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Scouting report: Avon Lake, Ashland use 2 styles to earn same result


They will arrive at Brunswick`s Kirsh Field for tonight`s much-anticipated showdown of state powerhouses with seven playoff appearances between them in the past five years, and with rosters fully loaded to perhaps claim a state championship.

But the Avon Lake Shoremen and Ashland Arrows have emerged as title contenders with vastly different styles which have achieved maximum results.

The Shoremen, who have won 59 games in the last half decade, take a battering ram approach to their opponents, compiling 3,423 yards of rushing offense.

The Arrows, who have won 22 games in the last two years, spread opposing defenses out, then proceed to pick them off with an explosive passing attack, led by senior quarterback Taylor Housewright, who has thrown for 2,765 yards and 33 touchdowns in 11 games.

Yet given their respective results, it`s hard to quibble with either philosophy, isn`t it?

"These two teams couldn`t take a more different approach to offense," said Ashland coach Scott Valentine. "There really is no formula to winning. Whatever works for you is going to be best for you in the long run. For us, with the talent we have, we like to throw the ball. And it has served us pretty well, I think."

Indeed, few teams in the state can throw the football as efficiently or as prolifically as Housewright and the Arrows. The senior quarterback has completed 69-percent of his 285 pass attempts and thrown just eight interceptions. Three receivers on his team have at least 38 completions, 500 receiving yards and six touchdowns.

"They`ve got one of the top three or four quarterbacks in Ohio - period," said Avon Lake coach Dave Dlugosz. "(Housewright) is a veteran quarterback, it`s his third year as a starter and he`s playoff tested. They surround him in the pocket real well and he buys himself a lot of time. Offensively, they`re a big, big challenge."

Opponents have yet to find a way to keep Ashland`s scoring in check. Only two times have the Arrows been under 30 points this season - against Shelby in Week 2 and Olentangy Liberty last week.

Ashland specializes in running the spread offense, which forces opposing defenses to cover multiple threats over wide tracts of space. The more space a defense has to cover, the more room the Arrows` athletes have to operate.

It`s a style of offense Avon Lake is quite familiar with. The Shoremen have already faced four opponents which run the spread – Avon, Dover, North Olmsted and Midview. But none of those teams run it with quite the quality of quarterback or receivers of Ashland.

"I don`t think any of them looked quite as good as these guys do on film," said Dlugosz.

Of course, Ashland hasn`t seen a rushing offense quite as prolific as Avon Lake`s. The Shoremen have exhausted opponents with a powerful ground game led by the backfield duo of Mike Haddad (1,437 and 26 touchdowns) and Jeff Tell (1,217 yards, 10 touchdowns).

"They have two good running backs you`re not going to be able to stop," said Valentine. "You`ve got to try to contain them and keep them from getting those big plays. That`s how they kill you."

Only twice all year has Avon Lake given up three or more touchdowns to an opponent. That could change given the explosive nature of Ashland`s offense.

The Shoremen will try to pressure Housewright with its down linemen and hope its defensive secondary can supply ample coverage. But that will be a difficult challenge, said Dlugosz, pointing out that in Jacob Carpenter, Kyle Wolf and Troy Stauffer, the Arrows have three offensive linemen that weight over 300 pounds.

Dlugosz suggested that maybe the easiest way of limiting the Arrows` ability to score is by not letting them touch the football - use the Shoremen`s ability to run to chew up the clock, thereby keeping Ashland`s offense off the field.

"This is playoff-caliber football," said Dlugosz. "You`d better believe you`re going to get good teams from this point on. May the best team win."

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