Presidents hope to answer the bell Friday night against Ashland

Marion Harding's Landon Adams tackles Mount Vernon's Jonny Askew during the season opening high school football game at Harding Stadium last week.
Marion Harding's Landon Adams tackles Mount Vernon's Jonny Askew during the season opening high school football game at Harding Stadium last week.

MARION — A rivalry is renewed and a trophy gets dusted off — literally — this Friday

After sitting in storage for 20 years, Ashland and Marion Harding will again meet on the football field with the winner taking home the more than 300-pound Erie Bell Trophy.

"Every young athlete has aspirations of playing in college. You have these trophy games in college, so to have the opportunity to play in one is pretty special," Marion Harding football coach Dan Arndt said of the game set for 7 p.m. for Harding Stadium.

The series started in 1953 and ran through 1959. In 1994, it was revived when both teams competed in the old Ohio Heartland Conference and continued until the league disbanded after the 2002 football season. A scheduling need for both teams for the second week of the 2022 season brought it back.

The bell is from an Erie Railroad locomotive that used to run a line from Marion to Ashland in the 1950s. The brass bell and its base weigh more than 300 pounds, according to Marion Harding Athletic Director Sean Kearns.

"It’s a rivalry that didn’t go on for a long time and went on a 20-year pause," Arndt said. "I’m very thankful that Mr. Kearns was able to bring that back. Our kids are aware of it and we’re educating them on it and they are excited about it. They saw that bell and they thought it was one of the neatest things they’ve ever seen in the school hallway. Hopefully that gives them a little incentive where they want to go out and ring that bell."

Both teams will be looking for their first win of the season. Harding fell in double overtime to Mount Vernon, while Ashland lost 61-28 to Division V northeast Ohio powerhouse Norwayne in its opener.

"The kids fought hard. We saw what we need to do differently and improve on. We need to simply things a little more and slow the game down," Arndt said. "That’s important to us considering it’s such a young group of kids. The main message was one game is not going to make or break us this season. We need to keep fighting and work to get better every day."

Marion Harding's Parker Davis runs away from the defense for an 80-yard touchdown reception against Mount Vernon last week during the high school football season opener in Harding Stadium.
Marion Harding's Parker Davis runs away from the defense for an 80-yard touchdown reception against Mount Vernon last week during the high school football season opener in Harding Stadium.

Ashland's final score is deceiving. Turnovers and special teams gaffes were the undoing of the Arrows.

"Norwayne, from a fundamental standpoint, they were a dag gone good football team. I did not see them make a whole lot of mistakes. They were smart and capitalized on every little mishap that Ashland had," Arndt said.

Three times Ashland failed to secure the kickoff and twice the Arrows threw interceptions that were returned for touchdowns. While it trailed 41-14 at the half, Ashland rolled up 344 yards and 13 first downs, both more than the Bobcats produced.

"Offensively they are a spread football team," Arndt said. "They like to play the quick game. They’ll go underneath and then take their shots going long. With us having a lot of youth in our secondary, we’ve got to make sure we coach them up and they understand the switches and how to hand things off. They have to be prepared for anything that comes at them."

Ashland starting quarterback Luke Bryant threw for 204 yards on 12 of 26 completions, but left the game with injury. In his place was freshman Nathan Bernhard who went 6-for-10 for 191 yards and a touchdown. Jonathan Metzger made eight catches for 222 yards and a score, while Grayson Steury had four receptions for 131 yards. Cayden Spotts led the Arrows with three touchdown on 79-yards rushing.

Defensively, Ashland gave up 10 yards per play to Norwayne as it accumulated 291 rushing yards and another 200 yards in the air with three TDs.

"From a defensive perspective, they come out in an odd front," Arndt said. "They like to have the two overhangs with a 3-4 look. They bring pressure up the middle and off the edges and we have to be prepared for that in both our run and pass games."

Harding produced some big plays in the passing game with the Alex Stokes-to-Parker Davis connection, but running back Trinity Keith injured his lower leg during the game and did not return.

Bradley Pennington and Landon Adams both recorded 16 tackles with Adams adding two sacks and three tackles for loss. Caden Jones and Marquise Long picked off passes for Harding, while Justin Long had two sacks.

The Presidents will need to be better in all phases Friday night, and Arndt is hopeful his squad will be up to the task.

"The kids worked their tails off," the coach said. "They’ve put in a lot of hours already preparing for Ashland. I was on Hudl checking their hours as far as how much time they are investing in terms of watching video and preparing. When you see kids in there for two and three hours on a Saturday afternoon, that makes you pretty proud as a football coach."

rmccurdy@gannett.com

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Marion Harding's marching band and student section get excited during the Week 1 showdown between the Presidents and Mount Vernon in Harding Stadium.
Marion Harding's marching band and student section get excited during the Week 1 showdown between the Presidents and Mount Vernon in Harding Stadium.

This article originally appeared on Marion Star: Presidents hope to answer the bell Friday night against Ashland