SPRINGFIELD — The last thing North Medford thought it would need after opening a three-touchdown lead in the second half was late-game heroics against Thurston in Southwest Conference football Friday.
But after the host Colts scored 22 unanswered points to tie it with just over two minutes left, that's precisely what the ninth-ranked Black Tornado needed.
Quarterback Troy Fowler's third rushing touchdown with 13 seconds left lifted North to a 38-32 triumph and moved it into sole possession of first place.
The Tornado, which won only two games the previous two seasons, is 4-0 in the SWC and 5-1 overall.
"We're happy with any win," said North coach Mike Mitchell. "We kind of let them back in the game, and we're not particularly happy about that, but we came through in the end. Troy made a great play."
Fowler rolled to his right and, unable to find a receiver, bolted for the corner of the end zone. He dove past a Colts defender to get the final yards.
The scoring drive was kept alive when, on a third-and-12 play, Thurston was called for pass interference on a heave by Fowler to Nick Janakes at the goal line.
Fowler also had rushing touchdowns of 1 and 9 yards and threw two scoring strikes.
A pair of quick-strike scores sandwiching halftime gave North Medford a 32-10 lead. Tristen Holmes hauled in a 32-yard TD pass from Fowler with four seconds left in the first half, and Micah Brown intercepted a pass on Thurston's fourth play of the second half and returned it 67 yards for a score.
But the Colts (1-5, 1-3 SWC) chiseled away at the lead, getting the tying touchdown with 2:13 to play on a 24-yard screen pass from Brendin Quinn to Robert Connor and a two-point run by Quinn. Quinn and Connor connected three times for scores.
A goal line stand by the Black Tornado early in the fourth stopped some of the Colts' momentum.
Fowler was 16 of 32 passing with two interceptions for 261 yards. He also carried eight times for 70 yards.
Janakes ran for 68 yards and had five catches for 40 yards. Jared Evans caught three passes for 95 yards, including a 53-yard TD, and Holmes six for 78.
Roy Jackson had 179 yards on 25 carries and a 6-yard TD for Thurston.
North Medford has SWC games remaining against South Eugene, South Medford and Roseburg. All are at their home Spiegelberg Stadium.
"This opens the door for us," said Mitchell. "We get to play three weeks in a row at home and don't play away again until playoff time. We need to get serious and get after these guys one at a time and maybe have a pretty good finish."
SHELDON 45, CRATER 24 — At Central Point, winless Crater trailed No. 7 Sheldon 21-17 late in the second quarter but 21 unanswered points by the Irish did in the Comets.
Crater senior quarterback Ty Fox passed for two touchdowns and 307 yards.
Fox capped a seven-play, 80-yard drive with a 3-yard TD run to pull the Comets (0-6, 0-4 SWC) to within four points about midway in the second quarter.
But Sheldon (4-2, 3-1) responded latter in the period when quarterback Joseph Kuehn completed a 42-yard, six-play scoring march on a 1-yard run with 28 seconds left before halftime.
The Irish took command of the game on Kellen Strahm's 59-yard touchdown on a punt return and Ben Planck's 20-yard TD run in the third quarter.
Crater receiver Dallin George caught 11 passes for 92 yards and Kory Bennett had seven receptions for 104 yards to pace the Comet aerial attack.
GRANTS PASS 31, SOUTH EUGENE 14 — At Eugene, Javan Appling passed for 207 yards and ran for two short touchdowns as Grants Pass used a balanced attack to register its third straight conference victory.
The Cavemen (4-2, 3-1 SWC) gained 231 yards through the air and rushed for 183 more.
Appling scored the first two touchdowns for Grants Pass on short runs. The junior quarterback completed 18 of 23 passes.
The Grants Pass receiving corps was led by Hayden Chandler, who caught four passes for 56 yards. Zac Hannan, a junior running back, had 99 yards on 11 carries and one touchdown to pace the Caveman ground attack.
South Eugene (2-4, 0-4) was limited to 142 yards passing and 111 on the ground.
Grants Pass 7 14 7 3 — 31
South Eugene 0 0 7 7 — 14
GP — Appling 1 run (Dinkins kick)
GP — Appling 1 run (Dinkins kick)
GP — Hannan 1 run (Dinkins kick)
SE — Inocencio 26 pass from Roundtree (Kollmorgan kick)
GP — Dean 4 run (Dinkins kick)
GP — FG Dinkins 22
SE — Cota 7 run (Kollmorgan kick)
ASHLAND 56, NORTH EUGENE 6 — At Eugene, Danial White ran the ball only twice in the game and scored on both carries and the senior quarterback passed for another touchdown to spark No. 3 Ashland to a 49-0 halftime lead against the winless host.
White began the rout by going 31 yards for a touchdown on the second play of the game.
The Grizzlies (6-0, 4-0 MWL) also got first-quarter touchdowns runs from Shashi Penn and Mason Montgomery, and Mason Dow scored on a 26-yard pass from White.
Ashland totaled 529 yards in offense, with 367 coming on the ground. Dow led the rushing attack with 130 yards on 10 carries. White was 10 of 12 passing for 126 yards.
The Grizzly defense limited North Eugene (0-7, 0-3) to 123 yards rushing and 73 passing.
EAGLE POINT 14, MARIST 13 — At Eagle Point, Eagle Point quarterback Jorge Quintero and an unusual series of penalties late in the fourth quarter helped the Eagles break their winless Midwestern League streak against defending champion Marist.
After Marist capped a long drive on Korey Thompson-Falconer's 2-yard touchdown run to cut the Eagles' advantage to 14-13 with about two minutes to play, the Spartans (3-3, 1-2 MWL) committed an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty that backed up their ensuing extra-point attempt 15 yards.
But on Marist's potential game-tying kick, the Eagles (3-3, 2-2) gave the yardage right back with a roughing the kicker penalty. However, the Spartans' starting kicker was injured on the play and was unable to return for a second kick attempt.
Marist's backup kicker pushed the kick wide left and the Eagles took over nursing a one-point lead.
As the Eagles tried to drain the clock, Marist squandered a potential opportunity to get the ball back when it committed a facemask penalty on a third-and-6 play with about 40 seconds remaining.
Quintero was 11 of 14 passing for 144 yards and threw two touchdowns — the first was a 21-yard strike to Carlos Flores to put the Eagles on the scoreboard. Peyton Dole grabbed a wide-open TD pass in the fourth that gave the Eagles a 14-7 lead.
Flores had seven receptions for 85 yards.
Since coming to the Midwestern League, Marist held a 3-0 record and 149-19 scoring edge on the Eagles entering the game.