When you’re on a winning team, it’s easy to maintain your competitive spirit.
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Snapping a six-year losing streak, especially in convincing fashion, takes a host of special efforts, some of which aren't as noticeable as others.
North Medford's football team finally came up with an answer to South Medford's rivalry reign on Friday, thanks in large part to quarterback Troy Fowler and fellow junior Jared Evans.
Fowler was as on the mark as he's been in any game this season, completing 17 of 22 passes for 285 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions. Evans tied a Black and Blue Game record with his eight-catch outing, finishing with 149 yards and two TDs.
But there was another junior who came up just as big as his teammates, he just didn't have any numbers attached to his effort. Although a lack of statistics is precisely why Tristen Holmes was a difference-maker during last Friday's 42-14 win for the Black Tornado.
Matched up against South Medford's top receiving threat — 6-foot-2 senior Josh Baugh — at cornerback, Holmes held the Panther wideout without a single catch to disrupt South Medford's passing game. Baugh entered the game with 30 receptions for 466 yards — by far the most on his team — and Holmes was in his pocket so much that Baugh wound up with only three targets in the contest.
None of those attempts were close to completions, and Holmes was right there just in case.
"We knew he was one of their primary receivers and we had to take him away," said North Medford head coach Mike Mitchell, "and Tristen did a great job of that. He's been an outstanding corner for us all year."
North Medford's secondary has been hit or miss throughout the season but, other than three big plays for 118 yards by Mark Winans, the Panthers were unable to get much going downfield. South quarterback Craig Contreras was limited to 7-for-18 passing for 165 yards, two TDs to Winans and one interception.
Having his top option cloaked forced Contreras to pull the ball down on several occasions, leading to two sacks — including an 11-yard loss by Hunter Hermansen — and a handful of balls thrown away under duress.
Safety Micah Brown has also been instrumental in improved play for the Tornado secondary, with Josh Hansen, Eugene Ellis, Evans and Michael Jones also in the mix.
"We played with confidence," said Mitchell, whose team allowed 297 yards of offense by the Panthers. "I really liked our hitting and tackling and how we had really good defense for the evening."
JARED EVANS STEPPING up in such a big way for North Medford has been a long time coming.
The 6-foot-3, 190-pound standout entered the game as the Tornado's leading receiver with 27 catches for 471 yards and five scores, but he has been quiet lately and was appreciative of playing a larger role against South Medford.
"I've been waiting for that this whole season and so was Troy," Evans said of his breakout performance, "and we finally just clicked in the rivalry game against South."
"I've been waiting for him to break out like that," said the 6-foot junior. "You get him the ball and I think he's better than anyone out on the field, but we haven't really put him in the spotlight. Obviously this was a great game for us to put him in the spotlight, though, and hopefully we can just keep it going from here."
Friday's game was one in the Great American Rivalry Series, which selects 100 of the best rivalry games across the country to celebrate as the best examples of the uniquely American cultural phenomenon known as high school football. The series is in its 10th year, and a post-game trophy was awarded to North Medford along with an MVP award that was given to Evans.
TROY FOWLER BECAME the single-season record-holder for passing yards at North Medford Friday, surpassing the record held since 2003 by Kevin Foreman and closing in on another school record.
Foreman passed for 2,041 yards in 2003 and, with Friday's total, Fowler now has 2,044 yards. Fowler has completed 128 of 208 passes (61.5 percent) with only five interceptions against 22 touchdown passes.
"Troy's amazing," said Evans. "I've been playing with him for so long. He's accurate and he's fast and he knows his reads. Give him the ball and he throws it perfectly and you just have to make plays. He trusts us and goes his hardest all the time and you just have to love that."
With one regular season game to play and at least one playoff game for the Southwest Conference champions, Fowler is only two TD passes away from tying the single-season record of 24 set in 2000 by Beau Hovland.
"What's surprising about Troy is he's only a junior but he has just five picks and 22 touchdown passes, and that's a pretty good ratio," said Mitchell. "He's really matured and making good decisions."
CRATER'S FOOTBALL TEAM will be honored in a 4 p.m. ceremony today as the MaxPreps Oregon Team of the Week for the week of Oct. 6 by a member of the Oregon Army National Guard, who will present a certificate proclaiming the Comets' status prior to practice.
Senior quarterback Ty Fox will also be honored as MaxPreps Oregon Player of the Week for that week after he completed 26 of 45 passes for 392 yards and a career-high seven touchdowns with one interception. His touchdown throws against Thurston were for 26, 13, 19, 15, 35, 45 and 28 yards.
"I think it's really cool and good for Ty and for our team and school and community," said Crater head coach John Beck. "It's nice to get any type of positive publicity in any athletic activity these days so we really appreciate it. It's a neat award and I was really surprised to find out we'd be receiving it."
Crater's team is just one of 25 teams being honored in the state, with the award used to honor teams that excel in their teamwork, commitment and passion. The Comets are being recognized for their perseverance in overcoming adversity when, after starting the season 0-6, they decisively beat Thurston 63-34 on Oct. 11.
Crater followed that up with last week's win at South Eugene and will look to make it three straight wins when it plays host to South Medford on Friday at Dutch Meyer Field. It will be senior night and homecoming for the Comets.
Reach reporter Kris Henry at 541-776-4488, firstname.lastname@example.org, www.facebook.com/krishenryMT or www.twitter.com/Kris_Henry