Two football teams that appear to be headed in opposite directions will square off with a sweet 16 playoff spot on the line when the streaking Ashland High Grizzlies host the slumping Corvallis Spartans on Friday at Walter A. Phillips Field.
Kickoff for the Class 5A play-in game is scheduled for 7 p.m.
Ashland (6-3), ranked 11th in the final OSAA power rankings, enters the game riding its longest winning streak of the season (four games), which was good enough for a third-place finish in the Midwestern League. Corvallis (3-6), meanwhile, which is ranked 23rd, has lost four in a row and placed fifth in the Mid-Willamette Conference.
What: Class 5A play-in round.
When/Where: 7 p.m. Friday at Walter A. Phillips Field.
Tickets: $8 reserved, $6 general, $4 students. To purchase stadium seats, go to ashlandathletics.org.
The Spartans are led by dual-threat quarterback Matherin Langley, a 5-foot-10, 165-pound senior, who has accumulated more than 2,000 yards of total offense — 1,509 passing and 528 rushing. Langley has completed 55 percent of his passes (108-for-200) with 19 touchdowns and 10 interceptions, and has rushed for another 10 scores to bolster the Spartans' pass-first offense.
"(Langley) reminds me of Jake Scarminach," Ashland head coach Charlie Hall said, referring to the dynamic AHS quarterback who led Ashland's 2010 team to the playoffs. "He's that kind of an athlete who can make plays with his feet, and he's got a good enough arm that he can hurt you. And, they have some good receivers."
Langley's favorite targets are receivers Cole Garrett (5-10, 157) and Andrew Laney (6-1, 180), who have combined for 56 catches and 836 yards receiving. Laney has a team-high nine touchdown receptions.
While Langley is capable of burning the Grizzlies with his arm, his ability to scramble could do even more damamge.
"You've got to be careful because (Langley) will dodge the blitz and dodge the rush and he will extend the play, or he'll take off and run," Hall said. "That's probably our biggest fear, is him on the loose, so we've got to do a good job of corralling him in the pocket."
Defensively, the Spartans have surrendered 41.5 points per game and will be trying to stop an Ashland offense that seems to have found its niche since a Sept. 28 loss to Springfield. The Grizzlies are coming off a 27-14 rivalry win over Eagle Point that showcased Ashland's big-play potential. Senior quarterback Connor Kaegi passed for 260 yards, RJ Atteberry and Quaid Walters each had more than 100 yards receiving and Jon Volz rushed for 68 yards and a score.
Hall said it's not broken, so he's not going to fix it.
"I hope that we can take advantage of our passing game and continue to do what we've been doing," Hall said. "Our recipe lately has been strike early, strike deep, and keep building on that and sprinkle in the rest of our package with Danial (White) and the rest of what we're doing."
Hall doesn't expect the Grizzlies' offensive line to overpower the Spartans, but he's confident it will still be able to open up holes for Volz and protect Kaegi and White.
"We're not bigger, but I like the things that we're doing with our line," Hall said. "I think it's more about our kids playing better assignment and better technique, because we're not going to overpower anybody."