Grizzlies throttle Indians, 35-21
Ashland takes another step towards title
ASHLAND -- There may be a month remaining in the regular season, but you might as well pencil in the Ashland Grizzlies as the Southern Oregon Conference champions.
Jimmy Werbin passed for two touchdowns, ran for another and guided the Grizzlies to 408 yards in total offense Friday night as they romped past Roseburg 35-21.
The victory ran the fifth-ranked Grizzlies' conference record to 4-0, their overall record to 6-0 and left them as the only unbeaten team in the SOC.
No, the chickens haven't hatched yet, but the Grizzlies will be heavy favorites in their remaining games against Klamath Union, South Medford and Crater, three teams that have a combined 3-12 record.
We were essentially in this same spot last year and really didn't improve much during our final three or four games, Ashland coach Jim Nagel said. We had a big win against Roseburg last year, stagnated and then got beat in the second round of the playoffs.
As a coaching staff we've got to find a way to keep up the intensity of our kids so that doesn't happen again.
Intensity was not a problem for the Grizzlies Friday. They grabbed a 14-0 lead in the first period, assumed a 21-14 advantage at the half and then shellshocked the Indians in the third period when they racked up 202 yards in total offense while allowing just 28.
When Werbin rifled a 34-yard touchdown pass to Jay Kuester that culminated a 76-yard, seven-play drive with 6:11 left in the third, the Grizzlies had a 35-14 lead and some of the standing-room only crowd at Walter A. Phillips Field was beginning to eye the exits.
They just picked us apart in the second half, said Roseburg coach Thurman Bell, whose team fell to 2-2 and now finds itself scrambling to make the playoffs. They've got some kids who can catch the ball and they were much too quick for us.
We made it a game for awhile but eventually their quickness got the best of us. Give them all the credit.
With fullback Paul Bodenhamer picking up big chunks of yards on the inside veer play, Roseburg marched from its own 33 to the Ashland 34 the first time it had the ball.
But on fourth and three from the 34, Grizzly defensive back Jesse Jones broke up a halfback option pass and the drive stalled.
Ashland went nowhere on its first possession, but the second time the Grizzlies had the ball -- they regained it on a Chris Pavilionis interception -- they drove 63 yards on seven plays with Pavilionis diving into the end zone from three yards out.
Two minutes later, Pavilionis was in the middle of the action once again. He found himself wide open down the middle of the field, caught a pass from Werbin and galloped towards the end zone, only to fumble the ball away a couple of yards short when he began to celebrate too early.
Fortunately for Pavilionis, Johnny-on-the-spot teammate Gabe Stephens recovered the ball in the end zone for a touchdown.
I got a little bit cocky, Pavilionis admitted after the game. I was going to raise my arms over the head in the end zone and the ball slipped out. I thought maybe I had already crossed the goal line, but I looked at the ref and he just stood there. And then when I looked for the ball there was Gabe falling on it.
I'm sure I'll be hearing from the coaches about it this next week, but luckily we still got a touchdown out of it.
The score gave the Grizzlies a 14-0 lead with 2:32 left in the first period, but the Indians fought back. J.J. Wolford returned the kickoff to the 37 and the Indians methodically drove 64 yards in 13 plays for their first touchdown, a 3-yard plunge by Bodenhamer, who finished with 84 yards on 18 carries.
The Indians were feeling pretty good about themselves at that point, trailing 14-7 at the 7:39 mark of the second period.
But then the Grizzlies did what they so often do to demoralize an opponent: they struck with the big play.
As Kuester streaked up the right sideline, Werbin tossed a long pass his direction. The ball was slightly underthrown and bounced off the shoulder pads of Roseburg defensive back Pat Anderson and into the waiting arms of Kuester, who took it the distance for a 70-yard touchdown.
I had a step on the guy (Anderson) but the ball was a little underthrown so I slowed down and tried to outfight him for the ball, Kuester said. I didn't really know what happened but then all of a sudden the ball was right there in front of me and I just grabbed it and kept going.
Roseburg scored again before the half, but the Werbin-to-Kuester connection was a back-breaker for the Indians.
That was definitely the big play of the game, nodded Bell. We went on a time-consuming drive to get our first touchdown and then, boom, they hit us with the big play.
Werbin started slowly but wound up completing 9 of 20 for 258 yards and two TDs.
I started out slow but the `O' line said don't get down, Werbin said.
Werbin told his offensive line he would give them all the pizza they could eat at his home following the game if they did not allow a single sack.
The linemen went to bed with full stomachs.