There is every reason to believe 13 will be lucky for Ashland University football coach Lee Owens.
The Eagles are ranked sixth in NCAA Division II and picked to win the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (GLIAC) South Division as Owens prepares for his 13th season at AU.
Owens, who coached the Akron Zips between 1995 and 2003, has accumulated a record of 89-42 in 12 seasons with Ashland and is coming off a 10-1 mark a year ago.
The Eagles have won eight or more games in seven of 12 seasons under Owens.
Ashland’s roster includes a bevy of local talent: John Conner (Walsh Jesuit), John Davies (Green), Zachary Douglass (Smithville), Adam Forret (Manchester), Brandon Gency (Streetsboro), Harrison Hoppel (Minerva), Kyle Hotz (Brunswick), Myles Houska (Highland), Tre’Vontae Jackson (Canton McKinley), Jon Karam (Copley), Sam Kellogg (Hillsdale), Tristen Kidd (Rittman), Anthony McCarthy (Massillon), David Murray (Nordonia), Bryce Obeng (Firestone), Eric Pickering (Hillsdale), Clay Shreve (Lake), Keishaun Sims (Massillon Perry), Tyler Tokos (Marlington), Stewart Turner (Orrville), Shawn Van Gorder (Hudson), Andrew Vaughn (Black River), Adam Wallace (Norwayne), Justin Wazbinski (Aurora) and Tyler Zelinski (Highland).
Douglass and Gency are seniors and returning All-GLIAC first-team standouts from 2015. Douglass, listed at 6-2, 297 pounds, is a right guard. Gency, a 6-1, 234-pound linebacker, led the team with 103 total tackles last season, and had 10˝ tackles for loss and two interceptions.
Conner and Wallace are returning honorable mention all-conference players. Conner is a 6-5, 287-pound sophomore offensive tackle. Wallace is a 6-2, 241-pound senior defensive end, having 40 total tackles and 3.5 TFLs in 2015.
Ashland opens its season Sept. 1 at home against Mercyhurst.
Also set to begin his 13th season as a head football coach in the GLIAC is Paul Winters at Wayne State.
Winters, a decorated football player at St. Vincent-St. Mary High School and the University of Akron, has guided his teams to a 56-36 mark over the last eight seasons, including a Division II championship game appearance.
Winters was a member of Owens’ staff at the University of Akron for nine years.
Two local players competing for Winters at Wayne State are Ronny Brant II (Green), a junior safety and punter returner, and Darius Griggs (East), a redshirt freshman linebacker.
Mason Butler (Minerva) and Stefan Willis (Firestone) are returning honorable mention All-GLIAC players at Tiffin University. Butler is a junior offensive lineman. Willis is a senior defensive back.
Walsh University senior running back Aaron Male (Ellet) is one of the GLIAC’s top returning rushers, having carried 155 times for 866 yards (5.7 ypc) and one TD last season.
The GLIAC will see a major shift in 2017 when Findlay, Hillsdale, Lake Erie, Ohio Dominican and Walsh jump to the Great Midwest Athletic Conference (G-MAC), a league consisting of private colleges and universities. Malone University already left the GLIAC for the G-MAC.
Flagler College junior Sara Davis (Firestone), a 6-2 middle hitter, is one of the top returning volleyball stars in the NCAA Division II Peach Belt Conference.
Davis earned first-team All-Southeast Region and All-PBC as a sophomore when she collected 399 kills and 91 blocks during a 22-8 season for Flagler in 2015.
Located in St. Augustine, Fla., Flagler opens its season Sept. 2 at home against Southern Indiana.
Cortnee Bowser (Kent Roosevelt) is a junior middle blocker at the University of Cincinnati. Bowser tallied 124 kills, 54 blocks, and 42 digs a year ago when UC compiled a 21-10 mark.
Krissy Mummey (Hudson) is a junior middle hitter for College of Charleston. Mummey registered 197 kills and 101 blocks for Charleston last season.
Alyson Near (Waynedale) is a junior middle at Mount Vernon Nazarene, which is off to a 4-0 start this season. Near accumulated 219 kills, 115 digs, and 102 blocks in 2015.
Ashland University sophomore Jordan Mackay (Hudson) is an outside hitter/middle expecting to make a bigger contribution this year after 27 kills, 15 blocks and 11 digs for the Eagles a year ago.
Sara Skeens (Triway), a two-time PAC-7 Player of the Year, is a 5-11 outside hitter set to begin her collegiate volleyball career at Cleveland State.
— Jeff Brewer