Winning the Southern Cascade League title seemed like a pretty bold goal this spring considering the recent history of the Cascade Christian...
Beating the same football team for a second time in one season is never easy, especially when that team is a conference foe and knows your program as well as any rival program.
And when you're in your 41st year as head coach and 46th overall at Roseburg like Thurman Bell, the playbook runs pretty deep when you need to change things up in hopes of a better result.
Facing a South Medford squad that had beaten his team 28-20 on Sept. 30, Bell and company changed almost everything up to throw a wrench in the Panthers' plans for a season sweep during the second round of the Class 6A state playoffs.
Utilizing a wishbone offense — something Bell said he hadn't done since 1974 — and different coverage schemes on defense, No. 5 Roseburg threw fourth-ranked South Medford out of rhythm enough to claim a runaway 48-7 win Friday at Spiegelberg Stadium.
"I give it to them, they came prepared, they executed and they played well," Panther senior receiver/safety Matt Retzlaff said of the Indians. "They just outplayed us tonight. It's just the way it is. We got a few stops here and there but with that kind of offense and that kind of physicality, it's tough slowing that down. It's like an off-road train and just tough to stop."
Roseburg (9-2) held a modest 7-0 lead through one quarter and was up 21-0 at halftime before things really snowballed for the Panthers (9-2), who trailed 48-0 before closing out the scoring on a 7-yard touchdown pass from senior Jack Singler to Retzlaff. As directed by the Coos Bay officiating crew, the final eight minutes of the fourth quarter were played with a running clock.
Anticipating bad weather and with only one healthy receiver/defensive back able to suit up for the start of preparation for the second-round contest, Bell made a key change in scheme to take advantage of a bevy of running options in the backfield.
"Our kids did an awesome job learning it," he said of the wishbone offense. "We spent a lot of time with it and did a great job, and I'm sure they would never guess that I'd go back that far. A guy my age you'd think couldn't remember back that far."
Four players carried the ball at least seven times for the Indians, led by Javier Mandera's 90 yards and one TD on 18 carries. Seldom-used Jake Heverly added 71 yards on seven carries — 50 coming on a TD run with 7:44 to play — while quarterback Hayden Lent earned first downs on four of his seven carries.
"We had no idea they were going to do that," said South junior linebacker Pat Alexander. "All week we've been practicing the veer option that they've been running all year. They came out with (the wishbone) and we weren't used to it but our defense didn't give up, they just played better than us."
Overall, Roseburg ran 47 times for 271 yards and completed 5 of 8 passes for 54 yards to outgain South Medford 325-189.
"We just made sure that we didn't make the same mistakes as last time," Roseburg senior Ben Goirigolzarri said, alluding to the four turnovers in the regular-season matchup, "and we really wanted to control the ball, which was actually part of our defensive scheme because they're a real, real dangerous and fast-attacking offense and we had to stop that."
South Medford's downfall began in the second quarter when Heverly intercepted an ill-advised pass by Singler and returned it 52 yards for a touchdown to give Roseburg a 14-0 lead with only 39 seconds gone in the frame.
With four minutes to go in the first half, Selmar Hutchins was the recipient of another off-target offering by Singler, halting a drive near midfield. The Indians took advantage by marching 51 yards on 11 plays to go up 21-0 with 21.4 seconds to go on a 7-yard connection from Lent to Hutchins. The final play was set up by a pass interference penalty one play earlier when Daniel Jimenez deflected a fade pass from the 15. That drive also included three third-down conversions by Roseburg, with the Indians needing to go 10 yards on the first one to even get into Panther territory.
"The interception just really took some wind out of our sails and we just didn't recover from it," said Panthers coach Bill Singler. "Roseburg seemed to get energy from it and we just seemed to slump a little bit."
The Indians used a 53-yard kickoff return by Hector Mandera to fire out of the gates in the third quarter and methodically marched down the field before South Medford turned in a big play of its own when Alexander blasted the ball loose from Lent at the 1-yard line and Jimenez fell on the fumble in the end zone.
Seemingly with new life, the Panthers advanced the ball to their own 43 before Goirigolzarri keyed in on Singler's main target Retzlaff and stepped in front of a pass attempt for an interception. With nothing but open field in front of him, Goirigolzarri raced 49 yards for a back-breaking interception that made it 28-0 midway through the third quarter.
"I just went out and hit him and the ball came loose and I thought maybe that would jump-start us and get our offense going, but it didn't," said Alexander.
Singler finished 12-for-29 for 134 yards, one touchdown and three interceptions on a cold but clear night that saw temperatures dip into the low 30s.
"I wasn't in my rhythm tonight and I was making bad reads and just wasn't myself," said the senior, who entered the game with only seven interceptions in 226 pass attempts. "I'm disappointed because I felt like I let my team down."
Roseburg took advantage of great field position for the rest of the contest, with the Panthers either turning the ball over on downs with failed fourth-down efforts or having the misfortune of a bobbled punt snap that gave the ball to Roseburg at the South 4-yard line.
The Indians' last three touchdowns came in the final 13 minutes with an average starting field position at the Panther 40.
"All year we've executed at a pretty high level and offensively, for some reason, we just weren't at our best, and we needed to be," said coach Singler. "We just weren't clicking tonight, not just from the quarterback position but everywhere. We didn't block very well up front at times, we didn't hit the holes up inside the way we should and we dropped more passes tonight than we ever have. It was just a culmination of things tonight."
Retzlaff finished with 80 yards receiving on six catches, and his TD reception moved him into sole possession of the Panthers' single-season record of 18. The TD pass was Singler's 34th of the season, leaving him two shy of tying Boomer Marshall's 2002 record, but his 65.5 completion percentage this season did eclipse Marshall's high-water mark of 64.8 in 2001 and '02.
Senior Denzel Mobley ran 13 times for 54 yards — 1 yard shy of the team total — while Alexander, senior lineman Desmond Harrington and sophomore linebacker Anthony Gomez spearheaded the defensive effort for South.
Roseburg 48, South Medford 7
At Spiegelberg Stadium
Roseburg 7 14 14 13 —48
South Medford 0 0 0 7 —7
R — Hutchins 1 run (Pieske kick)
R — Heverly 52 interception return (Pieske kick)
R — Hutchins 7 pass from Lent (Pieske kick)
R — Goirigolzarri 49 interception return (Pieske kick)
R — McGowan 18 pass from Lent (Pieske kick)
R — J. Mandera 4 run (Pieske kick)
R — Heverly 50 run (kick blocked)
SM — Retzlaff 7 pass from Singler (Harrington kick)
First Downs 16 11
Rushes-Yards 47-271 20-55
Passing Yards 54 134
Comp-Att-Int 5-8-0 12-29-3
Total Yards 325 189
Punts 2-29 3-35
Fumbles-lost 2-1 2-0
Penalties-yards 6-65 5-37
Roseburg — J. Mandera 18-90, Lent 7-34, Goirigolzarri 2-4, Heverly 7-71, Hutchins 8-23, H. Mandera 5-49.
South Medford — Mobley 13-54, Singler 5-9, Bowley 3-7, Retzlaff 1-9, McCoy 1-(-24).
Roseburg — Lent 5-8-0 54.
South Medford — Singler 12-29-3 134.
Roseburg — Hutchins 2-15, McGowan 2-29, Cole 1-10.
South Medford — Retzlaff 6-80, Garcia 2-25, Mobley 2-9, Bowley 1-6, Jimenez 1-14.
Reach reporter Kris Henry at 541-776-4488, email@example.com, www.facebook.com/krishenryMT or www.twitter.com/Kris_Henry