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Grizzlies aim to send seniors out on a high note

The Ashland High football team knows that there will no be more games this season beyond tonight.

Come Saturday morning, its officially going to be the offseason.

That doesn’t mean that second-year head coach Beau Lehnerz or the Grizzlies are ready to pack things in a little early going into tonight’s 2018 season finale against Redmond at Walter A. Phillips Field.

“We’re guarding against overlooking Redmond. There’s nothing left to look forward to (this season), but we don’t want to overlook them and look at their record and say ‘Oh, maybe they’re not that good,’” Lehnerz said. “We’re surprised that their record is 2-6, so we are telling the kids how great it would be to win our last game, how great it would be to send these seniors out with a victory. But you have to do it, you can’t just say it and you have to make it happen.

“We’re really, really, really making sure the kids understand that records don’t mean anything right now. It’s about who shows up that last game.”

Both Ashland and Redmond finished in fifth place out of six teams in their respective Midwestern League divisions.

The reason why the Grizzlies (3-5 overall, 1-4 MWL South) were able to get the game played at their home field instead of the Panthers (2-6, 1-4 MWL North) came down to power rankings since Ashland and Redmond both had four home games during the season.

Ashland had a power ranking of 22 compared to Redmond at No. 30, according to the OSAA website.

And don’t think that Lehnerz isn’t appreciative of being able to be at home one last time this season.

“It’s huge,” Lehnerz said. “We were able find out fairly quick (last Friday night) after we did out post-game talk with the kids and talked about where we were, we got word we were going to be at home and they were — especially the seniors — overcome with joy that they get to play one more game at Walter A. Phillips Field. For those seniors, the underclassmen want to send those guys out on a high note at home.

“We don’t have anything to play for, per se, but winning our last game at home is something big for us that we’re going to get after.”

Ashland’s defense will be seeing something it hasn’t seen yet this season when it faces Redmond tonight: The Wing-T.

As much as the Grizzlies want to go fast and spread things out while also having a presence on the ground offensively, it’s clear what the Panthers want to do — run, and run and run some more.

It’s the same kind of game plan that South Eugene employed in last Friday’s 27-17 win over Ashland, just with a very old-school kind of offense.

“It poses a challenge, and when we looked at them on the film, they’re a good looking team,” Lehnerz said of Redmond, which snapped its six-game losing skid last Friday in a 59-41 win over Springfield. “They were able to score a lot of points last week against Springfield and the week before against Willamette, so they’ve got some explosiveness in their run game. They don’t throw the ball a whole ton, so like we’ve been saying all year, we’re going to need to be disciplined on defense and try to be explosive and make some plays on offense.”

After getting through a gauntlet-like three-week stretch to open MWL South play, the Grizzlies have responded well the last two weeks.

They’ve been able to snap a losing streak along the way.

And, no matter the results have been, the effort has been there throughout.

That part of the equation might not surprise their head coach, but Lehnerz has definitely liked what he’s seen from his team the last couple of weeks.

“There’s been no let up,” Lehnerz said. “The kids, they’re resilient, they work hard, they compete in practice and I felt like our overall attitude and enthusiasm in practice have been great. Generally when you have a season that’s not a high win season, the season kind of drags on. But guys are like ‘I can’t believe it’s already over,’ and having that enthusiasm is going to be key moving forward.”

Contact Danny Penza at 541-776-4483 or dpenza@rosebudmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter at @penzatopaper.

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