Ashland gridders arrive in Japan for game

The Ashland High football arrived in Osaka, Japan, early Tuesday morning in preparation for the Pacific Rim Bowl.

The team ran into a transportation glitch when a bus company scheduled to take the Grizzlies from Ashland to San Francisco, where they flew from, backed out of the deal. Coach Charlie Hall lined up a replacement company out of Eugene.

The game will be played at 6 p.m. Sunday at Expo Flash Field in Osaka. It'll be 2 a.m. Monday here at kickoff.

"I can't wait," Ashland senior lineman Joe Maulsby said before the trip. He played in the 2007 PRB in Ashland. "It's going to be really fun to be there with my teammates and be experiencing all that stuff."

The Grizzlies will be looking to snap Japan's four-game winning streak in the series, which dates to the inaugural 1988 game, held in Osaka. Though the series is tied 5-5, Ashland hasn't beaten the Japan All-Stars since 1999.

The last meeting, in 2007, was a barnburner, the two teams going back-and-forth until visiting Japan scored on a 77-yard touchdown pass midway through the fourth quarter to take the lead for good.

That 28-21 Japan win was the first competitive PRB in four years as the undermanned Grizzlies — Japan will suit up 65 players this year to Ashland's 47, a disparity that's typical in the series — have struggled to stay competitive.

Still, the Grizzlies are confident that they can put together another strong showing this year.

"I think we're starting to get things together," said Ashland junior quarterback Jake Scarminach. "We're more in sync and our timing's coming together pretty good. We're just growing together still."

Hall expects Scarminach to direct a "more versatile" offense this season.

The team practiced for two weeks before leaving and is scheduled to get three workouts in Japan.

Real-game situations could be a stumbling block, however.

"The biggest thing right now is the transition from special teams to offense and special teams to defense," Hall said. "That whole game-like situation ... when you get into the flow of the game, making sure kids are dialed in in terms of substitutions. We want to get our sophomores in the game as much as we can. A lot of those guys are going to help us in the special teams areas. So, hopefully, they're plugged in watching the game and know that, if it's third down and you're on offense, or if you're on the punt team, you better be alert."

As far as the rest of it, Hall likes what he's seen.

"You can see that they're starting to learn their plays, starting to play a little faster, so the execution is getting better day by day," he said.

Joe Zavala is sports editor of the Ashland Daily Tidings. Reach him at 482-3456, ext. 224, or

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