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Ashland opens in grand style

ASHLAND ­ As Ashland High's triumphant football players ran downa stairway toward their locker room, one player seemed to sum of the emotionsof the others.

Thirteen more, said the unidentified player from a groupof smiling players. Thirteen more and we win it (the state championship).

The top-ranked Grizzlies had reason to smile Friday night after seniorquarterback Erik Nagel combined with explosive wide receivers Cy Alemanand Brian Luman to carry Ashland to a 42-0 rout of Grants Pass at Mel IngramField.

This is the best Ashland team we've played against in 12 years,said stunned Grants Pass coach Tom Blanchard, after he watched Nagel complete10 of 18 passes for 284 yards and four touchdowns in his Southern OregonConference debut as a quarterback.

Their kids are so strong and so quick, they just manhandled us.Erik Nagel just did a great job at quarterback. I'm sure his dad (Ashlandcoach Jim Nagel) is proud.

Blanchard's words can't be encouraging to other SOC coaches, who haveyet to face Ashland.

Jim Nagel, who began his final year as Ashland's head coach, said hisson also played well at middle linebacker.

I'm a proud Papa and coach tonight, said Nagel. Wedid a lot of things right. Erik played real well and threw the ball well,but I'm sure I'll find something wrong on the films tomorrow.

The younger Nagel threw two touchdown passes to Aleman, the 6-foot-4SOC track champion in the 100 and 200 meters. The first strike went for80 yards.

Grants Pass' defensive backs got up and tried to challenge us,said Aleman. We took advantage of tht with our speed. I don't knowwhy they kept doing that.

Leading 7-0 entering the second quarter, the Nagel-Aleman combinationstruck again early in the second period on a screen pass. Aleman took theshort dump pass from Nagel, picked up two quick blocks and turned it intoa foot race down the left sideline that was no contest.

We had good blocks all the way on that one and I just ran behindthem, said Aleman of the 60-yard score. As usual, Erik (Nagel)threw a ball I could handle in stride.

Luman got into big-play mode after Ashland's stingy defense quickly stifledthe Cavemen and forced a punt, which Luman returned 67 yards for a touchdown.When Kyle Taylor added his third consecutive conversion kick, Ashland hada 21-0 lead with 5:40 still remaining in the first half.

The Grizzlies snuffed any possible comeback hopes by driving the ball46 yards for a touchdown on their first drive of the second half. Nagelhit Luman with an 18-yard touchdown pass with 9:23 left in the third quarterto help the Grizzlies go up 28-0.

Ashland added two more touchdowns in the fourth quarter with Nagel andLuman hooking up for 19-yard score and James Werbin, Ashland's No. — quarterback,scoring on a 1-yard run.

Aleman finished with 4 catches for 184 yards and Luman had — receptionsfor 45 yards.

It was a lot fun and I think we played pretty well, saidErik Nagel. It helped to get off to a good start. It helped me getmy confidence going. It really helps to have two fast receivers like Cyand Brian to throw to.

Ashland's strong defensive effort, which limited Grants Pass to 224 yards,was about what the younger Nagel expected.

I wasn't surprised that our defense dominated, said Nagel.We have most of our guys back from last year.

Jim Nagel said the Grizzlies showed improvement over their play in a22-20 win over a Japanese high school all-star team last Friday in Japan.

The Japanese were able to match our quickness better than GrantsPass did, said Nagel. But we definitely got better this week.

Grants Pass suffered its worst SOC defeat since 1986.