Ashland senior Adam Pavlich moves the ball upfield against Crater during Tuesday’s game.

Balanced Grizzlies claim SSC crown

ASHLAND — Simon Linsday's steal-and-dash. Adam Pavlich's sneak attack. Reed Chasmar's dribbling clinic in the box.

Ashland's strenuous summer conditioning program, designed to give the Grizzlies second-half boosts, seems to be paying off. That, or the Grizzlies are just too good.

Then again, maybe it's a little of both.

That was about the only way to explain Ashland's latest Southern Sky Conference romp, a 4-0 victory over their top SSC competition, Crater, that was all but over after Linsday struck 13 minutes into the second half.

Pavlich padded the lead three minutes later, and Chasmar dotted the exclamation point with a 73rd minute strike as Ashland (12-1-1, 8-0 SSC) clinched the Southern Sky title outright, avoided the dreaded coin toss and secured the league's top seed to state.

"I'm totally excited about the way our boys stepped up for this game," Ashland coach Brad Roupp said. "We've had some games that didn't challenge us very much, and Crater is a solid team that came here needing a win. They came to play and our boys stepped up and just controlled it — we controlled it on offense, we controlled it on defense."

The Grizzlies, who won their eight league games by a combined score of 31-1, now have two weeks off to prepare for the OSAA Class 5A state playoffs. They'll host a second-round game on Nov. 4 against either the Mid-Willamette No. 4 or the Intermountain No. 3.

Crater (7-6-1, 5-2), which still has one league game left to play, heads to state as the Southern Sky's No. 2 seed. The Comets will travel to take on the No. 2 seed from the Northwest Oregon Conference in another second-round game Nov. 4.

"Ashland and us, we're going to make a deep run — both teams," Crater coach Chris Gallegos said. "So we're excited to get off to the playoffs. They really wanted to get after Ashland, but I said there's a bigger trophy to win, and that's a state championship."

The Comets nearly stunned the Grizzlies in the opening minutes of each half, but both shots by Skyler Licato were rejected, barely, by Ashland keeper Wes Overland, who did not allow a goal in league play.

Overland's save in the 42nd minute was the most impressive — Licato pulverized the ball from point-blank range but was left shaking his head.

"The defender was forcing him toward my left side, so I knew it would have been really tough for (Licato) to go the other way," Overland said. "So, I kind of anticipated and I just got a fingertip on it, just enough."

"When you play a solid club like Ashland, you've got to finish," Gallegos said. "If we would have finished at least one of those, we would have been tied back up, we would have shaken them up a little bit and we would have changed the whole tempo of the game."

Those shots turned out to be the highlights of the Crater offense — the Grizzlies controlled the rest of the match and ended up outshooting the Comets 29-5, including 17-2 on goal.

Ashland's blitz didn't pay off until the 23rd minute, when Dakota Wolff took a cross from Pavlich in front of the goal and right-footed the ball past Ben Purtzer.

The Grizzlies almost delivered an instant replay a minute later but were turned back. Two more scoring chances for Ashland also failed to produce in the opening frame — first when Linsday was ruled offside and later when Nate Roupp's laser was picked off by a lunging Purtzer.

The second half was a different story. After Overland's second spectacular save, the Grizzlies shifted into another gear and left Crater in the dust.

Linsday started the onslaught in the 53rd minute, turning a steal into a breakaway goal in a flash to give Ashland what looked like an insurmountable 2-0 lead.

Three minutes later, Pavlich, holding back to avoid the offside call, took a pass from Kai Caderette and poked the ball in from 15 yards out to make it 3-0.

"I was just pointing at the (defender) because I was trying to convince the referee that I was on(side)," said Pavlich, who has scored 16 goals this season. "Luckily he saw it my way."

Chasmar's goal probably earned him the most style points. He dribbled his way through the heart of Crater's defense, faking out at least three Comets along the way before firing a 15-yard rocket.

The play illustrated Ashland's superior quickness down the stretch, an advantage that the Grizzlies say they've worked hard to attain.

"In preseason, we ran two weeks in the morning and played at night," Pavlich said, "and I guess it paid off today because none of us seemed tired and they seemed exhausted."

Ashland now heads to the playoffs with plenty of momentum and confidence. The Grizzlies' lone loss was a 1-0 setback to Class 6A South Medford back on Sept. 9, and their only 5A blemish has become a source of inspiration — a 2-2 tie with top-ranked Woodburn on Sept. 20.

Ashland and Woodburn are on the same side of the state bracket and could face off again in the semifinals.

"I think we have a pretty good chance," Overland said. "If we keep this momentum up, I think we'll go far."

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