Grizzlies put hurt on Japan
ASHLAND — After five straight Pacific Rim Bowl losses to the Japan all-stars, Ashland High head coach Charlie Hall went into Friday's 12th PRB just hoping for a competitive game.
The Grizzlies did much more than that, pummeling Japan on both sides of the ball for a streak-busting rout nobody saw coming, 26-0, in front of a packed house at Walter A. Phillips Field.
Sophomore-to-be quarterback Danial White was a picture of efficiency while leading all four touchdown drives, Ashland's running game kept Japan honest with 154 rushing yards and the Grizz defense held the all-stars to 147 yards of total offense.
The win was Ashland's first over Japan since 1999 and evened the series 6-6.
Afterward, Hall was bear hugged by several Grizzlies, who held him until he was drenched in Gatorade as the crowd erupted.
"I knew that was coming," Hall said of his unexpected postgame shower. "That's fun. It's just an incredible evening, an incredible week. And to be able to come away with a win is really special."
Ashland led almost the whole way, cashing in on an early Japan fumble by scoring less than two minutes into the game. Taylor Humphrey's 5-yard end-around made it 6-0 with 10:31 to go in the first quarter.
The rest of the half was a draw, but only on the scoreboard. Ashland easily won the battle for field position, with White and company picking apart Japan's secondary eight yards at a time. White completed 19 of 23 passes for 173 yards and three touchdowns without an interception, apparently seizing control of a three-way quarterback competition that was supposed to be one of Hall's toughest decisions.
"We just made some plays, and I think we may have found a quarterback, too," Hall said.
Said White: "Coach Hall started off with some shorter routes, getting me comfortable in the pocket, and then he started rolling me out and getting me moving outside. We stuck to our shorter routes and making them make a play in the open field, and it worked great."
The Grizzlies didn't take control of the scoreboard until the second half. White rolled out and hit tight end Franklin Lime from 2 yards out to make it 13-0 before the PAT.
Five minutes later the Grizzlies extended their lead to 20-0 when White found Sam Giesslinger for an 8-yard touchdown. Giesslinger, who led the Grizzlies in both catches (6) and receiving yards (66), caught the ball at the 1 then extended it over the goal line.
White pounded home the final nail in the coffin only minutes later, hooking up with Humphrey for a 5-yard touchdown pass over the middle with 12 seconds left in the third quarter.
The final score capped an almost flawless offensive performance for the Grizzlies: 154 yards passing, 118 yards rushing (56, on eight carries, by Jon Volz) and 15 first downs to Japan's eight.
And that after Japan had held Ashland to 27 points in the previous five PRBs combined.
How did that happen? Nobody was exactly sure.
"It's incredible," Hall said. "I just looked at their team and their preparation, I was just hoping that we'd keep it close and had no idea that our kids would come out here and do what they did. I'm so proud of them.
"It's one of those things where sometimes if you're an all-star team, the chemistry may break down, and when we started to gain some chemistry late in that game our kids kind of fed off that and just kept going."
Meanwhile, Japan struggled to sustain drives against an Ashland defense that consistently won the battle in the trenches. The beating left Japan quarterback Tetsu Tanaka singing Ashland's praises after the game — and rubbing his aching ribs.
"Physically, very different from our team — everyone said that on our sideline when they came back," said Tanaka, who completed 5 of 12 passes for 49 yards. "It was pretty tough. Mainly the linemen and the linebackers were pretty good. Not pretty good, really good."
Ashland 26, Japan 0
At Walter A. Phillips Field
Japan 0 0 0 0 —0
Ashland 7 7 6 6 —26
A — Humphrey 5 run (Wurfl kick)
A — Lime 2 pass from White (Wurfl kick)
A — Giesslinger 8 pass from White (kick blocked)
A — Humphrey 4 pass from White (kick blocked)
First Downs 8 16
Rushes-Yards 26-44 31-118
Passing Yards 103 154
Comp-Att-Int 12-22-0 22-29-0
Total Yards 147 272
Punts 6-40.5 5-38.4
Fumbles-lost 3-2 1-0
Penalties-yards 3-20 4-23
JAPAN — Tsuda 7-24, Ikenaga 3-18, Uno 2-6, Okazaki 2-3.
ASHLAND — Volz 8-56, White 8-39, Atteberry 4-27, Humphrey 2-10.
JAPAN — Matsuda 7-10-0 54, Tanaka 5-12-0 49.
ASHLAND — White 19-23-0 173, Atteberry 0-2-0 0.
JAPAN — Okazaki 3-38, Yasuda 2-25, Kimura 2-21, Kouno 2-11.
ASHLAND — Giesslinger 6-61, Walters 5-29, Humphrey 4-33, Lime 3-(-11).