Jonathan Metzger

Ashland's Jonathan Metzger goes out for a pass during last week's 35-17 win at Mount Vernon

ASHLAND — No matter which side of the ball he’s lined up on, Jonathan Metzger has to be accounted for.

Whether on offense or defense, Ashland’s junior receiver and defensive back is a play-maker.

An athletic 5-foot-10, 175-pounder, Metzger leads the Arrows with more than 37 catches for 517 yards and four touchdowns. He’s every bit as valuable defensively, accounting for three of Ashland’s seven interceptions through the first six weeks of the season.

The Arrows (2-4, 2-0 Ohio Cardinal Conference) picked up their first two wins of the season at Mount Vernon and against Madison the past two weeks thanks in no small part to Metzger.

He had a highlight-reel interception midway through the fourth quarter then hauled in a 25 yard touchdown pass from quarterback Landon McFrederick moments later to put the finishing touches on the 35-17 victory at Mount Vernon two weeks ago

He had 13 catches for 164 yards in that win.

Last weekend he caught a 24-yard TD pass against Madison on a fourth-and-16 play to tie the game, and added another scoring grab later in the game to key that victory.

“He’s just a dude for us,” Ashland coach Sean Seder said. “He’s a tough, hard-nosed kid.”

Seder, who doubles as Ashland’s wrestling coach, found out just how tough Metzger was during his freshman year. Wrestling at 152 pounds, Metzger dropped his first match at the Norwalk district meet only to reel off four straight victories and earn a spot at the ill-fated 2020 state meet in Division II. The pandemic forced the tournament’s cancellation.

He followed his state-qualifying freshman season with another trip to the Division II state tournament last March. He was 1-2 on the state’s biggest stage and finished the year 39-14.

“Obviously, he’s a really tough wrestler for us,” Seder said. “He’s the type of kid you’d like to have 22 of because it doesn’t matter how big they are, they are going to come at you.”

Metzger’s interception against the Yellow Jackets was a thing of beauty and came when the game still hung in the balance. He high-pointed the ball as he backpedaled, landing hard on his back along the Mount Vernon sideline at 50 yard line.

“On film they ran that play a couple of times, but I honestly didn’t even see it at first,” Metzger said of the game-changing interception. “I saw the ball in the air and jumped up and somehow got my fingertips on it.”

The win was welcome relief for the Arrows, who played arguably the toughest non-conference schedule in the Ohio Cardinal Conference. Ashland’s four non-conference opponents are a combined 20-4. The Arrows fell to Tri-Valley (5-1) 35-28 in the opener and dropped a 23-21 heart-breaker to undefeated Teays Valley in Week 3.

“It was really frustrating,” Metzger said of the 0-4 start. “We played some really good teams and we played them tough, but 0-4 is still 0-4.

“We had to pull together because we still have a lot to play for with the expanded playoffs. In prior seasons we’d be out of the playoff hunt already, but with six conference games, we’ve still got a lot to play for.”

The Ohio High School Athletic Association decided in April to expand the playoffs to 16 teams per region. By virtue of last week's win over Madison, Ashland moved up to 15th in Region 10 of Division III with big points games against Mansfield Senior, Lexington, West Holmes and Wooster in the final four weeks of the season.

“We know that our conference is really good,” Seder said. “It’s going to be tough, but we knew if we could get one against Mount Vernon, we could get some momentum rolling.”

With Metzger leading the charge, Seder likes his team’s chances going forward.

“Defensive side or offensive side, it doesn’t matter. He’s just a tough, old-school football player,” Seder said. “The officials came up and complimented us after the (Mount Vernon) game. They said as good as he is and as hard as he was playing, he was still helping kids up after the play and handing the ball to the officials. He never chirped. He just let his play do the talking.

“That’s the type of kid he is. He’s a heck of a player for us.”

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I have covered high school sports in Richland County since 2000. Email him at curt@richlandsource.com or follow him on Twitter: Follow @curtjconrad on twitter.