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Ashland unable to complete comeback bid

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Grizzlies rally in fourth quarter, but fall to Hidden Valley on last-minute touchdown run

Homecoming night turned out to be arguably Ashland’s most frustrating game of the 2022 season.

Daniel Iwamizu’s 54-yard burst through the Ashland defense with just over two minutes to go in the fourth quarter broke a 20-all tie and gave Hidden Valley a 27-20 win at Walter A. Phillips Field on Friday night.

The Grizzlies (1-3, 0-2 Big Sky) had tied the game only 90 seconds prior, but the Mustangs (2-2, 1-1) — who never trailed in the game — wasted little time to go back in front and claim the lead for good.

“It was a good, hard-fought game,” said Ashland head coach Beau Lehnerz. “Hidden Valley, don’t take anything away from them, but we were in position to make plays and we didn’t offensively, defensively and on special teams.”

“Defensively, we were in position to make tackles and we knew what they were going to run but we missed some big plays.”

Ashland was looking to claim its first varsity win on its home field since the opening round of the Class 5A playoffs in three years when it beat Dallas 50-27 on Nov. 8, 2019.

The Grizzlies — who were playing without a pair of starting linemen due to injury and two of their top receivers in Caden Negra (illness) and Noah Shrader (suspension) — tried to rally in the fourth quarter with the Mustangs ahead 20-6. They were able to cut the Hidden Valley lead in half when quarterback Jojo Harrower connected with tight end Marcelo Saturen as he raced across the back of the end zone for a 23-yard touchdown. Following the two-point conversion, a pass from Harrower to receiver Crosby Lehnerz, Ashland trailed 20-14 with 8:40 to go.

Following a Hidden Valley punt, Ashland drove right down the field again, with Harrower completing a 15-yard touchdown pass to running back Gavin White right at the goal line to tie things up.

The PAT, however, was blocked, leaving the game tied at 20-all.

But with just under four minutes still to play, Hidden Valley had plenty of time for an answer. That’s exactly what the Mustangs did, with Iwamizu taking the pitch on the option and racing to paydirt.

Iwamizu, a 5-foot-11 and 205-pound senior, carried the ball 20 times for 165 yards and three touchdowns. He also caught four passes for 54 yards and another score, accounting for all four of Hidden Valley’s touchdowns on the night.

Hidden Valley quarterback Austyn Klingler rushed for 74 yards on 17 carries and finished 12-of-19 for 129 yards and a touchdown through the air.

“We have a quarterback guy, a pitch guy and we had guys at the point of attack that missed tackles,” said Lehnerz of the game-winning TD. “We were right there. We’ve been working on physicality and sometimes you have to sacrifice yourself or your teammate to make a play.”

Hidden Valley, however, was able to make Ashland pay with one final big play on offense, as Iwamizu broke through the Grizzlies’ defense to give his team the lead once again.

Ashland had one last chance to try and tie the game for a second time late, but Harrower threw his lone interception of the night on the first play of the drive to essentially end it.

Harrower, a sophomore, finished 20-of-38 for 233 yards and two touchdowns. Crosby Lehnerz caught eight passes for 82 yards, while White rushed for 41 yards on 11 carries, had seven receptions for 88 yards and scored two touchdowns (one receiving, one rushing).

“Offensively, we didn’t really get anything going until the fourth quarter,” said coach Lehnerz. “Credit to Hidden Valley because they coached up the kids really well, but I think we still had plays to make something happen and we didn’t.”

Hidden Valley — which was coming off a 10-8 loss to Klamath Union last week — drove down the field on its first possession, capping a seven-play drive with Iwamizu’s 10-yard touchdown run right through the heart of the Ashland defense.

The Grizzlies, however, struggled to find an early rhythm on offense, recording a total of just 19 yards on their first three drives.

That changed for the better on Ashland’s fourth drive, as the Grizzlies took advantage of a short Mustangs punt that didn’t even cross midfield. White tied the game at 6-all on an easy 5-yard touchdown run, getting a key block from fullback Jacob Ortega to open a huge hole to find paydirt less than two minutes into the second quarter.

The Mustangs answered right back to retake the lead, first keeping their drive alive on a fake punt that went for nearly 30 yards and then, two plays later, go ahead 12-6 on Iwamizu’s 9-yard touchdown catch from Klingler.

Both teams had chances inside the red zone late in the first half, but turned it over on downs. Ashland’s inability to find points on its final drive of the first half stung that much more, with the Grizzlies having the ball on the Mustangs’ 5-yard line with less than two minutes to go.

“Hidden Valley was bringing it, they mixed up their coverages and we just didn’t execute,” said Lehnerz. “We had some guys who were open on some pass plays, we missed some blocks on run plays and we just struggled to execute and Hidden Valley took advantage of those opportunities.

“For us, it just comes down to discipline and the small things, the details. Our kids play hard and want to win and do the right things, but we’re still learning the process to win games. “

Hidden Valley66015—27

Ashland06014—20

HV — Iwamizu 10 run (kick failed)

A — White 5 run (kick failed)

HV — Iwamizu 5 pass from Klingler (kick failed)

HV — Iwamizu 8 run (Klingler pass)

A— Saturen 23 pass from Harrower (Lehnerz pass from Harrower)

A — White 15 pass from Harrower (kick failed)

HV — Iwamizu 54 run (Hall kick)

Reach reporter Danny Penza at 541-776-4469 or dpenza@rosebudmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @penzatopaper.

Ashland running back Gavin White races past Hidden Valley defenders Daniel Iwamizu (8) and Narin Stone (24) at Walter A. Phillips Field on Friday. Photo by Larry Stauth Jr.
Ashland quarterback Jojo Harrower attempts a pass against Hidden Valley at Walter A. Phillips Field on Friday. Photo by Larry Stauth Jr.
Ashland’s Crosby Lehnerz attempts to wrangle Hidden Valley quarterback Austyn Klingler at Walter A. Phillips Field on Friday. Photo by Larry Stauth Jr.
Hidden Valley’s Daniel Iwamizu holds off Ashland's Aariq Shadoan as he scores his second TD of the night at Walter A. Phillips Field on Friday. Photo by Larry Stauth Jr.
Hidden Valley quarterback Austyn Klingler just barely gets the pass off before being hit by Ashland's Jacob Ortega at Walter A. Phillips Field on Friday. Photo by Larry Stauth Jr.
Hidden Valley's Braxton Brierty (18) tackles Ashland’s Gavin White (20) at Walter A. Phillips Field on Friday. Photo by Larry Stauth Jr.
Hidden Valley’s Daniel Iwamizu fights through Ashland defenders en route to a touchdown in the first quarter at Walter A. Phillips Field on Friday. Photo by Larry Stauth Jr.
Ashland running back Gavin White strides into the end zone for a touchdown in the second quarter against Hidden Valley at Walter A. Phillips Field on Friday. Photo by Larry Stauth Jr.