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Grizzlies' prep for PRB winds down

Assistant coach Scott Chadick took the snap and quickly tossed a lateral to a Grizzly running back, who then threw a pass to a wide open receiver as the defense, hooked by the trickery, scrambled to recover.

It's the kind of play that often works great for the scout team, especially if you happened to be scrimmaging in July. Under normal circumstances, it was an acceptable blunder.

But this is no normal summer for the Ashland High football team.

"Come on defense," yelled Ashland High head football coach Charlie Hall, "you gotta expect that one. You will see that in Japan."

The Grizzlies on Thursday continued to prepare for Pacific Rim Bowl XI, scrimmaging and running through drills under the scorching hot sun at the Ashland High practice field. They went at it again this morning then broke a huddle in Ashland for the last time. The Grizzlies will bus out of town on Sunday afternoon, arrive in San Francisco that night and hop on a plane bound for Osaka, Japan at 1:30 p.m. Monday.

The game will be played July 26 at 6 p.m. local time, 2 a.m. Pacific, at Expo Flash Field in Osaka.

"I can't wait," said Ashland senior lineman Joe Maulsby, who also played in the 2007 PRB in Ashland. "It's going to be really fun to be there with my teammates and be experiencing all that stuff."

The Grizzlies will be looking to snap Japan's four-game winning streak in the series, which dates back to the inaugural 1988 game, held in Osaka. Though the series is tied 5-5, Ashland hasn't beaten the Japan All-Stars since 1999.

The last meeting was a barn-burner. Ashland and Japan went back and forth in 2007 until the visitors scored on a 77-yard touchdown pass midway through the fourth quarter to take the lead for good. That 28-21 Japan win was the first competitive PRB in four years as the undermanned Grizzlies — Japan will suit up 65 players this year to Ashland's 47, a disparity that's typical in the series — have struggled to stay competitive.

Still, the Grizzlies are confident that they can put together another strong showing this year.

"I think we're starting to get things together," Ashland junior quarterback Jake Scarminach said following Thursday's practice. "We're more in sync and our timing's coming together pretty good. We're just growing together still."

Scarminach then jogged back to the practice field, where he tossed passes to receivers as the rest of the team hit the showers. That kind of dedication should help an offense that Hall expects to be "more versatile" this season.

Hall didn't seem overly concerned about the Grizzlies' execution following Thursday's practice, however. With just four practices to go (today's, plus three in Japan), he said it's the real-game situations that could pose the greatest challenge for his team.

"The biggest thing right now is the transition from special teams to offense and special teams to defense," Hall said. "That whole game-like situation . . . when you get into the flow of the game, making sure kids are dialed in in terms of substitutions. We want to get our sophomores in the game as much as we can — a lot of those guys are going to help us in the special teams areas - so hopefully they're plugged in watching the game and know that, if it's third down and you're on offense or if you're on the punt team you better be alert."

As far as the other stuff goes, Hall likes what he's seen.

"This is our ninth practice in the last two weeks," he said, "so you can see that they're starting to learn their plays, starting to play a little faster, so the execution is getting better day by day."

Sports editor Joe Zavala can be reached at 482-3456 x 224 or joe.zavala@dailytidings.com