Grizzlies look to bounce back

Ashland and Churchill enter Week 2 of the Midwestern League football season with at least one common goal: bury the memory of Week 1.

For different reasons both the Grizzlies and Lancers are eager to forget, or at least move past, what happened Sept. 9, but only one will successfully do so when the two teams square off Friday night at Churchill High School in Eugene.

Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m., and fans who can't make the trip can watch it live on Charter Cable channel 291.

The 11th-ranked Grizzlies (1-1, 0-1 league) were riding high following an impressive season-opening win only to get pulverized 49-0 by 5A juggernaut and MWL favorite Marist, while the 13th-ranked Lancers (1-1, 0-1) marched 99 yards late in regulation to force overtime against Eagle Point only to suffer an emotionally-draining setback on a failed 2-point conversion attempt.

"The dam started to break a little bit (against Marist) and all of a sudden it started to gush in the second half," Ashland head coach Charlie Hall said. "We just have to build back our confidence."

In other Midwestern games Friday: Eagle Point (1-1) travels to face 10th-ranked Willamette (2-0, 1-0), Marshfield (1-1, 1-0) hosts Springfield (0-2, 0-1) and top-ranked Marist (2-0, 1-0) hosts North Eugene (0-1, 0-1).

The Grizzlies have nowhere to go but up following last week's debacle. They were held to 135 yards of total offense, turned the ball over three times, muffed two punt returns and allowed Marist's Austin Baird to score on a 49-yard punt return 12 seconds before halftime.

Following the game, Ashland's injury report was nearly as demoralizing: defensive back-receiver Taylor Humphrey — separated shoulder; and two-way lineman Alex Ralston — concussion. Humphrey played only sparingly in the second half while Ralston missed the second half entirely, forcing the Grizzlies to rely on their limited depth.

The good news for the Grizzlies is that both are "probable" for Friday, according to Hall. That doesn't mean that they'll be 100 percent, however.

"Taylor's limited role will impact us because he's been a pretty big part of what we do, both on offense and on defense," Hall said.

In Churchill, the Grizzlies will face a no-huddle spread offense for the second time in three weeks. The Lancers ran it to great success in their season opener, a 60-27 win over Benson, but were held to 238 yards by Eagle Point last week.

"They're really big," Hall said of the Lancers. "Everybody on their offensive line is 215 (pounds) to 315. I hope we can use our quickness and some other things that'll give us a little bit of an advantage. I would think they're going to push us around a little bit. We just gotta be able to beat them to the punch."

Churchill quarterback Mitch Reese was a one-man show last week, gaining a team-high 39 yards rushing, including the 4-yard game-tying scoring plunge with 52 seconds remaining in regulation, and completing 17 of 29 passes for 167 yards. Churchill running back Tyler Reid was held to 29 yards rushing a week after gaining 123 yards on 10 carries.

"They like to throw the screen passes and let the receivers kind of play out in space," Hall said, "so that really kind of helps us because it plays into what we can do."

As far as the Grizzlies' offense goes, Ashland will be looking to bounce back from a deflating performance that started promising before going straight downhill. Ashland opened the Marist game with an impressive drive that showcased a balanced attack while reaching the Spartans' 21-yard line. The Grizzlies wound up punting away the opportunity and never got that close to the end zone again, as the Spartans effectively smothered Ashland's short passing game and stuffed its rushing attack.

Hall said the Grizzlies' breakdowns were across the board — the pass protection was at times overwhelmed, and sophomore quarterback Danial White suffered through his first growing pains after a terrific start.

White was automatic in wins over the Japan all-stars and Klamath Union, but was pressured into two crucial interceptions against the Spartans. Hall expects Churchill to take the same aggressive approach and believes White will be ready for it.

"I think they're going to blitz us," Hall said. "I really thing they're going to put some pressure on us and force Danial to make plays, whether that's with his arm or whatever. But when you blitz you take that chance that someone could get free and (the offense) will get that one-on-one mismatch. They're going to make Danial find that. "… So we've been working on that and that's been a big focus in practice this week."

Tidings sports editor Joe Zavala can be reached at 541-776-4469 and

Class 5A

School Record Total Points Prv

1. Marist (7) (2-0) 97 1

2. Sherwood (3) (2-0) 90 2

3. Mountain View (2-0) 80 3

4. Corvallis (1-1) 72 5

5. Bend (2-0) 53 T6

6. Wilsonville (2-0) 51 T6

7. Crescent Valley (1-1) 44 4

8. Silverton (2-0) 17 NR

9. West Albany (1-1) 10 NR

10. Willamette (2-0) 9 NR

Others receiving votes: 11, Ashland 8. 12, Lebanon 5. 13, Jefferson PDX 4. 13, Churchill 4. 13, Eagle Point 4. 16, Hermiston 1. 16, St. Helens 1.

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