Quarterback Danial White scored on touchdown runs on 53 and 70 yards in the first six minutes as Ashland bolted out to a 24-0 halftime lead en route to a 30-0 win over Willamette in the Pop Warner Pee Wee state championship game Sunday at Autzen Stadium.
The win gave Ashland its second Pop Warner state title in as many years after the Junior Pee Wee team went all the way last season. Ten players off that team moved up to play with the Grizzlies (9-1) this year, including White, who finished with three touchdown runs plus a five-yard TD pass to James Skinner.
"The kids had a great two weeks of practice and they were ready to play," said Ashland head coach Greg White, who also coached the Junior Pee Wee state champs last year. "I told them, 'We're going to control this game in the first quarter &
we're going to own them.'"
The owning began immediately. On Ashland's fourth play from scrimmage, White took the snap at the Grizziles' 47-yard line and bolted around the right end, juking out potential tacklers along the way.
On Willamette's next drive, Redskins' quarterback Kamerun Smith completed a long pass. Skinner caught the receiver from behind and forced a fumble that the Grizzlies recovered. Two plays later, White was at it again, scrambling away from a heavy rush at the Ashland 30 and all the way to the end zone.
Ashland didn't let up. It got the ball back at its own 39 with 2:34 to go in the first quarter and methodically continued to overpower the Redskins. This time, it was Jon Volz who did most of the damage. The bruising tailback gained 26 yards on a second-and-five and three plays later rumbled into the end zone from seven yards out to put the Grizzlies up 18-0.
There was still 1:05 to go in the first quarter.
"We came out hard in the first quarter and really took it to them," Greg White said.
The Ashland defense did the rest, holding Willamette to 134 yards of total offense &
68 in the first half and 66 in the second &
to complete its fifth shutout of the season. Several Grizzlies stepped up on the defensive side, including: Quaid Walters (interception), Skinner, Joe Granger, Joe Hearn and Mason Montgomery.
"(Defensive coordinator) Craig Contreras makes my job easy," Greg White said. "He and Ron Stranahan keep putting together defenses that shut out our opponents. It makes the job for our offensive coaches, Paul Volz, Brian Bottimore and myself, less stressful."
After the win, the Grizzlies dedicated the game to Ashland High assistant football coach Dave Kitchell, who's battling cancer.
"We put the leter 'K' on the back of each boy's helmet to remind us that we were playing for him," Greg White said. "A bunch of these boys had coach Kitchell as a teacher and know him from the summer football camps."
Ashland's road to the championship wasn't easy. The Grizzlies lost their regular season finale to the Medford Raiders before opening the postseason with a 20-14 victory over the Upper Rogue Eagles. That earned the Grizzlies a rematch with Medford in the Rogue Valley Championship round.
This time, Ashland survived, coming back from a 12-0 halftime deficit to win 13-12 at Spiegelberg Stadium in Medford.
The game at Autzen was broadcast by a Eugene radio station and included instant replays of every play on the stadium's massive JumboTron screen. After the win, the Grizzlies held up their first-place trophies while about 100 Ashland fans on hand chanted "Repeat."
"Who knows," White said, "maybe we'll come back again."
The Grizzlies were made up of 19 players: Mitchell Harfst, Jake Stranahan, Ross Kandaris, Walters, White, R.J. Atteberry, Jacob Finch, Granger, Jared Cataldi, Volz, Niilo Snyder, Skinner, Carter Glick, Craig Contreras, Hearn, Ryan Bottimore, John Reeder, Montgomery and Matt Hedges.
Sports editor can be reached at 482-3456 x 224 or joe.
Grizz Pee Wee team claims state title