ASHLAND — Jackson Myers and the Ashland defense will have their hands full Saturday afternoon.
The Eagles travel to Frost-Kalnow Stadium for a Great Midwest Athletic Conference showdown against in-state rival Tiffin. The Dragons boast one of the most potent offenses in all of Division II.
AU’s middle linebacker, Myers made the play of the game in last week’s 38-14 win over Hillsdale. He returned an interception 34 yards for a touchdown just before halftime, breaking a 7-7 tie and providing the Eagles with the spark they desperately needed.
“That was huge,” AU coach Doug Geiser said afterward. “Jackson Myers is playing unbelievable right now at the Mike linebacker position.
“Jackson is playing at a level he has never played at.”
The Eagles (1-2, 1-0) will need Myers at his best Saturday. Tiffin (3-0, 1-0) averages a GMAC-leading 51.7 points and 511.3 yards a game and broke the single-game scoring record in a season-opening 79-14 win over McKendree.
“Their top two tailbacks, one averages 7.7 yards a carry and the other averages 7.2,” Geiser said. “That’s a huge challenge for our defense.”
AU counters with a defense that ranks fifth in the GMAC, allowing 337.7 yards a game. Through three games the Eagles have 14 sacks, 27 tackles for loss and seven takeaways under veteran defensive coordinator Tim Rose, who was awarded the game ball after last week’s win and honored for 60 years of coaching.
“I would not trade Tim for any defensive coordinator in the country. He’s the best,” Geiser said. “It doesn’t matter what the level is. The 60 years of success he’s had speaks volumes.”
Defensive end Deeb Alawan agreed. Alawan had two of Ashland’s seven sacks last week.
“He just has that fire inside of him,” Alawan said of Rose. “Hearing him talk and how he motivates people, I’d run through a brick wall for him.”
That approach should serve the Eagles well against a talented Tiffin team. Tailback Devin Nelson leads the GMAC with 353 rushing yards on 46 carries. Quarterback Kason Martin has completed 55-of-93 passes for 750 yards and seven touchdowns
“They’re undefeated. They’re first in the league. We’re the underdog,” Geiser said. “It’s going to be a great challenge for us. I give them all the respect in the world. They expect to win at Tiffin.”