Grizzlies' O looking to catch up with D

The Ashland High football team is trying to work the kinks out of an offense that showed promise, but mostly stalled in last week's season-opening loss to Klamath Union.

The problem is, the Grizzlies' progress in Week 2 may be difficult to quantify against one of the best programs in the state.

Ashland on Friday will face a Marist team that ran the table to win the Class 4A state championship last season and looks like a threat to do the same at the 5A level after last week's 42-14 dismantling of Corvallis. The Spartans of the Midwestern Conference have won 22 straight regular season games (a streak that dates back to September of 2008), mostly in dominating fashion. They averaged 47.3 points per game in four playoff wins last year, clinching the championship with a 55-16 win over Baker.

Ashland head coach Charlie Hall likened the Grizzlies' challenge this week to last year's season-ending playoff loss to West Albany. Ashland lost that game 75-0.

"They're just a great program with a lot of confidence and good athletes on the field," Hall said of Marist. "They have great players that are in positions that make it hard to focus on just one guy."

Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. in Eugene.

Operating out of their newly installed Pistol formation, the Grizzlies struggled to move the ball, especially on the ground, against a Klamath Union team that dropped down to the 4A classification this season. Ashland gained 305 yards of total offense, including 84 rushing yards, in the 14-7 loss.

Still, the Grizzlies had a chance to win the game late before a turnover in the final two minutes led to a long-bomb touchdown by the Pelicans.

The end result left Hall with mixed feelings. On one hand, the defense played one of its best all-around games in some time, holding the Pelicans to 319 yards. On the other hand, the offense fizzled, especially in the red zone, and blew a golden opportunity to steal the game late when Ashland quarterback Jake Scarminach threw an interception on fourth down.

"It's a work in progress," Hall said of the Pistol formation, designed to open up holes for power backs like Ashland's Jackson Volz. "I think it's going to help some of our running backs and some of their styles of running, but (against Klamath Union) it didn't turn out like I thought it was going to. And one thing that that style of offense does is, if we don't do certain things right it really doesn't give (Scarminach) the chance to be the runner like he has been."

Scarminach, maybe the best open-field runner on the team, was held to 21 rushing yards on 12 carries last week. When it came to passing, the senior completed 17 of 29 attempts for 221 yards, but was picked off twice and did not throw a touchdown pass.

Ashland may get a boost this week up front, as two-way lineman Kevin Schilling has been practicing with the team and is looking to make his comeback from a broken foot. Schilling is a returning starter who played a key role for the Grizzlies in '09 and was expected to do so again this year.

"(Schilling) could really help because we're about a lineman short on both sides of the ball," Hall said.

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