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Eagles, Comets vie for playoff edge

Two old high school football rivals will square off Friday night in a game with major Class 4A state playoff implications possibly hanging in the balance.

It will be the Crater Comets (1-3) against the Eagle Point Eagles (1-2) at Crater.

While their overall records are less-than-impressive, the Eagles and Comets both take 1-1 Southern Oregon Conference records into the 7:30 p.m. game. The winner will move to 2-1 and have a leg up in contending for one of four state playoff berths out of the SOC.

We're playing Eagle Point, so there won't be a problem getting our kids ready to play emotionally, says Crater coach Randy Heath. We're doing some good things, and this is an opportunity for us to show it.

I'm not as unhappy as some people might be with our 1-3 record. We've had some good practices this week, and we played pretty well last week. The seniors are standing up to be leaders on this team when we need it. I like that.

The Comets fell to Sheldon of Eugene, 28-14, last Friday in a non-league game. But Heath says the final score wasn't indicative of how competitive the game became thanks to a second-half surge.

We had our chances to get back in it after trailing 21-0 in the first half, says Heath. I thought we played our best half of football so far this year in the second half.

Heath praised the play of quarterback P.J. Price and fullback-linebacker Tanner Hillyer against Sheldon.

I'm happy with the way P.J. executed and threw the ball in the second half and Tanner was all over the field, says Heath. We're a better football team than some people think.

In other games Friday night, North Medford (3-0) meets Eureka, Calif. (3-0) in a non-league game at Spiegelberg Stadium; South Medford (0-3) travels to meet South Eugene (1-2) at 6:15 p.m. at Autzen Stadium; Ashland (0-3) will go after its first SOC win at Klamath Union (0-3); and Grants Pass (3-0) is at Roseburg (3-1).

All games besides the South Medford-South Eugene tilt are scheduled for 7:30 p.m.

North Medford coach Rod Rumrey says his team needs to execute better as it goes after its fourth straight win against Eureka.

Looking at them on film, I think Eureka could be a playoff contender in this league, says Rumrey. They have good size and some good athletes. We will need to play better to have a chance to win.

Eureka will offer North's defense a stern test with its fly offense, which puts receivers and backs in motion and specializes in misdirection running plays and reverses.

The Loggers also like to throw with quarterback Ben Larson looking for speedy outside receiver Mo Charlo as much as possible.

South Medford will be looking for its first win after losses to Crater, Eagle Point and North Medford. South coach Bill Singer says the Panthers are showing signs of improvement.

We're not finishing a lot of drives, but at least we're moving the ball, says Singler. We're getting better offensively.

Junior quarterback John McKay is completing over 50 percent of his passes, and continues to become more comfortable in his second year at the helm.

South Eugene is coming off a 74-0 loss to Churchill last Friday night.

South Eugene is a lot like us, said Singler. They are struggling to find them selves.

Eagle Point coach Mike Johnston says mistakes could be the determining factor in Friday's game at Crater.

We have to eliminate our own mistakes to put ourselves in position to win, says Johnston. We're going to have to be ready to play a physical defensive game because Crater will come right at us with two strong running backs (Scott Toney and Hillyer) and a good offensive line.

Eagle Point counters the Crater running game with senior tailback Evan Pogue, who has rushed for 270 yards in three games.

ASHLAND at KLAMATH UNION

_ Ashland coach Jim Nagel, who is also the school's athletic director, didn't do himself any favors as a coach when he scheduled the Grizz to meet Roseburg, top-ranked Marshfield and Grants Pass during the first three weeks of the season.

The results: Three straight losses for the defending state champions. But with senior quarterback Zach Hassel on the mend quickly after suffering a broken ankle three weeks ago in the Grizzlies' non-counting opener against the touring Japanese all-stars, Ashland would like to run the table with six straight to get ready for the state playoffs.

That would be nice, says Nagel. We've had a rash of injuries, especially ankle injuries. But we're getting healthy.

Nagel says Hassel won't play against Klamath Union, but is expected back next week when the Grizzlies meet South Medford.

Sophomore Mike Allen will make this third straight start at quarterback for the Grizzlies against Klamath Union.

He continues to do things better, says Nagel. He hasn't had much of a chance to build his confidence, but he's coming along each week. He's going to be a very good quarterback.