best stuff is still better than a lot of guys when they have out best stuff.  When you think about it he only gives up six hits and two runs and strikes out seven.  Those are numbers that a lot of pitchers will take in a regional semi-final game.  Despite the fact that he wasn’t as sharp as he has been for most of the season he still gave us a great outing.  I thought we played extremely good defense behind him and gave him some runs early,” said Lavengood.

          With runners on first and second and two out in the first inning, first basemen Derek Ward singled to drive in the game’s first run.  Zach Bernhard followed with a two-run single and Brock Landrum drove in Bernhard with another single.  Lavengood says they got some clutch hitting.  “They could have easily got out of that first inning without giving up any runs.  We had a couple of guys on with two outs and Derek comes up with a big hit to get us on the board, Zach follows him up with a big hit and Brock follows him up with another big hit,” he told Swankonsports.com after the win, “So, an inning that could have resulted in no runs turns into a four run inning.  That’s huge when you have Adam on the mound and you can spot him four runs in the top of the first inning that gives our team a lot of confidence and gives him a lot of confidence.  We feel he is not going to give up four runs in a game, so that was the kind of start we were hoping for.”

          Another big moment in the game came in the bottom of the fourth with Ashland leading 5-1.  Clay loaded the bases and had their leadoff hitter at the plate, but Schaly struck out J.J. Miller.  “That was certainly a huge inning.  That’s the thing, good pitchers make big pitches in big moments.  When the other team gets the bases loaded and has a chance to get back in the game with a big hit Adam makes a big pitch to get a strikeout and get us out of the inning.  That was a huge momentum stopper from our point of view and keeps us ahead four runs.  Adam might not have had his best stuff, but he made some big pitches in crucial moments,” said Lavengood.

          Ashland committed only one error in the regional semi-final win and Lavengood feels they played outstanding with the gloves on Thursday.  “We definitely played good defense (Thursday) night.  I thought Gabe Bradshaw played an excellent game at third base for us.  He made some big plays.  I thought Garrett McQuade played a good centerfield tracking down some balls.  I thought they swung the bats fairly well (Thursday).  We had been hearing from other coaches that they had really struggled offensively all season long.  They are not a real strong hitting team one through nine, but I thought they all swung the bats well.  They had some good swings on Adam and they hit some balls hard.  I thought we did a nice job of playing defense behind him,” he said.

          In Ohio a pitcher can only throw 10 innings over three days and the regional final is Friday.  Lavengood says they did discuss taking Schaly out of the game early if they could build a big lead.  “We sent Zach Bernhard down to the bullpen to warm up in the second inning.  That thought did cross my mind.  In fact we had a conversation going into the top of the second inning after putting four on the board in the first that if we would have scored three of four more runs in the second I was going to pull Adam and put Zach in and try to save Adam for (Friday.)  Obviously, that didn’t happen and we needed him on the mound all day because we didn’t score many runs after that and they put a couple on the board,” he said, “All of those scenarios cross your mind.  You are trying to do the best you can to put your players in the best position to be successful not only (Thursday), but for (Friday).  We thought about it, but we never got the cushion that I felt comfortable taking our ace out.  We feel Aric is going to have a good outing for us (Friday) and give us a chance to beat Westlake.”

          Westlake downed Cleveland St. Ignatius (6-4) on Thursday afternoon and they will play Ashland, who finished #1 in our Swankonsports.com baseball coach’s poll, in the regional final on Friday at 5PM at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland.  Lavengood predicts it will be another tough game, but one they can win.  “Well, Westlake beat a very good Cleveland St. Ignatius team (Thursday) night.  We had scouts up at the game (Thursday) and we scouted them last Wednesday in their district final game when they beat Avon.  We have some stuff on them.  We are expecting to see a righty that throws about 81, 82 with a good curveball.  They are a good, sound, fundamental team.  They play a tough schedule,” said Lavengood.   

 

 
   

Ashland Plays in First Regional Since 2007

 

          Ashland’s baseball team and its fans will be making a trip to Bowling Green for the third time in a week.  This time they play Oregon Clay in the division one regional semi-finals at BGSU on Thursday evening.

          The Ohio Cardinal Conference champions erased a seven-run deficit and beat Maumee (11-8) in the district finals last Saturday at Carter Park in Bowling Green.  Coach Rob Lavengood says it feels great to still be playing baseball just a few days before Memorial Day.  “Once you get in the tournament it is all about surviving and moving on to the next level.  It really doesn’t matter how you get the win.  How pretty it is or how ugly it is.  You just have to win.  That was kind of the situation on Saturday.  It wasn’t pretty.  We kind of dug ourselves a deep hole.  Fortunately we were able to claw our way back and get a “W.”  That was a great comeback win on Saturday and we are looking forward to playing (Thursday) night,” said Lavengood.

          After four straight losses at the district level Ashland finally made it to the district, but Lavengood says the players don’t believe they are done winning.  “These guys have been pretty focused all year long.  They set some lofty goals at the beginning of the season.  We still haven’t reached the ultimate goal they set of getting down to Columbus.  They are pretty locked in and pretty focused in practice the last several days.  I think they are going to have a good effort for us (Thursday) night,” he said.

          Ashland has had great success in football over the years and their softball team advanced to the district title game before losing on Saturday.  Lavengood says the town is excited about the regional game on Thursday.  “Everybody I talk to and run into is wishing us luck and congratulating us on the season.  The community is certainly taking notice of the season that we have had.  I think they are excited about us having the chance to play in the regionals.  I think with the fact that we are traveling over two hours we are going to have a pretty good crowd up there,” he said.

          Oregon Clay is a surprise to make it the regional level.  The Eagles (13-14) are certainly a team playing its best right now.  Lavengood says this is a team that can not be underestimated.  “I think they are a lot better than their record indicates to start with.  They got off to a slow start.  They play a really tough schedule.  They have been playing really good baseball lately.  I hope our guys don’t overlook them just because their record is not as stellar as a lot of teams that get to the regionals because they are a very solid baseball team,” he said.

          Lavengood says his team will be facing a good pitcher with above average stuff.  “Really it starts with their pitcher.  The guy we are going to see is a junior that is already committed to Central Michigan.  He is a big righty that throws 87, 88 MPH with a decent curveball.  When he is on the mound, he gives them a chance to win,” he said.

          Small ball has become more of the game this year with the new bats in Ohio.  Lavengood says Clay is a team that can put a lot of pressure on the defense.  “They really haven’t been a stellar offensive team all year long, but they do some things that really put pressure on you defensively.  In their district games they executed three first and third, double steal, rundown situations to score runs.  They bunt, they steal.  They do things to put pressure on your defense,” he told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday, “They are kind of similar to the Anthony Wayne team that we played in the district semi-finals.  They are a good team and they do some unorthodox things offensively that if you aren’t playing fundamental baseball and you make mistakes you are going to give them an opportunity to score runs.  We have to be sound defensively.”

          Lavengood says the best way to slow down the Clay running game is to keep the Eagles off the bases to begin with.  “If you keep kids off the bases they can’t execute first and third situations.  Hopefully our pitchers throw well and give us an opportunity to be successful.  The fewer opportunities they have to do things like that the better it is.  We need to work ahead and throw strikes and keep them off the bases and then they are going to have to hit their way to score runs.  If we make them do that, I like our chances,” said Lavengood.

          At times during the regular season Ashland had some trouble getting runs across the plate.  But, Lavengood thinks they have found their grove with the bats at the right time.  “I really like the way our approach has been the last couple of weeks.  In our two district games against Anthony Wayne and Maumee I thought we had some really good swings with a good approach taking balls up the middle and being patient and putting guys on base.  Our kids are confident right now when they step in the batter’s box that good things are going to happen,” Lavengood said.

 

 
   

Ashland Make Amazing Comeback

 

          Ashland has been a baseball team built on its pitching, but Saturday it was the bats that gave them one of the bigger wins in school history.

          The Arrows (22-4), #1 in the final Swankonsports.com baseball coach’s poll, railed for a seven run deficit to beat Maumee (11-8) and win a division one district baseball title.

          Coach Rob Lavengood says it was one of the most trilling games that he has ever been involved in.  “It was just an unbelievable comeback.  You have to have one of these games every once in a while.  I hop I don’t have to have one for awful long time because I don’t know if my heart can take too much more of this,” he said.

          Maumee put together a big first inning and took a 5-0 lead.  Ashland wouldn’t go away.  They railed to score 10 runs over the fifth and sixth innings.  Lavengood says all of the credit goes to the kids.  “We gave five runs in the first inning.  We were down 8-1 going into the bottom of the fifth.  The kids never quit, I have to give them a lot of credit.  We kept battling and we scored four in the bottom of the fifth.  We came back and scored six in the bottom of the sixth.  Adam came in and closed the door.  It was a great baseball game.  I have to give our kids a lot of credit for staying in the ball game,” said Lavengood.

          Eric Harris (7-1) started the game for the Arrows and he got rocked in the first inning for the first time this year.  However, Lavengood says they didn’t give up and eventually they were able to get the bats going.  “(Saturday) was definitely one of the days that we needed the sticks.  They came through and that was huge.  Eric, I felt bad for him.  He definitely didn’t have it like he has had it all year long.  He struggled and got off to a rough start in the first inning.  He made a couple of pitches that he would like to have back.  We had a couple plays defensively that didn’t help matters.  After giving up the five in the first inning he did settle in.  He gave us four pretty decent innings to keep us in the game and give our bats a chance to wake up and put some runs on the board,” he told Swankonsports.com on Saturday, “Even though we only had one run going into the bottom of the fifth we swung the bats well all day.  We had two line drive shots caught by the second baseman.  We had a couple of drives in the outfield that their outfielders ran down.  So, we hit the ball hard early in the game, we just didn’t have anything to show for it.  Finally we came up with some big hits in the fifth and sixth inning.  Probably the biggest hit was Derek Ward in an 8-6 game.  With two guys on he drove one to the fence in center that scored two runs and tied the game up and then we were able to get a few more runs.  That was a huge hit to finally bring us back and tie the game up and give us a chance to win.”

          Lavengood says once they got a few hits they felt a lot better when they got the bat and went to the plate.  “There were just huge momentum swings on (Saturday).  They had momentum for four and half innings.  They had confidence swinging the bats, especially after the first inning.  They tacked on a few more runs in the fourth or the fifth.  Once we got some runs on the board, our kids had confidence when they stepped in the batter’s box.  Confidence breeds confidence and it rubs off on the rest of the guys.  We were finally able to break through and get some great at bats,” said Lavengood.

          Like a lot of things in life, Lavengood says hitting the baseball is mostly about confidence.  “You go through stretches when it looks like a golf ball coming in.  You are struggling and can’t hit anything.  When you are hot and you have a good streak going it looks huge.  It’s all about confidence.  It’s all about seeing in the baseball.  When you are able to see and you have a lot of confidence you get good swings and good things happen.  Fortunately in the fifth and sixth innings we were able to do that,” said Lavengood. 

 

 
   

Ashland Brings Home District Win

 

          Ashland fans probably had become used to heartbreak at the district level, but this year was different.

          Adam Shaley tossed a four-hitter and the Arrows got past (2-0) Anthony Wayne in the division one district semi-finals on Thursday night at Carter Park in Bowling Green.  Ashland returns Saturday afternoon to face the Maumee Panthers, a 6-0 winner over Norwalk Thursday, for a district championship.

          Rob Lavengood, in his second year as the Ashland head coach, says finally getting that district win really felt good.  “It was a big win (Thursday) night.  We are excited to move on to the district championship game on Saturday.  We are just trying to take one game at a time.  We are going to celebrate a little bit (Thursday) night.  We will turn our attention to Maumee starting (Friday) and get ready for Saturday,” he said.

          Shaley, unbeaten on the season, was again on top of his game against Anthony Wayne.  Plus, Lavengood says they were able to swing the bats pretty well too.  “It was a classic pitcher’s duel.  Adam threw a very good game.  I think he gave up four hits.  The kid for Anthony Wayne also pitched well.  Runs where hard to come by, that’s for sure,” he told Swankonsports.com on Thursday after the win, “We scored first with a run in the top of the fifth inning then we scored one in the top of the seventh to give us the two run cushion.  We swung the bats fairly well even though we got only two runs.  We had seven hits and I thought we had a pretty good approach taking some hits up the middle.  We were able to scratch across a couple of runs.”

          After taking a 1-0 nothing lead in the fifth inning. Ashland got a huge defensive play to preserve that lead.  Lavengood says it was probably the biggest play of the game.  “Probably the defensive play of the game came in the bottom of the fifth.  They had first and second with two outs and got a base hit to leftfield and Brock Landrum, our leftfielder, came up and gunned the kid out at home plate with a great throw.  That was a big momentum swing to hold the game at 1-0 heading into the sixth inning.  So, that was a big play to preserve a one-run lead.  Adam kind of took it from there,” said Lavengood.

          Ashland had some chances to break the game open early on, but couldn’t get the big hit.  Lavengood says the players didn’t lose their focus.  “Really we had scoring opportunities right from the start.  The kids just kept swinging the bats and stayed focused.  I think they just felt that eventually we were going to get a run or two and fortunately we were able to do that.  In the first inning we got a guy on and their shortstop makes a great play on a ball hit up the middle that would have scored a run for us.  We get a lead off guy on in the second inning.  We get the lead off guy in the third inning.  I mean we were getting some base runners.  We were swinging the bats fairly well.  I think it was just a matter of time before we bust the scoreboard and get a run across and fortunately we were able to do that.  The kids played well and played with confidence.  I am excited for them and hopefully we can come ready to play another good game Saturday,” said Lavengood.

          Again Shaley was tough for the Arrows, but Lavengood says at the same time they were able to make some solid defensive plays when Anthony Wayne was able to get the bat on the ball.  “When you are playing good teams and basically everybody is a good team at this point and time.  You have to make plays and you have to make plays behind the pitchers.  Certainly Adam pitched well (Thursday), but we did make some nice plays.  He helped his cause by making a great play on a bunt in the sixth inning, throwing a guy out at first.  We had a couple of other nice plays, obviously the nice throw by Brock in the fifth to throw the guy out at home.  Those are huge plays in a one-run game.  It’s good to see guys step up and make those plays,” Lavengood said.

          Eric Harris, with only one loss this year, takes the hill for Ashland, #1 in the Swankonsports.com baseball coach’s poll,  on Saturday against Maumee and Lavengood says they will again have to be at the top of their game to have a chance to win.  “Maumee is very good team.  They lost a couple of close games to Anthony Wayne in the regular season.  Obviously, they play some pretty baseball as well.  I think there are some similarities between Maumee and Anthony Wayne.  They have some good athletes and they swing the bats fairly well.  They have good arms on defense.  We are going to see a right handed pitcher that throws the ball pretty hard, 85, 86 MPH.  It should be a great game.  Another big challenge for our guys and hopefully we are up to the task,” Lavengood said.

          Some additional good news came to the Ashland camp on Thursday.  Mansfield Madison upset West Holmes in Ohio Cardinal Conference play to give Ashland the outright conference title. 

 

 
   

Ashland Off to Districts Again

 

          This is the fifth straight year the Ashland Arrows have qualified for the division one district baseball tournament.  Now, they are trying to get over the huddle of winning that semi-final game.

          The Arrows (20-4), #1 in the Swankonsports.com baseball coach’s poll, plays Anthony Wayne (22-2) in the semi-finals on Thursday night at Carter Park in Bowling Green.  Ashland coach Rob Lavengood says make no mistake about it Anthony Wayne is a very good team.  “They are a very good team record wise they are 22-2.  They have been ranked all year long in the state polls, for whatever that’s worth.  They have 13 seniors.  They have a lot of good athletes.  They have speed, they like to bunt, they like to run, they like to do a lot of things to put pressure on the defense when they are hitting.  They have a lot of good arms.  They are very fundamental defensively.  So, they are a very sound baseball team with a lot of veteran leadership.  It’s going to be a good test for us and we are going to have to go up there and play really good baseball against them to get a win,” said Lavengood.

          Ashland will give the ball to left hander Adam Shaley, who is unbeaten on the season and has recorded a perfect game and a no-hitter this year.  Lavengood says Shaley is not as likely to dominate Anthony Wayne, so they will need to play very good defense.  “We have to play good defense behind Adam.  We feel good that Adam is going to pitch well.  He has thrown well all season long.  When he is on the mound he gives us a lot of confidence.  We feel good going in that he is going to give us another good outing, but the guys behind him are going to have to play good defense.  If we do that we are going to have a good chance to win a baseball game,” he said.

          Perrysburg beat Ashland (1-0) in last year’s district semi-finals and this time Lavengood would like to scratch across a couple of runs early in the game.  “It helps you in a couple different ways.  One, if you can put a couple of runs early it gives your pitcher confidence.  If he steps on the mound with the lead and he can settle in and pitch his game.  On the flip side if you get a couple of runs early your hitters step in the batter’s box with confidence, that hey, we can have success against this guy.  If you get a couple of runs early then confidence breads confidence and the rest of the guys in the lineup step in the box and feel they can do something as well.  No question we would like to jump on them early and get a couple of runs and settle into the game,” Lavengood said.

          In order to have some success at the plate, Lavengood says they have to be loose and disciplined.  “People talk about whether you are tight hitting when you get into tournament.  A lot of that is due to the pitcher on the other team.  The deeper you go into the tournament the better pitching you are going to face.  It might not necessarily be that you are tight in the batter’s box it might just be that the guy on the mound is just really good.  We are going to face a pretty good pitcher (Thursday) from Anthony Wayne,” he told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday, “He is a big right hander that throws a lot of curveballs.  He throws a fastball about 80-81, so I don’t think he is extremely overpowering, but he likes to keep you off balance with breaking balls.  Our guys are going to have to be disciplined to stay back on the breaking balls, take it the other way, hit the ball where it is pitched.  If we can do that then I think we can have some success.”

          Carter Park is a municipal park in Bowling Green and Lavengood believes they will feel comfortable there.  “It is a very nice park.  We have had a chance to play up there the last three or four years in the districts, so most of our guys have been on that field before.  They do have some familiarity with it.  I suppose that you can talk about travel distance.  We are traveling about an hour and 40 minutes and Anthony Wayne is going about 20 minutes, whether that is a factor, who knows.  We are going to get up there plenty early so the kids can stretch their legs and get lose and get ready to go,” Lavengood said.

          Most games in this part of that state are played in daylight hours.  At lest the last part of the Thursday night game will be played under the lights and that does concern Lavengood a little bit.  “The only other thing that might come into play is the game is going to start at seven o’clock.  It’s the first game that we will be playing under the lights.  Even though it’s not real dark at seven o’clock, but late in the game it’s going to be darker.  Playing under the lights is different than starting at five o’clock or playing in the afternoon.  Hopefully that doesn’t come into play for either team.  You would hate to win or lose a game on a ball that is lost in the lights or in the darkness late in the game,” said Lavengood.    

 

 
   

Ashland Takes Sectional Title; Looks Forward

 

          One of the biggest fears of any baseball coach in North Central Ohio is to look at the lineup card and find the name Adam Shaley penciled in as the opponent’s starting pitcher.  Mansfield Senior found that out on Thursday night.

          Ashland’s Shaley threw a no-hitter with 16 strikeouts to lead the Arrows past Mansfield Senior (8-0) in the division one sectional finals on Thursday night at Fremont Ross High School.  Ashland coach Rob Lavengood says it was just another day at the office for Shaley.  “We feel pretty confident when he is on the mound that we have a good chance to win.  He was outstanding (Thursday) night.  He pounded the strike zone.  He threw the no-hitter with 16 strikeouts.  He was just dominate.  It was another good outing.  I guess it is just becoming routine, but we expect him to throw well and give us a chance to win every time he goes out there and (Thursday) night was no different,” said Lavengood.

          Lavengood says Shaley has the kind of stuff that makes it very difficult for everyone except for the very best high school hitters to have a lot of success against him.  “It is really unfair for most high school hitters.  I’m glad I didn’t have to face a kid like that when I was in high school.  He has a plus fastball, he’s got a plus curveball, and he really hasn’t had to throw his change up much at all this year just because he is that good of a pitcher.  He has a pretty good change up too,” he told Swankonsports.com on Thursday night, “That is why he is going to a college like Stetson University down in Florida because he is able to do those things.  We are fortunate that he pitches for our team and we are excited every time he takes the mound.”

          Mansfield Senior (9-16) has played its best baseball at the end of the season.  The Tygers had a four game winning streak going into Thursday.  Lavengood good says they were able to keep his team off balance a little bit, especially at the plate.  “We really didn’t swing the bats extremely well.  We scored some of our runs late.  The Reece kid actually threw the ball pretty well for Mansfield.  They are a much improved team from when we played them in early April.  They have gotten a lot better.  They played pretty solid defense behind him.  For the most part he threw strikes.  They were really in the game.  It was a 5-0 game going into the bottom of the sixth and we were able to put three more runs on the board.  They have certainly improved a lot throughout the season.  They played pretty well,” he said.

          Ashland (19-2), #1 in the Swankonsports.com baseball coach’s poll in the large school division, plays Anthony Wayne (20-1) in the district semi finals next week at Carter Park in Bowling Green.  Lavengood says this likely is the best team they have seen all season and they will need to be at their best.  “We talked about goals at the beginning of the season.  Our number one goal was to win the conference championship.  Now, we can kind of turn our attention toward that (Friday) and Saturday with our last two games against Orrville.  Our second goal was the make a long tournament run.  Really it’s a one game playoff.  You try to take it one game at a time, you win that, and you move on.  We get a chance to head up to Bowling Green again next week for the districts.  I am on my way back from Bowling Green right now.  I just got done watching Anthony Wayne beat Fremont 7-1 and that’s who we play next Thursday.  They are a very good team.  I think they are 20-1 and we are 19-2.  It’s going to be a great match-up with two quality opponents facing off against each other.  It should be fun for the fans to watch.  Hopefully, we can go up there ready to play and Adam can throw well and give us a chance to win,” said Lavengood.

          Another title lays in the balance for the Arrows this week as they play Orrville in back to back Ohio Cardinal Conference games on Friday and Saturday.  They own a one game lead on West Holmes and a sweep of the series against the Red Riders (15-7) will give Ashland the out right title.  “I think we saw a little bit of hitting rust (Thursday).  Before (Thursday) we hadn’t played in eight days.  Last Wednesday against Lexington was our last game.  We got rained out Saturday.  Again you have to give their pitcher some credit, but I really didn’t think we swung the bats extremely well.  We have to get regular at bats and I think that makes a big difference for the hitters.  We have a game with Orrville (Friday), another game with Orrville Saturday morning, and then a nice non-conference game up at Massillon Perry scheduled for Monday as a tune up for the district.  That gives us three good games going into the district to hopefully keep us fresh and sharp so we can go into the district game with some confidence,” said Lavengood.    

 

 
   

Ashland Maintains First Place

 

          After action in the Ohio Cardinal Conference on Wednesday, the Ashland Arrows still own a one game lead on West Holmes now with two games left for each on the conference schedule.

          The Arrows (18-2,11-1), #1 in the Swankonsports.com baseball coach’s poll in the large school division, beat Lexington (4-3), meanwhile West Holmes beat Clear Fork (9-5) to stay right there.  In other league action, Mansfield Senior beat Madison (4-3) for the second straight day and Wooster took the measure of (3-2) Orrville in a battle of rivals.

          Arrows coach Rob Lavengood says it probably wasn’t their best performance of the season, but they did what they needed to do to get the win.  “We’ll take any win.  It’s better to win ugly than lose pretty.  It is good for us to play some one run games anyways.  That will hopefully pay some dividends down the line as we get into tournament.  If our guys are put into pressure situations where they’ve got to make plays, got to make pitches, got to get hits.  We were fortunate enough to get a win.  I thought Lexington played well (Wednesday) night.  We will keep plugging away and taking one day at a time,” said Lavengood.

          Eric Harris got the win for Ashland and Lavengood says he gutted it out and gave his team a chance to win the game.  “Eric threw (Wednesday) night.  He threw the whole game.  Really his did a nice job of pounding the strike zone (Wednesday).  He didn’t have any walks.  They had some hits against him, but still he threw well and gave us a chance to win and that’s all you can ask,” he said.

          Next week, Ashland plays Orrville (14-6,7-5) in the two game “OCC’ series and either Mansfield Senior or Marion Harding in a sectional final on Thursday at Fremont Ross.  Lavengood says they will likely have to win the league without the services of stopper Adam Schaly.  “Next week is a very big week, but they are in the same boat as we are.  They have their tournament opener on Tuesday.  We play our tournament game on Thursday.  So, we are actually playing them in the league on Wednesday and Friday.  Both teams are probably aren’t going to have their number ones available,” he told Swankonsports.com, “It will be a testament to who has good pitching depth.  I feel really good about our number two and number three with Eric and Zach throwing.  We’ll kind of see what kind of pitching depth they have.  They are a very good team.  They have had a good season, so we still have some work to do to finish up a conference championship with Orrville next week.  If our guys go and have a couple of good games we can get the job done.”

          West Holmes (16-5,10-2) plays Madison (2-16,1-11) in their league games next week.

          Lavengood believes if they are going to continue to win they need to get their offense going more consistently.  “I was just talking to a couple of our assistant coaches on (Tuesday) night and I just don’t think we have seen our best offensive effort yet.  I really think we are a better hitting team than what we have showed.  We have showed signs and glimpses of breaking out.  Overall one to nine I don’t think we have put things together where we are clicking on all cylinders yet.  So, hopefully as we get close to tournament time we will be peaking offensively and really getting the bats going over the next two weeks,” said Lavengood.    

 

 
   

Ashland Takes Two game Lead

 

          Sensational lefthander Adam Schaly struck out 18 and permitted only three hits in leading Ashland to a 2-0 win over West Holmes in a huge Ohio Cardinal Conference baseball game on Tuesday evening.

          The win by the Arrows (15-1,9-0), #1 in the Swankonsports.com baseball coach’s poll, moves them two games in front of second place West Holmes (12-4,7-2) going into a second game between the two on Wednesday outside of Millersburg.

          Ashland coach Rob Lavengood it was a classic pitching duel between Schaly and West Holmes’ Butch Baird.  He says they were fortunate to come out on top.  “They have a good team.  They came in 7-1 in the league and we were 8-0, so we knew that (Tuesday) and then (Wednesday) where going to be two big games in deciding a conference championship here in a couple of weeks and we were fortunate enough to get game one.  Adam was really impressive (Tuesday) giving up just three hits and getting 18 strikeouts in a complete game shutout.  Their pitcher was equally impressive.  He only gave up two hits and struck out 10.  It was a pitcher’s battle and we were lucky enough to scratch across a couple of runs early in the game and hang on and get the win, so now we have to go get the sweep (Wednesday) night down at West Holmes,” said Lavengood.

          With only five hits between them in the game there were not very many opportunities to score.  Lavengood says they were able to take advantage of the couple of times they got a chance to score against Baird.  “We did it by playing a little small ball.  In the first inning we got a walk, we stole a base, we moved a runner, and then a ground ball in the infield scored a run.  We didn’t get a ball out of the infield in the first inning and scored a run.  We kind of manufactured one.  We did the same thing in the second inning.  We started off with a walk and moved the runner around and were able to scratch across another run and make it hold up.  It’s not like we hit the heck out of the ball (Tuesday), but we were able to execute and score a couple early on without getting the ball out of the infield,” Lavengood said.

          Game two of the series is Wednesday and Lavengood says it is just as important.  He says if they lose they are back in the same position they were to start the week.  “If we get a win (Wednesday) night we will be three games up with four to go.  If we go down there and lose we are only one up and we have four tough games to go.  It is a big game.  (Tuesday) was a big game, but (Wednesday) is also a big game.  Eric Harris will have the ball (Wednesday) night and we feel confident when he is on the mound.  Hopefully he can go down there and have a good performance and give us a chance to get another “W,” he said.

          Ashland lost its first game of the season last Friday to Bellevue, #3 in the Swankonsports.com poll, (3-1) in a non-conference game.  Lavengood says the loss kind of refocused them a bit.  “Definitely you never like to lose, but I think our kids maybe got a wakeup call and realized we have to come ready to play every game.  It’s not like we got beat by a bad team,” he told Swankonsports.com, “I mean Bellevue is ranked fourth in the state in division two, they are 15-4.  They have a very good team.  We went on the road and got beat 3-1, so it’s not a bad loss.  Now we don’t have to worry about if we are going to go undefeated.  Now, we just concentrate on taking one game at a time.  It wasn’t a conference game, so it’s not like we lost a league game.  I guess if you are going to lose a game, we’ll take that one and move on.”

 

 
   

Ashland Happy, Not Satisfied

 

          Ashland holds a one game lead in the Ohio Cardinal Conference standings, but they were in a similar situation last year and let it slip away.  They are not about to let that happen again.

          Right now, Ashland (14-0,8-0) is unbeaten, #1 in the Swankonsports.com baseball coach’s poll in the large school division, and coach Rob Lavengood says he is very pleased with the focus and the performance they have shown so far.  “We are certainly excited about where we are at right now. With 14 of our 27 regular season games down, we haven’t lost yet, so it’s been a good start.  The kids are playing well and I think they are excited about what we have been able to do so far.  I think the community is starting to take notice of what we are doing.  It’s a lot of fun.  We just want to keep an even keel here and keep focusing on playing one game at a time and see what happens,” said Lavengood.

          There have been some spectacular games this year for the Arrows, but what is even more impressive is the consistency they have shown.  Lavengood says their pitching has been there every night.  “That starts with our pitchers.  They have pitched well all season long.  We have basically gone with four guys in Adam Schaly, Eric Harris, Zach Bernhard, and Tyson Vogel.  All four of those guys have given us good outings game after game.  They throw strikes, they get outs and we have played fairly good defense.  When you do those two things, you give yourself a chance to win every game.  I think we have pretty decent offense to go with that, but it really starts with the pitching as we feel really good about the guys that we have been able to put on the mound,” Lavengood said.

          Ashland has not been scoring a ton of runs, but they have been able to get on the board early and Lavengood says that puts them in good position to win the game.  “When you have the guys on the mound that we have, we feel if we can get a couple of runs on the board early on those guys can settle in and pitch with confidence.  If we can get four or five runs on the board we feel like the game is over because our guys aren’t going to give up that many runs.  I think our team ERA is under 1.00 and we are batting .370 as a team.  Those are two pretty good numbers that are going to give you opportunities to be successful,” he said.

          These are kids we are talking about and sometimes success can led to over confidence or complacency.  However, Lavengood says he has not detected any of that. “They better not be.  That is kind of one thing that I have been stressing all week.  The first state poll came out this week and they had us ranked fourth and certainly we are excited about that.  We are honored that we have attracted some attention from the coaches around the state, but we also told the kids this is not the time to relax.  Everyone is going to be gunning for you and you have a bull’s eye on your back.  They are going to bring their “A” game every night and we need to do the same,” Lavengood said.

          When it comes to goals, Lavengood says none have been accomplished by the team yet.  “They better not be satisfied, we still have a lot of unfinished work to do.  We still have a conference championship to win and we still have to prepare for tournament down the road.  These guys set some pretty lofty goals at the beginning of the season and really we haven’t accomplished anything yet other than the fact we have won 14 games.  There is a lot of unfinished business.  We are just trying to take it one game at a time,” he said.

          First things first, Lavengood says they want to nail down that “OCC” title.  “We have the second, third and fourth place teams still left in the league.  We have West Holmes next week.  They are 7-1 in the conference and we are 8-0.  That’s going to be a huge week.  The week after we play Lexington and the week after that we have Orrville and they have three losses.  We still have three pretty good teams left on our conference schedule,” he told Swankonsports.com on Thursday, “There is a lot of baseball to be played and I think our guys know they have to remain focused.  Last year, we were kind of in this situation and in the league and we lost two of our last three league games and ended up in second place.  That kind of left a sour taste in our kid’s mouths and they aren’t going to forget that.  They are pretty locked in to make sure they come to play every night.”

 

 
   

Ashland Enjoying Fine Softball Season

 

          Right now, Ashland stands in second place in the Ohio Cardinal Conference girls’ softball standings and they also won their division of the MVD tournament last weekend.

          They lost just their second game in the conference on Wednesday night when they lost a 6-4 decision to the Mansfield Madison Lady Rams on the road.

          Coach Wendy Packard says this spring they have finally been able to put together all facets of the game and that has led them 11 wins over the first month of the season.  “We have good experience.  We have four seniors, three of which contribute on a regular basis.  We have worked a lot on our game in terms of the hitting and the defensive side, which has been a huge plus for us this year.  Our pitching has been a strong foundation for us.  So, all around we finally have the whole package.  We have been typically missing one of the pieces.  That’s how we have had as much success as we have had early in the year,” said Packard.

          They trail Orrville by two games in the “OCC” standings and Parkard says there are some things they need to be better at if they are going to reach that next level.  “Overall base running, we tend to be very aggressive, therefore we run ourselves out of some innings very early.  That’s something we are continuing to work on.  We need to be able to close out a game and play a full seven innings and be prepared to finish the game,” she told Swankonsports.com, “Typically we are having one down inning and a team comes back on us.  That’s something we are working on and hopefully we will have that handled by the middle and end of the season that we can take in the post season and have a good run at it.”

          Over the history of the “OCC” Clear Fork and Lexington have been the dominate softball programs, but this year neither is over .500 in the league so far.  Packard hopes they can continue to compete.  “It is a very balanced league and it’s nice to see other teams are having some success.  We look forward to continue to compete in the league and see what beholds at the end of the year and see where we end up,” she said.

          This is the second year that high school pitchers have been throwing from a rubber 43 feet from home plate.  Packard says it has made a dramatic difference in the game.  “It has completely changed the game of high school softball.  Not only is it more of an offensive game, but it puts more pressure on the defense.  There has been a lot more errors this year and last year and just due to the fact that there have been more balls hit to individuals.  It has taken away the opportunity for perfect games and having a pitcher dominate a game.  It certainly has allowed more of an advantage to the offense even in base stealing because you have an extra three feet to get a better jump,” said Packard.    

 

 
   

Schaly Throws Perfect Games

 

          Anyone that follows baseball in North Central Ohio knows that Ashland’s Adam Schaly is an outstanding pitcher, but he took it to another level on Tuesday night.

          Schaly, 3-0 on the season, threw a perfect game, which included 15 strikeouts, as the Arrows beat the Clear Fork Colts 7-0 in an Ohio Cardinal Conference game on Tuesday night.  Coach Rob Lavengood told Swankonsports.com after the game that Schaly had his best stuff and put it to good use against the Colts.  “Adam was certainly dominate (Tuesday) night.  He had his good stuff and he was very sharp.  I think he only had one three ball count the entire game.  He threw a complete game, perfect game, 15 strikeouts and he threw only 78 pitches.  You want to talk about being sharp and being efficient, throwing strikes and going right at them, he certainly did that (Tuesday) and it was pretty impressive to watch,” said Lavengood.

          Sometimes a good pitcher will be able to locate one of his pitches and sometimes he can get the both in the zone.  Lavengood says the later was the case for Schaly and that makes him very hard to hit.  “His fastball was tailing (Tuesday) and he had a very good curve ball that we has able to throw in the strike zone, so he was getting swing and miss strikes in the zone, not necessarily out of the zone.  That just goes to show you what good stuff he had.  It’s not like their batters were chasing balls out of the strike zone.  He was extremely sharp and he was definitely had his “A” game that’s for sure,” said Lavengood.

          Tuesday night was one of those special nights, even for Schaly.  Lavengood says as the coach he felt comfortable calling for any pitch in any count and knew his ace was going to be able to deliver.  “He was able to throw them both for strikes no matter what the count was.  He had both his fastball and his curve ball in the strike zone.  Regardless of the count, regardless of the situation, he was able to throw either one for a strike.  We worked on different batters depending on where they were in their lineup more with curve balls or more with fastballs,” he told Swankonsports.com, “It didn’t really matter what pitch I called he was able to throw it for a strike.  That is what you are hoping for your ace to be able to do when he steps on the mound is be able to pitch the way he did (Tuesday).  Certainly we aren’t expecting perfect games or not hitters all of the time.  We feel if we can put a couple of runs on the board he is going to give a chance to win the ball game.”

          Ashland (9-0,5-0), #2 in the Swankonsports.com baseball coach’s poll in the larger school division, was able to put some runs on the board early in the game.  Lavengood says that is something they look to do when they have Schaly on the hill.  “We put four on the board in the first and two more in the second.  You have a lot of confidence as the coach in the dugout knowing that if you put four runs on the board in the first inning and you have Adam on the hill the other team is going to have a tough time scoring four runs on him.  He was able to settle in and feel comfortable with an early lead and have a great outing,” he said.

          Ashland entertains Clear Fork (4-3,2-3) in more “OCC” action in Ashland on Wednesday afternoon.

 

 
   

 

Rob Lavengood joins us this week on Sports Saturday

 

          Ashland has won all six of their baseball games this year, including four in the Ohio Cardinal Conference.

          They share first place in the league with West Holmes and Orrville after two weeks of league competition.  The Arrows handled Wooster last week and beat Mansfield Senior in two five inning games this week.

          Coach Rob Lavengood says pitchers Adam Schaly and Eric Harris have done an outstanding job in those conference games and have put the Arrows in great position to win.  “They have given us a chance to win every time they have stepped out on the mound.  They have thrown strikes and been aggressive and for the most part have really been sharp over our first six games.  We are excited about the start and want to make sure those guys continue to pitch well and stay healthy.  If that is the case we are going to have our chance to win our share of games this year,” said Lavengood.

          It certainly helps when your two best pitchers have been recruited by division one colleges.  Lavengood says they know what to do when they get out on the mound.  “We actually feel like we have two aces, kind of a 1-A and 1-B.  Adam Schaly is certainly our number one guy.  He is going to Stetson next year and there is a reason for that.  He is a very polished pitcher.  His dad has obviously done a nice job of coaching him up through the years.  We feel when he is on the mound he is going to give us a chance to win no matter who we play,” he told Swankonsports.com on Thursday, “Eric Harris, who is going to Northern Kentucky next year, we feel the same way about him.  Eric has thrown the ball well the first two times out.  He is a division one college pitcher as well.  Those two guys really give us a nice one-two punch.”

          Lavengood feels their defense has been good this season too and one of the reasons is their fielders are sharp because their pitchers throw strikes and they don’t full around a lot on the mound.  “They are in control of keep their team in the game.  If they are a pitcher out on the mound that works slow and doesn’t throw a lot of strikes the guys playing behind them tend to lose focus and that’s when you don’t get good defense behind you.  If you are a guy that gets the ball back and steps on the mound and throws strikes and goes right at the hitters it not only helps you be successful, but it also leads to better defense.  It also helps the umpiring.  If you work fast and are around the zone you are going to get the benefit of the doubt,” he said.

          With a change in bats this year, Lavengood says they have been bunting a whole lot more.  Plus, he says to be a good team you have to be able to defend the small ball game too.  “We have really bunted a lot more this year in our first six games.  We have stolen some bases and tried to put some pressure on the defense because you can’t wait around for the three run home run.  You have to be able to move runners and play some small ball.  That goes not only on the offensive side, but the defensive side.  You better be able to defend those things.  We have spent a lot of time with our defense.  A matter of fact, we had a practice this week where we spent about 45 minutes working on bunt coverages and stuff like that,” said Lavengood.

          He believes the Arrows are starting to swing the bats better too.  They scores 13 runs off Mansfield Senior on Wednesday.  Lavengood knows they need to find new ways to score too.  “We are still a work in progress offensively, but we have been getting better every game out swinging the bats.  We have been playing more small ball.  We had a game against Marion when we bunted three straight batters.  We feel with our pitching staff that if we can get a few runs on the board early on that gives our pitchers a chance to settle in and get outs and gives us a chance to win games,” said Lavengood.

 

 
   

Ashland Comes up With Big Win

 

          Ashland ace Adam Schaly threw a three hitter and the Arrows downed talented Wooster 3-2 in an Ohio Cardinal Conference game among contenders on Tuesday night.

          Schaly and Wooster’s Luke McGee locked horns in a real pitcher’s duel that was everything that was excepted going into the game.  Arrows coach Rob Lavengood says they were able to do the things they had to do to win.  “It’s always nice to win your first game of the year, especially if it’s a conference game.  Really it was a great baseball game.  You had the manqué pitching match-up with Adam Schaly for us against Luke McGee, going to Ohio State, for Wooster.  The two of them matched each other pitch for pitch.  We were lucky enough to scrape across a couple of runs and hole them off.  Really for the first game of the season there were some great defensively plays and some clutch hitting.  It was really a great baseball game, it was fun to watch, and it’s even better when you can win,” said Lavengood.

          Adam is the son of Ashland University baseball coach John Schaly and his grandfather was the coach at Marietta College for a quarter of a century.  Lavengood says he is a baseball kid through and through.  “You can really tell that he has had some great coaching growing up from his dad who is the coach at Ashland University.  He is a student of the game.  He understands what he wants to do when he is out on the mound.  He is a very smart baseball player and he has the talent to go with it,’ he said.

          The Arrows (1-0) will play host to Wooster on Wednesday night in the back half of the back-to-back “OCC” schedule and Lavengood says they want this game just as bad.  “We don’t want a split.  We want to come out of there with two wins against them and really get off to a good start in the league.  We are hoping the weather cooperates.  If it doesn’t it looks good Thursday.  If we don’t get in the game (Wednesday) we certainly ought to be able to play it on Thursday.  It is a big series and I really like the home and home schedule and back to back as well.  You don’t have to face the other team’s number one pitcher twice.  It really forces you to have pitching depth and a couple of really good starters to be able to compete for a conference championship.  There is nothing like opening the season against a good, strong conference opponent like Wooster.  We are excited to get the win and hopefully we can get one (Wednesday) night,” said Lavengood.

          The Ohio Cardinal Conference is one of the few in the area that plays meaningful, conference games on the first week of the baseball season.  Lavengood says he would rather not, but he can live with it.  “I’m not really excited about it, but it is what it is and you have to go play the games that are scheduled for you.  We had our “OCC” coaches meeting back a few weeks ago and I actually suggested to bump the conference schedule back a week.  The other problem you get into is you run into the tournament.  At the end of the season you are shuffling your pitching staff and you might not be able to throw your best pitcher in a league game just because he is throwing in sectionals or districts.  I guess you can look at it from both perspectives,” he told Swankonsports.com Tuesday night after the win, “It would be nice to get in three or four non-league games before you open up the conference, but we are all in the same boat and no one really has an advantage over anyone else.  Fortunately the weather has been nice so far in March and we were able to get all four of our scrimmages in, so it’s not like some years when you get your scrimmages wiped out and then the first time you are out on the field you are playing a conference game.  We fell like our kids are ready for the season regardless if it is conference games or not.”   

 

 
   

Ashland Ready to Go

 

          Ashland won the Ohio Cardinal Conference baseball title last season in a showdown with Wooster the Arrows have the kind of talent to do it again.

          Coach Rob Lavengood likes the make-up of his team, which has some veteran leadership and some good arms.  “We are definitely excited for the season to get started here in about a week and half.  We feel like we have a pretty good group of guys returning from last year’s team with some good pitching and good hitting.  Like I said we are excited and we feel if we stay health and play well we can do some pretty exciting things this year,” said Lavengood.

          Ashland has one of the area’s best pitching staffs, led by lefthander Adam Shaly, who threw a no-hitter for the Arrows last spring.  Lavengood says they have some depth too.  “I think it starts with pitching.  We have two pretty power arms coming back in Adam Shaly and Eric Harris.  We have some other guys that we feel pretty confident on the mound too in Zach Bernhart, another senior, and some of our junior pitchers that we have coming up.  I think it always starts with pitching and we feel we have some pretty solid pitching and can compete of a conference championship, but I think the conference is going to be pretty strong from top to bottom.  You better be ready to play every time you step on the field and it should be pretty competitive.”  Lavengood thinks they will be able to compete for the “OCC” title, but he knows a number of other teams do to.

          The Arrows will lean on their pitching, but that Lavengood thinks they have a lineup that can put some runs on the board too.  “I like to think we are going to be able to hit the ball.  You know, Derek Ward and Steven Mowery certainly give us some power bats in the middle of the lineup.  You know, Adma Shaly, Eric Harris, and Zach Bernhart all put up pretty good offensive numbers for us last year.  We feel some of our younger guys that are going to fill in the rest of our order can contribute as well.  We feel that we can put some runs on the board and give our pitchers the support that they need.  We have a senior dominated group, but we also have some juniors that are going to be playing some pretty key roles for us as well as we will have to see what happens,” said Lavengood.

          This year in the “OCC” just about everything has been competitive, football, boys’ basketball, girls’ basketball and Lavengood thinks baseball will be much the same.  “Wooster has a good group coming back with a couple of pretty good pitchers.  Lexington, Madison and West Holmes have some good arms coming back.  Orrville and Clear Fork always have some pretty good arms and they play hard and Mansfield Senior is going to better.  Really top to bottom one through eight the league’s going to be strong.  You better bring your “A” game every in night in the “OCC” or you are going to get beat,” he said.

 

 
   

Ashland Glad to Have Nardo Back

 

          Ashland might have the ship pointed in the right direction just in time and they are getting a boost with the return of one their best players.

          Ashland broke a four game losing streak with a double overtime (80-76) win over Mansfield Madison last Friday night in Ohio Cardinal Conference action.

          The Arrows (8-12) meet Marion Harding in a first round game in the division one tournament on Tuesday night at Willard High School. 

          Coach Tim Fralich believes that getting that win in their final regular season game greatly improved their chances of being successful in the tournament this week.  “That was important to us to be able to get that win because we had been struggling.  When you aren’t been playing really well you always like to get a little momentum going into the tournament.  You get a little bit of your grove back and your confidence going.  We had lost some close games and then we lost our starting center Brandon Nardo, who had been averaging 10.5 points and eight rebounds.  He was out for a few games with a hand injury and we didn’t play well at all.  We talked about getting back to doing what we were doing and we really worked on breaking down some things in our half court, man-to-man defense and our full court press,” said Fralich.

          Again Ashland had problems putting an opponent away with a lead in the fourth quarter, but Fralich says this time they were able to survive and win in the end.  “We did some good things on Friday.  We got Brandon back, which was a surprise.  We didn’t expect to have him back to maybe sectionals, but he was felling really well and he had been cleared, so we went with it.  He had a phenomenal night with 21 points and 10 rebounds, so obviously that gave us a big shot in the arm.  Madison is really well coached and they played without Shaquille Brooks, their leading scorer.  He’s out with his foot.  He is out for the season.  They still have a nice team.  Jaquan Thompson, their guard, is one of the best players in the league,” he told Swankonsports.com on Sunday, “We played really well for about three and half quarters.  We have just struggled to make the plays we need to down the stretch to seal wins.  We let them back in it and they forced overtime on a three point shot by Lampert.  We got a stop in the first overtime.  In the second overtime, Jaquan Thompson fouled out, so that really helped our case.  It was nice to see our kids fight back and get a win even though we kind of let it slip away in regulation.”

          Nardo is a second team all-district selection and Fralich says he gives them some things they can’t get from anyone else on the squad.  “Sometimes like anything else you don’t realize how good someone or something is until they are gone, unfortunately.  When he was gone those three games, we played well down at Mt. Vernon, but the following weekend against Clear Fork and Massillon Washington we played our worst basketball of the season.  Part of it was just us not being focused and not executing and not having that edge to us.  Part of it was we didn’t have our big guy down low that really added that edge and energy and most importantly do the job on the defensive glass,” said Fralich.

          They started kind of slow, but Fralich believes Marion Harding is playing their best basketball right now.  “They have played better.  They beat Sandusky, which is in our sectional.  Sandusky is an athletic team.  They lost to Madison by three with Shaquille Brooks a couple of weeks back now.  So, they are playing some good ball.  They are a really athletic team.  They are really guard oriented and they want to drive.  They are not a tremendous shooting team.  They do shoot quite a few threes, but what they are best at is dribble penetration and then crashing the offensive glass.  They do a good job with their athleticism in doing those two things,” he said.

          The winner advances to play Mansfield Senior (17-3) on Friday night at Willard.  Fralich says for the Arrows to win they must keep the Presidents out of the paint and win the rebounding battle.  “We have to do a really good job in our half court defense and really clamp down in the gaps and force them to shoot contested outside shots and then get that first miss.  We really feel if we can do those two things that we are going to put ourselves in pretty good position.  Defensively, they are going to come out and full court pressure you in a diamond, a 2-2-1 and a full court man to man.  They are going to try and mix you up and get you on your heels.  We have to be aggressive no matter what they are in.  Just get the ball and go.  Just do what we do, get a good shot early and we’ll adjust to what they do in the half court because they do about three or four different things in the half court,” said Fralich.     

 

 
   

Ashland Needs to Find Itself

 

          Ashland has lost its last four games and six of its last seven going into an Ohio Cardinal Conference game at home against the Mansfield Madison Rams on Friday night. 

          They suffered two significant losses last weekend when Clear Fork downed them (68-55) in an Ohio Cardinal Conference game on Friday and they were blitzed (76-48) by Massillon on Saturday at home.

          Arrows coach Tim Fralich says they did a lot of soul searching after the loss Saturday night and have come out this week with a fresh approach and what he feels is a better plan of attack.  “We played poorly all weekend.  We have gone back to the drawing board on a number of things from defensive breakdowns to offensive review of just some of the basic things that we have done.  We talked with our guys quite a while after Saturday’s game.  As a staff we talked about things we needed to get done.  As players they talked about some things they would like to see us do in practice.  We kind of combined those things and have been doing them this week and we have had some pretty good practices.  Hopefully that results in us coming out with more energy and more focus and playing with a lot more toughness then we did this last weekend,” said Fralich.

          Madison (9-10,6-7) beat Ashland (7-12.5-8) on January 20 (48-39) by forcing 18 turnovers and making it tough for the Arrows to shoot with an extended zone.  Fralich says they have been working on zone offense, but they expect to see Madison introduce some new things too.  “We expect them to do similar things to us that they did last time because they did have a lot of success.  A lot of teams started to do that against us as we moved forward and it’s hurt us.  We expect them to do what they did in pressuring us by extending their zone a little bit.  We have been working on it throughout the week, but at the same time we are working on our man stuff,” Fralich told Swankonsports.com on Tuesday, “They are good coaches over there and they probably know that we are keying on that and I wouldn’t be surprised if they switch it up a little bit show us some man, their 2-3 extended and some 1-2-2.  We think we definitely have a better zone attack in place.  The key is attacking a zone is to remain aggressive by getting the ball moving and getting them shifting, work inside to out and attack gaps.  If we are aggressive and do those things we should be in a lot better shape.”

          Ashland and Madison are both part of a very good division one tournament, which begins next week.  Fralich says a win would give them a great boost going into that tournament.  “It’s been a tough stretch for us here and we haven’t played particularly well.  Our starting center Brandon Nardo is a big factor for us and he has been out.  Hopefully it’s an opportunity for us to go out their and build some momentum for the tournament and I just hope we take advantage of the opportunity.  I would think we would we have a good strong group of seniors that have worked hard for the most part in practice all year long.  They have shown a lot of improvement and we want to send those guys out on a positive note on senior night, their last night playing in Arrow Arena.  Again we need to have more pop to us and have more energy.  We feel if we do those things that everything else will take care of itself,” said Fralich.

 

 
   

Ashland Can’t Look Back

 

          It was a frustrating weekend to say the least for the Ashland Arrows as they had a real chance to win two games and came away with losses in both of them.

          They were looking to beat Ohio Cardinal Conference co-leader Lexington for the second time this season and they held a double digit lead in the fourth quarter.  However, coach Tim Fralich says they made some crucial mistakes down the stretch and allowed Lexington to score the final 17 points of the game and lost 59-55 at Lexington.  “We should have had Lex.  I mean those are really tough ones.  The Lexington game was similar to West Holmes earlier in the year.  Unfortunately it has happened to us a few times this year.  We have a big lead and we let it slip away from we have a little bit of pressure.  We didn’t find a way to handle that pressure and really be strong with the ball and make the right decisions,” he told Swankonsports.com on Monday, “We just didn’t make the plays we needed to down the wire.  We had some open looks and didn’t knock them in.  We thought we kind of learned from that initially and we kind of reverted back to it on Friday.  It was disappointing, anytime you get a chance to beat a good team like that you want to be able to seal the deal and get it done.  You talk about it being Lex, it being a rivalry, it being a conference game and us being able to sweep them.”

          Not to place any blame on anyone else, Fralich says they didn’t get any help at Lexington either.  “It was a difficult situation at the end too in that and you hate, I’m not sure I should really say this, but we really had a uniquely officiated game, especially at the end of the game there.  When you combined all of those factors it’s not going to be good when you aren’t doing some things you need to do and there are some unique calls going on,” he said.

          The Arrows knew it was going to be a tough weekend going in as Saturday night they traveled to Mt. Vernon to take on the talented Yellow Jackets.  Fralich says they battled back and fell just short in the non-conference game.  “We were hoping to bounce back on Saturday going down to a good Mt. Vernon team.  They are 13-5 in a tough Columbus area league.  They beat us up pretty good last year.  We were in there for the majority of the game.  They opened up a little bit of lead on us in the third quarter.  At the end of the fourth we were able to make some quick headway.  We had a chance at the end to try and make a play defensively and get a quick steal and a shot up, but we didn’t get it done.  We knew heading into the weekend that we had two really tough teams on the road.  We thought if we could get one out of the two it wouldn’t be too bad of a weekend.  We certainly had our chance, so it’s disappointing.  Hopefully we can learn from it going into this weekend,” said Fralich.

          Ashland (7-10,5-7) returns to action on Friday night with a game in the Ohio Cardinal Conference against the Clear Fork Colts (6-11,3-9), also a second division team.  Ashland won the first meeting (73-60) at Arrow Arena.  Fralich says it will not be an easy win.  “I really think they are a dangerous team.  We have to go there and we have to be ready to play well.  They play hard and they are well coached.  They have good, talented, athletic guards.  The Hill brothers are good basketball players.  They are skilled.  They are big, can shoot and will crash the glass.  We have to be really ready for them.  We talk about going on the road.  They have really struggled on the road this year.  We have to be ready to play and hopefully it will be an opportunity for us to go play well on the road and get one, but we know we will have our hands full with them,” said Fralich.

 

 
   

Ashland Not Relying on Past Success

 

          Ashland pulled one of the biggest upsets of the high school basketball season so far when they beat Lexington a month ago, handing the Minutemen their first loss of the season.

          Despite the tremendous performance in that game the Arrows are not looking for a carbon copy, they know it will be more difficult than that.

          Last Friday night, Ashland again was the spoiler as they beat Mansfield Senior (74-66) to move the Tygers back into a tie with Lexington for first place in the Ohio Cardinal Conference.  Arrows coach Tim Fralich says now they are looking or the consistency in their performance, something that has been missing most of the season.  “We have had some big games this year.  We have beaten some the area’s better teams.  We have certainly been happy with that and the guys have been excited about that and it’s been a big boost for our program.  At the same time we have been kind of high and low.  We will play a team who might not be, at least in paper, as good as some of the better teams and we won’t play as well and we’ll lose,” he told Swankonsports.com on Tuesday, “We are a team that shoots a lot of threes and rides on energy.  I think when you do that you are capable of beating a lot of teams, but you are also capable of losing on any given night.  If we can find ways even if we don’t have a boatload of energy that particular night and we aren’t knocking down shots.  You know, against Senior we only shot three for 13 from three.  So, we were able to beat them without knocking down a ton of threes, but what we were able to do is shoot really well from the free throw line which helped quite a bit.”

          Ashland (7-8,5-6) travels to Lexington (13-3,8-3) on Friday night for the rematch of a game that Ashland won (76-45) on January 6.  Fralich says they are not going to do a lot with the film of that game in terms of presenting it to the kids because that is in the past and this will be a different game.  “We look at a lot of film as a staff.  We have a couple of the more recent films that we are going to look at and really break those down and go with our typical routine and go from there.  We just want our guys to focus on getting better and taking advantage of this second opportunity with them.  We don’ want them falling back on the fact that we beat them by quite a bit.  It was a big win for us.  As a staff we will watch it and we will keep some of the things that we did well in our back pocket,” he said.

          As well as the Arrows played in that first game against Lexington, Fralich believes they are going to have to play even better to have a chance to win on the road.  “Certainly we would like to be able to emulate how we were able to play that night.  We played extremely well, you know, everything kind of came together.  They didn’t play very well that night and they are very capable of playing a lot better and we expect it to be a very tough match.  They will be excited to play us.  We are going to have to play one out better games, if not our best game of the year, to beat them at their place,” said Fralich.

          Anytime you play Lexington offensive rebounding is going to be a major key to the game.  Plus, Fralich says they have to do a very good job of defending in the post area.  “Guarding inside and keeping them off the offensive glass.  They are one of the league leaders, if not the best in the league, at getting second chances.  They have big strong physical kids.  They have some toughness to them that they are just relentless on the glass.  They have a nose for the ball, so we are going to have to do a great job of team rebounding because they have a lot more size than we do.  At the same time we are going to have to guard in the post.  Their leading scorer is a guard, but a lot of what they do comes form the post.  They go inside to score or inside and back out,” said Fralich.    

 

 
   

Ashland Can’t Win Close Ones

 

          Ashland has already shown this year that they can beat anyone in the area, they have wins over Lexington and Shelby to their credit, but they have also lost some games that they probably should have won.

          Last weekend, they lost two games in the Ohio Cardinal Conference.  Orrville beat them Friday night (69-41) and West Holmes got past them (63-59) on Saturday night.  Coach Tim Fralick says they just can’t make the big play, on offense or defense, when they need it most.  “We just need to find a way to make more plays going down the wire whether it’s getting some guys to step up and make a play on offense, make a shot or knock down some big free throws or get a big offensive rebound that leads to a bucket.  Or defensively getting a stop and getting that first miss and getting going.  We struggle with that down the wire for some reason.  Obviously we hope that isn’t something that continues to happen.  We have struggled in close games to come up with the play and that has kind of bitten us in the butt.  Hopefully, we are learning and the next time we are in that situation we will take better care of the basketball, make a big play on offense, or get a stop on defense,” said Fralick.

          Ashland (6-8,4-6), also lost to Hilliard Davidson (57-52) on Tuesday night in a non-conference game.  On Friday, they are at home for the first place Mansfield Senior Tygers (11-2,7-2) at Arrow Arena.  Fralick says they have to find some way to slow down Keon Johnson, who had 26 in the first meeting won (67-58) by the Tygers.  “They have a group of guys and they play a lot of basketball.  They play all year long.  When you do that you are going to be good.  They are always tough and coach James does a good job with them as far as being aggressive both offensively and defensively.  That is certainly a strength of theirs,” he told Swankonsports.com, “When you have a guy like Keon Johnson that handles the ball 90 percent of the game and he just happens to be one of the best players in the area you are going to have a chance to win a lot of games.  He is a tough guard.  He is extremely fast, quick, and can get to the rim.  He is an improving shooter this year.  So much of what they do goes through him as far as for himself and creating for others.  If we can do a good job on him, frustrate him a little bit, it will certainly be in our favor.”

          In that first game Fralick feels like they did a lot of good things, many good things, but they just could make the shots like they normally do in games.  “The first time we played them at their place we feel like we played them really well.  The one thing that was glaring for us is we were two for 18 from three.  I think about 12 of those were pretty much open.  I shouldn’t say pretty much, they were open shots and we couldn’t knock them in.  Hopefully on our home court we can get those going and have like a snowball effect.  I know our guys are really excited about it.  Our guys always get excited to play Mansfield.  We did play them tough at their place and hopefully we can do the same at our place,’ said Fralick.   

 

 
   

Ashland Must Adapt

 

          Ashland had been riding high with a three game winning streak, but they were brought back to earth last Friday by the Madison Rams and now the need to regain their momentum.

          They will have that opportunity with two Ohio Cardinal Conference games this weekend.  They travel to Orrville on Friday and host West Holmes on Saturday.

          Last week, on Friday night, Madison slowed down and nearly stopped the potent Ashland offense with a suffocating zone defense and that led the Rams to victory (48-39) over the Arrows.  Ashland (6-5,4-4) coach Tim Fralick says Madison showed them something new and did a great job of executing it.  “It was a different kind of game for us.  It was our lowest point total of the year.  They did a really good job of slowing us down.  They ran a lot of 2-2-1 pressure back into an extended 2-3.  For some reason our guys became pretty hesitant against it.  Their pressure up top in those zones really hurt our guards.  We weren’t able to get into a flow like we typically get into,” he told Swankonsports.com on Tuesday, “With our full court pressure a lot of times we are able to speed teams up.  They have a couple of the best guards in the area in Shaquille Brooks and Jaquan Thompson and they didn’t have too much of a problem with it.  They broke the pressure and instead of shooting quick shots they pulled out and were able to get into their motion and get the ball moving and make us guard for long periods of time.  There is a reason they went to the regionals last year and they have a lot of kids back.”

          In the second part of the double weekend the Arrows responded better to the same kind of look as they downed the Wooster Generals (56-50) to stay even in the league.  Fralick says they were able to work on some things on Saturday morning.  “You could tell that Wooster had communicated with someone about what Madison had done because they came out in a similar type of defense.  In our shoot around on Saturday morning we had a little bit of time to kind of work on some things and how to attack that kind of defense.  It wasn’t great, but we did a better job.  We were more affective against it and were able to get a little bit more back into what we want to do.  We have to keep working on those things because I think we are going to see more and more of it,” he said.

          It’s a trip to Orrville for the Arrows on Friday night.  The Red Riders upset Lexington (41-40) there on Tuesday night and knocked the Minutemen from first place in the league.  Fralick says Orrville (3-8,3-5) is better than that record might indicate.  “They have height and athleticism.  Any time you go up against a team that has hose two things you have to be very weary.  Every single game they have been in except for Mansfield Senior.  They are in every single game.  Their record isn’t really good and it’s very deceiving.  We expect it to be a heck of game.  That’s tough place to play.  Last year one of our two wins was at Orrville.  That was the first time Ashland had won out there in 10 years.  They do have some very good size in the Brenner kid and Winters and they are pretty athletic as well.  It will be a good one,” said Fralick.

          Ashland gets a chance at some revenge on Saturday night when they host West Holmes.  The Knights (5-5,2-4) beat them (54-52) two nights before Christmas.  Fralick says they have to do something about Brady Arnold.  “They have big strong athletes like Orrville or Lexington.  The difference with West Holmes is they have if not the best point guard, one of the best point guards in the area and our league in Brady Arnold.  He can do a good job of handling pressure and pressuring guards on the defensive end.  I think when you talk about West Holmes you have to talk about Brady Arnold and go from there.  If we can do a good job of containing him, I think we will be in good shape,” said Fralick.     

 

 
   

Ashland Continues Outstanding Play

 

          Some might have thought an Ashland win over Lexington two weeks ago was a fluke, but that is far from the case as they have shot the ball just as well in beating both Shelby and Clear Fork.

          Last Saturday, the Arrows beat (82-70) Shelby, the second place team in the Northern Ohio League, and then downed Clear Fork (73-60) in an Ohio Cardinal Conference game on Tuesday night.

          Coach Tim Fralic says they told the kids they needed to come out and prove some things to possible doubters.  “We tried to talk to our guys about the importance of not being one hit wonders.  They all know what that is and we just wanted to put together a string of some good basketball.  We knew we were capable of it.  Even in the games we lost earlier in the season we played really well in spurts.  We have been able to play more consistent and put games together for longer periods of time and play some pretty good basketball,” he said.

          Ashland and Shelby are similar teams and last Saturday the Arrows just shot better, making 13 three pointers in the game.  “Shelby had won 21 straight home games, so to get them at their place was special for us.  They have two of the top players in the area in Nelson and Arnold.  Nelson really hurt us, but we were able to do a really good job on Arnold.  We really keyed on Arnold more so than Nelson,” said Fralic.

          On Tuesday night, Clear Fork had the lead and halftime, but the Arrows had more depth and in the up tempo game they were able to wear down the Colts.  “Tuesday night we didn’t come out with the same energy as we had in the previous two games.  We started to pick it up more in the second quarter.  We just talked about staying the course and keeping the energy going and the shots are going to start falling for us.  They started to wear down a little bit.  They aren’t comfortable playing the same tempo,” Fralic told Swankonsports.com, “We got them to play our tempo throughout the whole course of the game.  We knew it would be a matter of time.  They have a nice team too.  Everyone thinks of them losing all those players from last year that they were going to be way down this year and that certainly isn’t the case.”

          Ashland substitutes like a hockey team does a line.  They bring in fresh players every four minutes.  Fralic says they really don’t have a starting lineup.  “We go five and five and in a lot of ways we try to balance out those five and fives.  Those that the coaching staff might consider our top five guys they aren’t necessarily in our starting group.  We balance it out so both groups can come in and have some firepower.  We also do that in practice situations, which makes for a much more competitive practice.  It has been to our benefit here as of late and we hope that continues,” he said.

          Ashland (5-4,3-3) travels down U.S. Route 42 about 10 miles for an “OCC” game with the Mansfield Madison Rams on Friday night.  Fralic says Madison is starting to play some really good basketball too.  “Coach Rickert always gets those guys playing really hard.  It seems that he always gets them to play their best ball as the year goes on toward the end of the season.  We know it’s going to be a tough one, especially at their place,” he said, “They are 3-2 in the league and we are 3-3, so we are kind of slugging it out right now for dibs on the top half of the conference.  Everything is up from grabs right now in the conference, so we know they will be ready for us.  Being so close to each other and playing each other over the summer.  There is a pretty big rivalry there.  I know both sides really want to get this one.”

          Madison (4-4,3-2), also like Ashland got off to a slow start, losing three of their first four games.  Fralic expects the Rams to play more like they did last year against them.  “I expect it to be a really good game.  I think they are going to come out and pressure us more so than they have other teams because they are going to have a little more bounce to their step.  They have guys that have the ability to do that.  It should be an up and down game and a fan friendly game to watch,” said Fralic.

          Wooster will be at Arrow Arena for another “OCC” game on Saturday night.  The Generals beat Ashland (85-83) in double overtime in their first meeting of the year.  “Last time it was one of those games when you just walk away and shake your head because you really wish that neither team had to lose that one.  It was a really good high school basketball game.  Unfortunately we didn’t do the things we need to do down the stretch to win that game.  We let a lead slip away and we didn’t take advantage of opportunities in regulation and overtime.  Those are the kind of games that leave a bitter taste in your mouth,” Fralic said.   

 

 
   

Ashland Ready For Different Challenges

 

          Ashland may have had their break through moment last week and now they need to extend that momentum with a double weekend of action this week.

          Last Friday, the Arrows produced likely the biggest upset of the season when they beat Lexington (76-45) by making 10 of 18 three point attempts on the night.  Arrows coach Tim Fralic says they got the Minutemen to play their style of play.  “We thought that we had played really well in spurts throughout the course of the season.  In a couple of conference games against Wooster and West Holmes we were up heading into the fourth quarter.  We didn’t make our free throws or didn’t take care of the ball or just didn’t do some of the things we needed to do as an entire team to get it done.  To have that killer instinct with the game in our favor.  It was just nice to see the guys put it all together, Fralic told Swankonsports.com, “You know we shot the ball extremely well, but on top of that we really guarded well.  We got Lex out of their comfort zone.  We got them to play our type of game, a little more up and down.  It was a good night for us and our program and us trying to move forward.”

          On Friday night, Ashland (3-4,2-3) will be at home at Arrow Arena for the Clear Fork Colts in Ohio Cardinal Conference action.  Fralic says Colts coach Steven Bechtel has done an outstanding job with his team.  “You looked at their roster form last year and they had the Salvinski kid, Trey Boyd, Trace Prather, among others were going to graduate, so you thought it would be an easier one for us next year against Clear Fork, but I really don’t think that is the case.  They are 5-3 right now and 2-3 in the conference like we are.  They always play tough.  They defend well.  They rebound well.  They have a nice toughness to them,” Fralic said.

          Although Clear Fork is trying to be more up tempo this season, Fralic still feels this will be a game where it will be a battle to see who controls the pace of play.  “They stick to what they do offensively.  They play more of a deliberate style.  They set a lot of screens, run their motion, pass and cut through, pass and screen away.  They are content in taking a minute or longer to get a good shot.  It will be contrasting styles of play for us and them.  You know our biggest key is trying to get the game up tempo and get them to play faster than they would typically want to play.  We feel if we are able to do that, then we will have our chances,” he said.

          Ashland travels to Shelby (7-2) for a non-conference game on Saturday night.  Fralic is looking forward to the game with the Whippets, #3 in Swankonsports.com basketball power poll for larger schools, because the teams play a lot a like.  “I really like the way they play.  Coach Schwemley and I have communicated a number of times since I got the job here.  I like to just talk hoops period, but especially with teams that are doing things that we would like to do.  He really has that thing going over there.  They have some nice players, some good basketball players, you can see those kids spent a lot of time in the gym.  Their skill level is high and you can tell that basketball is important to them,” said Fralic.

          The Ashland coach believes that Shelby really has two of the better players in this area and they will be hard to control.  “This should be an up tempo game.  They will play full court man-to-man.  They will do some 2-2-1 pressing back into a 2-3.  We are going to press and we are going to play fast too.  It certainly will be a fun game to watch, both teams will be up and down.  They have two of the better players in the area in Garret Arnold and Conner Nelson,” he said.    

 

 
   

Ashland Faces Another Tough Assignment

 

          Ashland seems like a basketball team that just needs that little extra something, like better shooting, to get over the top and starting winning more games.

          The Arrows (2-4,1-3) lost another tough one to Mansfield Senior at Pete Henry (67-58) and again it was sub par shooting that was that was the difference, especially behind the three point line.  Ashland coach Tim Fralic says they did other things very well.  “We played them tough and be honest with you when our staff looked back at the game and breaking it down, Mansfield may not agree with this, but we feel we out played them in more ways than not.  Unfortunately we shot the ball pretty poorly.  We have shot the ball pretty below average for a team that has petty good shooters.  We knock them down in practice and we feel it is just a matter of time before we get those game legs going and get a little confidence and get a streak going,” Fralic told Swankonsports.com on Tuesday, “We were 2-18 from three and anytime you do that you are really putting yourself in a tough spot, especially against a good team like Mansfield Senior.  They have a team that can really shoot the ball well from the perimeter and I don’t think they have had that for years.  They may not have the big horses down low like they have had sometimes in the past.  I think they were 9-17 from three.  So, 2-18 for us and 9-17 for them we didn’t give ourselves a lot of room to work with there.”

          The most frustrating thing is the Arrows shoot the long distance shot very well in practice, but they are not able to take that to the game.  Fralic says they are going to change some things they do in practice.  “Part of if is in practice we need to go a little harder and do some competitive drills in practice.  We need to shoot more at game speed.  We do a lot of drills in practice now that involve shooting and running.  We need to put some more pressure on them so it’s a little easier in game situations.  I think it will pay off.  I think we have guys that are good shooters.  They are staying after practice a little bit because they know their shots aren’t falling,” he said.

          Things do not get any easier for the Arrows this week as they host Ohio Cardinal Conference leading Lexington (8-0,4-0) in an “OCC” game at Arrow Arena.  Fralic says the Minutemen, #2 in the Swankonsports.com basketball power poll, are a very physical team that rebounds the ball very well.  “They are huge.  They start like 6-3, 6-4, 6-4, 6-5, something like that.  They are long and athletic and they aren’t just tall and thin.  Coach Feick does a really good job of getting them to play tough.  They do a good job on the defensive glass and the offensive glass and so that’s what makes them most impressive.  On top of that they have some good guard play in Rasheed Brooks, he is probably one of the better players in the league.  He is doing some more things for them as far as handling pressure and handling the basketball.  When you combined those things they are and awfully tough team,” said Fralic.

          Ashland wants to make this more of a track meet if they can.  Fralic says they do not want to get into a half court battle with Lexington.  “They play a very different way than we play.  They are trying to pound it inside.  They will play fast a little bit here and there.  They don’t want to play as fast as we do.  We feel if we get the team to play our tempo that we are going to have a chance.  One of the big keys for us, just like it was against Mansfield Senior, will be defensive rebounding.  If we get five guys committing to rebounding and limiting their second chances we are going to have our chances.  Brooks is their leading scorer, and he is an outside player, but they can really do some damage inside.  We have to do a very good job of guarding inside in the post,” said Fralic.    

 

 
   

Ashland Will Run With Mansfield Senior

 

          Ashland is probably one of the few teams in this area that feels comfortable at the same pace as Mansfield Senior.  We will see how that plays out when the Arrows visit Pete Henry Gym to play the Tygers on Friday night in Ohio Cardinal Conference action.

          The Arrows (2-3,1-2)are coming off their second two-point loss in “OCC” play.  West Holmes beat them (54-52) when the Knights scored with less than a second play last week.  “We were really disappointed after the game Friday.  We have talked this week that this is a situation that really doesn’t break our back.  It’s something where we can really fight through that adversity and find ways to just keep getting better.  It’s kind of funny when you lose you break down film a little more.  As a coaching staff and as players you are a little more picky about things you did wrong.  In a lot of ways it gives you more of an opportunity for improvement,” said coach Tim Fralic.

          Mansfield Senior has a traditional line up for them other than the fact that they aren’t as big as they usually are on the front line.  They do have Keon Johnson at the guard position and Fralic says they have to pay special attention to him.  “We know heading into this week that we are going to have to play really well.  Mansfield Senior is a very good team.  They are very athletic and they give every team in our conference a different look than they normally see,” he told Swankonsports.com, “One of the things we have keyed on is Keon Johnson.  He is probably one of the best players in the league.  He is fast and quick.  He can score in bunches and he can score in a lot of different ways.  If we can find a way to frustrate him, to contain him we feel like we will be in good shape.”

          Offensive rebounding has always been a strength of the Tygers and this season is no different, despite the undersized lineup.  Fralic says if they are to stay in the game they can not allow the Tygers to dominate the offensive boards.   “We have to do a good job on the defensive glass.  They average about 17 offensive rebounds a game, which is really astronomical for a 32 minute game.  If we can do a good job there, we feel like we will have our opportunities.  We are still a confident group.  We are two last second shots away from being 4-1,” he said.

          Then there is the matter of tempo.  Most teams shy away from playing as fast as the Tygers do, but Ashland will not be one of those teams.  “That is one thing that we will do and our guys are more comfortable playing up tempo and fast breaking and pressure defensively.  Some teams it just throws them off getting in that kind of up tempo game.  They do everything they can to slow the game down.  Sometimes that works to their disadvantage because they are playing even slower than they normally play.  Then when Mansfield Senior gets in attack mode, and gets some steals, then they are playing super fast and they are not used to that either.  With the way our guys play they shouldn’t be too uncomfortable with it,” said Fralic.

          It’s not like you want to trade baskets with the Tygers, but Fralic says you can’t back down.  He says they are going to play their game.  “Their pressure, athleticism and speed is unique.  We expect pressure that is turned up a notch higher.  At the same time we sub five and five guys.  We don’t think it will be that much different than what we normally see in practice.  We are going to play the way we play and it just happens to be the way they play.  I imagine it has a chance to be a really high scoring affair,” said Fralic.

 

 
   

Ashland Lights it up

 

          Ashland has potential to be one of the best perimeter shooting teams in the area this season and they served notice of that fact last weekend in winning two games.

          After losing their first two to Wooster (85-83) and Norwalk (75-57) the Arrows (2-2) downed Orrville (62-56) in Ohio Cardinal Conference action last Friday and then beat Willard (54-41) in a non-conference contest on Saturday.  Second year coach Tim Fralic says they got hot from behind the three point line.  “That first weekend we really came out kind of cold.  You know, we knew what type of shooters that we had and it was just a matter of time before we broke out of it.  I know it’s tough to be a consistent outside shooting team, but as much as you can, we feel like we can,” he told Swankonsports.com on Wednesday, “It was nice to see our guys get into a little rhythm, get their legs underneath them and knock down some shots.  Obviously when you are knocking down some shots it has the tendency to affect other areas of the game.  We had a little more energy in our press and our half court defense and when all of those things come together we were able to play some pretty good basketball in spurts.”

          Almost every coach at every level of the game is looking for more consistency from their players and Fralic knows that isn’t easy to do when you are talking about high school aged kids.  “If we could get a little bit more consistency there at both ends of the court it would certainly make us a much better team.  When you are working with 15, 16, 17, 18 year-old kids it is a tough thing to get.  We are certainly striving for it.  We have had a good week of practice, so hopefully we will just keep getting better here,” he said.

          The Arrows will be at West Holmes (2-3) in an “OCC” game on Friday night and the Knights are a lot better than they were a year ago.  The major reason is point guard Brady Arnold is a year older and he is improved.  Fralic says he is one of the better players in the league.  “When you talk about West Holmes you have to talk about their point guard Brady Arnold.  He went down on Saturday.  He got some sort of concussion or something against Norwayne.  From what we understand he is going to be back and ready to play against us.  Their offense, and the way they play, all goes through him.  He is averaging almost 19 points a game.  He has a quick first step, he’s quick laterally, he’s got nice speed and can step back and shoot it.  He can finish or create for others.  You really have to at least try and contain him.  You are not going to stop him, but if you can contain him by making the chances he gets a little mor