Grizzlies charge into round of 16

On a night when their refurbished locker room was dedicated to the late Dave Kitchell, the Ashland Grizzlies put on a show that their former defensive coordinator would likely have enjoyed.

Ashland shut down South Albany's surprise offense and rode quarterback Jake Scarminach's three first-half touchdowns to a 21-0 halftime lead en route to a 42-7 victory in a Class 5A play-in game Friday night at Walter A. Phillips Field.

The blowout win, Ashland's seventh straight since an 0-2 start, advances the Grizzlies to the round of 16, which will be seeded today according to the Oregon Schools Activities Association's new rating system. Ashland was rated No. 12 at press time and is unlikely to jump high enough in the rankings to earn a home playoff game next week.

"The big thing in a game like this is that we stayed healthy, we stayed sharp, we stayed polished," Ashland head coach Charlie Hall said. "You try to stay fast on offense so we can run and pass and do the things we need to work on because hopefully we're going to go to the next level. Our kids came through in a big way."

The Grizzlies used drives of 75 and 44 yards to take a 13-0 lead in the first quarter, and made it 20-0 on Scarminach's electric 47-yard keeper with 1:03 to go in the first half. Scarminach also scored on runs of one and two yards for the Grizzlies, and finished Ashalnd's first game since Oct. 22 with a team-high 123 rushing yards on 15 carries.

Ashland's offense didn't slow down much after backup quarterback Jake McCoy took over the reigns throughout most of the second half, as the junior threw touchdown passes of six and 39 yards to help Ashland build a 42-0 lead.

South Albany (2-8), meanwhile, struggled to do anything on offense as its plan to switch to a power-I formation in an effort to control the clock went up in smoke. The Rebels, the eighth-place team from the Mid-Willamette Conference, were held to 179 yards of total offense, 50 of which came on their lone touchdown drive, capped well after the game had been decided.

South Albany quarterback Tanner Tibbett faced constant pressure and finished 3-for-10 with 36 yards passing and three interceptions, two by McCoy, whose first-quarter pick set up the Grizzlies' first touchdown.

Adam Schamp and Corinthian Nordahl combined for 98 yards rushing for the Rebels, who shot themselves in the foot by racking up 100 yards worth of penalties.

"We didn't execute very well offensively," South Albany head coach Tony Matta said. "We wanted to really control the clock a little bit and be able to stay on the field, but when you get a penalty and instead of being second-and-six instead of first-and-15 that makes a big difference in what you're able to do."

Matta also praised Scarminach and the deception of the Grizzly offense, which racked up 495 yards — 270 passing and 225 rushing.

Scarminach completed 11 of 18 passes for 211 yards with one interception. He spread the ball around nicely, as six Grizzlies had a catch, led by tight end Franklin LimeMa's five grabs for 66 yards. Taylor Humphrey had two catches for 84 yards, including a 70-yard bomb on Ashland's first play from scrimmage. Three plays later, Scarminach bulldozed in on third-and-goal from the 2 to put Ashland ahead to stay.

After the Rebels failed to pick up a first down after going for it on fourth-and-one from their own 44, the Grizzlies took over and promptly covered the distance in seven plays to make it 13-0.

Ashland's next possession ended when Scarminach made his only major mistake, an underthrown ball into the end zone that was picked off by Adam Schamp. But Ashalnd's senior dual-threat QB made up for it and then some later, when he turned what at first looked like a routine sneak up the middle into the longest run of the night.

On first-and-10 from the Ashland 47, Scarminach bolted up the middle then cut outside before outrunning South Albany's entire defense down the sideline.

If there was any doubt, the Grizzlies quickly erased it on their first series of the second half, an eight-play, 68-yard march capped by Jon Volz's14-yard touchdown run.

Ashland cleared its bench little by little after that, but the back-ups didn't let up. McCoy's 39-yard touchdown heave went to a sophomore, Quaid Walters, and later freshmen quarterback Danial White rushed for 15 yards on four carries, including a first-down keeper late in the fourth quarter.

The Grizzlies even threw in some trickery late, with LimeMa completing a 14-yard fake-punt pass to give Ashland a first down with about five minutes to go in the game — the play worked, even though the snap sailed over LimeMa's head.

"This year, we've really bonded as a family and it's been amazing," said LimeMa, whose 37-yard reception set up the Grizzlies' fourth touchdown. "I just can't picture us losing. Our team just has such a great connection and all the coaches have done such a great job. We're going to be a (tough) team to play."

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