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South takes aim at first SOC win

When Bill Singler took the head football coaching position at South Medford High this fall, he knew he faced a rebuilding project that didn't even have the foundation in place.

One brick at a time, Singler and his new staff would fabricate success.

A realist, the former Medford High and Stanford University receiver understood that victories would arrive sparingly in 1998.

Friday night at 7:30 at Spiegelberg Stadium, Singler's Panthers, 0-6, finally head into a game as a slight favorite rather than a heavy underdog when they meet the Klamath Union Pelicans.

This team has gone through some hard knocks, Singler says, alluding not only to the Panthers' winless record but also to the final day of summer vacation when one of the squad's best players, Tyler Carlton, was killed in a car wreck. But we've hung in there, we've played hard every week and we've gotten a lot better.

It hasn't shown up in our win-loss record but we really have made progress. And now we have the opportunity to reward ourselves with a win.

Singler points to last week's game as an example of the Panthers' steadfastness. They may have suffered a 42-6 loss to Roseburg, but they held the Indians scoreless until the final minute of the first period, recovering a fumble to stymie one drive and intercepting a pass to rebuff another.

And while the South offense has labored all season long -- the Panthers have scored only 29 points in their six games -- they never lost the ball once against an intimidating Roseburg defense.

To be honest I was scared to death going up there, Singler says. That's a tough place to play and Roseburg always has those big, physical kids who can knock you around. They had 14 or 15 kids over 220 pounds and we had three -- so you get the idea.

Eventually they wore us down, but shoot, we hung in there and walked away in one piece.

In Klamath Union, the Panthers will meet a team that has been vulnerable on defense but explosive on offense.

The Pelicans feature tailback Danny King, the SOC's leading rusher (793 yards) and second-leading scorer (seven touchdowns, 46 points).

He's the real deal, he could play for anyone in this league, Singler says of King. He has good feet, good balance, and he's got the speed to take it the distance on any one play. Our defense has to contain that kid or we could be in trouble.

South's offense, meanwhile, hopes to get out of first gear. The Panthers are averaging just 175 yards per game and they've been under the 200-yard mark in every game except one.

Klamath Union's defense is allowing an SOC-worst 426 yards and 43.8 points per contest, so something will have to give Friday.

If we make our blocks and execute our plays I know we can move the ball against them, Singler says.

The Pelicans have lost five games in a row following a season-opening victory over Mazama. However, they did some good things in last week's 50-21 loss to No. 5-ranked Ashland, such as scoring the game's first touchdown when King hit L.J. Newsom on a halfback option pass for 60 yards.

I think our kids realize they're going to have to get the adrenalin flowing to win, Singler says.

South Medford's only triumph last season was a 12-10 squeaker over the Pelicans, enabling the Panthers to avoid their first winless season in school history.