Ryland Ward is hoping to catch up with family and friends when he returns to Columbus this weekend, but none of his fun -- at least for most of the day after Thanksgiving -- will involve shopping.
The 2010 Brookhaven High School graduate instead will strap on his pads for the Bowling Green State University football team Friday, Nov. 23, and put on a show for people from his hometown.
The Falcons, who have been in the thick of the Mid-American Conference East Division title race, will play Buffalo in Crew Stadium in what Bowling Green officials have dubbed the "Black Friday Bash."
Kickoff is scheduled for 2 p.m. but could be moved to 11 a.m. if ESPN televises the game.
"It's always fun and exciting coming home, and it's icing on the cake being able to play the game I love," Ward said. "It's always nice to have family at your game when they've not been able to see you play. My mother, father, grandparents, my girlfriend and some of my former teammates and coaches will hopefully be there. I think they've told a good amount of alumni about it."
Bowling Green was 7-3 overall and 5-1 in the MAC East before playing Kent State on Nov. 17.
Ward is one of seven central Ohioans who will be in uniform for the Bowling Green-Buffalo game. A redshirt sophomore defensive back, he was one of the Falcons' leading tacklers through 10 games with 39.
Also in uniform for the Falcons will be Northland graduate Jude Adjei-Barimah, Reynoldsburg graduate DeVon McKoy and Pickerington North graduates Alex Bayer, Jairus Campbell and Alex Huettel.
Playing for Buffalo will be Tyler Grassman, a 2012 Gahanna graduate.
Grassman, who was the OCC-Ohio Division Player of the Year and a first-team all-district kicker as a senior last season, is the Bulls' punter.
On the same day Buffalo will be in Crew Stadium, Grassman's cousin, Johnstown senior Corbin Grassman, could be competing in a high school playoff game.
Johnstown played St. Clairsville for the Division IV, Region 15 title Nov. 16, with the winner to meet Brookfield or Creston Norwayne in a state semifinal Friday, Nov. 23.
Corbin Grassman has verbally committed to join Tyler next year with the Bulls.
"I'm really excited about the (Black Friday Bash)," Tyler Grassman said. "Playing as a true freshman is exciting for me and to play in front of my home city means a lot."
During the Bulls' 3-7 start, he was averaging 34.9 yards on 65 punts. Buffalo had won its last two before playing Nov. 17 at Massachusetts.
"It's definitely been a transition for me this year," Tyler Grassman said. "It's been a lot different from last year when I was able to play different positions, but it's a lot of fun. I'd like to do better, but I'm doing the best I can. I came here thinking I knew a lot about kicking and punting, but I've picked up on some things since I've been here."
The game in Crew Stadium is one Bayer said he has been looking forward to since it was announced during the summer.
Bayer is a 2009 North graduate who played in all 12 games for Bowling Green as a redshirt freshman in 2010 and started all 12 games a year ago. This fall through 10 games, the tight end was among the team's leading receivers with 27 catches for 331 yards and three touchdowns.
Campbell is a 6-foot-5, 310-pound redshirt junior nose tackle who also graduated from North in 2009. He played in 12 games each of the past two seasons but has seen action in just three games this fall because of a foot injury.
Huettel is a redshirt freshman who graduated from North in 2011.
"Jairus and Alex Huettel are probably two of my best friends on the team, but it's nice because there are a bunch of great guys on this team," Bayer said. "We've still got our eyes on the MAC championship game."
Adjei-Barimah is a 2010 Northland graduate who played in all 12 games and made one start for Bowling Green a year ago. This season, he had a team-leading three interceptions at defensive back and also played on special teams.
McKoy is a 2010 Reynoldsburg graduate who started seven games at defensive back a year ago and has played in nine games this fall for the Falcons. He had 13 solo and two assisted tackles, one tackle for loss and two pass breakups through 10 games.
Bowling Green lost three of its first four games but already was bowl eligible before playing Kent State.
"I'm looking forward to seeing all of my friends and all of the people coming to support me," McKoy said. "I've never played a football game (in Crew Stadium).
"There's been some ups and downs, but we're feeling good. At the beginning of the year we had a little slip up, but we've been rolling."