With the spotlight at its brightest, South Medford’s playmakers were at their best in the 32nd annual Black and Blue Game against North Medford Friday night at Spiegelberg Stadium.
Playing in front of a nearly packed house with coaches from the University of Oregon and California-Berkeley on hand to check on four-star recruit Chase Cota, the Panthers’ senior receiver was at his best to help his team roll to a 55-6 triumph.
Cota broke one Black and Blue record and tied another in amassing four touchdowns and 177 yards receiving on eight catches — just one off the series high mark.
“We knew a bunch of college coaches were coming so (Panthers head coach Bill Singler) was like, ‘Hey, we’re going to throw the rock so I was like OK, sweet,’” said the 6-foot-4, 200-pound Cota. “I just tried to make the most of my touches, and our offensive line played really good to give all of us a chance tonight.”
Cota’s yardage total surpassed the record of 167 set by South Medford’s Mitch Singler in 2007, and his four TDs equaled that of North Medford’s Kerry Curtis (1993) and South Medford’s Andres Reed (2001). He scored on TD passes from fellow senior Robbie Patterson of 43, 18, 5 and 71 yards — two in each half.
“Willie Taggart came to this game and Mike Johnson was here,” said North Medford head coach Mike Mitchell of Oregon’s head coach and receivers coach, respectively, “and by god Chase Cota, when you get the platform you’ve got to produce, and I give him all the credit in the world, he had a huge game. That’s what you have to do when somebody like that is here and I thought it was a very admirable job on his part.”
California receivers coach Nicholas Edwards was also on the sidelines for the Southwest Conference clash, with the Ducks set to host the Golden Bears at 7:30 tonight at Autzen Stadium.
“Sometimes the game comes to you and it did tonight for Chase,” said Singler, whose team has now won two straight and eight of the last 11 games in the crosstown classic. “I’m really proud of him and our football team. We really emphasized getting off to a good start and I thought we did that.”
Cota was far from the only player to earn a spot in history in the rivalry, with Patterson’s five TD passes equaling the record set by South Medford’s Boomer Marshall in 2002 and Panthers senior Jaalen Owens sharing the record for most interceptions in the game with five others after picking off two inside the red zone.
Patterson finished 13-for-15 passing for 235 yards and no interceptions, with his final 4-yard TD pass going to senior tailback Jaylin Parnell with 11 minutes to play and putting in motion a running clock with fifth-ranked South Medford up 48-0. Parnell also rushed 14 times for 99 yards and TDs of 9 and 5 yards and caught three passes for 49 yards.
“That’s the bottom line, in big games big players make big plays,” said Singler. “It was nice to see that. Robbie handled the offense terrifically and I just love the way our team competed tonight.”
Unfortunately for North Medford senior quarterback Josh Robbins, he found himself also in the record book with four interceptions overall to tie South’s John McKay (1998) and North’s Zach Tanner (2011). Besides Owens, seniors Jaylin Parnell and Peyton Shipley also had interceptions on Friday as Robbins completed 17 of 28 passes for 200 yards and one TD.
“At times they moved the ball but we really held our ground in the red zone,” said Singler. “We seemed to come up with timely interceptions and took the wind out of their sales and kept the momentum for us going forward.”
South Medford’s opening drive was capped by a beautiful soaring pass from Patterson that saw Cota shield his defender with his body to haul in the 43-yard effort. The Panthers (4-1, 2-0 SWC) quickly got the ball back after Parnell stepped in front of a Robbins pass on a rollout to the left side, and on the next play Parnell went into the end zone from 9 yards out for a 14-0 lead with only 5 minutes off the clock.
The Black Tornado (1-4, 1-2) caught a break when the Panthers appeared destined to tack on another TD when it was ruled that Terrence Butler fumbled on the edge of the goal line and Vicente Borja gobbled it up for a turnover.
North Medford seemed to settle in from there and found success when Robbins dialed up passes to junior Eli Spence, who had three catches for 75 yards in the first half. It was a 42-yard connection between the two that put the Tornado in its first position to score, but Owens’ interception at the goal line on a fourth-down try to Spence kept that from happening.
On the ensuing drive, Cota sliced through the secondary for an 18-yard TD reception to make it 21-0 with 16 seconds left in the half.
“I was sitting there with about a minute to go and thinking the way we’re playing we’re damn lucky to be 14-0,” said Mitchell. “I thought we were going to have a chance to really make a game of it but we gave up that last one before the half.”
A fumble recovery by South senior linebacker Evan Dallas halted North’s opening drive of the second half near midfield, and soon after Cota leaped high in the corner of the end zone for a 5-yard score to make it 28-0.
One minute later, Shipley followed Robbins’ eyes downfield and stepped in front of a long pass for his interception, which he returned 60 yards to the Tornado 5-yard line. Parnell scored on the next play.
“We’re not good enough to make the mistakes we make,” said Mitchell. “I think South played very well tonight, I give them full credit, that’s as good as I’ve seen them play. But I’m disappointed how we played tonight. We’re taking ourselves out of things and giving people too many chances.”
After another interception by Owens late in the third quarter, Patterson quickly wheeled a screen pass to Cota and the Panthers star did the rest with one stiff arm and a mad dash to paydirt for his 71-yard score.
“He’s a big-time player and he’s going to make big-time plays for us,” said Patterson of Cota, “so it was nice having him out there healthy and being able to go up and get the ball. It makes it easier for all the other guys, too.”
North finally snapped its scoreless drought when Spence hauled in an 8-yard TD pass from Robbins with 5:35 to play. Spence finished with eight catches — also one shy of the series record — for 131 yards.
“We tried our hardest, it was just a tough game,” said Spence.
The good vibes on the Tornado sideline were short-lived, however, as Butler raced 75 yards for the final tally on the Panthers’ next play from scrimmage.
Reach reporter Kris Henry at 541-776-4488, email@example.com, www.facebook.com/krishenryMT or www.twitter.com/Kris_Henry