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North hopes to continue its SOC onslaught

North Medford High football coach Rod Rumrey had a feeling little would be decided in the Southern Oregon Conference until the final two games of the season.

And he was right.

The Black Tornado is unbeaten at 7-0 and ranked No. — in the state. It has crushed each of its opponents, averaging nearly 50 points per game while yielding only seven.

But losses to Grants Pass and Ashland in its final two games would likely plummet the Tornado all the way to the No. 4 state playoff berth and make for a rocky postseason road.

North Medford can clinch no worse than a tie for the conference championship — its first in 15 years — — with a victory over Grants Pass tonight.

Kickoff is at 7:30 p.m. at Mel Ingram Field.

We knew all along this would be the toughest part of our schedule, Rumrey says. The way we're looking at it, the playoffs start Friday night.

Grants Pass (5-2, 3-2 SOC) is coming off a dramatic, 14-13 non-league victory over Bend in which the Lava Bears missed a 19-yard field goal on the last play of the game.

The Cavemen can't match North Medford's vast array of offensive weapons, but they've got the No. 2 rusher and No. — scorer in the SOC in Brandon Hamada (672 yards, 13 touchdowns), along with the SOC's fastest player in wide receiver/defensive back Parker Lane, the district's reigning 100- and 200-meter champion in track.

Hamada, however, suffered a mild concussion against Bend and is questionable for tonight's game.

He hasn't had any contact all week, Grants Pass coach Jeff Weiss says. Obviously, Brandon's a huge part of our offense.

If Hamada can't play, Lane or junior Tom Martin will fill in at tailback.

The strength of the Cavemen is their defense, which is allowing just 223 yards and 11 points per game. But Weiss knows his squad will be severely tested tonight. The Tornado's is coming off a 64-6 rout of Klamath Union, and its lowest point total of the season came during a 31-0 romp over Roseburg on Sept. 29.

They're rolling everybody — most of their games have been over by halftime, Weiss says.

For us to stay in the game, we've got to play great defense, control the ball on offense as best we can and not turn it over.

North Medford is led by senior quarterback Kevin Foreman, the top-ranked quarterback in the SOC. He's completed 41 of 71 attempts for 705 yards, 11 touchdowns and just two interceptions, and has added 396 yards and 11 TDs on the ground.

Tornado tailback Phil Ouellette, meanwhile, is the SOC's No. — rusher with 758 yards and four touchdowns, and wide receiver Mike Olson is averaging more than 20 yards per catch on his 11 receptions. Olson has also caught seven TD passes, and he fired a 50-yard scoring strike to tight end Travis Poulton last week.

They're an absolute nightmare to defense because they've got so many kids who can hurt you, and they're all fast, Weiss says. But it all starts with the run. We've got to contain their running game.

Weiss says the razor-thin win over a talented Bend club was a big morale-booster for the Cavemen, who lost to Ashland on a last-second field goal earlier this season.

Bend drove from its own 1-yard line to the GP — in the final four minutes, only to be denied at the end. The speedy Lane saved a touchdown when he ran down a Bend player from behind following a 63-yard gain.

I don't know if we could have rebounded emotionally from another last-second loss, Weiss says. Now we're coming into the North game with some added confidence.

The two teams have played some wild games in the past, none more outlandish than last season's contest that saw North Medford rally from a 21-3 third-period deficit to post a 31-21 victory. Tornado quarterback Nate Mayben threw the winning touchdown pass after eluding six Grants Pass defenders.

The longtime rivals routinely play before packed stadiums and tonight will be no different as a crowd of 4,500 is expected.