Last season, the Phoenix Pirates came to Ashland in early September and pushed the Grizzlies to the limit before finally succumbing, 23-20.
Afterward, the Grizzlies, who compete at the Class 5A level, were disappointed that they couldn't put away a lower-level, Class 4A team until the final minutes.
"We thought that we should have beat them by more than three points last year and that stuck with us a little bit," Ashland senior lineman Matt Lipski said. "We wanted to come over here and improve on that, I guess you could say. We did a better job this time around."
Yes, the Grizzlies will have to find another source of motivation should the rivalry continue in 2008. This time, it was all Ashland.
Matt Dierks threw touchdown passes to four different receivers and the Ashland defense delivered a rare shutout as the Grizzlies trounced Phoenix 41-0 in a nonconference blowout Friday night at Jack Woodward Stadium.
Dierks completed 10 of 15 passes for 147 yards without being intercepted, but probably could have survived a few thanks to the Pirates' turnover woes. Phoenix lost four fumbles, threw an interception and even botched a kickoff return that led to Ashland's second touchdown.
The Grizzlies (2-0) capitalized, bolting into the end zone on their first four drives to seize a 26-0 lead early in the second quarter.
"I told the players that it's a good win for our program," Ashland head coach Charlie Hall said. "It certainly shows that we're headed in the right direction. It validates that the work that we put in over the summer is paying off."
Ashland gained 359 yards of total offense, including 212 on the ground. Charlie Sebrell, Max Gordon, Sam Gaviglio and Josh Hogeland each caught touchdown passes, while Lewis Sebrell rushed for 92 yards on 15 carries.
The Pirates were held to 242 yards &
126 rushing and 116 passing. Matt Wiegand gained 92 yards on 16 carries.
Phoenix put together two long drives, a 78 yarder in the second quarter and an 81-yarder in the third, but both ended in disaster. The first was cut short by a fumble that Lipski scooped up at the 2-yard line with — minute, 58 seconds to go in the first half. The second stalled when Neil Emmerson's pass to Kory Locken on fourth-and-goal was broken up (five plays prior, Phoenix had a first-and-goal at the 4).
Ashland had no trouble finishing its drives. The Grizzlies took the opening kickoff and promptly marched 70 yards in 10 plays, capped by Dierks' five-yard scramble.
The ensuing kickoff bounced about 15 yards in front of the Phoenix return men; as the Pirates watched and/or waited a gang of Grizzlies jumped in for an unintentional onside kick recovery. Just like that, Ashland had another opportunity, first-and-10 at the Phoenix 33.
Four plays later Dierks found a wide-open Gaviglio from 27 yards out to make it 12-0.
"Right away we came out ready to play, we came out wanting to win and that's what we've got to do every week," Lipski said. "I don't think we did that (last week) against Henley."
Ashland extended its lead to 19-0 on Dierks' 21-yard TD pass over the middle to Gordon and went up 26-0 on Dierks' 12-yard jump ball to Gaviglio.
The Grizzlies' offense didn't stop there. After Phoenix came up empty on two long drives in the third, Dierks hit Hogeland with an 18-yard scoring strike to finish off a nine-play, 68-yard drive with 10:36 to go in the game.
Issa Shahin capped the scoring with a four-yard TD run midway through the fourth.
For the second game in a row an Ashland role player came up huge. A week after Josh Hogeland's big game helped the Grizzlies hold off Henley, Max Gordon had four catches for 54 yards &
both team highs &
while also recovering two fumbles, notching three tackles and running in a botched point-after attempt for a surprise two-point conversion.
"I got comfortable and now I'm starting to make plays," Gordon said. "We were rolling pretty good. It was a good team effort."
So good in the passing game, in fact, that Hall now believes he may have a dynamic offensive team after all. Before the season, Hall said that the Grizzlies would rely heavily on the running game. Now, he's not so sure.
"We just gotta look at what each team gives us," he said. "When we come into a game we have a sequence of plays that we run, then based on how (opponents) react and adjust we unfold other areas of the game plan that have more of a run emphasis or a pass emphasis."
So far, when the emphasis has been on the pass the Grizzlies have thrived. Through two games, Dierks has completed 23 of 36 passes for 320 yards, six touchdowns and zero interceptions.
Those are impressive numbers, but the Grizzlies are trying to keep their fast start in perspective.
"Well, we're 2-0, but you've got to remember that we've played two 4A teams," Lipski said. "Pretty much that says we'd be good at the 4A level right now."
Sports editor can be reached at 482-3456 x 224 or joe.
Grizzlies do it all in rout of Pirates