The Ferris football team kicked off its home season Saturday night before a capacity crowd at Top Taggart Field. After an abysmal first half that saw a 23-0 deficit, the Bulldogs came out of the locker room fired up and poised for a comeback.
Ashland quarterback Taylor Housewright threw three first half touchdowns as the Eagles took a 23-0 lead to the locker room.
However, it was a tale of two halves as Ferris came out firing early in the third. After forcing a quick three and out, the Bulldogs drove 51 yards on seven plays and found paydirt on a one-yard touchdown run by sophomore quarterback Taylor Masiewicz.
The Bulldogs would stymie the very next Eagle drive and quickly regain possession. Ferris drove 43 yards in four plays before senior running back Skyler Stoker took a handoff running right, breaking two tackles to cash in from 26 yards out which brought Ferris within nine, 23-14.
The momentum had clearly shifted, but the Eagles had a response.
Marching 60 yards on six plays, Ashland found the end zone. It was freshman running back Steve Nagy’s third touchdown of the game, which moved the score to 30-14.
On their next drive, Ferris found itself in a critical fourth and four. Down 30-14, they gambled but were rewarded as redshirt freshman quaterback Jason Vander Laan hit senior tightend Kevin Guirand on a fade route through tough coverage for a score. Vander Laan’s keeper was good for the two point conversion and Ferris trailed 30-22.
The Eagles worked quickly to answer, marching 78 yards in five plays and capping the drive with Housewright’s fourth touchdown pass, this time to tight end Logan Slavinski, making it 37-22.
On Ferris’ next drive, Masiewicz led the Bulldogs 86 yards before finding Guirand for his second touchdown catch of the evening, bringing the Bulldogs back to within eight, 37-29.
With ten minutes left, Housewright methodically waltzed Ashland down the field for a seven-minute drive to milk the clock down to just over two minutes before tacking on another field goal to make it a two possession game, 40-29.
The Bulldogs had a chance at the end to recover an onside kick, but the ball found the hands of an Eagle who returned it for a touch down to deliver a 47-32 defeat.
In a game of momentum changes, Ferris still found positives to take from the loss.
“From an offensive standpoint, we really didn’t make any adjustments at the half. I just reminded the guys to stay patient and keep running the offense and in doing so we were able to gain some momentum in the second half, but we didn’t stop them,” Head Coach Tony Annesse added.
The Bulldogs led a balanced offensive attack with the exact number of yards on the ground as through the air at 252. Stoker led the way on the ground with 97 yards and a touchdown on 11 carries. Vander Laan rushed for 80 yards of his own on 18 carries.
“We were able to establish the run game and did some good things on offense. When the right blocks are made, our option is virtually unstoppable. We put up 32 points on a very good defense,” Vander Laan said.
The passing attack was a dual threat, as Vander Laan threw for 144 and Masiewicz 108. A.J. McEwen, sophomore wide receiver, led the Bulldogs with five receptions for 54 yards while Guirand had four receptions for 87 yards and two touchdowns. The defense was led by senior linerbacker Tayo Moss who had seven tackles, while Jaime Barrera added seven including two goal line stands early in the game.
The Bulldogs fall to 2-1 overall and 1-1 in league play. The Eagles improved to 3-0 and 2-0 in league play. The Bulldogs will try to get back in the win column Sept. 22, right here in Big Rapids as league newcomer Walsh College is welcomed to Top Taggart Field for their first ever showdown with the Bulldogs. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. for “Paint Big Rapids Pink” game in support of cancer research.
Tickets will available at the Ferris Athletics Ticket Office Sept. 17-21 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. or online at startickets.com. Fans can save $2 per ticket by purchasing in advance. For more information, please call ext. 2888 or visit FerrisStateBulldogs.com.