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North Medford turns back stubborn Cavemen, 2-1

North Medford's Paul Thieleman (left), Joel Sunderland and Jacob Wallinrace Grants Pass' Aaron Grove for the ball Tuesday at District Field.

North Medford High's boys soccer team struggled offensively for mostof the first half of its Southern Oregon Conference opener against GrantsPass on Tuesday.

We were flat, and I'm not sure the kids realized how good GrantsPass is, said North Medford coach Rich Garcia. We were in troublefor a while.

The Black Tornado spotted the Cavemen an early 1-0 lead before respondingto Garcia's sideline lectures, appealing for more intensity from its players,by scoring twice in the final 48 minutes for a 2-1 win at District Field.

It's been a pattern for us to have problems early on offense, butour defense usually keeps us in it, said Garcia. We aren't afinesse team. We are a physical team that goes out after people.

The Black Tornado showed those qualities over the final 50 minutes, scoringtwo transition goals started by swarming defense.

Junior midfielder Jacob Wallin, a transfer from Crater High, sliced ina shot from 30 yards out after taking a pass from Geoff Hunker with 33:24left in the game to give the Black Tornado its margin of victory.

It's nice to help my new team win, said Wallin. Wehave great talent, and I'm glad I can help.

I took the pass from Geoff (Hunker) and kind of flicked it offthe side of my foot and away from the defender, said Wallin. Fortunately,(the ball) went in the (right) corner of the net.

North Medford tied the game at 1-1 with 8:45 left in the first half whenJeff Zimmer took a lob pass from Chris Endrikat and slammed in a shot from10 yards out to the left of the goal.

It was a set play, said Garcia. Endrikat was about30 yards out and put the ball up in the air toward the post. Zimmer is abasketball player, and he has some hops (jumping ability). He kicked a nicehalf-volley into the net.

North Medford goalkeeper Cameron Purcell stopped two shots in the finalsix minutes to deny Grants Pass' attempts to tie the game. His final stopwas a leaping effort to tip away a ball headed for the top of the goal.

They didn't get a lot of shots on me, but both of those last twowould have gone in, said Purcell. Any win is good, but we didn'tplay real well. The difference was that we played good defense.

Grants Pass is a good team, and they played hard, said Purcell.It wasn't as easy as some or our players thought it might be.

North Medford improved its season record to 2-1-1. We played threetough teams in the preseason, said Garcia. We beat Corvallis(3-1) and tied Mountain View (0-0) after losing to South Eugene (1-0),said Garcia. Those are all tough teams.

I think the kids came out and didn't think Grants Pass would beas good as those teams. I was worried because I think Grants Pass is oneof the top four teams in the league.

I wasn't that happy with how we played in the first half,said Garcia. But they battled back and played good defense most ofthe game. It shows the kid have heart and they don't give up.

But we need to work on some of our basic skills, like one-touchpasses and other fundamental types of things, said Garcia.

Grants Pass scored its goal with 25 minutes left in the first half whenJoey Lute took a pass from Francisco Miranda, eluded a North defender andkicked a 30-yard shot past Purcell for a goal.

It was a heads-up play, said Garcia. He got past oursweeper in the center and then beat Purcell to score.

Grants Pass coach Scott Gottula said the Cavemen had chances to build2-0 and 3-0 leads in the first half.

When you are playing one of the best teams in the state, you haveto take advantage of your chances to take a good lead, said Gottula.Sooner or later, we are going to learn that we have to take thosechances and put the ball in the net to win.

Overall, I thought we played fairly well, said Gottula. Bothteams were kind of flat, but picked it up. We were just kind of dead early,and so were they.

North Medford meets Catlin Gabel of Portland -- a winner of eight stateClass 3A-2A state championships -- at 4:30 p.m. Friday at Fichtner-MainwaringPark off of Stewart Avenue.

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North Medford turns back stubborn Cavemen, 2-1