The Arrows trailed Wooster 20-17 and Housewright, a first-team All-Ohioan and Division I prospect, was enduring a subpar performance – at least by his own lofty standards – with a pair of interceptions.
Ashland's nine-game Ohio Cardinal Conference winning streak was in serious jeopardy. Still, as his teammates gathered around him, Housewright exuded a calm that belied the increasingly desperate situation.
“We still felt confident,” said Housewright, who seconds later hooked up with wideout Logan Kerr on what proved to be the game-winning 44-yard scoring strike in Ashland's 31-20 win. “I didn't play one of my better games, but we knew we just had to settle down and put a drive together. There were just a few little things throughout the game that had kept us from scoring.
“We never panicked.”
That Housewright maintained his composure should come as no surprise. The strong-armed senior orchestrated two scoring drives in the final four minuts to erase a 20-10 deficit as Ashland improved to 4-1 overall and 2-0 in the OCC.
“When he steps into the huddle, he commands everybody's attention. That's the first thing you notice about him,” senior receiver Anthony Fairhurst said. “He pays attention to all the little details. If we break the huddle wrong, he'll gather us back up and make us do it the right way.”
That attention to detail has served Housewright well. He led the Arrows to a perfect regular season and the Division II poll championship last fall. Ashland advanced to the Division II, Region 6 championship game before falling to eventual state champ Piqua and Mr. Football Brandon Saine.
“Coming into this year, we knew one of our strengths would be the passing game with what we had coming back,” said Ashland coach Scott Valentine, Ohio's Division II Co-Coach of the Year last fall. “What we've done this year is given Taylor a little more freedom. If he sees a mismatch he can change the route or check from a pass play to a run play. He's done everything we expected of him.”
Through the first half of the season, Housewright has completed almost 68-percent of his passes (86-of-127) for 1,160 yards and 15 touchdowns.
Fairhurst has been the biggest beneficiary, catching 35 aerials for 489 yards and five touchdowns. Senior Tyler McFarlin had eight catches for 100 yards and a touchdown in the win over Wooster, giving him 23 receptions for 240 yards and three scores overall. Seniors Kerr, Nate Cooper and Jed Roepke have combined for 25 receptions and five TDs.
“The chemistry we have developed has been extremely important,” Housewright said. “We would get together and throw three days a week all summer and we'd even come in and throw on Sundays during basketball season.”
No amount of practice could have prepared the Arrows for what they've encountered so far this season. Every team on the schedule has taken their best shot.
“We knew everybody would play their best game against us,” Housewright said. “Everybody wants to be the team to knock us off.”
State-ranked Shelby did just that in Week 3, pounding Ashland 42-14.
“We lost to a great football team,” Housewright said. “They were the better team that night.
“Nobody likes to lose, especially like that, but that game showed us we can be beaten if we're not prepared.”
Preparing each week has become increasingly difficult. Opposing defenses are doing their best to cross up the Arrows.
“From a film-study standpoint, some teams are giving us completely different looks from what we saw on film during the week,” Fairhurst said. “We've been able to adjust because during the week, the coaches throw different looks at us in practice.
“Taylor does a good job of making the right reads. He's very intelligent.”
Housewright’s football IQ should serve him well at the next level. He has drawn the interest of several Mid-American Conference schools.
“The college game is a lot more mental. I've got to be ready to study a lot of film,” Housewright said. “I need to get smarter and physically, I still need to be stronger and faster.”
Valentine has no doubt his quarterback can make the jump to the next level. Ashland's multiple-receiver shotgun formation – an offense favored by more and more college programs – should ease the transition.
“Hopefully, some of the stuff we're doing here will help him down the road,” Valentine said. “I think he's got a good enough arm and good enough feet to play Division I, but ultimately that is up to the coaches and recruiters.”
Housewright has taken the recruiting process in stride.
“I'm not too worried about it right now,” he said. “My main focus is on our team and this season. We want to win the conference and make it back to the playoffs.
“I'll worry about the other stuff when the time comes.”
2007: 86-127; 1,160 yards; 15 TDs; 5 Ints.
2006: 157-253; 2,213 yards; 26 TDs; 8 Ints.
2005 : 53-111; 841 yards; 5 TDs; 7 Ints.
2007 statistics are through five games.
2006 statistics are for 13 games.