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...
Unlike the University of Oregon football fans who visited Palo Alto, Calif., on Thursday, Ducks enthusiasts at Spiegelberg Stadium got the program's marching band and its electric offense on Friday.
A night after Stanford dominated a lackluster Oregon, North Medford lit off the big-play fireworks in a 49-27 victory over Reynolds in the first round of the Class 6A state playoffs.
In its first state game since 2010, the Black Tornado needed a quarter to warm up before erupting. After being held scoreless, it rattled off 21 points in the second quarter and 21 more in the third.
North's highlight reel had a bit of everything: Nick Janakes' tenacious running (the junior had 22 carries for 115 yards and three touchdowns), Troy Fowler's fearless heaves (the quarterback went 10-for-25 for 275 yards and four scores while playing with some pain), Eugene Ellis' one-armed 35-yard TD grab, Jared Evans' explosive 70-yard scoring sprint ... oh, and then there was the Oregon Marching Band.
Those Ducks paid a visit to Medford and performed on their way back home after witnessing the 26-20 college football defeat.
"We try to do a lot of different things on offense, so I think that keeps people entertained a little bit," North Medford head coach Mike Mitchell said.
The Black Tornado (9-1) will host Oregon City (9-1) in a second-round state playoff game next Friday. Oregon City beat McMinnville, 40-23, on Friday.
"I think they found out it's like all the other games you play," Mitchell said of his squad. "The playoff thing is cool, but bottom line is you just have to play like they did and stay solid. ... We are a good, solid team. We are young, but I think this team might have a chance to do some things this year."
Things weren't as fun for the Raiders (4-6), who saw a 13-7 lead in the second period disappear as North began to find its juice. Reynolds turned the ball over four times, including three in the first half.
"I don't know if it's the pressure or the long trip or what it is," Reynolds head coach Dustin Janz said. "It is just one of those things you have to fight through and it's the adversity you have to deal with in any football game. ... We didn't fix it quick enough. We could have done a better job adjusting quicker, but they did a great job and had a great game plan."
The Black Tornado's plan worked — eventually.
Janakes was fed early and often on North's game-tying drive, capping it with a 3-yard touchdown rush with 10:19 to go in the second quarter.
Kanyon Flynn's sinuous 21-yard touchdown run on the ensuing drive put the Raiders ahead, 13-7.
North answered, using a deep 29-yard pass from Fowler to Evans to set up Janakes' 5-yard TD burst.
The Black Tornado would never trail again.
Edmund Polataivao intercepted a Josh Schleining pass on the next drive, setting the stage for Ellis' circus-act 35-yard touchdown reception. The bomb came from Fowler, who suffered an upper-body injury in the first half but did not miss a play.
Janakes had 11 carries for 56 yards and two touchdowns at intermission, when North held a 21-13 advantage.
"I really wanted to prove a point today," said Janakes. "I haven't been giving it what I thought I've been giving it this whole season and my coach told me, 'Today I need you'. When Troy got dinged up he said, 'I really need you'. A couple hits here, a couple hits there, a stiff arm there, the line makes a good block here, I make a cut there, and I bust one, and it just feels good. When I am down on the goal line and I am going in untouched, it feels pretty nice."
The first play of the second half was a backbreaker: Fowler to Evans on a screen pass for 70 yards.
"That was pretty key," Fowler said. "The team didn't know how I was doing, I didn't know how I was gonna be. It was actually a run play and I checked (and called an) audible and then (he) took it to the house. That was good."
A fumble on Reynolds' next drive led to Fowler's 16-yard TD pass to Tristen Holmes, who had North's other interception.
Evans finished with three catches for 114 yards and Will Spence added a 71-yard touchdown catch at the end of the game.
All in all, Mitchell said, it was a good day.
"We should have gotten out of the blocks a little better early, but 49, we're happy with that," he said.