Beau Lehnerz is well aware of Ashland’s third-quarter struggles so far this season.
They’re easy to identify in real time as he paces up and down the sideline, and easier to pinpoint when he goes over the game film over a cup of coffee or two Saturday morning.
So what can the Grizzlies do to try and solve those mishaps when they face Ridgeview tonight at Walter A. Phillips Field in their final game before play in the Midwestern League’s South Division gets underway next week?
“The first thing is identifying (mistakes) and saying that it’s a four-quarter game, basically at halftime you’re coming back out after halftime and starting over,” Lehnerz said. “We need to make sure that we’re making adjustments and anticipating the adjustments that the other team is making. I don’t feel like we’ve completely done that very well — and that’s all on the coaches.”
That’s the physical part.
But, as always, there’s also the mental aspect to the equation as well.
“The other part is, with the young kids that we have, we cannot be, for the lack of a better term, frontrunners,” Lehnerz said. “We can’t think that since we’re leading at halftime the game’s over. We have to go out with the same intensity, the same mindset, the same discipline, the same game plan with what we want to do and carry that out. I feel like a little bit of that has to do with the youth of the team, but ultimately it’s my responsibility and the coaches’ responsibilities to make those adjustments.”
Through two games this season, the Grizzlies (1-1 overall) have been outscored 32-0 by their opponents in the third quarter.
Ashland was able to overcome its third-quarter struggles in the season opener against Willamette two weeks ago. That wasn’t the case this past week in a 49-35 loss to Springfield, a game where Millers running back Arturo Diaz went over the 300-yard mark for the second consecutive game to begin the 2018 season.
The Grizzlies limited Diaz, a bruising 220-pound senior, to 52 yards in the first half. After halftime, the Millers’ leading man rushed for over 300 yards and powered Springfield past Ashland after falling behind 21-7.
Two different kinds of games with different kinds endings.
However, the desire to keep a first-half lead has been the common theme coming out of halftime.
“I think, really, it’s recognizing the mistakes we made in the first half and giving those other coaches credit that they’re going to recognize that,” Lehnerz said. “The key is recognizing our mistakes early and correcting those and hopefully then their coaches aren’t planning on our team being undisciplined.
“Again, it’s just discipline. We’ve preached all week that it’s going to go play after play after play and they are waiting for us to be undisciplined. As soon as they do that, they are going to capitalize.”
Ridgeview (0-2), which played in Class 5A Special District 1 last season, has been outscored 81-45 in losses to Crook County and South Eugene.
Lehnerz expects the Ravens to resemble his Grizzlies’ opposition seven days ago.
Translation: Ridgeview is going to run the ball, and it will be imperative that Ashland’s defense stops it if they want to be successful and have a chance to match last season’s win total in the first three games of 2018.
“It’s another week to work on counter and power and things like that,” Lehnerz said. “The kids got a heavy dose of it in practice and in the game (against Springfield), and then got more of it this week in practice, so we’re hoping that pays off. They’re going to see that tape and see that (Springfield’s) guy had 300-something yards, so we have to stop the run as well as not fall asleep on the back end.”
With one more game to go before facing the MWL’s preseason favorite, Churchill, the emphasis on tightening up the quality of play has been one of the biggest things Lehnerz and his coaches have been preaching all week.
“We have shown flashes of exactly what we want offensively, defensively and special teams. Enough so that we can say that the kids get it, but then it’s going to be that consistency,” Lehnerz said. “Churchill is in the back of our minds, but we’ve got to polish on this game and look better. Most of that, if not all of it, is in the preparation. If we can prepare to play these big games and do those fundamental things correctly, we’ll be better.”
Contact Danny Penza at 541-776-4483 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @penzatopaper.