Like another high-scoring team that plays football in the Eugene area, the Springfield Millers don't like to waste any time on offense.
Last Friday against Eagle Point, none of the Millers' scoring drives lasted more than three plays — an impressive feat considering that they won the game 48-0. Entering tonight's clash with fourth-ranked Ashland — another high scoring team — the fifth-ranked Millers are averaging 43.3 points per game, the second-best mark in 5A football.
Is it the scheme? Is it the players? It's both, says head coach Dave Heuberger, who's trying to guide Springfield (3-1, 2-0 Midwestern League) to its second straight win over Ashland (4-0, 2-0) after the Millers trounced the Grizzlies 42-20 in Springfield last season.
When/Where: 7 p.m. tonight at Walter A. Phillips Field.
At Stake: Grizzlies are ranked No. 4 in the Oregonlive.com Class 5A poll, while Sprinfield is ranked No. 5, and both teams are 2-0 in the Midwestern League.
Online: A link to live streaming video will be available at ashlandfootballclub.com, and livestats will be available at gogrizz.org.
"We clearly have some explosive players and most of the teams in the top 10 have their fare share," Heuberger said. "I think it's going to be a good barometer for both teams to see where we're at at the midpoint of the year."
The Midwestern League clash kicks off at 7 p.m. today at Walter A. Phillips Field.
Springfield's explosive players include sophomore quarterback Trever Watson, receiver Braydon Haas and running back Taylor Travess.
Watson heaved a 65-yard touchdown pass to Haas on the first play of the game against Eagle Point and later added touchdown runs of 58 and 35 yards, finishing with 219 all-purpose yards. Travess was just as deadly, returning a punt 70 yards for a touchdown — he hurdled a defender in the process — and rushing for 136 yards, including a 66-yard TD burst to open the fourth quarter.
The Grizzlies saw first-hand how quickly Watson and Travess can take over a game last season. In that Sept. 28, 2012 tilt, Watson passed for 170 yards and two touchdowns and rushed for 69 yards and another score, while Travess had 52 yards receiving on offense and two interceptions on defense (Travess and Ashland's Mason Montgomery shared the MWL defensive player of the year award in 2012).
"That's a big challenge, but I think our defense is up to the challenge," said Ashland head coach Charlie Hall, whose defense is surrendering only 10.5 points per game. "We just can't give up the big plays. A broken tackle here, a missed assignment there can lead to a big play. You make a mistake against these guys and it's a touchdown. There's no forgiveness of mistakes."
One way Ashland can limit the Millers is by keeping that big-play offense off the field. The Grizzlies will try to do that with their own high-scoring unit, which is averaging 40.3 points and 351 yards per game.
Senior quarterback Danial White has completed 57 percent of his passes for 697 yards and nine touchdowns. His favorite target is senior receiver Matt Hedges, who has 10 catches for 260 yards and four TDs, including a 50-yard bomb that iced Ashland's 21-7 win over Marist two weeks ago.
Shifty running back Ryne Robitz leads Ashland's ground game. He's rushed for 292 yards and five scores while averaging a healthy 5.3 yards per rush.
Heuberger expects the Grizzlies to challenge Springfield's secondary.
"If they can get behind the Marist defense," he said, "then there's no reason to believe that they're not going to try to take their shots against us."