Defensive bookends Chase Hoobler and Adam Wallace are primed for a good showing in Saturday's (Nov. 21) noon kickoff for No. 3 Ashland University against No. 12 Grand Valley State in an NCAA Division II Super Region 4 quarterfinal at Jack Miller Stadium/Martinelli Field.
"It feels great," said Hoobler, a sixth-year senior defensive end. "God's given this team the ability to go out and play a second season, and that's what we've been hoping for since Day 1. To have this opportunity, it's a blessing."
Said Wallace, a junior stud (hybrid defensive end/linebacker), "I'm really excited. I came in as a redshirt freshman (in 2012), and it was pretty cool getting to see that. I'm excited that we have a really good team this year. I'm excited for Saturday."
Hoobler was a first-team All-Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference choice after recording 37 total tackles, a sack, an interception, a fumble recovery and five tackles for loss during the regular season. Wallace earned All-GLIAC honorable mention after making 38 total stops to go with a sack and 3½ tackles for loss.
They are part of an Eagle defense which has nearly doubled its interception count (15) from 2014 (eight), made more tackles for loss (60) than a season ago (54) and more sacks (20) than this time last year (19).
"We just really focus on making those key plays in key scenarios," Hoobler said. "We can give up a lot of yards, but if we play well in the red zone and hold them to field goals and get a couple turnovers here and there, it doesn't matter. As long as we're one point better, then that's all that matters to us."
Added Wallace, "We do our best to try to get into the backfield and hold the line. If we do our job, then everyone else is going to do theirs."
Taylor Adds Many Dimensions Off Eagle Bench
Senior tailback/kickoff returner Michael Taylor has played a bigger role for the Eagles in his final college season, and he's ready for his second go-around in the NCAA playoffs.
"It definitely feels great," he said. "I couldn't ask to be on a better team with a group of guys with the will to win. Everyone's on the same page. Just going out in my senior year, I couldn't ask for anything better than that."
Taylor has rushed for 361 yards and three touchdowns, caught seven passes for 32 yards and returned nine kickoffs for 203 yards.
"I have to be ready and give it my all," said Taylor. "Let coach (Lee Owens) know that he can trust me enough to be in and keep the ball rolling."
Taylor is part of a senior class which has won more games (34) than any class in program history.
"Just to be able to say that we've accomplished something in that manner, to have something to look back on, it feels great," he said.
As for Saturday afternoon, Taylor said, "The atmosphere definitely is going to be different. I'm just going to help the younger guys understand that the atmosphere is going to be a lot different and something fun to look forward to."
Owens Humbled By GLIAC Co-Coach of the Year Award
Owens earned his third GLIAC Coach of the Year award earlier this week, shared with Ferris State's Tony Annese.
"You're talking about a league where you've got Tony Annese at Ferris State, and what he's done the last two years is incredible," Owens said. "Our league is so tough and there's so many great coaches. This was an unbelievable year. What it truly is, is I feel good for our staff. I feel good for our coaches. Those guys work so hard. It's really recognition of what we've done as a staff. It's a coaching staff (award)."