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Gadget play gives Grizz win over Comets

ASHLAND — As much as he would have liked to say otherwise, Ashland High head coach Charlie Hall had to admit that the Grizzlies pulled off another home-field escape Friday, thanks mostly to one play.

And, oh, what a play it was. But when asked where the inspiration came from, Hall was honest there, too.

“That wasn’t inspiration,” he said. “That was desperation.”

Nicky Weinberg’s 74-yard wide-receiver pass to a wide open Shashi Penn gave No. 2 Ashland its first lead of the game early in the fourth quarter, and the Grizzlies’ defense completed a second-half shutout for a wild 18-17 Midwestern League victory at Walter A. Phillips Field.

Ashland (6-0, 2-0 MWL) trailed 17-12 and had been held to minus 19 yards in the second half when it faced a second-and-11 at its own 26 only moments after holding Crater on a fourth-and-3 play.

Ashland quarterback Kyle Weinberg, after bobbling the snap, threw a quick lateral across the field to brother Nicky, who then threw a bomb to the uncovered Penn. The junior receiver had to wait for the ball, but he caught it at about the Crater 40 and raced the rest of the way to the end zone, getting merely a fingertip to the foot before crossing the goal line.

“We had a hard time just moving the ball,” Hall said. “Those guys came ready to play. We just had to go into our bag of tricks because our base stuff wasn’t working.”

Ashland’s two-point conversion attempt was intercepted in the end zone, but the Comets never came close to attempting what would have been a game-winning field goal try. They were held to 25 yards on 10 plays the rest of the way and couldn’t cross midfield against an Ashland defense that was at its best in the second half, holding Crater to 98 yards after the Comets racked up 239 in the first two quarters.

It was a bitter pill to swallow for the Comets (2-4, 0-2), who also watched the Grizzlies turn a fourth-and-5 into a 27-yard touchdown heave from Kyle Weinberg to Nicky Weinberg with 18 seconds to go in the first half.

“I thought physically we dominated the game,” Crater coach John Beck said. “I think we outplayed them for most of the game, and they executed a good trick play to beat us by one. Hats off to them for the execution on a desperation play.”

The game had the makings of a shootout early, with both teams scoring touchdowns on their opening possessions.

Crater got on the board first when quarterback Matt Struck burst through the line and ran away from the defense for a 70-yard touchdown on the fourth play of the game. Struck finished with 160 of Crater’s 291 rushing yards. He also completed 8 of 21 passes for 46 yards.

Ashland answered three plays later when Ryne Robitz caught a quick pass near the sideline on third-and-2 and streaked past everyone for a 64-yard score.

Crater came back with a Jason Santoni 27-yard field goal, then added another touchdown to cap an 80-yard drive. Tommy Winningham plowed in from the 2, and the point-after gave the Comets a 17-6 lead.

Kyle Weinberg’s touchdown pass to Nicky Weinberg came after a scramble in the pocket. He looked bottled up but let fly a pass to the back of the end zone just before crossing the line of scrimmage, and his brother made an acrobatic catch to cut the deficit to five.

Kyle Weinberg completed 16 of 32 passes for 169 yards. Robitz led the Grizzlies with 67 yards rushing and 79 yards receiving. Penn had two catches for 79 yards.

Ashland junior Mason Dow attempts to break out of the grasp of Crater defender Shay Hall in their Midwestern League game Friday at Walter A. Phillips Field. PHOTO BY LARRY STAUTH JR.