The Grizzlies scored their fourth comeback win of the season last week on a game-winning drive that was capped by Mason Costantino's 27-yard field goal.
The Ashland football team spent time Wednesday honoring the two-year anniversary of former coach Dave Kitchell's passing. On Friday, the Grizzlies know they might need a little bit of the Ashland icon's inspiration to keep their run going in 5A state playoffs.
"Shock the world" is their mantra for this week, but they'll need to start with Oregon, which has their opponent, West Albany, pegged second in the Associated Press poll after winning the state title in each of the last two years.
"I think we play better in the underdog role," Ashland coach Charlie Hall said. "We're not very good when we're the favorite, but it seems like we play better with a chip on our shoulder every week."
Indeed, the Grizzlies (5-6 overall) do play better with a chip on their shoulder, but it usually isn't evident until they've spotted their opponents a lead. Fall behind too much on the road against a team of West Albany's caliber, and it could be a very long night for Ashland.
But Hall said he'd like the Grizzlies to extend the game a little, which means preventing big plays on defense to keep the Bulldogs — the Mid-Willamette Conference champion — from getting into an early rhythm.
"We have to avoid the 30- to 40-yard play," Hall explained. "We'd like to make their offense earn points, because the more plays they're out there just fighting for first downs, the more chances there are going to be for them to make mistakes."
West Albany (9-1) is riding a nine-game winning streak into Friday after having dropped only its opener against Sherwood, 22-20. Their high-octane offense is averaging more than 35 points since the loss, which was the closest game the Bulldogs have played this season besides the three-point decisions in the second and third weeks.
Bulldogs quarterback Nick Osborn is averaging only 132 yards passing, but has two receivers with 500-plus yards through the air in Jackson Ruckert and Chase Thomas.
Their biggest threat, though, is running back Anthony Lacoste, who is averaging 7.7 yards per carry and 156.5 yards per contest. The senior has rushed for 19 touchdowns this season.
"They come from a conference that's all about getting the running game going and just being tougher than your opponent," Hall said. "We're hoping that works to our advantage, though, because they probably haven't seen a team that runs as much spread (offense) as us in a while."
The Grizzlies scored their fourth comeback win of the season last week on a game-winning drive that was capped by Mason Costantino's 27-yard field goal. The 16-14 win epitomized Ashland's season, as the inexperienced squad has shown flashes of greatness at times, but usually when the scoreboard has favored the other team.
No problem though, because this time of year, they'll take a win any way they can get it.
"We have nothing to lose and everything to gain this week," junior lineman Kevin Schilling said. "There's no pressure on us, but we still feel like we have something to prove to ourselves. We're playing well at the right time, but we still don't feel like we've played to our potential and we want to see what happens if we can do that for four quarters."
Added senior linebacker/tight end Jordan Resch: "Every team has their weaknesses, so we're going to have to go in there and play our best and just see what happens. If we're firing on all cylinders, we're pretty good, but we'll need to just minimize little mistakes as always."
The contest, which will send the winner into the state quarterfinals, is set for a 7 p.m. kickoff.
Josh McDermott is a freelance writer living in Ashland. Contact him at email@example.com.