Duluth FC at Ponzio

Ashland High School alumni Jonny BeBeau (left) and Alex Wilson (right) play for the Duluth FC white squad during last year's DFC intrasquad scrimmage at Ponzio Stadium. The BlueGreens return to Ashland this weekend to play against the WPASL All-Stars, Friday at 7 p.m.

Duluth FC is coming back to Ashland this weekend, and the region's premier soccer club is once again set to feature a number of players with local connections during its annual summer exhibition match at Ponzio Stadium Friday evening.

Ashland brothers Thomas and Zach Whiting, both former players for the club, will suit up for the BlueGreens once more, while fellow Ashland High School alumni Alex Wilson and Jonny BeBeau will also take the field again after playing for the team in last year's inaugural friendly match on the Northland College campus.

"I think it's awesome," Zach Whiting said. "I didn't play with them for too much, just that one season, but it's great. It'll be a lot of fun to play competitively again. This stadium here is unreal. It'll be cool because I haven't played a competitive game with those guys since we won our state championship game. I hope they put us in at the same time so we can reconnect."

Recent AHS grad Tim Meyer will also take part, along with recent Northland grads Hector Gaona and Aiden Reilly, who both played under current Duluth FC and former LumberJacks head coach Joel Person during their senior year last season.

"I always want to invite players from the local community to get involved, whether high-level players or players who grew up here and played in college," Person said.

Last year's match in Ashland originally had Duluth set to face UPSL side Green Bay United FC in April, but a spring snowstorm forced the match to be canceled, and the BlueGreens returned in June for a well-attended intrasquad scrimmage featuring several local players, including AHS alum Robert Quinlan, Washburn alum Brendon Shields, and Jesus Hernandez, co-owner of El Dorado Mexican Restaurant, which will once again sponsor this year's event and provide free food for those in attendance.

"It's a good event," Duluth FC general manager and owner Tim Sas said. "That was nearly 900 people, and even in Duluth the most we've had is 700-plus, so it's clear that that was a fabulous time, and we want to be back to a place where we're going to have that many people watching us."

DFC will again host a youth skills camp beginning at 5 p.m., free for all athletes ages 6-14 who purchase a ticket to the match.
The cost for attendance to the match is $8 for adults and $5 for kids and students.

The BlueGreens will be playing against an all-star team from the Wisconsin Primary Adult Soccer League, a first-year adult amateur league based in northwestern Wisconsin with teams from Eau Claire, Hayward, Rice Lake, Barron, St. Croix Falls and Spooner.

"I just think it will be a great experience for our guys and good exposure for our league," Hayward and Viterbo University player Kaden Bergman said. "It will be interesting to see how it goes. Should be exciting, and hopefully we can put up a good fight."

At halftime, the club will also recognize the AHS girls soccer team, which qualified for the WIAA state tournament for the fifth time in program history earlier this month.

"We're going to have them walk out during the halftime period and announce them and their accomplishments to honor them," Person said. "It's great to tie in the local community to the game."

The match between Duluth FC and the WPASL All-Stars kicks off at 7 p.m. at Ponzio Stadium.

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