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Grizzlies hoping it will be home sweet home vs. Crater

It’s been a rough introduction to Midwestern League South Division play for the Ashland High football team in 2018.

After two losses and two one-sided final scores, the Grizzlies hope a little home cookin’ on homecoming at Walter A. Phillips will be the cure to their recent struggles.

Homecoming night in Ashland will see two teams at different ends of the MWL South standings face one another, as the Grizzlies will try to slow down a suddenly surging Crater squad at 7 p.m. this evening.

The last time the Grizzlies were on their home field, they were feeling pretty good after just picking up their second win of the season. Two weeks and two tough losses later, they’re scratching their heads and looking for some kind of remedy to solve their struggles.

“It’s been a lot of looking at ourselves in the mirror,” Ashland head coach Beau Lehnerz said. “We talked to the kids about it and they said — and the coaches kind of agree — when times are going well then everybody’s happy, when stuff starts hitting the fan then guys will start pointing fingers or hanging their heads. No. 1, it’s football and it’s supposed to be fun. Winning is fun, so we want to do that, but we want to play competitive football, and I think most guys will say we haven’t been competitive for four quarters.

“We’ve shown those flashes like I say every week, but we want to play with pride, be competitive. That’s what we want to put on the field is our best selves each time and (do it) for four quarters.”

It’s been a tough go of it on both sides of the ball for Ashland (2-3 overall, 0-2 MWL South) the last handful of weeks, but especially so defensively. The Grizzlies have allowed a combined 111 points in their first two MWL South games.

Lehnerz boils it down to one main problem.

“As the defensive coordinator, it’s tackling,” he said without any hesitation.

“I look at the schemes and if we’re doing the right thing as far as the scheme goes, and I feel like we are,” Lehnerz continued. “We can go back and look at that, but we’re not tackling the way we need to tackle.”

The Grizzlies’ defense will, again, be tasked with facing a team in Crater that has a strong running game.

Lehnerz compared Comets running back Tony Flores to a bruising runner that the Grizzlies have already seen this season — Springfield’s Arturo Diaz, who torched Ashland for nearly 350 yards back in Week 2.

Flores, a self-proclaimed “ground and pound” kind of runner, has been key on both sides of the ball for Crater (3-2, 2-0) as the Comets have rebounded from a 1-2 start to win their first two MWL South games of the season.

“They’ve had some injury issues, too, but they’re scrappy,” Lehnerz said of Crater. “Flores, he’s just as tough of a cat as there is, and that’s something that we’ve lacked is that scrappiness. We showed a little bit of it when we came back against Willamette, we showed some against Ridgeview, but we have to be able to be scrappy, we have to ‘fight’ for four quarters.”

Facing Churchill, a state finalist last season, to open league play was always going to be a big task.

Eagle Point has proven to be quite a formidable opponent as well on its way to winning four of its first five games this year.

Now in comes Crater, which has outscored its first two MWL South opponents (North Eugene and South Eugene) 75-20.

“I don’t mind the Churchill game coming out of the gates. We were as healthy as we were going to be for the most part, so it was a true test to see where we were at,” Lehnerz said. “It really showed us where we’re at, too, so we were hoping to recover from that and learn from it and give Eagle Point a good showing. We did okay the first quarter, but we didn’t move the ball like we thought we were going to, we certainly didn’t tackle like we wanted to, so we’re kind of at the drawing board again.

“But, the good thing is we have a good contest against Crater coming up and it’s about as must-win as it can be and then two more games after that.”

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

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