Knowing something's coming and being able to stop it are two entirely different things.

Knowing something's coming and being able to stop it are two entirely different things.

North Medford knew it needed to keep tabs on Lincoln speedster Jordan Polk and try to deny him the football as much as possible Friday night.

Trouble is, that's easier said than done.

Polk victimized the Black Tornado for the third straight season, hauling in three touchdown passes as Lincoln gradually pulled away for a 34-21 nonconference victory at Spiegelberg Stadium.

The 5-foot-10, 175-pound track standout finished with seven receptions for 219 yards thanks to scoring strikes of 57, 83 and 48 yards from Jayson Hobby.

"Polk's a great athlete," said North Medford senior Almeir Barlow. "Once he gets an open field, it's tough to run him down."

The Black Tornado (1-3) had hoped to thwart Polk's effectiveness by applying pressure on Hobby, who was making only his second start. But the senior held his own and the Cardinals made some good adjustments to put the onus back on North Medford.

"We knew there were some areas in their defense we could exploit," said Polk, who had three TDs against North two years ago and another key score last year in wins over the Tornado. "Me and Jayson have been working hard to get things right, and we just took advantage of what they gave us."

A sluggish start by North Medford allowed Lincoln to gain early momentum, with the Cardinals (2-2) striking first on a 50-yard fumble return by Reni Diaz with 5:18 to go in the first quarter.

The Black Tornado put forth a 14-play drive in hopes of answering that score but turned the ball over on downs at the Lincoln 29.

Three plays later, Polk was in the end zone hugging teammates following his first reception of the night. The senior hauled in a simple swing pass to the left, juked once and then cut upfield to split the North defense for a 57-yard score.

But as much as the big play should've ignited Lincoln, which went up 14-0, it served to inspire the Tornado a little more.

North responded with a score of its own in only seven plays, highlighted by a 50-yard catch and run by Barlow, who tucked in nicely behind a block from Jason Weisz for the big gain. Tornado quarterback Skyler Mlasko punctuated the drive with a 3-yard scoring run up the middle.

North's defense stiffened to force a punt by Lincoln, one of only two all night, and the Tornado once again rolled upfield thanks to a 25-yard strike on a slant from Mlasko to Jordan Ellis. With 3:39 to go in the first half, Andrew Jones pulled his team even with a nifty 8-yard scoring run.

That score held up until midway through the third quarter, when a punt return by Polk put his team in North territory. Hobby found Polk for 12 yards on a third-down play, then hooked up with DeAndre Taylor for a 33-yarder to put Lincoln at the North 2. Hobby outraced the Tornado defense from there to the right corner of the end zone for a 21-14 lead.

The next series typified the night for North Medford, with the Black Tornado appearing to have a big play set up on a screen to Quinton Walker on third-and-10, only to have Lincoln's Charles Holmes dive and swat at Walker's back foot to trip him up after 7 yards. The only thing else between Walker and the end zone were teammates Weisz and Jesse Munday.

After being forced to punt, North was dealt another blow by Polk when he hauled in a Hobby pass in stride and outran Ellis and Matt Maurer to the end zone for an 83-yard score. Mark Dickison blocked the extra-point attempt by Aaron Holtz, but the main damage had already been done.

North went three-and-out on its next two series, and the Cardinals went up 34-14 on another three-play drive by Lincoln that culminated in a Polk score, this time from 48 yards out.

The Tornado tacked on a 48-yard score of its own seconds later, with Barlow splitting the Lincoln defense in Polk-esque fashion to make it 34-21 with 6:16 to play.

"I couldn't let him have all the fun," said North's track star, who finished with five catches for 117 yards. "I had to have a little show of speed, too."

The Tornado finally caught a break on the ensuing kickoff, with Alex Russell's pooch kick falling in front of Lincoln's Aaron Macoubray, who slipped while planting his foot to field the football. Richard Treiber, who had a solid game at linebacker for North, dived in and took the ball away from Macoubray to give his team possession.

The excitement of a potential comeback was squashed moments later, however, as North failed to gain any ground and turned the ball over on downs. Lincoln then ran the clock out to preserve the victory.

"I have all the respect for this team," Polk said of the Tornado after the game. "They fight and fight and fight to the end. We knew we weren't just going to come in and roll over them, we knew they were going to come back. But we just tried to have fun and deal with the adversity and we made it out."

For North, it was a matter of barely missing out on a handful of plays that might have turned the tide.

"As poorly as we played, we had our chances," said North coach Jeff Olson.

"Those are plays we've got to make," he added. "If we want to compete with good teams like (Lincoln), we've got to make those plays."

Reach reporter Kris Henry at 776-4488, or e-mail khenry@mailtribune.com