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Grants Pass goes old school in rout of Ashland

ASHLAND ' When legendary football coach Pop Warner devised the single-wing offense back in 1912, this is exactly what he had in mind.

Running a variation of the ancient run-first, past-never style for most of the game, Grants Pass gained 415 of its 418 yards on the ground en route to a 34-6 dismantling of Ashland Friday night at Walter A. Phillips Field.

Craig Dolmage and Patrick Allen each gained more than 100 yards rushing in the first half alone as Grants Pass got back to basics after a shutout home loss to Eagle Point a week ago.

We started running (the single-wing) last week a little bit against Eagle Point out of necessity, Cavemen head coach Tom Blanchard said. With our traditional offense, we had not been able to move the ball very well, so we started with our best athletes and, with a decent offensive line, we thought we'd try to go man-on-man and see what we could do.

What they did was average 6.5 yards per rush, gain 24 first downs to Ashland's 9 and win the time-of-possession battle 32:38 to 11:41.

— We were pleased with it, Blanchard said.

The Southern Oregon Conference win improved Grants Pass to 1-1 in the SOC and 2-3 overall, while Ashland fell to 0-3 in league and 1-4 overall.

The Cavers scored two touchdowns in the second quarter to open a 19-6 halftime lead. Dolmage, who gained 179 yards and four touchdowns on 24 carries, had TD runs of 7 and 28 yards to put the Grizzlies in an early hole.

Ashland came back with a 49-yard touchdown pass from Sam Littleton to Brian Kitchell, but the Cavers answered with a 14-play, 75-yard drive capped off by Allen's 12-yard run with 2:31 to go in the second quarter.

It was more of the same after the break.

Dolmage scored on a 6-yard run with 6:19 left in the third, breaking a tackle and stumbling into the end zone to make it 25-6. He scored again four minutes later on a 6-yard blast.

Both of Dolmage's second-half TDs were set up by Grizzly turnovers ' first an interception by Allen, then a fumble.

Allen didn't have a bad day on offense either, gaining 141 yards and one touchdown on 19 carries.

On the other side of the ball, Ashland's offense could do little with the few opportunities it had. The Grizzlies finished with 141 yards of total offense and shot themselves in the foot with four turnovers ' two interceptions and two fumbles.

Their playoff hopes all but dashed, Grizzly coach David Coldiron said his team must now focus on finishing strong.

It's all about personal character and pride and stepping back and saying, 'Hey, we're going to have a game this week,' he said. We need to finish what we started. We still have a chance at a winning season. As long as we've still got games on the board, we still have a chance.

Grants Pass' punishing rushing attack, which began direct snaps to the running back, broke Ashland's back all night with big gains when the Cavers needed them most. Grants Pass converted two fourth downs on its way to its third touchdown, which capped a monster drive that melted 5:34 off the clock.

The Cavers were 7-for-12 on third-down conversions and 4-for-4 on fourth downs ' each coming on the ground.

(The holes) were huge, Dolmage said. Everything was opening up, everyone was staying on their blocks and it was pretty easy to run. They're a great team, but ...

Added Blanchard: I think we must have been a little bit stronger, but I don't know that that'll happen every week, so we'll have to tinker with it a little bit and figure out how to move the ball through the air some.

Joe Zavala is sports editor of the Ashland Daily Tidings. Reach him at 482-3456.