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Summit set to rekindle rivalry with Ashland

Summit was not looking for easy wins in its early nonconference schedule.

Instead, Corben Hyatt wanted the best teams available to line up against his Storm to prepare for a tough Class 5A Special District 1 slate — even in the preseason jamboree.

Two weeks ago, Summit traveled to Tigard for a jamboree that featured Class 6A powers Sheldon, Tigard and South Salem. Last week, the Storm made the trip to Portland to take on Clackamas, a 6A semifinalist last season. This Friday, the Storm rekindle their recent rivalry with Ashland, a consistent 5A contender.

“When you’re competing against the top level, it makes your kids have to rise up,” says Hyatt, Summit’s first-year head coach. “If you were going into an opponent that you just knew you were going to go in and roll over, I don’t think the level of priority in practice would be what it needs to be. We try to do that on purpose. We want to front-load that schedule. … What we want to do is prepare against the best to get us ready for league.

“And I think our league is going to be outstanding this year.”

Summit has won the past two meetings against Ashland, including its 17-point victory in the 2015 state championship. Last year, after a one-sided loss to Clackamas, the Storm rebounded for a 35-21 home win over Ashland, which has advanced at least to the state quarterfinals each season since 2013. Now, a week after falling at Clackamas 49-22, Summit is looking for a similar bounce-back performance.

Junior quarterback Henry Bledsoe leads the Storm into their fifth matchup against Ashland in four years. In his first start as the go-to QB, Bledsoe last week accounted for all of Summit’s total offense as he threw for 266 yards and three touchdowns.

“If you watched it from the first series to the end of the game, watching him grow was phenomenal,” Hyatt said. “I think he got more comfortable and our receivers got more comfortable with him. Big things are in store for him, and this week, in our first few days of practice, you can see that confidence.”

With targets such as wide receivers Alex Sundborg (who had 124 yards receiving), Ben Graziani (66 yards) and Campbell Smith (63 yards), Bledsoe quickly settled in for Summit, and his burgeoning confidence is already influencing the rest of the offense.

“The quarterback’s always the head of the offense on the field,” Hyatt says. “If you have a quarterback who’s like a deer in the headlights, there’s not going to be a lot of confidence. But if you’ve got a quarterback who walks into that huddle and takes command of that huddle, there’s a sense of calm. Those guys walk in and the offensive line just knows, ‘We’re going to business.’”

The Storm, however, face an Ashland team that is coming off last Saturday’s 12-2 victory against Klamath Union. And while the Grizzlies did not light up the scoreboard, their defense was sparkling. Ashland finished with five interceptions against the 4A Pelicans, including three by defensive back Will Beaudoin.

“They play sideline to sideline,” Hyatt says of Ashland’s defense. “We might be a little bit bigger than them, so I think we can run the ball north and south a little bit on them. But they move their linebackers around and don’t let their defensive linemen stay in one spot. That makes it difficult to have to prepare an offensive line when you’re getting stunts and blitzes from all directions. That’s what Ashland does best.”

Similar to Summit, graduation depleted Ashland of many weapons from last season’s squad.

Still, the Storm coach adds, “they’re the same style of football we’ve seen. They’re not overly big but they fly to the ball and want to throw it around. It’s a great matchup for us.”

— Reporter: 541-383-0307, glucas@bendbulletin.com

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