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Ashland, Silverton look alike, play alike

The Ashland Grizzlies will know Friday's first-round playoff opponent well. Not because they've played Silverton, but because in many ways they are Silverton.

Both teams rely on medium-sized (and smaller) players on the line and at the skill positions. Both teams look for ways to exploit their primary advantage — speed. And both teams do so on offense by employing shifts and motion, forcing opposing defenses to adjust on the fly.

"It's kind of like watching ourselves," Ashland head coach Charlie Hall said of breaking down game film of the Foxes. "It's a novelty of sorts. There's not going to be a physical mismatch out there."

Kickoff for the 5A playoff game is scheduled for 7 p.m. at Phillips Field, with the winner advancing to face either No. 2 Sherwood or Hermiston in next week's quarterfinal round.

The 10th-ranked Grizzlies (7-2), the Midwestern League runner-ups, will be trying to advance to the elite eight for the first time since 2007, while the seventh-ranked Foxes (8-2), who finished second in the Mid-Willamette Conference, will be attempting to qualify for the state quarterfinals for the first time since 1993, when they did so as a Class 3A team.

While Silverton may not be considered physically imposing as a whole, the Foxes do possess at least one massive target that should pose a serious challenge to Ashland's secondary: 6-foot-4, 180-pound wide receiver Torrey Rogness. The big-play senior has 49 catches for 997 yards and 11 touchdowns, including a six-catch, 122-yard explosion last week against Eagle Point (Silverton won the play-in game, 26-21).

Ashland, which does not have a defensive back taller than 5-11, will counter with speed and a heavy dose of help coverage. But even that may not be enough, as Eagle Point found out last week, when Rogness out-jumped two Eagle defenders and raced to the end zone for a 53-yard touchdown in the first quarter.

"They just throw it up, just chuck and duck, and let (Rogness) go jump ball," Hall said. "He's a big, tall kid and he's a track athlete and he might play basketball. If there's a crowd, he'll go up and get the ball. And he's got good hands."

Translation: Ashland defensive backs Sam Geisslinger, Taylor Humphrey, Jordan Thompson, R.J. Atteberry, Quaid Walters and Jon Volz will have their hands full Friday night.

"Every big game that they've played — and they've won some big games against Corvallis and against Lebanon and certainly last week against Eagle Point — that kid has made big plays for them," Hall said of Rogness. "You'll be playing well on defense and all of a sudden they'll take a shot and go downfield, and even if there are two guys on him he'll come down with the ball and it'll either big a big first down or a touchdown."

For the record, Ashland has its own 6-4 nightmare, tight end Franklin Lime. He has 29 catches for 427 yards and four TDs, including an eight-catch, 91-yard, two-touchdown game last week against Crescent Valley.

The Foxes can run the ball, too. Led by 5-11, 175-pound senior Ken Pike, Silverton rushed for 146 yards against Eagle Point. Pike, the quicker of the Foxes' two starting tailbacks, rushed for 106 yards and Chris Garcia added 43.

For the second week in a row, Ashland will be facing a team that's relying on a quarterback who did not start the first half of the season. But Hall expects Jonas Dahl to pass more than Crescent Valley's Tanner Holland did last week, when Ashland's secondary saw just eight throws.

Dahl completed 14 of 25 passes for 215 yards against Eagle Point, and went 4-for-11 for 99 yards the previous week, when Silverton, which has won six of its last seven games, toppled ninth-ranked Lebanon.

"I think they're trying to keep the package nice and tidy for him, and a big piece of that is just giving that kid enough time so he can throw the ball to the big tall receiver," Hall said.

Silverton's other "big tall" receiver is Julian Canda, a 6-1 senior who caught a 33-yard touchdown pass from Dahl in the fourth quarter against Eagle Point to help fight off the Eagles' comeback bid.

As far as the Grizzlies' offense goes, Hall likes the way his team is playing but warned that a second straight turnover-plagued performance will likely spell doom. Ashland had four giveaways against Crescent Valley — two interceptions and two fumbles — but survived, albeit in double-overtime, by outgaining the Raiders 480 yards to 190.

Sophomore quarterback Danial White made up for his two picks by amassing 383 yards of total offense — 214 passing and 169 rushing, including an electrifying 65-yard touchdown run. He also came through on the Grizzlies' two most important series of the season in overtime, throwing a TD pass to force a second overtime and running in a 12-yard keeper to put Ashland ahead for good in the second OT.

On the season, Ashland and its spread, no-huddle offense is averaging 36 points and 402 yards per game.

"It was good to see (White) make some pretty key throws," Hall said. "He's doing a better job reading coverage and finding guys, and I really don't think his interceptions (against Crescent Valley) were a result of poor decision making."

Joe Zavala can be reached at 541-776-4469 or jzavala@dailytidings.com.