For The Independent
After playing 10 consecutive weeks of games, Ashland’s only off week of the season was just what the doctor ordered.
The extra time allowed the Tomcats to rest some weary bodies.
“I think that really helped us. We were just so banged up,” first-year Ashland head coach Tony Love said. “Our kids really needed some rest, and we gave them a couple of days off in hopes of them getting better. Yeah we figured we might lose some timing on the offense and a little on defense, but we felt like the rest was more of a benefit.”
Love was correct about some timing issues on both sides of the ball early on, but they sure didn’t last very long as the reenergized Tomcats powered past Covington Holmes, 49-20, in the opening round of the Class 4A playoffs.
Ashland will travel to Fort Thomas Highlands next Friday night for its second-round matchup.
After allowing the Bulldogs to score on their opening possession, the Tomcat defense locked in on Holmes’ run-heavy attack. Ashland stopped the Bulldogs on six straight possessions before allowing two late touchdowns.
The Bulldogs (5-6) used talented running back Jon Scruggs to run the wildcat formation most of the night, something that caught Ashland off-guard early.
Scruggs finished the night with 19 carries for 151 yards and three scores.
“We saw them get in the wildcat formation early in the season and some last week, and we prepared for it,” Love said. “We got out there and realized that they were going to stay in that almost all night, so we made some different adjustments. We just weren’t prepared for them to run it all night.
“Once we settled in and got our gaps filled, things turned around for us,” Love added.
On offense, things also turned around after one possession. After being forced to punt on the opening drive on the game, the Tomcats scored on six straight opportunities.
Quinton Baker got the scoring started for Ashland with a six-yard score late in the first quarter. The talented sophomore racked up 111 yards on just 14 carries before exiting the game in the second quarter with an ankle injury.
Love doesn’t think the injury is too serious, however.
“He has a sprained ankle,” he said. “He has been dealing with that throughout the season off and on, so I think he will be OK.”
With Baker out, the Tomcats spread the carries around with seven other players carrying the ball, four of whom scored touchdowns.
James Queen, Josh Vaughn and Tyler Sutton all recorded rushing touchdowns for Ashland. Jake Long, who was recently made eligible after transferring from Ironton, scored his first touchdown in a Tomcat uniform with an eight-yard run in the third quarter.
“We had guys step in. It seems like we have had guys do that all year long,” Love said. “When somebody goes down, someone else steps up and takes their place. That is how they have worked this year.”
Ashland (8-3) also scored one time through the air, when Hunter Prince connected with Jordan Kennedy from 18 yards out on a fourth-and-17 play late in the first half.
Cody Conley added the other touchdown on a 26-yard interception return.