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GP hopes to topple top-ranked Grizzlies

The Ashland Grizzlies open the Southern Oregon Conference football seasonranked No. — in the state.

The Grants Pass Cavemen become the first team to say prove ittonight when Ashland visits Mel Ingram Field.

We'll certainly get a taste for what kind of team we are,Grants Pass coach Tom Blanchard says.

Ashland and No. 8 Grants Pass were the only SOC teams to see action lastweek. The Grizzlies defeated a Japanese all-star team, 22-20, in Osaka,Japan, while Grants Pass dispatched Milwaukie, 40-21.

Grants Pass played against a huge team, averaging 270 pounds across thefront line. The Cavemen will have to adjust to Ashland's quickness.

Ashland dealt with Japan's extreme quickness last week. Now the Grizzliestackle Grants Pass' size.

They've got some big boys ­ 290-pounders ­ their quarterbackreally impressed me, and they have some talented receivers, Ashlandcoach Jim Nagel says of the Cavemen, whose roster shows one 300-pound-plusplayer and two more than 290 pounds.

A year ago, Ashland overcame 15 penalties and four fumbles to defeatGrants Pass 23-20 on a late field goal.

I hope to heck that we don't make those same kinds of mistakes,Nagel admits. You can't survive against a good football team doingwhat we did last year.

The Grizzlies solved one dilemma last week when Erik Nagel emerged asthe club's No. — quarterback. He pinned down the role, completing 8 of 12passes for 103 yards and a touchdown, while Elijah Jordan was 5 of 10 for40 yards and an interception.

Erik was a little more consistent, coach Nagel says.

Grants Pass took advantage of seven turnovers ­ but fumbled fourtimes ­ against Milwaukie.

If we hadn't dropped the ball four times ourselves, the score would'vebeen a lot worse, Blanchard says. We were pretty aggressivefor our first game.

Quarterback Trent Thompson completed 15 of 26 passes for 147 yards andthree TDs.

The kids are not in real game-shape yet, Blanchard says.We gave up some cheap touchdowns, which we usually don't do. We'llhave to play at a real high level against Ashland.

What we'd like to do is take the kickoff and go on a long drivethat lasts four quarters so we can keep Jim's offense off the field.

Ashland wide receiver Cy Aleman caught 10 passes for 236 yards and threetouchdowns against the Cavemen last year.

Nobody is going to shut him out, Blanchard says. Ourgoal is to play Ashland as tough as possible. If we pay attention only toAleman, we're going to get beat someplace else.

SOUTH MEDFORD AT CRATER ­ Fourth-year Crater coach Hal Rose has yetto beat South Medford.

But this could be the year.

It may not have been silky smooth, but Crater's performance in last week'sNorth Medford jamboree was impressive because the Comets managed to movethe ball down the field in 10 plays without a fumble, mishandled snap ormissed handoff.

We did OK, allows Rose. That was a jamboree. We haveto play more than eight minutes tonight.

Inside linebacker Ron Stone broke his hand in the Comets' first practiceand isn't expected back until the third week of the season.

The Panthers will have senior Steve Bechler at quarterback. The pitchinghero for the Medford Mustangs in their American Legion World Series runner-upperformance was given the go-ahead by the Oregon School Activities Associationto play even though he had taken part in fewer than 10 practices.

KLAMATH UNION AT MAZAMA ­ The Canal Bowl kicks off the season fortwo schools that have combined for four SOC wins in three seasons.

It also marks Wayne Amos' debut as Klamath Union's coach.

Mazama carries a 14-game losing streak into the cross-town affair, whilethe Pelicans are 1-26 over the previous three seasons.

BEND AT EAGLE POINT ­ When last these two teams met, the Eagles endedBend's 1995 season in a soggy Class 4A playoff contest. Unlike that game,this one has little riding on it other than who will be in the startinglineup when the two schools start playing conference games.

Bend surrendered 439 yards in a 26-7 season-opening loss to No. 9 Lakeridge.

The Eagles, ranked fifth, return four offensive starters and seven ondefense. But other positions have been wide open.

Nobody has stepped forward and become King Kong, Eagle Pointcoach Mike Johnston says.