Marshfield presents a set of new challenges for the Grizzlies

In a 2007 season that saw the Ashland High football team win five games by a touchdown or less, perhaps none was more heart-stopping than the 13-12 victory over Marshfield on Sept. 29.

The Grizzlies were outgained 314-250 in yards and snatched victory from the jaws of defeat on Matt Dierks' 75-yard touchdown pass to Josh Hogeland in the third quarter.

The two schools square off again Friday in Coos Bay, the first of what Ashland coach Charlie Hall sees as a five-game measuring stick for his team, ranked eighth in Class 5A this week by the Associated Press.

"They're an excellent program with great tradition and an excellent coaching staff," Hall said of the Pirates, 1-1 after a road victory over North Bend and narrow loss at Marist. "Part of the difficulty is us having to travel 3 1/2; hours. It's going to be cold, it's going to be on a field turf surface, which we haven't played on this year."

"They're traditionally a very physical football team," he added. "We've got our work cut out for us. We're looking forward to the challenge. We've played two 4A schools and now we're playing our first 5A football game. We've won games, but we haven't played our best football yet."

After Marshfield, the Grizzlies host 10th-ranked Willamette on Sept. 19, travel to Springfield on Sept. 26, host Bend on Oct. 3 and open the Southern Sky Conference portion of the schedule at Crater on Oct. 10. Springfield and Bend each received votes in this week's statewide AP poll, finishing just outside of the top 10.

Marshfield, which finished 4-6 a year ago in coach Kent Wigel's second losing season in 20 years, has undergone something of a makeover. Graduated are quarterback Brogan Oswald, who threw a pair of touchdown passes against the Grizzlies last season, and tailback Cameron Winfrey, who ran for 97 yards on 16 carries against Ashland. Junior Kyle Tedder is the new man under center. His favorite receiving targets are 6-foot-5 Jordan Shepherd and Levi Meline, who earned second-team All-Midwestern League honors as a defensive back last season.

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