Both teams bring 11-0 records into Saturday's game at Autzen

by: DAN BROOD - GOOD JOB -- Sherwood High School football coach Greg Lawrence congratulates his son, Sherwood senior Keegan Lawrence, following a touchdown in the state playoff win over Crescent Valley.EUGENE — Something has got to give.

Someone is going to get their first loss of the season.

And someone is going to earn a berth to the Class 5A state championship game.

It will be a battle of unbeatens when Sherwood faces Ashland in an OSAA Class 5A state playoff semifinal football game, set to start at 1 p.m. Saturday at Autzen Stadium.

“We’re hungry to get to get to the ship (championship) again,” Sherwood senior guard/linebacker Andrew Rice said following the Bowmen’s 68-7 win over Crescent Valley in a state playoff quarterfinal game played last Friday at Sherwood High School. “We’re excited for that.”

“It’s exciting to go back to the semifinals. We’re looking forward to it,” Sherwood senior fullback/linebacker Jake Reimer said. “We’re going to work hard and focus. We’re 100 percent together and we’re going to play as a team.”

Sherwood, the defending Class 5A state champion and the No. 1 team in the final OSAA power rankings, brings a perfect 11-0 record into Saturday’s game. It will also be the fourth straight season that the Bowmen have reached the semifinal round of the state playoffs.

Ashland, the Midwestern League champion and the No. 5 team in the OSAA power rankings, also is 11-0 on the season.

“It’s been a lot of fun,” Ashland coach Charlie Hall said. “We’ve had a good blend of team chemistry and some key athletes who are playing very well right now.”

Among those key athletes for the Grizzlies is senior quarterback Danial White (6-foot, 180 pounds). White started at quarterback for Ashland as a sophomore. He lost his starting spot midway through his junior year, but has come back strong as a senior, throwing for 24 touchdowns with just two interceptions.

White also is a dual threat at quarterback.

He showed that in the Grizzlies’ 13-7 quarterfinal win at Roosevelt, when he passed for 151 yards and ran for 136 yards with a pair of rushing touchdowns.

“He’s made great strides this year,” Hall said of White, who was a second-team All-Midwestern League selection.

White also is Ashland’s leading rusher on the season with 625 yards and 11 touchdowns. Junior running back Ryne Robitz (5-8, 170), has ran for 576 yards and eight scores.

Senior fullback Mason Montgomery (6-0, 215), who started on the offensive line the previous two years, has ran for 234 yards and four touchdowns.

White has a strong group of receivers to throw to, including senior Matt Hedges (6-2, 170), who has 27 catches, and sophomore Shashi Penn (5-9, 160), who also has 27 receptions. Hedges and Penn were both first-team all-league picks.

The Grizzly offensive line is anchored by senior Nate Carver (6-0, 215), who was a first-team all-league selection at center, and junior Ivan Tagui (5-10, 205), who also earned first-team all-league accolades.

“We’ve really cut down on our turnovers,” said Hall, who added that Ashland is plus-18 on the season in that department. “That’s a good recipe for success.”

While Ashland may boast an efficient offensive attack, the Grizzlies may be more powerful on the other side of the ball.

“I think our defense has been the strength of our team,” Hall said. “Our starters have done a good job all season.”

The Ashland defense is led by Montgomery, who plays at middle linebacker.

Montgomery is a four-year starter on defense, meaning he started for the Ashland squad that held Sherwood to 14 points in a 14-3 setback to the Bowmen in a 2011 state playoff quarterfinal contest.

Montgomery earned his second straight Midwestern League Defensive Player of the Year honor and he has more than 100 tackles on the season.

“He’s a dominant defensive player,” Hall said.

Sherwood coach Greg Lawrence agrees.

“Their Montgomery kid is a beast,” Lawrence said. “They have some big kids on defense who fly around.

Ashland will likely be counting on its defense in Saturday’s game.

“We have some confidence with our defense, because we played them well two years ago,” Hall said. “We’ll have to change up a few things. They’ve got some great athletes.”

“We expect them to play the same type of defense they played two years ago,” Lawrence said. “But they can’t stop everything.”

But, so far this season, no defense has been able to stop the Bowmen.

For the season, Sherwood is scoring at an average of 62.1 points a game while rushing for 465.2 yards a contest.

Senior Keegan Lawrence leads the Bowmen rushing attack. For the season, he has ran for 1,739 yards and 27 touchdowns on just 78 carries (a 22.3 yards per carry average).

Senior fullback Mickey Schaefer has ran for 874 yards and 13 TDs on 51 carries and Reimer has ran for 731 yards and 12 scores on 38 carries.

Bowmen senior quarterback Kevin Larkin has completed 35 of 64 pass attempts for 914 yards and 16 touchdowns with just two interceptions.

For the Sherwood defense, senior end Jordan Kurahara leads the way with 6.5 quarterback sacks for the season.

“We’re looking forward to the challenge,” Greg Lawrence said of the semifinal contest. “We’re going to come out and do what we do.”

“We’re going to come out focused and we’re not going to take anything lightly,” Sherwood junior tight end/linebacker Zak Taylor said. “We’re really focused.”

“On offense, we’re going to keep doing what we do,” Keegan Lawrence said. “On defense, coach Monty (Wes Montgomery) will come up with a good scheme, and we’ll be ready.”

The winner of Saturday’s Sherwood-Ashland game will face either Silverton or West Albany, who will clash in the other semifinal, to be held Saturday at Hillsboro Stadium, in the Class 5A state championship game, which will be played Nov. 30.

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