2013 Ashland Football: Season in Review

Ashland High School has been football state champion three times. Led by Coach Jim Nagel, the Grizzlies won three times in ten years: 1989, 1991 and 1998. Nagel left in 2003, and he was replaced by his assistant coach, Charlie Hall. Since the time he took over, Hall has continued to coach the team to winning records and playoff berths, but one thing had eluded him as head coach. He had never taken a team to the semi-finals of the state playoffs. This year Hall and the Grizzlies finally reached that goal.

Ashland ran the table during the regular season, going undefeated 9-0. The season started off almost four months ago when the Grizzlies headed to Japan, where they beat the Japan All-Stars in the Pacific Rim Bowl. Back in America, the Grizzlies started off the season with a huge win against Klamath Union. As the season progressed, two familiar roadblocks stood in Ashland’s way: Marist and Sherwood. Since joining the Midwestern League in 2011, Ashland only had four conference losses. Those losses came to Eagle Point in 2011, Springfield in 2012, and Marist in both years. This year Ashland defeated all three of those teams.

Ashland began its year with two easy wins over Klamath Union and Lebanon. Entering the game against Marist, Ashland was the major underdog after losing the previous two matchups by a combined 96-0. This year Ashland and Marist played a tight first-half, as Marist took a 7-0 lead into the second half. Two Ryne Robitz touchdown runs put Ashland in the lead, and Matt Hedge caught a 50 yard pass from Danial White to clinch the 21-7 victory. After a blowout win at Churchill, Ashland returned home to take on the fifth ranked Springfield Millers. Ashland was ranked fourth. The Grizzlies and  Millers traded scores. Late in the fourth quarter Ashland had the lead 28-21. With the ball on Springfields 49, QB Danial White took matters into his own hands. White rolled out right, before taking off down the side line. He found a hole and clinched the game with a touchdown run.

After these two big victories, Ashland’s schedule had no more big-time opponents left. The Grizzlies won the final four games of the regular season, winning by at least 14 each time. Because of a weak schedule, and in despite of being one of two undefeated teams, Ashland was the fifth seed in the 5A playoffs. After a bye week, they hosted 8-3 Pendleton in the round of 16. Ashland came out firing, as Kiowa Jayne returned the kickoff for a touchdown, and Ashland had a 27-0 lead after the first quarter. The final score read 54-9, and Ashland moved on to the quarter-finals.

In the quarter-finals Ashland took on fourth seeded Roosevelt. White ran for two touchdowns, to give the Grizzlies 13-0 lead. Before halftime, Roosevelt scored a touchdown, and the Grizzlies went into the locker rooms with a 13-7 lead. The second half was a very different story. Ashland’s offense could not move the ball against the Roosevelt defense, but the defense of the Grizzlies saved them. With under five minutes to go in the fourth quarter, Roosevelt drove inside Ashland’s five yard line. Ashland stopped Roosevelt on all four downs, to take the ball on downs. Ashland’s offense kicked into gear for the final drive as Ashland ran out the clock to claim the victory, 13-7, and a trip to the semi-finals.

Sherwood, ranked number one, had a seemingly easy season coming into Autzen Stadium to face Ashland. Sherwood was undefeated. There closest win was by 35 points, and they had beaten the second ranked team in the state, West Albany, 48-0. The Grizzlies fought hard and held Sherwood to eight points in the first quarter. The Grizzlies offense, while not on the board had some success moving the ball. They drove down the field, and had first-and-goal. Ashland then proceeded to be stopped by the Sherwood defense. On fourth down, Coach Hall kept the offense on the field, but Ashland couldn’t convert. With Sherwood up 16-0, Shashi Penn made a circus catch, but a failed two point conversion kept it a two score game. After that, it was all Sherwood, as Ashland never forced a Sherwood punt. Sherwood won the game 57-12.

While Ashland did not win a state title, it was still a banner season. This Grizzly football team made the semi-finals for the first time in 15 years, won its first Midwestern league title, and was ranked as high as third in Oregonlive.com’s 5A poll. Individually, Ashland had ten players that were All-League. Senior linebacker Mason Montgomery was co-defensive player of the year and could be all-state. Overall, this Grizzly team was the best team that has played at Ashland in a very long time. Looking forward, Ashland has a lot of talent to replace. Both QB Danial White and LB Mason Montgomery will be gone. Now the rest of the Grizzlies, the freshmen, sophomores and juniors, must continue what this team has started as Ashland looks towards a state title in 2014.