North Medford High wrestling coach Phillip Lopez isn't the type to get carried away.
PORTLAND — Ashland's defense came up big Friday night to push the third-ranked Grizzlies to a 13-7 win at seventh-ranked Roosevelt in the OSAA Class 5A state quarterfinals.
Needing a touchdown for the win, Roosevelt took over on the Grizzlies' 35-yard line with less than 10 minutes to play. Ashland was on the verge of sending the Roughriders back to the sideline in a hurry when Joe Hearn broke through the middle and knocked down a pass on third-and-nine.
It was make or break time for Roosevelt.
Either attempt a 39-yard field goal on a windy night, or go for it on fourth-and-long.
The Roughriders kept the offense on the field.
Backup QB Daniel Stauffer took the snap in the shotgun formation, quickly tucked it under his arm and dashed through the middle before sliding down at the marker.
The chains were called out, showing he picked up the first down by the length of the football.
Once again, the Roughriders found themselves in trouble facing a third-and-nine, but Chance Swar took the misdirection play out of the backfield and raced around the right side to pick up the first down. He was on his way to the end zone when Ashland's Mason Montgomery came up for the game-saving tackle at the 2-yard line.
That was as close as the Roughriders would get.
An illegal motion penalty backed Roosevelt up five yards, and Ashland's Cody Frost-Eisenberg stuffed a quarterback keeper for no gain. A quick pass to the sideline was stopped for a short gain when Matt Hedges slammed into the receiver.
Facing third-and-goal from the 5, Roosevelt brought out its jumbo package that called for a pair of defensive linemen in the backfield.
"They brought those big guys in, and they definitely outsized us," Montgomery said. "We just had to get low and hit hard. We put out a good effort."
Frost-Eisenberg wasn't intimidated.
He fought off a block and brought Stauffer down for a 2-yard loss, and followed with another crushing tackle at the 4-yard line to force a turnover on downs.
"There was a lot of pressure there," Montgomery said. "We knew we had to stop them, but our defense loves stepping up on the big stage."
Ashland took possession, picked up three first downs and ran out the clock. The clincher came when quarterback Danial White squeezed his way through the middle to convert a third-and-six with less than two minutes left.
The Grizzlies (11-0) advance to face No. 1 Sherwood (11-0), which blew out Crescent Valley 68-7 in its quarterfinal game.
Ashland got on the scoreboard late in the first quarter Friday when White faked a handoff in the backfield and took off around the right side. He ran into traffic as he neared the goal line, but was able to reach the ball over with his left hand for the touchdown.
The scoring play was set up when White hit Carter Glick on a 45-yard bomb to convert a third-and-10 from deep in Ashland territory.
The Grizzlies made it 13-0 early in the second quarter when White broke through the middle for a 63-yard touchdown run, fighting past two Roosevelt tacklers near the goal line to complete the play.
"I knew their guys were fast, so I came around the corner and just went as fast as I could," White said. "Getting that early lead was big. We weren't in a hurry to score — we just had to take care of the ball."
Roosevelt's first two drives reached the red zone, but the Roughriders came up empty. The first threat ended a yard short on fourth down when Collin McGuire led a host of Ashland tacklers in the middle. The second drive was cut short by a Roosevelt fumble along the sideline.
The Roughriders managed to get on the scoreboard before halftime when Billy Nelson carried an Ashland tackler on his back and into the end zone from 1 yard out.
Roosevelt's starting QB Kimane Domena spent the second half fitted with a sling on his shoulder and sitting on the bench near the water buckets. The Roughriders attempted only two passes the rest of the game — a long overthrow in the end zone and a 2-yard pass to the flat.