BY MATTHEW SPARKS
THE DAILY INDEPENDENT
ASHLAND Russell’s Nathan Conley received some brotherly advice before the 66th annual Kiwanis Bowl.
His brother Nick happens to be No. 2 rusher in school history. He wanted Nathan to play his game.
“I got a text from him,” Conley said. “He said that he knows that I am nervous, but to just keep it up and play like I know how to play. He is a great influence and I love him.”
Nathan Conley was a key player in the Red Devils’ game of keep away on Thursday night. The ground attack allowed Russell to maintain possession for most of the second half. Conley found the end zone twice, including a late touchdown to seal a 22-8 victory over Ashland at Putnam Stadium.
Quarterback Charlie Jachimczuk tallied 102 rushing yards on 19 carries. Conley added 74 and Ethan Sharp contributed 39 for a total of 213.
Russell coach Josh Wills said his team executed the game plan perfectly.
“I’m an old Russell guy,” Wills said. “I played in ’05 and ’06 with coach (Ivan) McGlone. We controlled the football and that’s what we want to do. … We wanted to come out and impose our will, control the ball and score some points. We did everything we wanted to do tonight.”
“Our offensive line was doing a great job pushing forward,” Conley added. “We had plenty of room to run behind. If they were giving us the holes, we had to hit them and we did.”
Russell began its first drive on the Ashland 45yard line. Nine plays later, Conley found paydirt with an 8-yard TD run. He hauled in a pass from Jachimczuk for the twopoint conversion for an early 8-0 lead.
The Red Devils immediately tried an onside kick and recovered it in Tomcat territory. Jachimczuk quickly made it a twoscore advantage with a 22yard touchdown sprint.
“We were changing defenses up quite a bit,” Ashland coach Darren Wilson said. “When you load people up inside, that’s when they started running it outside on the sweeps. When you do something to stop them, any good team is going to have something to counter it.”
Jachimczuk was name the Top Offensive Player for Russell.
“Charlie is so savvy,” Wills said. “There is a reason he starts (for the varsity team) on Friday nights in the secondary. He sees the game so well.
“He isn’t the fastest guy we got,” he added, “but he sees the field as well as anyone we have ever had here. He can turn a 2-yard run into 3 or 4 yards to keep the chains moving.”
Ashland (4-1) answered right back with a long drive that ended with Hunter Gillum’s short TD run. He also caught a toss from Jake Gregg on the two-point conversion to cut the deficit to 14-8 by halftime. Gillum took home Top Offensive Player honors for Ashland.
That march down the field lasted 11 plays. The Tomcats would have just 16 more offensive snaps the rest of the night.
“(In) the first quarter they played keepaway and about the whole second half,” Wilson said. “They just took the ball down the field, 4 or 6 yards at a time, then they would break a 10- or 12-yarder out there. It’s tough to score when you never have the ball.”
Russell (4-1) methodically ran the ball on offense in the second half, accumulating more than 14 minutes of possession time. The defense held Ashland to three-and-outs on its three drives in the final 20 minutes.
“We knew, when they wanted to run the ball, we had to play technique,” Wills said. “For a while there, we had to make sure our kids did their reads. That speaks so much to this group. To get 11 kids to do exactly what their reads said, it’s hard to do. They did a phenomenal job. This group is a great disciplined team.”
A.J. Biggs and Caleb Tackett was named the Top Defensive Player for Russell and Ashland, respectively.
Conley added a score with 4:53 remaining to secure Russell’s secondstraight Kiwanis Bowl win and the fifth in the last six years.
“We take pride in this (game) and it is something we focus on all season,” Conley said. “We work towards it and that is what every other game is about. Coming out here and getting that win was great.”