Athletic directors at the Class 5A level have proven to be the most invested in controlling their own playoff destiny since a switch to the...
ASHLAND — For the second week in a row, the Ashland High football team used a first-half explosion to make the second half irrelevant.
Ashland scored touchdowns on its first six possessions, rushed for 366 yards and rolled to its second Midwestern League blowout victory in as many weeks, 61-14, over Marshfield on Friday at Walter A. Phillips Field.
Austin Chandler rushed for 95 yards and two touchdowns, including a 72-yard dash on the second play of the third quarter, Connor Kaegi completed 8 of 10 passes for 159 yards and two touchdowns and the Grizzlies took a 40-7 lead into halftime to finally pocket their first winning streak of the season.
Also contributing to Ashland's impressive offensive display, Jon Volz rushed for 81 yards and two TDs on six carries and freshman Shashimani Penn had a 68-yard touchdown reception in the first quarter, catching the ball 25 yards downfield then outrunning Marshfield's secondary the rest of the way to give the Grizzlies a quick 13-0 lead.
The resounding win, Ashland's second in a row including last week's 55-0 win over North Eugene, improves the Grizzlies to 4-3 overall and 3-2 in the MWL. Marshfield continued its downward spiral, falling to 0-7 and 0-5.
"Our kids did a nice job," Ashland head coach Charlie Hall said. "The kids played hard tonight and it was good to see a back-to-back win, which was one of our big goals."
A week after ambushing the Highlanders with a 48-point first half, the Grizzlies got off to another quick start Friday and finished the game with 542 yards of total offense to Marshfield's 224. Ashland stopped Marshfield on its opening possession then needed just four plays to drive 29 yards, taking a 6-0 lead on Chandler's 20-yard burst around the left end.
Two minutes later Kaegi hit Penn over the middle and watched one of only two freshmen on the Grizzlies' roster split the Pirates' defense for an electrifying score.
Following another Marshfield three-and-out and a good punt return by Quaid Walters, Ashland took over at the Pirates' 22 and scored two plays later on Volz's 2-yard dive.
Quarterback Danial White then completed the monster opening quarter, orchestrating a 65-yard drive that required just five plays and included his 15-yard keeper that gave Ashland a 27-0 lead with 53 seconds to go.
"We knew that Marshfield was going to come out as hard as they could because even though they were down by six games they're going to try to hurt us, so we just tried to match that intensity," said Ashland two-way lineman Cody Frost-Eisenberg. "I think we broke the curse right now. Every other game we've been losing, so hopefully this broke it and we're going to keep winning."
Ashland added two more first-half touchdowns — Kaegi tossed a 19-yard pass to RJ Atteberry and Volz rushed in from 17 yards out — to take a comfortable lead into the break.
It only got worse for the Pirates in the third quarter. First, Chandler scooted down the sideline untouched to make it 46-7, then sophomore Ryne Robitz blasted in from the 2 to cap a 41-yard drive and put Ashland ahead 53-7. That 46-point deficit instigated a running clock the rest of the way, speeding up the inevitable.
"I really think it helps the team moving along when we can (execute) those first few plays out there and get us going, scoring early," Kaegi said. "When we're working in our two-quarterback system, we try to keep the defense on their toes."
Marshfield quarterback Jason Sweet completed 9 of 20 passes for 110 yards and one touchdown to lead the Pirates. Sweet found Jacob McAvoy wide open in the corner of the end zone to give the Pirates their first touchdown of the game with 1:03 to go in the first half. McAvoy caught five passes for 76 yards.
The Grizzlies dominated the line of scrimmage, holding the Pirates to 51 yards rushing on 30 carries. Ashland also blocked a punt and had an interception, courtesy of sophomore Max Montgomery.
Now, Ashland heads to Willamette fresh off their most impressive two-game stint of the season.
"Confidence is a big part of that," Hall said. "Our opponents have not been extremely hard, but I do like the way the flow of the game's gone. It's been good execution, I like the combination of the offense with the two quarterbacks. And our defense has been flying around making some turnovers and it's been exciting to watch."