Marshfield quarterback Kyle Tedder not only terrorized Ashland High's defense last week, he also gave the Grizzlies a painfully long glimpse of what they are sorely lacking.
Marshfield quarterback Kyle Tedder not only terrorized Ashland High's defense last Friday, he also gave the Grizzlies a painfully perfect example of what they are sorely lacking.
"We just don't have any difference-makers on the field," Ashland coach Charlie Hall said prior to Thursday's practice, the Grizzlies' last get-together prior to today's game at Willamette. "Tedder's a difference-maker. Like [former Grizzly] Talon Haggard was, (Tedder) makes a difference in a game. Nine other guys can maybe break down and not do a job and he can make something happen out of that. And this team, we've got the tools of being a good team, but all 11 guys have got to do their share."
That didn't happen last week, when Tedder ran and passed his way to 279 yards of total offense and three touchdowns to spearhead a 35-6 Pirate romp.
Ashland's breakdown wasn't limited to its defense, either. The Grizzlies' offense gained just 40 yards on the ground and 205 overall, and was held scoreless until the final play of the game, a meaningless 41-yard Hail Mary touchdown pass.
When asked if Ashland's struggles were physical or mental, Hall didn't hesitate:
"Both," he said. "We talk about how missed alignments and missed assignments will get you beat more than mismatches. But when you have some physical mismatches on the field and you're misaligned and you're not doing the right assignment and you're missing tackles, that leads to a blowout, and we had that last week."
Willamette may not provide much of a respite. The Wolverines of the Midwestern League are 0-3, but have lost those three games by a combined nine points, including last week's 28-27 setback at North Medford.
In order to avoid a 1-3 start, the Grizzlies will probably have to slow down Willamette receiver Taylor Woodke, who caught 12 passes for 176 yards against the Black Tornado. Willamette quarterback Jacob Hughes, making his first start, completed 19 of 37 passes against North for 235 yards and two TDs.
Hall said Willamette is balanced, takes chances on both offense and defense and is athletic at key positions. The Wolverines' aggressive style cost them early against North Medford, but they climbed out of a 21-0 hole to make a game of it.
"They do some things on both sides of the ball that really kind of define their personality," Hall said. "They'll take some risks. They're very aggressive on the run, they're a good tackling team, they're very physical. At the same time they'll take some risks and then they can get burned on play-action passes and things like that."
That could spell big plays and big days for the likes of Ashland junior quarterback Jake Scarminach and senior receiver Mason Costantino. Scarminach completed 15 of 25 passes for 165 yards and a touchdown last week, and Costantino, Scarminach's favorite target, caught 7 of those passes for 139 yards and the Hail Mary score.
Ashland has other players capable of making big plays — running back Issa Shahin and receivers Lucas Stone and Nick Hall all possess either good speed or good size — but right now, Charlie Hall sounds like he would be happy if the Grizzlies merely executed, regardless of results.
"The dam has got multiple leaks in it right now and we keep trying to put something in it to stop it," he said. "Like anything, confidence is a big part of any competition, and if we can create some confidence early in the game, if we can do some of the things that Marshfield did to us to jump start us, I think that's huge."
Joe Zavala is the Daily Tidings sports editor. Reach him at email@example.com or 482-3456 x224.