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...
As far as days go, Friday really couldn't have gone much better for South Medford's Josh Baugh.
Then again, there were a lot of Panthers who could have laid claim to that status after South Medford stunned previously unbeaten and sixth-ranked Roseburg, 30-21, at Spiegelberg Stadium.
But, heck, none of them are "The King."
The 6-foot-2 senior receiver was crowned South Medford's homecoming king in a school ceremony earlier in the day, then went out and made play after play to single-handedly drive the aerial attack on this night.
Baugh caught six passes from quarterback Craig Contreras for 118 yards, including an 8-yard touchdown to put the Panthers ahead for good in the third quarter of the Southwest Conference clash.
"It was a really good day, a really good day," Baugh said with a broad smile during the postgame celebration. "It was hard to focus at times but it was fun."
Fun is something the Panthers (2-4, 2-2 SWC) haven't been able to have much of once the final horn has sounded this season. South Medford lost its first three games after allowing fourth-quarter comebacks in each, and the team has been plagued by numerous key injuries since the first quarter of Game 1.
But with seniors Christian Bowley and Tristian Lallo back in the fold after missing almost the entire season, the Panthers seemed to have a different look against Roseburg (5-1, 3-1).
Even when the Indians put forth an impressive ground-only opening drive that spanned 79 yards, capped on a 7-yard keeper by quarterback Cody Walker, South Medford had the look of a team that meant business on this night.
Bowley's first carry since Aug. 31 resulted in an 8-yard gain, and then he continued to stretch his legs until Contreras twice connected with Baugh to negate a second-and-17 situation. With the ball at midfield, Bowley took a handoff up the middle, darted through a hole on his left and didn't stop running until he reached pay dirt.
"That was a great feeling," Bowley said of the 50-yard touchdown run. "My linemen opened up a perfect hole and there was nothing in front of me right when I came out into the open. You can't ask for anything better than that."
The 5-7 spark plug's effort energized South Medford's players and fans, and he didn't stop there. Bowley finished with 162 yards on 26 carries to help the Panthers outgain the run-first Indians on the ground, 226-211.
"I'm really proud of Christian," said South Medford head coach Bill Singler. "He's just been chomping at the bit to get back. I know it's been tearing at his gut to sit on the sideline but to see him have success and see him jump-start us with that big run was fantastic. This team has needed a spark and he really got us going."
Fellow senior Anthony Gomez also pounded away at Roseburg for 63 yards on 13 carries, with Contreras making his lone carry count on a 1-yard dive that put the Panthers ahead 14-7 midway through the second quarter.
Helping carve out that high-value real estate was a South Medford offensive line led by Cesar Cabrera that included Will Cooney, Jahan Kahusi, Nick Airrington and Mitchell Narlock and tight end Jacob Ridgeway.
"They were physical and they were able to run the ball, they did a good job," said Roseburg head coach Thurman Bell, whose team had gone 5-1 at Spiegelberg dating back to 2003. "Their backs Bowley and Gomez did a good job running."
Singler said his squad was well-versed on what they were going to face on Friday, with the teams having split the past 12 meetings, and it was a credit to them what they were able to accomplish.
"We knew it was a big challenge because we've had great games against these guys," said the coach. "We respect the heck out of them but it's not like we haven't been able to play with Roseburg. They're a well-coached team and they bring physicality, and I challenged our kids in that department on both sides of the ball."
"It sure helped having Lallo back because it gives us a little more physical presence in defending the run," added Singler, "and Bo Breeze has been playing well at linebacker and he made some big plays tonight."
After Roseburg tied the game at 14-all with 52.5 seconds to go in the first half on a 21-yard pass from Cody Walker to Ryan Carhart, the Panther defense rose to the occasion when the Indians marched down to the 10-yard line on their first drive of the second half.
On first down, Cabrera denied a quarterback keeper by Walker, who threw incomplete on second down. Breeze came crashing through on third down to disrupt a run by Levi Holden — the SWC's leading rusher who was held to 81 yards on 15 carries — that was cleaned up for a 3-yard loss by Makai Manuwai. On fourth down, cornerback C.J. Daniels stepped in front of a pass toward Carhart to force a turnover on downs.
Overall, Roseburg managed 342 yards — compared to 344 by South — but only one of its four second-half drives resulted in points for the Indians.
"We just had trouble getting things going," said Bell. "We didn't make plays when we had to. But credit them, they did a great job. They came after us and they played well."
A 59-yard completion to Baugh put his team in scoring position late in the third quarter, and his 8-yard TD allowed South Medford to go up 20-14 after the point-after kick was blocked.
A key quarterback sack by Breeze slowed Roseburg's ensuing possession, and then the Panthers pounded away with Bowley and Gomez almost exclusively before settling for a 21-yard field goal by Riley Williams with 6:11 to play. Sam Beamish-White helped his team avoid disaster on the 75-yard drive with a great grab on a high snap to set up Williams' kick.
Roseburg marched 80 yards to answer with a 2-yard plunge by River Sigrest to pull within 23-21. The Indians then forced a punt by Contreras, who earlier had a 64-yard effort, but were victimized when Holden backed off a fair catch attempt at the last second and was helpless to avoid the football. The ball glanced off Holden and was then caught in midair by Daniels at the 10.
Gomez went over two plays later for a 5-yard score that sealed the victory with 1:05 to play.
"We went into this game knowing that if we win, this is our new beginning and the season starts now," said Baugh. "I think we accomplished what we wanted tonight and it's a new road ahead."
Reach reporter Kris Henry at 541-776-4488, firstname.lastname@example.org, www.facebook.com/krishenryMT or www.twitter.com/Kris_Henry