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Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Week 7 Preview: Orrville at Ashland

Who: Orrville Red Riders (5-1, 3-0) vs. Ashland Arrows (5-1, 3-0)
Where: Ashland Community Stadium (Click Here for Map & Directions)
When: Friday October 8th, 7:00pm

All Time Series: Ashland leads 11-8, there has been 1 tie. (Click here for detail)
Last Meeting: 2009 (Ashland won 14-13)
Last Week: Orrville beat West Holmes 38-6, Ashland beat Mansfield Senior 49-20

Coaches: Scott Valentine is 70-27 in his 9th season as Ashland head coach.  Doug Davault is 37-15 in his 6th season as Orrville coach.
Radio:  WQKT travels West into Ashland County for this one.  Also will stream at
Computer Points:  Orrville sits at #3 in Division 4, Region 14, Ashland sits in 7th in Division 2, Region 5.

Let's be honest, the minute we beat Lexington back in week 4, everyone's eyes turned to the Ashland game as the next roadblock on our schedule. Both teams come into the game with a 5-1 record and an unblemished 3-0 OCC record. The winner will take one big step towards an OCC title and help their playoff chances immensely.

And for the Riders, a win would lockup a spot somewhere in the top 8 of Region 14.  The indispensable Drew Pastuer and his Fantastic 50 website puts the computer points cutoff for a top-8 spot at 13.82 points.  A win over Ashland and everything else staying the same would give Orrville a total of 14.68 points, or nearly a point above the 13.82 cutoff line.

So really it's simple....beat Ashland and the Riders will be playing somewhere in week 11, even if they lost the last three games of the season.  Of course, if the Riders beat Ashland, they'll look to win an OCC title and beat Wooster and secure a home playoff still much to be accomplished after this week, win or lose.

An Ashland win will help the Arrows case for a week 11 home game so it's a plenty big deal for them too.  They sit 7th (half of their 6 games have been played against Division 3 teams) in Region 5, so they really need the win and the points that Orrville brings to town.

Tale of the Tape
Since becoming a part of the OCC, the Riders and Arrows have split six meetings, with Ashland winning three of the last 4.  The Riders, however, have won two of the previous three meetings (2006 & 2008) at Ashland's Community Stadium.  Their last two visits to the artificial surface have been good ones; a 21-0 win over Ashland in 2008, and the memorable 36-35 playoff win over Genoa last November.

Both teams have been battle-tested so far this season.  Pastuer ranks Orrville's schedule as the 117th toughest in Ohio and the Arrows as having the 140th toughest schedule, both in the top 20% of Ohio schools in terms of schedule strength.

Ashland won a close battle with (4-2) Dover and lost a close battle with D-2 power Marion Franklin.  They only scored 7 points against Franklin...far below their 48.6 points per game average in their five wins.

They're averaging over 50 points per game in their last three but not against the strongest of competition (Wooster, West Holmes and Senior), but their ability to score points should not be overlooked.  They are a high powered offense.

But I'd say the Orrville defense is just as high powered.  Probably the best they've seen outside of Marion Franklin.  I think we have the athletes to match up with them.  It's going to come down to not letting them hit big plays on us.

An interesting note.  Ashland's last shutout (11/17/2008, 21-0) came at the hands of Orrville and Orrville's last shutout (10/5/2007, 42-0) came at the hands of the Arrows.

Arrows to Watch
It might be easier to list the Arrows NOT to watch.  They have a lot of talent on the offensive side of the ball...led by Senior All-Ohio QB Marcus Fuller.  He surpassed 5,000 career passing yards a few weeks ago and sports a cool 63% completion rate to go along with 1,800 passing yards, 21 touchdowns and just 3 picks.  That's a 7-to-1 touchdown to interception ratio if you need it.
To compare, Kenton's passing machine Maty Mauk (2700 passing yards in 6 games) only has a 4-1 ratio (33 TD, 8 INT).  Fuller is an elite QB....and he blogs too (see...not all bloggers are unathletic dorks).  Where does he find the time?

The other Arrow to watch is dual threat senior Chris Thomas.  He has 6 rushing touchdowns and 8 receiving TD's on the year...oh and a 90 yd kick return for a TD as well.  All totaled he's responsible for 984 all-purpose yards (272 rushing, 575 receiving and 137 kickoff return yards) and 15 touchdowns.
Throw in Fuller's 201 rushing yards and he and Thomas are responsible for about half of the Arrow's offense in 2010.

The rest of Fuller and Co. are no slouches either.  Brandon Nalley is right behind his teammate Thomas for 2nd place in the OCC with 397 receiving yards on 18 grabs (6 TD).  Michael Bixler has 16 grabs for 220 yards and 3 scores, and Josh Duewel has 14 receptions for 212 yards and 2 scores.  All 3 join Thomas in the top 10 in receiving yards in the OCC.  Marquise Jones (15 for 179), Brandon Nardo (6 for 101) and Jacob Dixon (6 for 96, 1 TD) also have made contributions catching the ball. 

That's 7 receivers for Fuller to target.  Goodness.  Nevermind 5-wide, Ashland would go 7 wide if the rules allowed it.

What Orrville needs to do
1.  Control the ball.  Keep their offense off the field by putting together long, sustained drives (that end in points being scored).  That's one way to slow down their offense.  Obviously, a lot of our success will be predicated on Tre leading the running attack.  I think just as much production needs to come from Mason, and to an extent, from Matt Davis and Stew Turner as well.

2.  Pressure Fuller.  He's quick and elusive, definitely smart, but not super-fast in the mold of a Kyle Simmons.  Make him rush his throws and get some contact on him.  If there's ever a game for the 'Red Curtain' defense to show up, it's this one.  We've heard all year how our defense is fast...this is when we need to show that.

3.  Play with swagger.  The old Rider swagger hasn't made an appearance lately....let's see it this Friday.  In a game most are predicting us to lose (see below), let's play with that chip on our shoulder and play fast and aggressive.

I think conditioning will come into play in this one too....a little more than normal.  Our DB's that will have to cover all 4 or 5 Ashland receivers are also our WR's and RB's.  Ashland doesn't depend on the 2-way player like we do.  That's a luxury that a D-2 school has.  Orrville's stamina throughout the game is important or it could be a simple case of Ashland wearing the Riders down late in the game.

Predictions says Ashland 34-21 says Ashland by 7
A whopping 3% of pickers on Mansfield's think the Riders will win.
My guess is the Daily Record will return to picking against guess is 7 votes to 2.

I'll say this....if we play anywhere close to how we played against West Holmes and Mansfield Senior, we may get taken to the woodshed.  In my opinion we've played some real bad football lately.  Haven't put together anything resembling a complete football game since the Triway game five weeks ago.

We played a good 4th quarter against Lexington, a good 2nd half against Senior and a good 3rd quarter against West Holmes....can't play half a game or it's going to be a long bus ride home.

Can't play inconsistent against Ashland and expect to win...or decide to play hard in the 2nd half and expect to win....or turn the ball over and expect to win...or commit 9 penalties and expect to win.

I think the two constants here are the Ashland offense and the Orrville defense.  Maybe it comes down to the two variables, the Ashland defense and the Orrville offense.  The Ashland defense is not the typical Coach Fuller (Marcus' father) defense.  They're averaging giving up 21 points a game this season, up from just 11 at this time last year.  They're certainly susceptible to giving up some yards.  The Orrville offense has sputtered at times but looked strong at times too.  I think whichever unit plays the best is going to give their team the edge.

Our edge in talent has won us the last 3 games.  Ashland has just as much talent as we do, and they're a well-coached team.  They'll take advantage of every opportunity we give them, and create plenty of their own with their talent and coaching.

The talent is there for the Riders to win this game, nobody disputes that. What we don't know is when it will all click.  Will we see this game as a night where it all came together, and catapulted this team to an OCC title?  Or will we see it as a reality check and have to go back to the drawing board for the final three weeks of the regular season?

Go Riders...Beat the Arrows.

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