Ashland University's football team will start its third full week of spring practices on Monday (April 9) afternoon – continuing the offseason process which will culminate in the annual Purple & Gold Spring Game on April 21 at 7 p.m. at Jack Miller Stadium/Martinelli Field.
Eagle head coach Lee Owens is looking to change the format of the spring game, moving to a 15-minute quarter, a halftime, then a second 15-minute quarter.
"It should generate a little more interest that way, and you're still playing the same number of plays," Owens said. "And our halftime is a big deal."
Halftime this year will include recognition of faculty members, Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference academic award winners, graduating senior wide receiver Matt Wilcox (Lee Owens Academic Award and Academic All-American), and last year's seniors, as well as the 2017 GLIAC championship ring ceremony.
Honorary captains for this year's spring game are Tom Crosby and Bernie Barre, two 1974 Ashland College graduates and football alums.
The one high-profile position battle this spring is at quarterback, where senior-to-be Division I transfer Billy Bahl has been added to the mix of John Davies, Austin Brenner and Jacob Heath. All of those players are looking to replace graduated senior Travis Tarnowski, the program's all-time leading and all-time winningest QB.
"Billy's right up there with the leaders at the quarterback position," Owens said. "He's played a lot of ball at the Division I level. He has a lot of experience, a lot of great starts. That's great competition. I don't know how you substitute anything for experience.
"There's a lot of talent there," Owens continued, noting Davies is a veteran who has been the No. 2 pivot in recent years, and Brenner has a bright future moving forward.
Whomever the starting quarterback is come the fall, he will have a returning group that features last year's three top tailbacks, and six of the top seven Eagles in terms of receptions. The offensive line will see a revamping, as only left tackle Ryan Maguire returns.
Davies will move into the punting role in Tarnowski's sted, but a new kicker and return specialist will need to be found. The kicker may already be in the building, as Eagle soccer player Alexander Majors has been working with the football team in the spring. Owens said Majors has shown potential, maturity and a strong leg.
In total, roughly 100 players are taking part in spring practices.
In a VIP reception prior to the spring game, this year's special guests will be honored – Kip Matteson as the Golden Helmet Award winner, Pat Samanich (1993 Ashland graduate, football alum and head football coach at New Albany High School) as the Martinelli Coach of the Year recipient, and Tarnowski and Adam Shaheen, as the latest Eagle All-Americans to be added to the wall mural inside the Troop Center.
The annual Football Alumni & Friends Golf Outing will be April 20 at Ashland Golf Club. Range and registration will be at 8:30 a.m., with the shotgun start in a scramble format at 10 a.m. Dinner and golf prizes will be at 3 p.m., there will be a silent auction all day, and reverse raffle tickets will be drawn starting at 3:30 p.m.
Former Ashland All-Americans and current National Football League players Shaheen (tight end for the Chicago Bears) and Jamie Meder (defensive lineman for the Cleveland Browns) are scheduled to play in the golf outing.
Golf outing and hole sponsorship registration are $125 for an individual, $500 for a foursome, $550 for corporate (includes a foursome and hole sponsor), $750 for gold (includes a foursome, sponsorship and reverse raffle ticket), and $100 for a sponsorship (displayed on the course).
The outing and the spring game are sponsored by Ohio Health and Mansfield Distributing. For more information, contact Kay Jenney at 419-289-5475 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Admission for the spring game is a donation to the Make-A-Wish Foundation.