To say that Ashland University's football team boasts the best set of inside linebackers in the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference in juniors Brandon Gency and Zach Olszewski wouldn't be much of a stretch.
And according to them, there's good reason for that.
"The way we play complements each other a lot, with Gency being really fast coming off the edge," Olszewski said. "I try to usually eat up more blocks and free him up. We just complement each other real well. We look like we're thinking the same thing at all times."
Said Gency, "Wherever I'm stepping, he's going. We flow so well together. We watch film together, just him and I, for hours every day just to try to get our reads so we know where we're going to be every single snap. He's a great counter to what I offer, and I'm a good counter to what he offers."
Gency and Olszewski will be two of the defensive leaders who will take the field for No. 3 Ashland on Saturday (Nov. 21) at noon against No. 12 Grand Valley State in an NCAA Division II Super Region 4 quarterfinal at Jack Miller Stadium/Martinelli Field.
Gency, a first-team All-GLIAC selection, leads the Eagles in total tackles (90), and Olszewski is second (78). Olszewski, who earned All-GLIAC honorable mention, is first on the team in tackles for loss (nine), Gency is second (eight).
"Your linebackers are supposed to be leading your team in tackles," Olszewski said. "We both just try to be leaders at all times. We push each other a lot. A lot of it is just about competition."
Gency and Olszewski took different paths to becoming among the best in the GLIAC. Gency didn't play much on defense as a freshman or to start his sophomore season until an injury suffered by Olszewski. In the last 18 games, however, he has racked up 145 total tackles, 14½ tackles for loss and four sacks.
"I've always felt like, whenever I'm on that field, I have to think as well as feel like I am a dominant player," Gency said. "It's just going to be an awesome thing this Saturday to play with Zach once again, to continue to get the job done."
Olszewski, after redshirting as a freshman during the Eagles' last postseason run in 2012, started in 2013 and to begin 2014 before his injury. He returned to the starting lineup as a junior to be a big part of this road to the playoffs.
"I wasn't really a part of the first one," said Olszewski. "I think we're really motivated to make something happen in the playoffs. Coach Rose always talks about it, how our defense has to be the one to win games for us, whether it be the last play of the first half, or even if we have to win on the last play of the game. One of the biggest things for our defense is just the experience that we have, playing together for so long now."
As for what it will like come Saturday at noon, Gency said, "It's going to be a dogfight. It will come down to the last play, whether it's our offense or our defense. Grand Valley is a great playoff team."