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 — Friday was a night of firsts for the ninth-ranked Ashland football team.
First, it simply scored on sixth-ranked Marist — something the Grizzlies had not done in their last three meetings — and then they beat the Spartans, 21-7, something no Midwestern League opponent has done since Marist joined the conference in 2010.
Ryne Robitz rushed for two short touchdowns and quarterback Danial White passed for 214 yards, including a victory-clinching 50-yard touchdown strike to Matt Hedges, at Walter A. Phillips Field.
The triumph was of great significance: The Spartans beat the Grizzlies by a combined score of 96-0 the last two seasons in MWL play. Three years ago, when the teams weren't in the same league, Marist downed Ashland, 31-0.
As Friday's contest wrapped up, Ashland players jumped in celebration and fans stormed the field.
"It is a landmark win for our team and program," Ashland head coach Charlie Hall said. "It's clearly an understatement to say we haven't played well against them the last three years.
"It was a perfect storm. Our kids being mature at key times and guys believing in each other. Marist is trying to rebuild and we stepped up to the physical challenge."
The Grizzlies needed to rally, falling behind 7-0 after Marist starting quarterback Brody Cooper hit Dustin Jones for a 37-yard scoring strike with 49 seconds to go in the second quarter.
After that, it was all Ashland.
Robitz's game-tying 2-yard plunge with 9:15 remaining in the third quarter capped an eight-play, 74-yard drive on the Grizzlies' opening possession. He scored again from 2 yards out with 11:52 left in the fourth.
And with 5:57 left in the game, White targeted Hedges, his go-to receiver, on a deep third-and-12 pass. Hedges — who finished the night with four catches for 129 yards — hauled in the throw in stride while alluding a defender. He charged into the end zone to give Ashland its final advantage.
White was 12-for-25 with one interception on the night. He carried the ball eight times for 44 yards.
"We knew they were taking some risks in coverage," Hall said of the TD pass. "It was a situation where we took a shot ... Matt had a great game. They have had a nice connection all year."
The Grizzly defense shined all night, especially middle linebacker Mason Montgomery, who finished with a team-best 12 tackles. He and his crew kept constant pressure on Marist backup quarterback Sean Dorsey during the Spartans' final drive. With about 2:30 to go, Montgomery sacked Dorsey to prompt fourth-and-eight. Michael Pruitt's ensuing sack spelled the end of the road for Marist.
The Grizzlies got the ball back with about two minutes left and burnt down the clock to seal the win and remain undefeated.
Robitz had 14 carries for 28 yards.
"He would be the first to compliment his offensive line," Hall said of Robitz. "We used our two-back concept with Mason (Montgomery) as the fullback and that helped pave the way for Ryne's production."
Theo Withcomb and Carter Glick each had interceptions, and Asher Beasley and Collin McGuire each had seven tackles for Ashland, which recorded 10 of its 16 first downs in the second half and had 88 of its 111 rushing yards in the second half.
Andrew Park led Marist with 59 rushing yards on 15 carries.
The Grizzlies play at Churchill next Friday, while Marist hosts Bend in a nonconference game.
Reach reporter Dan Jones at 541-776-4499, or email firstname.lastname@example.org