Grizzlies aim to keep vaunted KU offense off the field

If you can't beat 'em, run over 'em. That, according to Ashland High head coach Charlie Hall, may be the key to stopping Klamath Union's high-scoring offense when the two teams square off in a key Southern Sky Conference prep football game Friday night at Walter A. Phillips Field.

The game that may determine the SSC championship and No. — seed to the state playoffs kicks off at 7 p.m.

There will be few secrets come game time, since both teams enter the clash with seven games under their belt. Fourth-ranked Ashland (7-0 overall, 2-0 SSC) has utilized a balanced offense and opportunistic defense to escape several close calls in its undefeated run. Klamath (5-2, 2-0) has done most of its damage through the air, scoring a whopping 33.4 points per game.

Will 33 points be enough against the Grizzlies? Hall and company don't intend to find out. Instead, they hope to negate the Pelicans' big-play ability, led by receiver Mark Brooks, one first down at a time.

"We've got to win the time of possession battle," Hall said. "We need to kind of control the ball on offense."

To Ashland quarterback Matt Dierks, "control" means keeping the Pelicans' defense off-balance, something the Grizzlies have excelled at this season.

"We're just going to try and mix the run and pass, same as we've been doing," he said.

Few teams in the state do that as well as the Grizzlies. Ashland is averaging 156 yards per game on the ground and 140 through the air, and seems to rely on a different offensive star each week. Last Friday it was Lewis Sebrell, who rushed for 187 yards and three touchdowns on 18 carries while leading the Grizzlies to a 40-12 road victory over winless Mazama.

The breakout performance left Hall feeling optimistic about Sebrell's development.

"(Sebrell) is starting to come around and become the running back that we hoped that he would be," Hall said. "He's starting to see the holes better, he's starting to understand how to be a running back. Before, he was a whirling dervish. Now, he knows how to set up his blocks and he understands the blocking scheme. He's overcome a big learning curve in that area."

Brooks, on the other hand, capitalized on his whirling dervish tendencies against the Grizzlies last season, when he carved up Ashland's defense and led the Pels to a crucial win that knocked Ashland out of playoff contention. He's only gotten better in 2007.

Brooks so far has 20 receptions for 453 yards and eight touchdowns. He's also returned a pair of kicks for touchdowns.

"He's an incredible athlete, he's got great speed," Hall said. "Any time he touches the ball it can go for six points, and so I would think that they're going to try to get him the ball as much as they can."

The burden of getting the ball to Brooks usually falls on KU quarterback Jon Amos. Son of Pels' head coach Wayne Amos, the younger Amos is putting up impressive numbers in his first year as the starter: he's completed 58 percent of his passes for 1,194 yards and 16 touchdowns, and has been intercepted just five times.

Of course, those numbers weren't put up against the Ashland defense, the stingiest in the SSC. The Grizzlies are allowing just 10.6 points and 259 yards per game.

"We know who their good players are," Ashland lineman Joe Hatch said, "and we're going to try and stop them."

The game, homecoming for Ashland, is the third of four SSC contests for both teams, which means the winner will have a major leg up in the race for the league title. Ashland enters the game in better position, however, having already knocked off one of the other big three &

Crater &

two weeks ago. Klamath, meanwhile, has league wins over Mazama and Eagle Point.

Ashland hasn't beat KU since the 2004 season. The Pels edged the Grizzlies 28-24 last year and 31-28 in 2005.

"I told (the team) that," Hall said, "and I think that's enough to show them that we're not going to sit here and take it. We want to come out and have a good game, and it's going to be a great game."

Sports editor can be reached at 482-3456 x 224 or joe.

Share This Story