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Weakened Tornado stares down Marshfield

The North Medford High football team is facing quite a challenge this week.

The Black Tornado travels to Coos Bay Friday night to take on No. 1-ranked and unbeaten Marshfield, but must do so without a good share of its best players.

Six North Medford players went to the hospital following last week's 28-6 loss to Grants Pass, and that was just the latest of an avalanche of injuries this season.

I've never seen anything like this in my 29 years as a football coach, North Medford coach Rod Rumrey says.

Wide receiver Jake Scheid, who suffered numbness in his extremities following a neck injury in the GP game, is likely out for the season, Rumrey says. Scheid has pretty much recovered but one of his vertebra was tweaked and his doctor is unlikely to allow him to suit up again this year, Rumrey says.

Guard Frank Silva (severe ankle sprain), running back Evan Gordon (ankle) and return specialist Mike Olson (bruised spleen) are also expected to be held out Friday, and several other players are questionable.

Despite the adversity, the Tornado is looking forward to playing Marshfield, which has won 42 straight regular-season games.

I'd rather play a team like them than a team that hasn't won a game, North Medford quarterback Nate Mayben says. Personally, I like this kind of challenge. It's going to be fun.

Rumrey has talked to his team about a 1995 state playoff matchup between the Tornado and the Pirates that ended in a 21-14 Marshfield victory. The Pirates went into that game unbeaten and ranked No. 1, just as they are now.

We were the No. 4 team out of our conference and I don't think too many people gave us a chance, Rumrey says. But we were in it right to the end.

To be competitive Friday, Rumrey says the Tornado must toughen up defensively and not get physically overwhelmed.

We have to get back to our physical way of attacking, he says.

Unlike the Tornado, Marshfield is getting back a couple of starters this week. Bruce Loose, a 6-4, 235-pound offensive lineman, returns after cracking a shoulder blade in summer workouts, and 6-3, 290-pound defensive lineman Jim Mayes is back after suffering a broken bone in his foot.

The Pirates, who laid a 50-12 licking on Willamette last week, feature a massive line, an athletic quarterback in 6-4, 190-pound Levi Westgaard and one of the best backs in the state in Travis Burgher. The 6-2, 195-pound Burgher has already scored 18 touchdowns in the Pirates' six games and has 661 yards rushing.

The versatile Burgher has lined up at fullback, tailback and flanker on offense and is also the Pirates' No. — defensive back. He has scored in every conceivable way: On the ground, through the air, on kickoffs, punts and interceptions.

He's a big-play guy who has the ability to make people miss, Marshfield coach Kent Wigle says.

In other games involving Southern Oregon Conference teams Friday, Roseburg (3-2, 3-2) journeys to Crater (3-3, 2-2) and Eagle Point (2-3, 2-4) travels to Grants Pass (3-1, 4-2).

Unbeaten and No. 5-ranked Ashland has a bye.

ROSEBURG AT CRATER -- Players on these teams better make sure their pads are in place and their chin straps buckled tightly in what could be the most physical game in the SOC this season.

Neither team makes any bones about what they want to do: Shove the ball down your throat with a punishing ground attack and mix in play-action passes.

Roseburg remains in the thick of the state playoff hunt while Crater is on the outside looking in.

We've said all along that we want to be in the same echelon as the Ashlands and the Roseburgs and now is our chance to see if we belong there, Crater coach Randy Heath says. Physically, I don't think they can overwhelm us, but our kids know they've got to be intense on every snap.

Heath was pleased with a Comet defense that held Eagle Point to 206 total yards last week.

That's the best our defense has played, says Heath, pointing in particular to cornerback P.J. Pardee, safety Mike Jacobs, outside linebacker Josh Payne and tackle Justin Hayes. Hayes intercepted a screen pass and recovered a fumble.

Crater tailback Brad Ralph has taken over the SOC scoring lead (9 touchdowns, 54 points) and ranks No. — in rushing (591 yards).

EAGLE POINT AT GRANTS PASS -- The Cavemen have come on like a bad cold, winning four straight following a pair of losses to open the season.

The turnaround can be mostly attributed to a revitalized defense that is allowing just 10.8 points per game, tops in the SOC.

But the Cavers are also getting good production from running back Chuck Martin and quarterback Cory Restved, who has moved up to No. 4 in the SOC in passing efficiency. Restved completed 6 of 9 passes for 106 yards and a touchdown in last week's 28-6 win over North Medford.