Ashland’s new-look defense made a one-point halftime lead stand as the Grizzlies tacked on a late fourth-quarter score to down Henley 22-14 in the opener for both teams Friday night at Walter A. Phillips Field.

Ashland’s new-look defense made a one-point halftime lead stand as the Grizzlies tacked on a late fourth-quarter score to down Henley 22-14 in the opener for both teams Friday night at Walter A. Phillips Field.

First-year starting quarterback Jake Scarminach completed 19 of 25 passes for 253 yards, throwing for one touchdown and adding another with his feet, but the Grizzly defense stole the show by shutting out Henley in the last two frames.

“We’re going to put some pressure on people and take some risks (defensively), so hopefully we’ll make some big plays and we certainly did in the second half,” Ashland coach Charlie Hall said.

Ashland led 15-8 after Scarminach’s 19-yard pass found senior receiver Lucas Stone on an out-route with three minutes left in the second quarter. The Hornets answered with John Cullen’s 30-yard touchdown pass to Doug North with 57 seconds on the clock, but failed to tie it up after a missed PAT.

The Grizzlies limited Henley to 283 yards of total offense and seven first downs in the second half, but the Hornets’ fly offense gave Ashland trouble early as the visitors scored the first points of the game with only four minutes gone.

“It’s tough to replicate what they do in practice, and another thing is that because we have a new defensive scheme in, we’re not sure how people are going to block it,” Hall said.

“But I don’t think they knew exactly how they were blocking it either because they seemed to run into some big plays, but we hit them in the mouth on some big plays too.”

Leading 15-14, Ashland got one of those big plays with 7:42 left in the fourth when junior linebacker David Skinner sacked Cullen on fourth down with the ball at the Grizzlies’ 35.

One possession later, senior linebacker Jordan Resch stripped Cullen and recovered the fumble as the Grizzlies took over at Henley’s 21-yard-line. Zack Greenbaum then added Ashland’s final score with a 7-yard rush up the middle with 2:51 to go. It was his only carry of the game.

“If you look at some of the mistakes we made, it was certainly frustrating because we let them off the hook at times but I felt like we were in control most of the game,” Hall said. “We stalled some drives, but it was good to get in the end zone, which we didn’t do in Japan.”

Scarminach rushed for 56 yards, 46 of which came in the first half, including a five-yard keeper that tied the game for Ashland in the first quarter. The junior, who started at free safety last year, also avoided throwing an interception.

“I think Jake is still trying to learn some things as a quarterback, and the exchanges were a little shaky going back and forth from under the center and shotgun snaps,” Hall added. “We went shotgun almost 95 percent of the time last year, so that’s something we’ll need to keep working at.

“But he was consistent and made pretty good decisions all night. He showed some maturity and I think each game will give him more confidence.”

Mason Costantino led the Grizzlies with 101 yards on six receptions, and three other Grizzlies had at least three catches.

Skinner led the Grizzlies with six tackles, and Nick Hall recorded the only interception of the game.

North recorded both scores for the Hornets and ran for a team-high 58 yards on 11
carries.

“With this entire defense being new, the learning curve should be very steep,” Hall said. “We’ll be learning a lot just from this first time out after looking at the film.”