Grizzlies plow through Wolverines

As expected, a running back had a monster day in Ashland on Friday.

The surprise may be who it was that ran wild.

Ashland junior Jon Volz exploded for a career-high 200 yards rushing and two touchdowns and the Ashland defense limited Willamette standout Jordan Visarraga to 98 yards as the Grizzlies bowled over the ninth-ranked Wolverines 49-12 in a Midwestern League romp at Walter A. Phillips Field.

Volz scored his first touchdown less than two minutes into the game to kickoff a lightning-quick start that put the Grizzlies ahead 21-0 midway through the first quarter. Willamette used two long drives to get as close as 21-12 early in the second, but Ashland and its deceptive rushing attack dominated the rest of its homecoming game.

The Grizzlies (3-1, 2-1 MWL) wound up with 462 yards of total offense, 342 on the ground, while holding the top offense in 5A football to zero points and 109 yards in the second half.

"We sort of took what they gave us," Ashland head coach Charlie Hall said. "They kind of stacked the box a little bit early and we had some success running. I think running the ball is an attitude and our kids just got confident and they got aggressive, and they were intelligent about how they were blocking the different schemes. And Jon did an awesome job — his yards after contact were phenomenal."

Coming into the game Volz's top rushing performance was an 81-yard effort in Week 1 against Klamath Union. He topped that by halftime against the Wolverines (3-1, 2-1), gaining 96 yards on just nine carries, including a 47-yard burst on the Grizzlies' second play from scrimmage that set the tone for the game.

The game had the look of a wire-to-wire blowout after Ashland took advantage of an interception, a three-and-out and a unsuccessful fake punt by Willamette to take a 21-0 lead when quarterback Danial White bolted 21 yards straight up the middle with 5:56 to go in the opening quarter.

White completed 8 of 16 passes for 90 yards and two TDs and also rushed for 83 yards.

Willamette briefly made a game of it with back-to-back long touchdown drives, with Visarraga's 30-yard touchdown run capping a 90-yard march that cut the lead to 21-12.

But Ashland added another touchdown before halftime, then scored twice in the third quarter to put the game away.

After Volz's 5-yard gut-buster completed the scoring and clinched his double century-mark day with 7:53 to go his accomplishment was relayed to the fans over the loudspeaker — to thunderous applause. Volz mostly shrugged it off, though, instead crediting the Ashland offensive line with clearing the way.

"The holes were ridiculous, I was loving it," he said. "I couldn't have done it without (the linemen). I'm honestly surprised, but now I see that our team can do it so I hope to see more of this running game in the future."

Volz's counterpart, Visarraga, who had amassed 378 yards in his first two Midwestern League games, finished with 95 yards on 26 carries against an Ashland defense that seemed to spend half the night in Willamette's backfield.

Senior linebacker Andrew Blocher led that defense with seven tackles and a sack, one of three on the day for the Grizzlies. R.J. Atteberry and Mason Montgomery both had an interception, with Montgomery's setting up Ashland's second touchdown.

"Both our defense and the offense made a lot of technical mistakes," Willamette head coach Dan Fritz said. "Ashland has good athletes and got after it, so I've got to give them the credit for being able to put us back on our heals a little bit. That got us pressing and making some mental mistakes that we shouldn't have had."

The first half had a little bit of everything, including a bizarre fake punt pass play that backfired on the Wolverines, and an end-around option touchdown pass from Ashland's Jordan Thompson to Sam Geisslinger. The surprise 30-yard play came after back-to-back delay of game penalties against the Grizzlies, giving them a 28-12 halftime lead.

"I was afraid (Visarraga) was going to have 10 carries for 150 yards, but we made some nice adjustments and our kids played really hard," Hall said. "It was a sweet homecoming win."

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