Usually a gimme on its schedule, Ashland entered Tuesday's Southern Oregon Hybrid boys soccer opener against Eagle Point expecting something a little unusual considering the history of the series - a competitive game.
Usually a gimme on its schedule, Ashland entered Tuesday's Southern Oregon Hybrid boys soccer opener against Eagle Point expecting something a little unusual considering the history of the series: a competitive game.
Both the Grizzlies and Eagles were coming off narrow defeats to Klamath Union, and Ashland did lose a whopping nine seniors to graduation.
But none of that mattered come game time, as Ashland (1-1-0) scored four unanswered goals in the first half en route to another lopsided SOH victory, 7-2, at Ashland Middle School.
Dylan Molnar scored twice and tacked on an assist in the first half before moving to goalkeeper in the second half and Zahara Cullumbine-Moyers had a goal and an assist to lead the Grizzlies, who built a 7-0 lead in the first of two league games between the SOH rivals.
"I think we learned at KU that we've got to come out and play hard," Ashland head coach Brad Roupp said. "We did a very good job today of owning the ball and keeping possession, and our center-midfielders distributed wide. We worked the ball up the sides and had some impact with that."
Molnar scored on a 30-yard blast only 1 minute, 30 seconds into the game, then headed in Cullumbine-Moyers' corner kick 12 minutes later to make it 2-0.
Ashland took a three-goal lead six minutes later when Leland Sanchez pounced on Eagle Point's failed clearance for an easy put-in.
Nick Chouard, Molnar and Diego Harrison teamed up to complete Ashland's first-half stampede with the prettiest goal of the day. Chouard sent a free kick to the far post toward the leaping Molnar, who somehow headed the ball back into play as he sailed out of bounds. Harrison finished from right in front of the goal, giving Ashland its 4-0 halftime cushion.
"I just told (Chouard) to put it in there and it went a little farther than I thought it would go," said Molnar, a senior halfback who's given the freedom to attack if the opportunity presents itself. "I put it back in the center just trying to make a play on it and Diego was right there. I knew right when it hit my head that it was going to be a goal."
With the game all but decided, the second half for Ashland was about maintaining control and improving ball movement. The Grizzlies did both while tacking on three more goals by Imani Sharpe, Cullumbine-Moyers and Allen Moore in the first 11 minutes.
The Eagles (0-1-1) avoided the shutout when Jose Lopez squeezed shot just inside the far post from 25 yards away in the 67th minute, and added a second goal five minutes later when Cesar Bombeia beat Molnar with a high, hard 30-yard laser.
The blowout victory came three days after the Grizzlies' opened the season with a frustrating 1-0 loss at Klamath Falls. Ashland won the possession battle against the Pelicans and created plenty of opportunities, but blew finish after finish.
Roupp said the Grizzlies tried to fix that prior to Tuesday's game.
"We worked hard this week on passing the ball into goal rather than driving the ball into goal," he said, "because it's so much easier to score if you just make a nice pass. All of our goals were beautiful goals today, and it was guys just taking a little bit off the throttle and putting it in the goal."
The hard work paid off. Against Eagle Point, the Grizzlies capitalized on four of its eight first-half shots. Overall, the Grizzlies out-shot the Eagles 16-8, including 8-1 in the first half.
"We felt we outplayed KU by a lot," Molnar said. "We had a ton of chances and we just couldn't put them away. Today, it showed from the first few minutes that we were putting some chances away. That's what we needed."
Ashland travels to face Churchill on Friday in a rematch of the 2008 Class 5A state championship game, then hosts Class 6A powerhouse South Medford on Saturday. Ashland-South Medford kicks off at 1 p.m. at Ashland Middle School.