Tucker Atteberry scored on a 7-yard run in overtime and Ashland's defense denied Churchill's all-or-nothing 2-point conversion attempt minutes later as the third-ranked Grizzlies beat 10th-ranked Churchill 49-48 in a wild Midwestern League opener Friday at Walter A. Phillips Field.
The Lancers scored two touchdowns in the last 6:25 of regulation, tying the game on Dalton McDaniel's 4-yard blast with 1:49 to go and subsequent point-after kick.
The Grizzlies (2-1) had the first crack in overtime and made good when Atteberry kept the ball and plowed up the middle on third-and-goal.
Churchill (2-1) answered dramatically when Jacob Brothers hit Lucas Schwin with 17-yard touchdown pass on fourth-and-2 and the game appeared headed to a second OT when Trevor Groves' PAT sailed through the uprights. But after Ashland was called for running into the kicker, Churchill accepted the penalty and opted to go for the win on a 2-point conversion attempt from the 2-yard line. McDaniel took the hand off and was pulled down two feet from the goal line.
"We just did our goal line defense," Ashland coach Charlie Hall said. "You're limited. There's only so many things you can do at that point in the game, so we put more guys on the line and it became kind of a sumo match of sorts and I guess we came out ahead."
Churchill coach AJ Robinson felt the risk was worth it.
"There were close to 200 plays in that game," he said. "There were plays here and there that went their way and our way and that one — it just went their way. It's OK. It was a great high school football game."
Oliver Warren had two interceptions, including one he returned 43 yards for a touchdown to give Ashland a 21-14 lead early in the third quarter.
The game also featured a 99-yard kickoff return by Ashland's Nicky Weinberg and 927 yards of total offense, 600 by Churchill.
Filling in for star running back Sam Jackson, who injured his left foot in the opening quarter, McDaniel rushed for 252 yards and three touchdowns, and Brothers passed for 260 yards but was picked off three times.
Issac Hyatt rushed for 91 yards and Malik Pippa 59 for the Grizzlies, who scored 28 points in the third quarter to open up a 42-28 lead.
"I give our kids a lot of credit for having the kind of heart and the grit to pull something out in overtime," Hall said. "There are some positives offensively, but we still gotta be a little more efficient. We can't turn the ball over.
"(Churchill's) an up-and-coming team, as is Eagle Point. Our league, I keep saying year in and year out, is one of the best leagues in the state. So it was a good test for us and it's kind of survive and advance."
Atteberry completed 17 of 32 passes for 145 yards and two touchdowns.
Churchill, which has scored 132 points in three games, hosts North Eugene next week.
Ashland next week hosts Marist (0-3), which lost to Crater 34-20.