The Ashland High football team's best season in 15 years did not go unnoticed by Oregon's Class 5A coaches as nine Grizzlies were voted first- or second-team all-state.
In a vote that was released Tuesday, Ashland had three first-team all state selections and six second-team picks. The Grizzlies' first-team picks were senior quarterback Danial White, their lone first-team pick on offense, junior defensive back Max Montgomery and sophomore punter Walker Shibley-Styer. Ashland's second-team picks were, on offense: sophomore defensive back Shashi Penn, junior tight end Parker Layton and senior kicker Matt Hedges; and on defense, senior defensive lineman Cody Frost-Eisenberg, senior defensive lineman Tyree Heesacker and senior linebacker Mason Montgomery, the two-time Midwestern Conference defensive player of the year.
"That's certainly a tribute to the fact that we went as far as we did in the state playoffs," said Ashland head coach Charlie Hall, whose team fell to Sherwood in the 5A state semifinals.
The top-ranked Bowmen were stunned the following week in overtime by West Albany, which consequently captured all the major individual awards: coach of the year (Randy Nyquist), offensive player of the year (senior running back Jake LaCoste) and defensive player of the year (senior linebacker Gabe Stone).
White was a rock of consistency for the Grizzlies during the regular season and was even better in the playoffs. All told, the three-year starter passed for 2,042 yards and 25 touchdowns and ran for 647 yards and a team-high 11 TDs as a senior.
"I really felt good for him," Hall said of White, who ran for 136 yards and Ashland's only two touchdowns in its 13-7 quarterfinal win at Roosevelt. "He's a hard worker and he has phenomenal career stats."
Indeed, White was responsible for 6,808 yards (4,776 passing, 2,032 rushing) and 82 touchdowns in his phenomenal three-year run at Ashland, which included two Pacific Rim Bowl victories over Japan.
"I'm not really surprised, just excited and honored to get such a prestigious award," White said. "I've been working at football so hard for so long, it's nice to get some recognition. It's not really like payday because payday comes in the games when we win. It's kind of a bonus paycheck — it's kind of like the cherry on top for the whole season."
Max Montgomery was Ashland's third-leading tackler (53) and also had an interception, two fumble recoveries and a blocked kick for the Grizzlies, who surrenderred 17.3 points and 291 yards a game.
Shibley-Styer, a first-year varsity punter, averaged 33.7 yards per punt and dropped five inside the opponent's 20-yard line.
Penn had a team-high 32 catches for 469 yards and nine TDs, Layton had 29 catches for 291 yards and four TDs and Hedges made 46 of 55 point-after-touchdown kicks and 2 of 5 field goals.
Mason Montgomery led Ashland in tackles for the fourth year in a row (117) and also had 3 1/2 sacks, an interception, a forced fumble and two fumble recoveries. Hall thought Montgomery was a shoe-in for first-team all-state, but was likely bumped by West Albany's Stone after the Bulldogs pulled off one of the greatest upsets in Oregon prep football history.
"I'm disappointed for Mason because he certainly deserves that kind of recognition," Hall said. "But that's nothing against the guys that were chosen — they're all very good players, all great linebackers. It's one of those things where you're sort of the odd man out. But it doesn't diminish (Montgomery's) legacy around here. He's always going to be thought of as arguably the best linebacker that's ever played here."
Frost-Eisenberg had 49 tackles, two forced fumbles, one fumble recovery and five sacks, while Heesacker added 26 tackles and five sacks.
The Grizzlies also had four honorable mentions on offense: Mason Montgomery, Hedges (receiver), senior center Nate Carver and junior offensive lineman Ivan Tagui.