Danial White threw a 35-yard touchdown pass to James Skinner and Jon Volz ran in the one-point conversion as Ashland's Pee Wee Pop Warner football team erased a 12-0 halftime deficit to beat the Medford Raiders 13-12 in the Rogue Valley championship game Sunday at Speigelberg Stadium.
The win earned the Grizzlies, made up of many of the same players who won the Junior Pee Wee state championship a year ago, a berth in the state finals, Nov. 11 at Autzen Stadium in Eugene.
"I told the boys at halftime that if they believed in themselves, they would come back and win the game," Ashland head coach Greg White said. "They responded and played hard and really dominated the second half. To come from behind and get a win shows the character of the boys on this team and the belief that they know they can win."
Medford, which handed the Grizzlies (8-1) their only loss of the season in the last meeting between the two teams, took a quick 6-0 lead with a long touchdown run on its first play from scrimmage. The Raiders made it 12-0 on 90-plus-yard fumble return that stunned Ashland just before the half.
The Grizzlies took over from there. First, White capped a long drive with a 7-yard scramble. That was quickly followed by his perfect strike to Skinner, who outran the defense the last 15 yards of his TD catch.
The Ashland defense also stepped up after the break, denying the Raiders' last-ditch drive by stuffing a fourth-down run inches short of a first down with less than three minutes to go.
"Our defensive coordinator, Craig Contreras, had a great game plan going in and with the exception of one big play in the first half our defense really controlled the game," said White, who also coached the Junior Pee Wee RV champs last season.
Also playing key roles for the Grizzlies were Matt Hedges, who came up with a crucial second-half interception, and linebackers John Reeder, Mason Montgomery and RJ Atteberry. Volz led the Grizzlies in rushing yards behind the lead blocking of Joe Granger.
After the game, Ashland's Ryan Bottimore was presented with a special RVPW academic all-star award for excelling in the classroom.
Ashland Pop Warner team storms back to claim Rogue Valley title