Bowmen bounce Grizz
SHERWOOD — Ashland's defense surprised everyone — except itself — by grinding Sherwood's formerly unstoppable Wing-T offense to a halt from the second quarter on Friday.
But the Bowmen defense made sure that one good quarter was enough.
Safety Cyrus Mooney picked off three Danial White passes and Connor Munro's one-handed catch led to the only touchdown the Bowmen would need, as No. 2 Sherwood withstood its toughest test of the season to beat Ashland, 14-3, in the Class 5A state quarterfinals at Contreras Memorial Stadium.
The win ups Sherwood's winning streak to 25 games and advances the defending champions to the state semifinals, where they will face West Albany for a spot in the finals. Ashland finishes 8-3.
Munro snared Dusty Crabtree's slightly overthrown pass 20 yards downfield and sprinted the rest of the way for a 40-yard touchdown with 4:44 to go in the first quarter, and Paul Dodson added a 25-yard touchdown run three minutes later to give Sherwood a quick 14-0 lead.
The Grizzlies shut down the Bowmen from that point on to give themselves a chance, but couldn't take advantage, as a game that was supposed to showcase two of the most dynamic offenses in the state quickly turned into a defensive slugfest.
"Our defense did a great job," Ashland head coach Charlie Hall said. "You've got to give (defensive coordinator Tito) Soriano a lot of credit for an amazing game plan. He had these kids believing and figuring out what we needed to stop. And you've got to give Sherwood's defense a lot of credit."
"My hat's off to (Ashland)," Sherwood coach Greg Lawrence said. "Their kids played a tough ball game, they got after it and we were fortunate we played a good defensive ball game, too."
Helped along by two Sherwood fumbles, the Grizzlies dominated the time of possession in the first half (18:26 to 5:32) and had a first-and-goal at the 10 midway through the second quarter, but ended up settling for a field goal and never got that close again.
Ashland threatened on its opening drive of the second half, gaining a first down at the Sherwood 28, but shot itself in the foot with consecutive holding penalties and was held in check the rest of the way.
White and Jon Volz combined for 120 yards rushing on 40 carries as Ashland barely lost the rushing battle to the ground-oriented Bowmen, 181-156. But Ashland's passing attack was thwarted by Sherwood's relentless pressure.
The Bowmen had three sacks, including a key gang-tackle late in the fourth quarter that helped smother Ashland's last gasp. Mooney's final pick was the clincher. It came with 2:07 to go in the game as White and the Grizzlies were in desperation mode.
"We got a good pass rush, good pressure on the quarterback," Mooney said. "We got pressure on the quarterback and our DBs stepped up when they needed to."
Dodson ran for 71 yards and Travis Dyer 63 to lead Sherwood, which entered the game averaging 50.6 points and 346 yards rushing a game.
The Bowmen couldn't come close to those numbers against the Grizzlies, who were led on defense by Alec Ralston, Mason Montgomery and Andrew Blocher.
"Obviously we lost, but I couldn't be prouder of the guys who were out on the field," said Ralston, who played with various leg injuries throughout the postseason. "I was out on that field last year (against Sherwood) when we got stomped and all I wanted was to come back and kick these kids in the mouth. We all just played our hearts out."
Ashland, which finished second in the Midwestern League, entered the game on a hot streak, having won seven of its last eight games, including last week's first-round playoff win over Silverton.
The Grizzlies were making their first elite eight appearance since 2007 and 11th overall. Sherwood, the Northwest Oregon Conference champion, has been there seven out of the last eight years.
Ashland was trying to lock up its eighth semifinal appearance and first since 1998, when it captured its third big-school (then Class 4A) state championship. Instead, Sherwood is still in the hunt for its second state title and fifth championship game appearance.
The game proved to be the curtain call for 23 Ashland seniors, including a large contingent of two-year starters such as wide receiver Taylor Humphrey, linemen Conor Morrison, Andres Gutierrez and Ralston, explosive tight end Franklin Lime and kicker Ian Wurfl.
After a disastrous start to league play — No. 1 Marist 49, Ashland 0 — the Grizzlies reeled off five straight wins, three on the road, to lock up no worse than second in the final conference standings. With a play-in home game all but assured, Ashland was upended in its regular-season finale by Eagle Point, a loss that Hall later said may have cost the Grizzlies a higher seed and possibly a home game in the quarterfinals.
Up until Friday, Ashland's postseason was marked by unexpected twists and fourth-quarter heroics. The Grizzlies first pulled out a thrilling double-overtime win over Crescent Valley in the play-in round, then used a 70-yard drive in the closing minutes to fend off Silverton in the first round.
Four of Ashland's 11 games were decided in the final minute of regulation or overtime, with the Grizzlies pulling out three of those.
But on Friday, they never quite got close enough to get a crack at a last-minute comeback.
"(Sherwood's) a great team," Volz said. "They came out, they flew around, they hit us hard and we tried to meet that intensity. I think we did, they just got a few more breaks than we did."
Sherwood 14, Ashland 3
Ashland 0 3 0 0 —3
Sherwood 14 0 0 0 —14
S — Munro 40 pass from Crabtree (Montgomery kick)
S — Dodson 25 run (Montgomery kick)
A — FG Wurfl 22
First Downs 17 11
Rushes-Yards 45-156 38-181
Passing Yards 35 48
Comp-Att-Int 7-19-3 2-7-0
Total Yards 191 229
Punts 2-32 2-25
Fumbles-lost 1-0 2-2
Penalties-yards 3-25 11-85
Ashland — White 20-61, Volz 20-59, Taylor Humphrey 4-25, Lime 1-11.
Sherwood — Dodson 11-71, Dyer 10-63, Munro 7-22, Setere 6-21, Skurdahl 1-2, Cameron 1-2, Team 2-0.
Ashland — White 7-19-3 35.
Sherwood — Crabtree 1-6-0 40, Bowawitz 1-1-0 8.
Ashland — Lime 3-15, Walters 3-15, Volz 1-5.
Sherwood — Munro 1-40, Flannery 1-8.