To say there was some animosity when John Beck left North Medford High's football program for Crater would be an understatement.

To say there was some animosity when John Beck left North Medford High's football program for Crater would be an understatement.

But, as Beck and North Medford coach Jeff Olson assure, that was then and this is now as the Comets prepare to invade Spiegelberg Stadium for a Friday night clash with the Black Tornado. Kickoff is 7 p.m.

"As far as we're concerned it's over," Beck says of any ill will generated when he and most of his staff moved to Crater three months after guiding the Black Tornado to a state runner-up finish in 2003.

"We're just looking at it as a great opportunity to play a very good football team with great tradition and an awesome football stadium," he adds.

Personal issues are out the door at North Medford, as well, where third-year head coach Olson says his team has a bigger picture in mind for Friday's tilt.

"I wasn't here (at North) and neither were the current kids here as players for anyone on that staff," says the coach who, like Beck, inherited a Tornado program from long-time leader Rod Rumrey. "I know a lot of people who were still working here when that whole thing went down, but I'm not playing up all that stuff.

"It's important to some people, and I don't mean to discredit it, but I need to focus on the goals we have and that's to come out of the preseason with confidence."

Beck spent six years at North Medford, the first three as defensive coordinator under Rumrey and the last three as head coach. He helped the Black Tornado finish runner-up in the state in 2000 as an assistant and in 2003 during his third and final year at the helm.

In two prior meetings since his move to Central Point, Beck's Comets have fallen short against the Black Tornado by an average score of 42-10. Both losses, however, came in Beck's first two seasons at Crater and the teams haven't played since reclassification in 2006 put North at the 6A level and Crater at 5A.

Overall, Crater's last triumph over North Medford came during a 25-12 showing in 1995.

Getting back to the ol' Southern Oregon Conference roots, however, proved important enough for each team to agree to Friday's meeting.

"Part of the issue we looked at in scheduling this game was I think it's a shame long-time rivals in the Rogue Valley aren't playing each other anymore," says Olson. "There's going to be a lot of interest in playing Crater and I think it's good to bring the rivalry back."

And with 6A and 5A lines becoming increasingly blurred as teams struggle to fill out their schedules, Beck says his emphasis in returning to Spiegelberg was to give his team another chance to build character as it faces a stiff challenge.

"It's not going to make or break our season and not going to make or break their season," says Beck. "But we want to play against the best kids and Jordan (Ellis) and Matt (Maurer) and Colin Sowers ... all those kids are great athletes. It's really going to be cool to get a chance to play those guys. We're looking forward to going over there and having a great challenge."

Each team enters the nonleague contest coming off a big win, with North Medford dominating McMinnville (35-0) and Crater upending a ballyhooed Jefferson squad (37-20) last Friday.

The Black Tornado played without Ellis for the bulk of that game after the senior starting quarterback dislocated his right kneecap following a sensational run. After North trainer Mike Stevenson applied pressure to pop the kneecap back into place, Ellis could've come back in to play but Olson opted to play it safe and let Maurer finish the second half on his own at QB.

Olson says Ellis was cleared to play earlier this week and practiced at full speed on Tuesday.

"He was running the option (Tuesday) and sprinting around the edge like he does and wasn't hesitant at all so he should be ready," says the coach.

Sparked by the quarterback rotation between Ellis and Maurer, the Black Tornado (2-1) is averaging about 344 yards of total offense thus far.

"I think both their quarterbacks are excellent," says Beck. "Jordan's really like a Michael Vick-type and can really do some damage, but Maurer can, too, and he's got a great arm. They both make good decisions with the football and are very dangerous. We're preparing like Jordan's going to play, but to us it doesn't matter because they're both talented and they're going to run the same stuff."

As is typically the case, the quarterback position will be in the spotlight all night as Crater (2-2) offers it's own version of a spread offense attack with senior Josh Lokeno at the helm. Lokeno is coming off one of his best games after completing 9 of 14 passes for 129 yards and three touchdowns against Jefferson.

"We've really started to get better offensively the last couple weeks, putting some pieces together," says Beck. "Josh Lokeno is being really efficient with the ball and really commanded the offense well last week."

The Comets also lean heavily on tailback Kenny Fahndrich, who has rumbled for 329 yards on 69 carries thus far and scored three TDs against the Democrats, and a host of receivers led by Darrio Mobley, Josh Dalton and Garell Staten.

"They've got the ability to be very explosive on offense with some very good skill kids," says Olson. "They're well-coached in all phases of the game and play hard."

After getting its running game on track last week with Sowers' 116-yard effort, Olson says his hope is that North will continue to expand that aspect of the offense to complement Ellis and Maurer.

"We did a much better job last week of spreading the ball around and getting the ball in the hands of our playmakers," says the coach. "We need to keep developing our running game because that adds another dimension to what we can do out there."

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