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Do-it-all Halpin ignites North Medford

If you're going to start a high school football team in the near future, Ken Halpin might be the first guy you'll want to call.

Need a fullback? Halpin's the man.

Minus a tight end? Halpin's the man.

A little short at slotback, tailback or flanker? Halpin's the man.

The jack-of-all-trades junior is equally adaptable on defense. Just name the position and the 6-foot-1, 190-pounder either has or could play it.

He's an amazing athlete, North Medford coach Rod Rumrey says. I'm not sure there's anything on the football field that Kenny can't do.

Halpin has stuck to fullback, defensive back and outside linebacker most of this season, but his value to the Black Tornado has never been greater. He ranks eighth in the Southern Oregon Conference in rushing (422 yards), fourth in receiving (16 catches, 257 yards) and fifth in scoring (seven touchdowns, 44 points).

He's also the best blocker among the Tornado's skill-position players.

There've been some plays where I thought I was going to get hammered, says North Medford quarterback Nate Mayben, and then all of a sudden, the guy who was bearing down on me is on the ground. And Kenny's the one who put him there. It's really comforting knowing you have a guy like that to protect the 'ol quarterback. He's like my security blanket back there.

Fullbacks are normally big, strong guys who can knock over a fire hydrant and tear apart rocks with their bare hands. Halpin is no gnat, but he is not your prototypical fullback.

He's faster than most tailbacks (he ran a 40-yard dash in 4.6 seconds at a football camp last summer), as strong as many fullbacks (he can bench press 300 pounds) and his hands are as soft as Grandma's pillow.

Kenny has the ability to make an adjustment on the ball that a lot of receivers can't make, Mayben says. I've thrown him some passes I thought he'd never get to, but he raises those big hands of his and the ball just sticks to 'em.

Halpin had one of the top performances in North Medford history on Oct. 9 when he rushed for 214 yards (on just 14 carries), caught two passes for 33 yards and scored on touchdown runs of 51, 48 and 74 yards.

The three long touchdowns were the difference in a 28-20 win over Crater.

On one of those plays, it was fourth down-and-inches, and all I was really trying to do was gain a yard or two and get the first down, says Halpin, a mild-mannered young man who was born in San Diego and moved to Medford when he was in the fifth grade.

But our linemen blocked the play really well, and it was off to the races.

Halpin also showcased his speed on Sept. 24 against the quickest defense in the SOC -- Ashland. He caught a short pass in the right flat, raced around a Grizzly defensive back and motored 55 yards to pay dirt.

While Halpin enjoys running the ball and catching it, he realizes his No. — priority as a fullback is to block. Virtually every time North Medford tailback Steve DeClerck runs off tackle or up the middle, Halpin is ahead of him, leading the interference.

DeClerck is no slouch, either: His 589 yards rushing ranks him No. 4 in the SOC, and his 44 points equal what Halpin has scored.

You can't play fullback and not be a good blocker, at least not on our team, Halpin says. It's something I take pride in and work at, and it's a lot of fun when you can take a guy off his feet.

Rumrey likes to play Halpin only about 50 percent of the time on defense so he can stay fresh on offense, but due to a rash of injuries, Halpin has hardly left the field in the Tornado's last three games. He's found himself at outside linebacker, cornerback and safety.

I thought I'd get tired being in there on every snap, but I really haven't, says Halpin, who played five positions on offense last season. I just make sure to get a drink of water every chance I get.

Halpin's athleticism also extends to other sports. He was a starting outfielder on the Tornado baseball team last spring as a sophomore and -- big surprise -- played some catcher when needed.

He's also a more-than-capable basketball player who can defend a post as well as a point guard.

Rumrey would like to see Mr. Versatility put on a few pounds by next football season, although the rest of the coaches in the SOC may try to outlaw Halpin if his strength matches his speed and coordination.

It's kind of scary how good Kenny could become, Rumrey says.

He's putting some pretty fair fear into opponents right now.

Ken Halpin (24) has broken loose for seven touchdowns, including this one against Klamath Union. - Photo by Andy Atkinson