Grizzlies start league play against desperate Vikings

After a one-week delay, the Ashland High football team will finally make its Southern Sky Conference debut on Friday night.

As Grizzly football players were crammed into their locker room to study game tape on Wednesday, blank stares into the projection screen indicated that the delay had lasted a week too long for most of them.

"It was a bummer, and everyone wishes we could reschedule (the game forfeited to Crater)," senior receiver Lucas Stone said. "I don't know "¦ it was just a bummer."

Added senior Joe Maulsby: "It felt really weird. I don't know "¦ It was just a bad feeling sitting there on Friday night as a senior knowing we were giving away a game."

Already in an 0-1 hole in league play, the Grizzlies do know that they have little time to turn the page heading into a three-week stretch that will ultimately decide their playoff fate.

Their opponent and hosts for their first on-field meeting with an SSC opponent will be Mazama (4-3, 0-2 SSC), which itself has plenty of work left to do in order to keep postseason hopes alive with only two league contests remaining.

After starting the season hot with four wins in the first five weeks, the Vikings have lost their first two SSC games by a total of nine points to Klamath Union and Eagle Point.

Without even having taken the field yet for an SSC game, the Grizzlies will be thrown right in the middle of a desperation game against a desperate team — both sides having no time to waste in the battle for one of the league's three playoff spots.

"There's definitely a sense of urgency that's come over us in a hurry," said Maulsby, who at linebacker shares the team lead for tackles with 27, while also the only Grizzly with multiple sacks.

"People are starting to feel the pressure a little bit," he said, "and they probably should because this is a huge game."

With only one win in the last six weeks, Ashland was shutout in its last nonconference game at Bend as has yet to win a game on the road, posting an 0-3 record away from Walter A. Phillips Field.

The offense remains a wild card, particularly on the ground where the Grizzlies haven't had an individual rush for more than 63 yards in a game all season. Ashland's opponents, meanwhile, are averaging almost 100 more yards on the ground when matched up against them.

"We haven't hit our stride yet," said Stone, who is second on the team in receptions and leads receivers with three scores in the air. "We've had sparks where we've shown our potential and done some good things but still haven't put it together for an entire game. I still think we can surprise some people when we do, though."

Offensively, there has been a glaring lack of an impact player. Defensively, there has been a glaring lack of consistency. In four losses, Ashland has surrendered an average of 24 points, while in wins they've given up just 10.5.

Maulsby says the defense will have its hands full against a Vikings squad that has displayed plenty of athleticism, at least on film.

"We're just going to have to do our best to contain them," he said. "We know they're fast and they have a big guard that likes to lead most of their plays. There are definitely some guys that can make things happen on offense, but if we contain I think we'll be all right."

Ashland junior quarterback Jake Scarminach, who has been the team's leading rusher while completing almost 60 percent of his passes, will need to get the game going through the air after completing only two passes apiece to Stone and receptions-leader Mason Costantino two weeks ago in Bend.

"Everyone has to do one-eleventh of the job on the field because we don't have that one guy who is just going to take over a game," Stone said, "so I think we're a team that can do nothing but improve as we keep getting guys on the same page.

"If we can begin to move the ball more consistently, we know we can be in the playoffs. All we can do is try to win out, and everything else is out of our hands."

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