ASHLAND — On a day of firsts, Charlie Hall could hardly feel his own: a Gatorade shower in Ashland.

ASHLAND — On a day of firsts, Charlie Hall could hardly feel his own: a Gatorade shower in Ashland.

And that's about the only thing the rain took from the Grizzly football team on this homecoming night.

Josh Hogeland hauled in a 49-yard touchdown pass with 6:19 to go and Josh Scarminach's interception spoiled Klamath Union's last-ditch drive as the fourth-ranked Grizzlies survived another barnburner to clinch their first playoff berth since 2000.

The 15-8 Southern Sky Conference victory on a mud-caked Walter A. Phillips Field also secured for Ashland no worse than a share of the SSC championship, the program's first league title since the 1998 state championship season.

"It's a great step for our program," said Hall, in his third year as Ashland's head coach. "It's a program that's filled with tradition and great pride in the past. We've kind of gone through some tough years, but this year — first winning season since 2000, first time in the playoffs since 2000 — those are great milestones, and to be quite honest, I think our kids are looking for more than that."

After Hogeland's catch and run against a driving rain trumped the Pelicans' 8-7 lead, Klamath (5-3, 1-1 SSC) drove 56 yards in nine plays to get to the Ashland 14. Ashland's defense took over from there — Julian Ewald sacked Jon Amos to make it third-and-13, and Amos' next pass over the middle with just under a minute left went right to Scarminach.

Two kneel downs later, the Grizzlies (8-0 overall, 3-0 SSC) were celebrating their latest escape with impromptu belly slides across the soggy turf. Four of Ashland's eight wins have been by five points or less.

"This is amazing; it's probably the greatest moment I've had playing football here," Ashland senior lineman Matt Lipski said. "It was senior night, and we knew if we got the job done we could get another game here. That was important to us."

Hunter Lange rushed for 197 yards as Klamath outgained Ashland 319 to 227 overall. Lewis Sebrell and Pat Hutchinson led an Ashland offense that gained 150 yards on the ground.

Ashland went up 6-0 on Matt Dierks 7-yard touchdown pass to Charlie Sebrell with 7:08 to go in the second quarter. Charlie Sebrell nailed the PAT, and the lead held up until Lange ran in from 10 yards out with 7:03 to go in the third.

That's where the game stood when Ashland took over at its own 46 with 8:01 to go. Three plays later, on a third-and-four play, Dierks dropped back and found Hogeland all alone behind the KU secondary. Hogeland, who fumbled a punt return earlier in the game, redeemed himself by snaring the ball, muddy grip and all.

"I was just like, 'Please, please, just catch the ball,' because my gloves were slippery," he said. "The weight was lifted off my shoulders. I was so happy."

Klamath took over at its own 30 and quickly went to work, moving 23 yards on five plays to break into Ashland territory. Amos then completed an 18-yard pass to Randy Denson, and suddenly the Pels were 29 yards away from the end zone.

"On the scoreboard we didn't win," Klamath coach Wayne Amos said, "but (the Grizzlies are) ranked fourth, they're undefeated and we played them to the wire, so (the Pelican players) should be proud of the way they played."

Joe Zavala is sports editor of the Daily Tidings. Reach him at 482-3456, ext. 224, or joe.zavala@dailytidings.com