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Grizzlies barrel over Cavemen, 20-6

Photo by Andy Atkinson

Smith key cog in ground attack

ASHLAND -- In times past, Ashland has had to finesse the ball down the field against the Grants Pass Cavemen's physical defensive unit.

But Friday night, the Grizzlies found another way to move the ball against the Cavemen. Brute force.

They're stronger than we are and they beat us up, said a stunned Grants Pass head coach Tom Blanchard, after Ashland rushed for 240 yards on the way to a 20-6 victory at Walter A. Phillips Field.

The Grizzlies ran their season record to 2-0 and opened Southern Oregon Conference play with a rousing rushing display. Grants Pass fell to 0-2 overall and 0-1 in the SOC.

Normally, we're a passing team, said 200-pound senior fullback Joel Smith, who rushed for 136 yards on 16 carries in his second start.

I've been waiting for this for a long time, said Smith. It's taken two years. But it was worth the wait.

They gave me the ball five times in a row at one point in the second half (third quarter) and I was loving it, said Smith. Since we usually pass more than we run, I was excited.

I got a little tired, but not that bad, said Smith. They keep us in pretty good shape around here.

Smith charged ahead for 39 yards on those five carries, helping the Grizzlies drive 84 yards for their final touchdown with 10:47 to play.

Big play of the drive was a 41-yard pass from quarterback Jim Werbin to running back Kris Pavilionis, giving Ashland a first-and-goal at the 1.

An offsides penalty against Ashland moved the ball back to the 6, but the Grizzlies finally punched in their third touchdown on a 4-yard roll-out pass from Werbin to tight end Austin Mason.

Ashland went in front 14-6 with 8:13 left in the third quarter on a 5-yard touchdown run by Pavilionis. The Grizzlies drove 80 yards, 60 of it on the ground.

Werbin completed one pass during the drive, a 20-yard strike to Mason.

Ashland took a 7-0 lead with 2:04 left in the opening quarter when Werbin passed 25 yards to wide receiver Jay Kuester on a delayed inside screen pass down the middle. Sean Schorovsky kicked the extra point for a 7-0 lead.

Grants Pass cut the lead to one point at 7-6 on a 54-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Cory Restvedt to wide receiver David Holt. But Jay Stack's conversion attempt sailed wide left.

Ashland made it 14-6 when Pavilionis scored a touchdown on a 5-yard run.

Ashland's defense limited Grants Pass to just 85 yards rushing.

Ashland has some very physical kids, said Blanchard. They handled us pretty well on defense.

It seems like they beat us up every year. They play aggressive defense and they execute on offense. They execute without making mistakes and their opponents do.

We made a lot of assignment mistakes on offense, said Blanchard. We have to get better. When you do that and get beat up physically, you're in trouble.

Ashland coach Jim Nagel was pleased with his defensive unit and the Grizzlies' rushing attack.

Our running game was good, and we played good defense, especially in the second half, said Nagel But our passing game needs to get better.

What I liked most tonight was the way our kids competed, said Nagel. They played hard.

Ashland finished with a 401-220 advantage in total offense. Werbin completed 10 of 27 passes for 161 yards. Restvedt completed 6 of 17 passes for 137 yards.

Ashland's Kris Pavilionis dives over Grants Pass' Chuck Martin for a third-quarter TD. - By RANDY HAMMERICKSEN