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Ashland will air it out at South

Jim Nagel has produced three all-state quarterbacks and several more all-conference signal callers in his 18 seasons as the Ashland High football coach.

The Grizzlies? spread-the-field passing attack has been their most consistent weapon in their march to 15 straight playoff appearances and three state championships. It has been the great equalizer in overcoming the big, physical defenses the Grizzlies often encounter in the Southern Oregon Conference and the playoffs.

So you can imagine Nagel's frustrations when the Grizzlies had accumulated a paltry 139 yards through the air in their first three games. Mike Allen and Cameron Voget had combined for just 13 completions in 45 attempts over that span, or 28.8 percent.

But rather than abandon his passing scheme, Nagel turned Voget loose on Klamath Union last Friday, and the strong-armed junior responded with a 16-for-21, 262-yard, three-touchdown performance in the Grizzlies? 42-30 victory.

The No. 7-ranked Grizzlies meet South Medford tonight at Spiegelberg Stadium.

In other games involving SOC teams tonight, North Medford (4-0) travels to Roseburg (4-1), and Grants Pass (2-2) journeys to Eagle Point (1-3). Klamath Union (1-3) ventures to North Bend (1-3) for a non-conference matchup on Saturday.

We knew all along that our passing game was there, Nagel says. It was just in a dormant stage and hadn't surfaced on game day.

Nagel says Voget, who has been the starter since the second game, has never lost confidence in himself.

I don't think he's ever been worried about it and neither have the other kids, Nagel says of the passing game. But I was definitely getting a little nervous.

Assuming Voget can keep the air show flowing, the Grizzlies are a well-rounded team. Their running attack, led by the punishing forays of senior Mac Contreras, is averaging nearly 200 yards per game and trails only North Medford in efficiency.

And their defense is among the best in the SOC. Ashland led Klamath Union 35-8 last week before Nagel cleared his bench, making the final score deceiving.

The Grizzlies aren't sure what to expect when they run into the Panthers, and South Medford coach Bill Singler is a little fuzzy on the matter, too.

After a 2-0 start in which they looked like a possible playoff contender, the Panthers have lost two straight and didn't play with much enthusiasm in their 14-7 loss to South Eugene last Friday.

To make matters worse, the Panthers have been hit hard by the injury bug. Starting nose guard Chris Thomas (knee) and defensive back Danny Kime (concussion) both went down against South Eugene and won't play tonight. Tailback Jimmie Maddox, tight end Bjorn Johnson and wide receiver John McKay are all suffering from knee injuries but should be in uniform and are expected to see action. McKay has missed the last two games.

Right now we're more concerned about ourselves than about who we're playing, Singler says. We need to get our intensity back and see how hard we can play.

South Medford quarterback Boomer Marshall, who threw for 458 yards and six touchdowns in the Panthers? first two games, has managed only 163 yards and no touchdowns in the last two.

If we can give Boomer time to throw then he?ll make plays, Singler says. But we've got to re-establish our running game and be able to mix things up.

GRANTS PASS AT EAGLE POINT -With a win under its belt and an offense that has improved immensely over the last three weeks, Eagle Point could give the struggling Cavemen a tough battle.

The Eagles? resurgence began after they revamped their offensive line following a season-opening 49-0 loss to North Medford. Jake Phillips moved from center to guard. Blake Cam moved from guard to tackle. Mike Brabbin moved from tackle to center. Sam Dodenhoff took over a starting guard spot. The only interior lineman who stayed put was tackle Mike Noce.

It took another week for the line to settle in, but in the past two games the Eagles have racked up 628 yards of offense, and tailback Victor Shelton has produced back-to-back 100-yard games.

The whole offense has come together, Eagles coach Mike Johnston says, but it all started with those guys up front.

Quarterback Kyle Gray has thrown for 629 yards, the highest total in the SOC, and wide receiver Greg Horn leads the conference with 20 catches for 380 yards and three TDs.

Grants Pass is reeling after back-to-back losses to Ashland and Roseburg and will be without several starters who were injured in last week's loss to the Indians. The Cavers were picked to finish third in the SOC in a preseason poll of the coaches but will be hard-pressed to make the playoffs with a loss tonight.

This is a huge game for both teams, Grants Pass coach Jeff Weiss says. It's going to determine who stays in the race for a playoff spot and who doesn't.

KLAMATH UNION AT NORTH BEND -North Bend was viewed as a playoff team in the Midwestern League but the Bulldogs have lost three of their first four games. They hope to take out their frustrations on Klamath Union, but the Pelicans have been a scrappy team.

North Bend won last season's matchup 27-7 in Klamath Falls.