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Watson powers Grizzlies past Ridgeview

At this rate, DaMario Watson is going to want to play the remainder of his games this season at Walter A. Phillips Field.

And there was certainly nothing lucky about what No. 7 was doing, too.

Just as he did 14 days prior in Ashland High’s season opener, Watson provided the Grizzlies with the spark that they were looking for, running wild on the visiting Ridgeview Ravens defense to the tune of 216 yards and four touchdowns in his team’s wild 51-40 comeback win on Friday night.

For added measure, Watson also had not one, but two huge second-half interceptions.

“He’s just a guy who’s a ball of energy and passion, so when he’s on like this running the ball then we know he’s going to make plays,” a clearly exhausted Ashland head coach Beau Lehnerz said of Watson, who carried the ball 31 times in the game. “We know he’s not perfect, he’s going to make mistakes, too, but he’s got such an emotional hold over our team where as he goes then so does our team.”

Ashland (2-1 overall), coming off its first loss of the season last week on the road against Springfield, dug itself a 14-0 midway through the first quarter, with no much going right on either side of the ball.

But once Watson able to get going, it was hard for Ashland offensive coordinator Antione Perry not to call No. 7 time after time again.

“Give him the rock, give him the rock,” Lehnerz said with a smile. “Wind the clock down as much as we can.”

Friday night was a battle of effective running games, as Ashland and Ridgeview combined to score the game’s first 11 touchdowns on the ground.

The Ravens had a pair of rushers go over 100 yards in the game, with seniors Kadden Brown and Griffin Dietz running for 153 and 103 yards, respectively.

It was Dietz’s 51-yard run right up the middle — one where he took out both would-be tacklers and a pair of his own teammates along the way — that gave Ridgeview (0-3) a 34-29 lead midway through the third quarter.

However, less than two minutes later, the Grizzlies got the touchdown that proved to give them the lead for good. Junior quarterback Rieger Sayre got the Ravens defense to bite on a nice play fake, then tucked the ball under his right arm and ran 34 yards untouched up the Ashland sideline to put his team in front 37-34.

“I wasn’t really thinking,” Sayre said when asked what was going through his mind as he saw so much open turf in front of him. “I just saw the read, I pulled the ball and it ended up good for our team.”

Watson scored his fourth and final touchdown of the night with 45 seconds off the clock in the fourth quarter, an 8-yard run off right tackle that gave the Grizzlies a 44-34 lead. It came mere moments after the second of Watson’s two interceptions.

“DaMario, he did a great job and he was running like an animal,” Sayre said. “I’m really proud of him.”

Sayre threw his lone touchdown pass of the night with 4 1/2 minutes to go in the game, connecting with wideout Eriq Rodriguez on an 8-yard catch in the front of the end zone to finally put the game out of reach once and for all.

Sayre finished 14-of-27 for 145 yards in the game. Rodriguez caught five passes for 41 yards and a touchdown, while Brett Stone had a pair of catches for 59 yards.

Ashland opens up Midwestern League South Division play against 5A powerhouse Churchill in Eugene next Friday night, the first of two straight games on the road to begin league play.

“We’ll enjoy this win, we’ll celebrate all of the victories that come with this win, but there’s a lot of learning to do,” Lehnerz said. “We know that (against) Churchill we’ll have to have our best, and we’re going into that game to play our best game. If we happen to win, that’s awesome, but we need to be sharp because the season doesn’t end next week, it’s just the second part of the season.”

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

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