Grizzlies aim for second place

The Ashland High football team can clinch a second-place finish in the Midwestern League standings and may be able to improve upon its OSAA power ranking when it hosts Springfield tonight at Walter A. Phillips Field.

Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m.

Since being carved up by No. 1 Marist on Sept. 9 the Grizzlies (5-1, 4-1 MWL) have won four games in a row, including a 49-12 pounding of third-place Willamette (5-2, 4-2). The winning streak has helped Ashland move up to No. 8 in the latest The Associated Press Class 5A football poll and No. 4 (as of Thursday night) in the power rankings.

The Grizzlies' offense has been almost unstoppable during the streak, as Ashland has scored 49, 50 and 51 points in its last three games. They've done it with balance, although favoring the run, averaging 238 yards rushing and 151 yards rushing.

Junior running back Jon Volz has 597 yards rushing and five touchdowns on just 83 attempts, a spectacular 7.2 yards-per-rush average. Sophomore quarterback Danial White is second on the team with 407 yards rushing and nine touchdowns on 54 attempts (7.5 yards per rush).

Ashland's defense is coming off its first shutout of the year, a 51-0 drubbing of North Eugene. Sophomore linebacker Mason Montgomery leads the team in tackles with 34, fellow linebacker Austin Chandler is second with 32, and defensive end Franklin Lime has team highs in both sacks (seven) and tackles for a loss (11).

Springfield (2-4, 2-3) is coming off a dramatic 35-34 overtime win over Eagle Point. The comeback victory snapped a two-game losing streak for the Millers, who average 31.5 points per game.

Springfield quarterback Britton Auxier has passed for 939 yards and 10 touchdowns with three interceptions. His favorite target is Jon Emerald, who 16 catches for 343 yards and three touchdowns.

Southern Oregon at Mary Hardin-Baylor

Following back-to-back upsets of ranked teams Southern Oregon will have a chance to make it three in a row when it faces Mary Hardin-Baylor on Saturday. The Crusaders are ranked No. 4 in the latest NCAA Division III poll.

Southern Oregon (3-3) will travel to Belton, Tex., for the matchup against a Mary Hardin-Baylor team that owns a 5-0 record and has won the American Southwest Conference championship in each of the past six seasons. Kickoff is set for 1 p.m. local time, 11 a.m. on the west coast.

The Raiders have rebounded from three consecutive losses with three straight wins. Last weekend, redshirt freshman quarterback Austin Dodge threw for 405 yards and scored five total touchdowns and Heston Altenbach posted 11 tackles, including three sacks, as the Raiders upset No. 17 Eastern Oregon 46-34.

Dodge and Altenbach received Beyond Sports NAIA Player of the Week recognition for their contributions to the win.

"It's been just refreshing and exciting for us," SOU head coach Craig Howard said of the three-game winning streak. "That was a great win for us last week."

The Crusaders have nearly doubled their opponents' scoring output, averaging 32.2 points per game while limiting opponents to 17.2. They have dominated the rushing battle, compiling an average of 276.6 yards per game on the ground while limiting opponents to less than 100 yards per contest (97.8).

Mary Hardin-Baylor has yielded 1,200 yards through the air with eight touchdown passes, but the Crusaders have intercepted 10 passes and limited opposing quarterbacks to an average of 5.8 yards per pass attempt. Running back Darius Wilson leads the team with 680 yards on 110 rushes with six touchdowns, while quarterback LiDarral Bailey has added 314 yards on 68 carries with five touchdown runs. Bailey has also completed 62.6 percent of his passes for 786 yards with three touchdowns and nine interceptions.

As good as the Mary-Hardin Baylor offense has been, it's the Crusaders' defense that has Howard raving.

"Mary Hardin-Baylor is one of the great programs in the nation," Howard said. "They have one of the top defenses in the country. They're a well-coached football team."

Javicz Jones anchors the defense with a team-high 59 tackles, including 61/2 tackles-for-losses, 31/2 sacks and a pair of interceptions — all team highs. Ty Dooley ranks second on the team with 58 tackles.

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