Corvallis quarterback Kevin Younger fumbled the snap on fourth-and-goal from the 2-yard line with 30 seconds left as Ashland used a goal-line stand to edge the Spartans 14-7 in the second round of the Class 5A state playoffs Friday night at a mud-caked Phillips Field.
The Grizzlies left the door open when a high snap sailed over punter Sam Gaviglio's head, giving the Spartans a first-and-goal at the Ashland 6 with 1:55 to go. But the third-ranked Grizzlies, who have now won five games by seven points or less, pulled off another escape to earn its first trip the state quarterfinals since the 1998 championship season.
"This is kind of the way it's been all year &
it's been one key drive on offense in the second half and the defense has just made unbelievable plays when it really mattered at the end of the game," Ashland head coach Charlie Hall said. "Our kids rose to the occasion and made a big stop, and what a huge play."
Ashland next faces fourth-ranked Glencoe, a 23-16 winner over Churchill, Nov. 24 at Hillsboro's Hare Field.
Ashland (11-0) took the lead for good on Matt Dierks' 25-yard touchdown pass to Charlie Sebrell with 10:35 to go and extended the lead to seven on Lewis Sebrell's diving two-point conversion catch in the corner of the end zone.
After Ashland's botched punt, the Spartans appeared to score when Younger leaped over the pile and into the end zone on a third-and-goal from the — with 58 seconds left. The touchdown was negated, however, by a five-yard penalty for aiding the runner and Corvallis was left with a third-and-goal from the 6. Chris Henry blasted up the middle for a four-yard gain to set up the final play, which was a disaster from the beginning for the defending champs. With plenty of time on the clock Younger rushed the team back to the line and called for the ball. The snap slipped out of his hand and ended up under a dog pile.
"We pannicked," Corvallis head coach Chris McGowan said. "I think it's just a high school kid that wants it real bad and the situation got away from him. In hindsight, we should have huddled quick, called a play, got everybody on the same page and run it to give us a chance."
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The play was a fitting end to a game that saw both teams struggle to cope with awful field conditions. There were four fumbles, several dropped passes and at least two key defensive slips, one leading directly to Charlie Sebrell's wide-open touchdown grab.
Ashland got on the board first when Lewis Sebrell caught a screen pass on third-and-eight, then spun and juked his way to a 26-yard touchdown down the right sideline. The spectacular dash was set up by Josh Scarminach's interception three plays prior.
Corvallis answered early in the second quarter when Younger hit Daryl Watkins on a 30-yard post pass. Luke Brenneman's point-after gave the Spartans a 7-6 lead.
The Spartans edged the Grizzlies 200 to 189 in total yardage, but turned the ball over four times and allowed Ashland to recover an onside kick to start the second half.
Dierks was his usual efficient self, completing 15 of 18 passes for 162 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. Charlie Sebrell caught 10 passes for 110 yards.
Watkins led the Spartans with five receptions for 90 yards, while Henry added 63 rushing yards on 18 carries.