Listening to Ashland players describe it, the reaction to their being matched against Grand Valley State in the first round of the Division II playoffs was similar to truck drivers getting their marching orders at the top of the week.

Grand Valley State at Ashland

Noon on Saturday in Ashland, Ohio

Records - Grand Valley State 9-2; Ashland 10-0
Last meeting- Ashland won 45-31 on Oct. 31 in Ashland. Grand Valley State leads series 16-4 .

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Listening to Ashland players describe it, the reaction to their being matched against Grand Valley State in the first round of the Division II playoffs was similar to truck drivers getting their marching orders at the top of the week.

They are ready to drive up and down mountains, over potholes and in bad weather to get to their destination because it's their job.

The Eagles defeated the Lakers by two touchdowns three weeks ago in a game that produced 985 total yards, but Grand Valley is the strongman of the division with 17 playoff appearances, 31 playoff victories and four national championships

"We're prepared for this," receiver Jamie Hence of Pickerington North said. "We've been at this for a long time - since the offseason. With us, it's always one game at a time. This is the next game."

Ashland has become a national power under former Ohio State assistant Lee Owens, who has the Eagles in the playoffs for the fifth time since 2007. They shared the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference championship with Ferris State this season.

Owens knows what the team is going up against.

"It's difficult enough to beat a good team once, much less twice," he said. "They're a tough out. They've got great players and a great tradition and they're playoff-tested. It's a tough draw for us."

The Eagles, though, have the advantage of playing in Jack Miller Stadium, where they have won 12 straight home games.

"Our crowds are great," Hence said. "We'd like to play all of our games at home. Jack Miller Stadium is amazing."

Ashland is ranked third in the American Football Coaches Association national poll, but players still think they're not getting their due.

"We can show everyone what we're capable of doing," running back Mike Taylor of Franklin Heights said. "I think a lot of times we get overlooked. This is a great way to prove ourselves."

Ashland is deep on both sides of the ball and exquisitely balanced on offense, but the team's trademark always has been physical play.

"We're definitely a physical team," Taylor said. "We try to be as strong as we can be. That's our mindset. We're a team that doesn't complain; we just play the game. That's what got us to this point."

The winner of this game will play Ferris State or Texas A&M-Commerce in the second round.

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Other Ohio games

Dayton (10-0, 7-0) at Drake (4-6, 3-4)

2 p.m. Saturday in Des Moines, Iowa

The skinny: The Flyers, who have won their 12th Pioneer Football League title and clinched a spot in the Football Championship Subdivision playoffs, are going for their third 11-0 season. They have rallied in the second half in seven games.

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St. Lawrence (8-2) at Mount Union (10-0)

Noon Saturday in Alliance, Ohio

The skinny: St. Lawrence is in the Division III playoffs for the first time since 2010, when it lost to Mount Union 49-0. Mount Union senior tackle Tom Lally has 11 sacks this season and a school-record 33 for his career.

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Ohio Northern (8-2) at Franklin (8-2)

Noon Saturday in Franklin, Indiana

The skinny: Baldwin Wallace might be grousing about being bypassed for an at-large spot in the Division III playoffs in favor of Ohio Northern. BW, ONU and John Carroll tied for second in the Ohio Athletic Conference. The Yellow Jackets defeated the Polar Bears 28-27 in week two.

mznidar@dispatch.com

@markznidar