Athletic directors at the Class 5A level have proven to be the most invested in controlling their own playoff destiny since a switch to the...
Before their game, South Medford head football coach Bill Singler told sophomore quarterback Craig Contreras to manage the game, not try to do too much and let the team win the game for him.
Contreras could check off two of those three requests after the Panthers' 28-14 victory over Beaverton in the first round of the Class 6A state playoffs on Friday at Spiegelberg Stadium.
He managed the game and he let his team — particularly South's stop-at-nothing defense — help win the game. But as for the "not try to do too much" part?
He'll have to work on that.
In just his second start since taking over for the injured Joe McLaughlin, Contreras finished 15-of-29 for 258 yards and two touchdowns. His most sensational passes fell in the reliable hands of Adrian Garcia, who hauled in scoring strikes of 83 and 32 yards. In total, the senior receiver made eight catches for 190 yards for the Panthers (8-2), who will play at Lake Oswego (10-0) in the second round next Friday. The Lakers blanked McNary 41-0 on Friday.
"If Craig makes plays, I've got to make plays as well," Garcia said.
Contreras' completions — and the consistent effort of South's D — helped to atone for a number of blown opportunities in the first half.
The Panthers were treated to great field position all night long from the Beavers (6-5), who were mostly a mess in the bitter cold conditions after taking a 7-0 lead in the first quarter. But for much of the first half, South did not take advantage. The Panthers blocked a punt on Beaverton's opening drive but couldn't score from just 25 yards out, they fumbled on a kickoff return, they missed a 28-yard field goal and they failed to simply get off a solid snap on 36-yard field-goal attempt.
Things would smooth out for South though. Garcia tied the school record for interceptions in a season with his ninth with 5:10 to go in the second quarter. After the Panthers turned the ball over on downs in the red zone and forced the Beavers to punt, Contreras hit Garcia on a hitch route for the game-tying 32-yard score on South's ensuing drive.
On the Panthers' next possession, they capped a five-play drive with Ben Casebier's 21-yard TD run.
And by intermission, South's trusty staff of defenders had only allowed 53 total yards.
"Bill tells me when in doubt just let our defense play," Contreras said. "Don't force anything."
The Panthers kicked off the third quarter with a seven-play, 73-yard drive (including passes by Contreras of 26 and 18 yards) that ended with Nick Phillips punching in a 3-yard score.
South sealed the triumph in the fourth in spectacular fashion with Contreras finding Garcia for the 83-yard pass. That play put the Panthers ahead 28-7 with 10:19 to go.
"I'm definitely going to remember the highs like the pass to Adrian, but I could not have done it without the great protection from the O-line," Contreras said. "They are all great guys who love to play hard."
The passing game helped to optimize South's ground attack. Phillips finished with 68 rushing yards on 14 attempts and Casebier 15 carries for 51 yards.
Senior middle linebacker Pat Alexander led the South D.
"Pat Alexander probably had 20 tackles," Singler said. "He is just the leader of our football team. I wish Portland could get a chance to see him play because he should be an all-state player."
Beaverton senior quarterback Kyle Eckrosh was 11-of-26 for 89 yards and two interceptions (Eric Wallan also picked him off). Evan Colorito led the Beavers with 14 carries for 75 yards.
"We didn't get it done on offense," Beaverton head coach Bob Boyer said. "We just made too many mistakes."
Reach reporter Dan Jones at 541-776-4499, or email firstname.lastname@example.org