Ashland, Cascade Christian face road tests
Each week the football state playoffs offer a new and increasingly difficult challenge, but that’s what makes it so fun when your team is able to keep advancing.
Ashland will look to keep its season going Friday when the fifth-seeded Grizzlies travel to play at fourth-seeded Lebanon in the Class 5A state quarterfinals, and it will be a much different task than one week ago.
“Last week, Mountain View was super physical and super big and we used our speed and quickness to kind of create a victory out of that,” said Ashland head coach Charlie Hall of his team’s 30-7 first-round victory. “Now we’re facing someone pretty much like ourselves, undersized and fast, so it’s going to be a good matchup. Now it’s just going to be a matter of execution.”
The Midwestern League champion Grizzlies (8-2) have won four straight games heading into the 7 p.m. clash at Lebanon (9-1), which won the Mid-Willamette Conference title.
“I think our kids are confident and excited,” said Hall.
A key to that confidence rests in Ashland’s 15-strong senior contingent, led by quarterback Tucker Atteberry and receiver Nicky Weinberg. Atteberry has sparked the Grizzlies with opportunistic runs and completed 166 of 257 passes for 2,210 yards, 21 touchdowns and five interceptions, while Weinberg has caught 45 passes for 726 yards and 10 scores to headline a host of playmakers at Ashland.
“This senior group, there’s just a great resiliency with them,” said Hall. “They’ve been playing together for a long time and are all good friends. They have a strong bond and they just believe in what they can do and what we’ve been doing and that has helped us overcome so much adversity this year.”
Lebanon is sure to provide moments of adversity with a veer-option attack spearheaded by senior quarterback Ty Hargis that includes potent backfield mates Nathaniel Maddox and Tanner Sallee. Last week, the Warriors amassed 408 yards rushing on 52 carries, with all three seniors around the century mark. Maddox had a game-high 17 carries for 156 yards and two touchdowns while Sallee rushed for 100 yards on just seven touches and Hargis ran it 14 times for 99 yards and two TDs.
“They’ve got that three-headed monster on offense that’s going to be tough to stop,” said Hall.
Ashland is coming off what Hall said was one of the Grizzlies’ top defensive performances of the season and the coach hopes that trend continues. Against Mountain View, Ashland received pivotal contributions all over the field.
“We tried to identify defensive players of the week but we had to give it to the entire defensive unit because there were so many quality plays,” said Hall, “and not necessarily just guys making tackles but things happening beneath the surface that made a big difference.”
Junior Detlef Laughery was among those unsung heroes last week for a defense that has rallied together to limit opponents to seven points or less in three of the past four games. Sophomore Myles Montgomery leads the team with 77 tackles and boasts 3½ sacks, while senior Matt O’Donnell has 58 tackles, Weinberg has 56 and junior Drake Morey has 51 tackles and 4½ sacks.
In Lebanon’s lone loss this season, a 16-14 setback to South Albany, the Rebels were able to control the ball and keep the Warriors’ offense on the sideline. South Albany also was able to convert three field goals to ensure drives didn’t go for naught.
Ashland has enjoyed steady play in the backfield from seniors Malik Pippa and Isaac Hyatt, with each running for more than 400 yards and combining for 12 scores, while junior Hakim Pries and senior Oliver Warren each boast around 460 yards receiving to complement Weinberg in what has been a productive offense that averages about 36 points per game.
Lebanon is making its first quarterfinals appearance since 2011, while Ashland finished as 5A state runner-up one year ago.
CASCADE CHRISTIAN AT COQUILLE/PACIFIC: Cascade Christian (8-2) faces unbeaten Coquille/Pacific (10-0) in the quarterfinals.
The Southern Cascade League champion Challengers have risen to the challenge before and head coach Jon Gettman expects nothing less from his team Friday.
The Red Devils boast hefty offensive and defensive lines, led by 6-foot-5, 230-pound senior Dustin Davis, and a wing-T offense that features senior fullback Keith Christensen and gets a boost from seniors Tyler Overby and Wyatt McCarthy and juniors Henry Scolari and Seth Waddington.
In last week’s 54-7 first-round win over St. Mary’s, Overby ran five times for 163 yards and a score and Christensen added 19 carries for 128 yards and two touchdowns to pace a ground game that accounted for 407 rushing yards. Junior QB Jake Hurt completed only two of his four pass attempts but both went for scores, 75 yards to senior Austin Layton and 89 yards to Scolari.
“They’ve got good athletes across the board,” said Gettman. “It’s not one kid that you game plan for, it’s the whole team. We’ve just got to do a good job of focusing on our keys and we’ve got to play hard and play physical if we’re going to slow them down a little bit.”
Cascade Christian junior QB Haiden Schaan will be tasked with cracking a Coquille/Pacific defense that has allowed only 47 points in 10 games. Schaan has completed 138 of 242 passes for 1,846 yards, 21 TDs and four interceptions and has run 83 times for 793 yards and 11 scores.
Complementing Schaan has been senior running back Zack Fralich, who has 851 yards and eight scores on 139 carries, and a trio of receivers in Ben Dunn, Carson Cochran and Christian Scaglione capable of stretching the field. Dunn has 39 catches for 442 yards and seven TDs, Cochran 29 receptions for 597 yards and seven TDs and Scaglione 26 catches for 280 yards and two scores.
Senior linebacker Matt Miller (63 tackles), sophomore linebacker Caleb Jordan (54 tackles) and junior linebacker Cristian Flores Alatorre (50 tackles) have been the Challengers’ most prolific defenders this season.
Coquille is in the quarterfinals for the second straight year after not winning a playoff game for 45 years, while Cascade Christian has advanced at least as far as the quarterfinal round every year since it moved to the 3A level in 2007.
Reach reporter Kris Henry at 541-776-4488, firstname.lastname@example.org, www.facebook.com/krishenryMT or www.twitter.com/Kris_Henry