Southern Oregon has been home to many prominent wrestling duals over the years, mostly thanks to the history of programs like Crater, Eagle Point...
LAKE OSWEGO — South Medford had No. 2 Lake Oswego set up for a huge upset for almost 14 minutes, but that's when a couple mistakes hit the Panthers and the defending champions took advantage.
The result was the score moving from 7-0 in South's favor to 20-7 in favor of the Lakers during a five-minute span, and Lake Oswego cruised to a 41-14 win in the second round of the Class 6A football state playoffs.
The Panthers got a pair of touchdowns from senior Adrian Garcia — one on offense and one on defense — and 51 tough yards running from senior Nick Phillips but had their five-game winning streak, and season, come to an end.
South Medford finished at 8-3.
Lake Oswego won its 25th straight game and moved to the quarterfinals with an 11-0 record.
"As a team, we accomplished way more than anyone thought we could," Garcia said. "I'm happy about that."
"We had a great season, especially on defense," senior Pat Alexander added. "We're not going to hang our heads when we look back on the season."
Lake Oswego got a pair of touchdown passes from quarterback Justen Ruppe and a pair of second-half touchdown runs from JB Holmes in the win. The game was the seventh consecutive time the Lakers had scored 41 points or more.
The South Medford game plan for winning rested upon the team's defense holding the Lakers to only one or two touchdowns, and the defense played its role perfectly for much of the first half.
Midway through the first quarter, Alexander laid a punishing hit on Lake Oswego's Jack Anderson, and Garcia scooped up the ensuing fumble and ran 45 yards for a score and a 7-0 lead.
The Panthers then forced a punt after three plays and took over on the Lakers' 46. But, the Lake Oswego defense also played its role well and forced a punt. The Lakers drove the ball from their 26 to the South 38, only to turn it back over after gaining only a yard on fourth-and-2 with 10:12 left in the first half.
"Our defense has been our Rock of Gibraltar all season, and it played like that today," South Medford coach Bill Singler said. "We were right where we wanted to be through the first quarter and into the half."
"We thought if we could get the lead, that would be way harder for them to get back into it, and it was going that way," Garcia said. "But then some mistakes happened and it just snowballed."
At their 38, the Panthers immediately lost 14 yards on a fumbled handoff and, three plays later, had their punt go awry when Alexander had to leap for a high snap and scrambled for a loss. Lake Oswego took over at the South 31 with 8:11 left in the half and scored in five plays, with the touchdown coming on a 14-yard pass from Ruppe to Karsten Andersen.
On the second play of South's next possession, Lake Oswego linebacker Nick Underwood bolted through the line and simply stole the ball from Panthers running back Christian Bowley, which technically turned into a 22-yard fumble return for a score. South's following possession ended in an interception by Anderson, and Ruppe tossed a 43-yard score to Nick Palermini that pushed the lead to 20-7 with 3:10 left in the half.
The Lakers scored on their first three possessions of the second half for a 41-7 advantage.
South put together a 54-yard scoring drive in the fourth quarter with Garcia making an outstanding catch for an 11-yard touchdown from quarterback Craig Contreras to close out the scoring. The drive accounted for more than half of the team's 107 total yards.
"Their defense is a pretty good one," Garcia said. "I think they just outphysicalled us."
South Medford 7 0 0 7 — 14
Lake Oswego 0 20 21 0 — 41
SM — Garcia 45 fumble return (Williams kick)
LO — K. Andersen 14 pass from Ruppe (Graves kick)
LO — Underwood 22 fumble return (kick blocked)
LO — Palermini 43 pass from Ruppe (Graves kick)
LO — Holmes 9 run (Graves kick)
LO — J. Anderson 12 run (Graves kick)
LO — Holmes 2 run (Graves kick)
SM — Garcia 11 pass from Contreras (Williams kick)