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Late heroics lift Ashland over Klamath Union

ASHLAND — After wrapping up his postgame comments on the field, Ashland coach Charlie Hall asked defensive coordinator Tito Soriano if he had anything to say to his guys after their stingiest showing of the year.

"Not in our house, baby."

Enough said.

The Grizzlies escaped with a comeback win, shutting out Klamath Union in the second half and managing to overcome red-zone woes to down the Pelicans, 13-7, at Walter A. Phillips Field.

The teams are now in a second-place tie in the Southern Sky Conference with 2-1 records going into the final week of league play.

Facing a second-and-23 at their own 12-yard line with just over a minute to go, Grizzlies quarterback Jake Scarminach escaped the rush and barely got off a desperation pass that found Mason Costantino at KU's 37.

Two plays later, Scarminach launched another bomb and hit a wide open Lucas Stone in the end zone to break a 7-7 tie with 45 seconds remaining.

Scarminach had been 5-for-18 with two interceptions up to that point, but he didn't miss on a chance to show off his arm after the Grizzlies had previously been held scoreless three times inside KU's 15 on two blocked field goals and an interception.

"They were in a cover-two defense, and I just got a couple steps on the safety and Jake threw a great ball," said Stone, who had 112 yards on three receptions. "I just couldn't believe it."

Stone, though, was quick to deflect the attention to the defense.

"They stepped up huge, just like they did last week," he said. "Whenever we needed a boost, we got it from the defense, and we definitely have them to thank for this win."

Klamath moved the ball 60 yards on four completed passes to get the ball to Ashland's 11 with nine seconds on the clock, but the defense came through again as Jordan Resch and Issa Shahin sacked Andrew Stork to end the game.

"I just wanted to get the quarterback and saw an opportunity there," Shahin said. "When I grabbed his jersey, all I could think was, 'Yes.' Definitely a huge relief."

Ashland's defense forced six punts and coaxed the Pelicans into two turnovers.

Senior defensive back Clinton Murphy led the charge with 8.5 tackles, and KU was limited to 37 yards on 41 rushing attempts and completed seven passed in the contest. The seven-point output was 42 fewer than KU had in a rout of the Grizzlies last fall.

After being shut out in the first half, Shahin sparked Ashland on the opening kickoff to start the second, running straight through the middle of KU's defense and down the home sideline to the 3-yard line. The senior found the outside again on the next play, running the ball in to get Ashland on the board.

The Grizzlies tallied only nine first downs but, thanks to a defensive performance Hall called his team's best of the year, remain in the playoff hunt going into Eagle Point next Friday.

"(KU) started in a double tight end (offensive formation) and basically said, 'All right, Ashland, we're bigger and better and we're just going to overpower you,' because they just physically dominated us last year," Hall said. "We came through big time though. I couldn't be more proud of the way these guys battled."

Shahin finished with three sacks, while Ashland teammates Nicholas Hall added 5.5 tackles and T.J. Murphy had an interception.