Out of nowhere

Amid all the activity, Ashland junior Jon Volz couldn't help but look around at his teammates, shaking his head in disbelief at what was going on last Friday at Walter A. Phillips Field.

Lining up against a solid Willamette defense, the running back would take the ball left and there was always room to run. When he went right, the same clearing appeared. Up the middle? The creases just seemed to call to him.

When all was said and done, Volz had amassed 200 yards rushing on only 18 carries. The fourth-quarter notification came from the overhead loudspeaker, and hit him harder than any Willamette player was ever able to do in the Midwestern League game.

"I have never gotten anywhere close to that," Volz says of his career-best effort. "We came out and we played our game and it just ended up that way."

The 5-foot-10, 155-pounder had managed 212 yards through three weeks of play, with an 81-yard outing in Week 1 against Klamath Union acting as his high-water mark. All that changed during a night filled with running lanes and extra yards gained after contact against the then-No. 9 Wolverines.

"I was just excited for the team and for my linemen, who had a great game," says Volz. "I've never seen our team rush like that before, so it was exciting to just be a part of it. Our linemen just did a great job up front and pushed Willamette off every play and we just kinda got that attitude and confidence that we're going to run that ball and try and stop us."

Volz notched 4- and 5-yard touchdown runs to bookend the 49-12 victory — which pushed ninth-ranked Ashland's record to 3-1 and 2-1 in the MWL — and also hauled in a 28-yard TD pass from Danial White.

It all seemed like a long time coming for Volz, whose older brother Jackson served as the team's featured tailback the past two seasons before graduating in 2010. For head coach Charlie Hall, a breakthrough effort by Volz was only a matter of time.

"We've always known Jon had the potential to be a pretty explosive back like that," says Hall. "He's a talented kid. He's not the 4.5 guy that hits the corner and is gone, he's more of a slasher with great vision. He sets his blocks up and does a nice job of getting everything he can get on his runs."

With center Mason Montgomery, tackles Alex Ralston and Conor Morrison and guards Logan Hartrick and Andres Gutierrez clearing the path, Volz says his job was made easy last week.

It also didn't hurt that White was coming off a breakout effort of his own, running for three TDs and compiling 246 yards of total offense against Churchill, and the downfield receivers did their best to create as much space for Volz as possible.

"Just all-around all the blocking was great," says Volz. "I was just finding the creases they gave me and trying to make things happen."

"When you look at my stats, I'm not that big, I'm not that strong ... I'm not even that fast," adds the unassuming runner. "I just think I have vision to find the creases and the holes and I think that's what works for me."

Volz says he's happy to have the opportunity to put those skills on display after not seeing much time on offense at the varsity level last year. Most of his action came on defense as a second-string strong safety, but Hall told Volz he'd have the chance to play a prominent role this season if he put the time in over the offseason.

The rest, as they say, has been history as Volz has been a key player on offense to complement his role as strong safety on defense.

"It's been great and, to be honest, kind of a shock to me," Volz says of his junior campaign. "Last year I got some playing time but coming into this year I didn't know what to expect. I'm getting a lot of playing time and obviously loving it. I never expected this big of an outcome."

If everyone's being honest, neither did Hall. His expectation was that the Grizzlies would get the ball to Volz a little more through the air, taking advantage of his ability in open space and potential one-on-one matchups with opposing linebackers. Being able to simply hand the ball to him and watch him go, well that's going one better.

"If we can do that, it gets people on their heels a little bit and opens up the play-action because you're not sure if it's going to be Jon or Danial coming out with it," says Hall.

While the Grizzlies have always shown a penchant for putting the ball in the air during Hall's tenure, Volz hopes last Friday showed what the team can do on the ground as well.

"Obviously everyone's talking about how it all happened and how we have the ability to do it," he says of the run game. "Hopefully the coaches know that when it gets down to it, we can run the football if that's what they want to do."

And what can Volz possibly do for an encore?

"I guess we'll see on Friday night," he says.

"The goal is just to keep it going and have a good rest of the season."

Reach reporter Kris Henry at 541-776-4488, khenry@mailtribune.com, www.facebook.com/krishenryMT or www.twitter.com/Kris_Henry

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