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Grizzlies take a bite out of South

When Mac Contreras gets up a head of speed, he might as well be a Mack Truck barreling through opposing defenders.

There were times during Ashland High's 35-14 Southern Oregon Conference football victory Friday night at Spiegelberg Stadium that it looked like no one wanted to get in his way.

If you don't tackle with good form, he?ll bounce off you, South Medford coach Bill Singler said. He's strong and has those big hips. He?ll high-knee right through you. One guy won't bring him down.

Contreras rambled for 132 yards and two scores and set up a third on just eight carries as the No. 9 Grizzlies piled up 310 of their 486 yards on the ground.

I just try to run hard and run low, said Contreras, who has gained 433 yards on 58 carries in four games. He missed the second game of the season against Marshfield with a concussion.

Every week I try to work harder and show up to play, Contreras said. Tonight, we showed them what we could do.

The victory was Ashland's fourth straight after a season-opening 29-17 loss to Roseburg. The Grizzlies are now 3-1 in the SOC and 4-1 overall.

The Panthers, who entered the contest with six more takeaways than turnovers, hurt themselves with four turnovers. South fell to 2-2 in the SOC and 2-3 overall.

Noah Hayes-McKeirnan proved a solid No. 2 punch to Contreras, tacking on 119 yards on 11 carries.

The Grizzlies sputtered on their first possession but cashed in following an exchange of punts that allowed Ashland to start at the South Medford 39.

Hayes-McKeirnan burst 14 yards up the middle to cap an eight-play drive. But it was Contreras? 13-yard carry on fourth-and-five from the South Medford 22 that opened the door. Contreras took an option around the left side and broke three tackles before going down at the 9.

South Medford quarterback Boomer Marshall had been intercepted just once in 85 attempts going into the game, but the Grizzlies pressured the sophomore into throwing two in the first half.

Elijah Blessing grabbed a pass intended for South's John McKay at the Ashland 45 with 1:15 left in the first quarter. Ashland's Cameron Voget connected for 13 yards on the right side to Ryan Goodman to the South 42. Then on the next play, Goodman lined up on the left side, slipped totally undetected down the sideline, snared Voget's toss and scampered unscathed into the end zone.

We worked on that all week, Goodman said. They were in a cover-two, I got outside the corner, found a little hole and Cameron threaded the needle.

South had its moments all night and threatened to give the Grizzlies a go when the Panthers responded with a nine-play, 64-yard drive that was set up by Rob Brown's 29-yard kickoff return.

Jimmie Maddox, who led South with 67 yards rushing on 14 carries, packed the ball 22 yards for a first down at the Ashland 42. Five plays later, Marshall found Bjorn Johnson on a crossing route for 11 yards and a first down at the Ashland 15. On second down, Marshall pin-pointed a pass between Ashland's Kyle Allred and Contreras and Johnson caught it in the back right corner of the end zone.

Jared Mulhollen's PAT made it 14-7 with 9:21 left in the half. But despite the offensive advance, the Panthers could find no traction on defense.

On third-and-11 from Ashland's 32, Hayes-McKeirnan tried the left side, slipped two tackles and found nothing but daylight down the sideline en route to a 68-yard score.

They're a lot quicker than we are, and we weren't tackling very well, Singler said. They made the big plays and that really hurt us.

Marshall rarely had much time to pass and frequently had a Grizzly hanging on or bearing down on him as he threw.

They had a better rush than we've seen and they were dropping seven guys back, Marshall said. That made it tough. Plus we played in spurts, and if we're going to win, we need to maintain strong play the whole game.

The pressure led to an interception that preceded Ashland's final score of the first half, a 15-yard run by Contreras.

Mac ran hard tonight, Ashland coach Jim Nagel said. He's big, strong and fast. If we could get him to get his shoulder pads lower, he'd be devastating. He ran with vision in the open field and used his speed tonight.

Ashland needed one play to erase any comeback hopes in the second half. Voget gave the ball to Contreras on a draw. Contreras broke a couple of tackles at the line, slithered to the left and then outlegged the Panthers to the end zone.

You should see the size of his legs, they're huge, Voget said. If he needs to run over somebody, he?ll do it.

South used up most of the fourth quarter, driving 82 yards in 13 plays with sophomore Andres Reed carrying eight times for 23 yards, including the final one for his first varsity score.