With two of the top quarterbacks in the Southwest Conference and a league-opening affair to boot, Friday’s matchup between fourth-ranked South Medford and Willamette stands to be a wild one at Spiegelberg Stadium.
That is, as long as the air conditions hold steady and the grand stadium actually gets to field a high school football game for the first time in three weeks.
“We are playing in Medford on Friday night,” said South Medford Athletic Director Tim Rupp, “but we do have a contingency plan in place to move the game to Eugene if the smoke is bad.”
That official call will come Friday morning after Medford’s Air Quality Index dipped back and forth between acceptable and unhealthy levels on Wednesday.
Until then, most signs point toward the fourth-ranked Panthers (1-1) finally getting a chance to play in front of their home crowd for the first time and they couldn’t be more excited about that opportunity.
“It’s our first home game and anytime you play your first home game you want to go out and show your best,” said South Medford head coach Bill Singler. “We haven’t been here all year and we want to show well, plus it’s our first league game so that’s another incentive.”
Fans should expect plenty of fireworks given the level of playmakers on each sideline, led by South Medford senior quarterback Robbie Patterson and Willamette senior QB Taylor Bridge-Eiler. Patterson (32-for-50, 410 yards, five TDs) and Bridge-Eiler (32-for-63, 568 yards, four TDs) rank as two of the top quarterbacks in the Southwest Conference, and each has the weapons to move down the field in chunks of yards.
“They have playmakers,” said Singler. “They’ve got a good quarterback and kids that can catch it so that does concern me because they can make plays in space. We’ve got our work cut out for us.”
Junior Tanner Branson leads the SWC in receiving through two weeks with 201 yards and three touchdowns on 12 catches, while 6-foot-3 senior Bryce Goggin is averaging 34 yards per catch and seniors Griffin LaVassaur and Kalvyn Young and junior Tanner Webb are prominent targets for Willamette (1-1).
Webb is also the Wolverines’ leading rusher with 163 yards on 27 carries, but sophomore Tanner Adams is another intriguing talent for head coach Josh Wolfram, whose team is coming off an impressive win over Class 5A Thurston after a tough loss to Churchill.
“Last year I thought we got off to a good start and we kind of overwhelmed them,” said Singler, “but they should feel pretty good about themselves coming off a good win and with a lot of kids that have been playing for three years.”
“I think they feel they’re going to catch us coming off a tough West Linn game and it’s a good time to play us,” added Singler. “Hopefully that’s not the case but you just never know.”
South Medford stood toe-to-toe with top-ranked West Linn last week before falling behind midway through the fourth quarter in a tough 21-14 contest. The Panthers will look to build off that strong showing, with running back Jaylin Parnell helping set the tone at running back and linebacker.
South Medford was able to get a good push up front with its defensive line and linebackers to slow the Lions’ ground game but a few mix-ups in the secondary ultimately proved costly. This week, the Panthers have worked diligently to clean all that up and expect to be back in the same position that helped them hold Wilsonville scoreless until the final minute in Week 1.
Willamette is averaging 56 more total yards per game than South Medford on offense at 377.5, but the Panthers’ defense has been much more effective in limiting two potent attacks to an average of 280 yards per game compared to the Wolverines’ 428 yards allowed.
Reach reporter Kris Henry at 541-776-4488, firstname.lastname@example.org, www.facebook.com/krishenryMT or www.twitter.com/Kris_Henry