EUGENE — There hasn't been a real sense of drama to No. — North Medford's football season.
The Black Tornado added a tinge of tension Saturday afternoon as it rallied from its first deficit this season to register a 34-21 Class 4A state quarterfinal victory over Newberg at Autzen Stadium.
Unranked Newberg led 21-13 early in the fourth quarter before the Tornado scored the final 21 points of the game to barge into next Saturday's semifinals against Churchill, a 41-20 victor over Sprague at Autzen Stadium.
While North Medford has reeled off 12 straight victories, Newberg, on the other hand, had to scramble just to make the playoffs as the Pac-9?s No. — team with a 5-4 record.
The one thing we didn't want to do was allow them to stay in the game and build confidence, North Medford coach Rod Rumrey said. In fact, we let them lead for almost the whole ballgame. Thank goodness for halftimes.
Although North cranked up its game in the third quarter, it wasn't easy catching the Tigers by the tail.
After North threw an incomplete pass on a fake punt to give Newberg the ball at its own 38 with 3:13 left in the third quarter, the Tigers drove 62 yards in five plays to extend a 14-13 halftime advantage to 21-13.
On a third-and-11 from his own 48, Newberg quarterback Dallas Buck hooked up with Brandon Hazenberg for a 35-yard gain to the North 12.
Colin Davis-Lyle found a window of opportunity up the middle and burst 17 yards virtually untouched for the touchdown. Tyler Thomas added the PAT, and with 54 seconds left in the period, Newberg was looking good for its third straight upset.
Everybody underestimated us, Hazenberg said. But we went through a lot of adversity with injuries and three of our losses were to top-10 teams. When our starters were healthy, we won.
But faced with a growing deficit, North responded to the challenge.
The Tornado stormed 81 yards in five plays for a touchdown that set up a successful two-point conversion to tie it, 21-21.
Phil Ouellette started the drive with a 9-yard gain. Three plays later, quarterback Kevin Foreman unloaded a middle screen to Mike Olson that netted 26 yards and a gain to the Tiger 31 before Hazenberg made a saving tackle.
But there was no stopping Ouellette on the next play. Jared Thomas and Grant Bortnem appeared to have him corralled at the 20, but the 5-foot-7, 160-pound senior tailback broke free and charged diagonally for the left corner of the end zone, evading Hazenberg at the 5.
I felt the pressure behind me, but I was going to make it to the end zone and nothing was going to stop me, said Ouellette, who rushed 17 times for 106 yards.
But North still trailed by two points with 10:48 to play.
Foreman rolled right, found Travis Poulton near the front of the end zone and got the ball there before a diving Grant Bortnem could get a hand on it.
They were doing a good job of knocking balls down in the secondary, Poulton said. I was just hoping Kevin would put the ball where it needed to be, and he did.
And North was back on track.
That was a huge two-point conversion, Rumrey said. If we missed the conversion, the momentum would stay in their favor. But after that, things went our way.
Newberg's offense was in and out in three plays, and North nabbed the lead for keeps with a methodical 11-play, 74-yard march to paydirt.
On second-and-eight from North 28, Justin MacLauchlan gathered in a flat pass from Foreman and scampered 21 yards. A 15-yard facemask penalty put the ball on the Newberg 46. After Ouellette gave North a first down at the Newberg 8, it took all four downs for the Tornado to squeeze into the lead when Foreman scored on a 1- yard quarterback sneak.
I got drilled pretty good, but I knew if I kept my feet going that I could lean over the pile and get in, said Foreman.
Kelly Brown's kick with 3:01 to play made it 28-21 and it was up to the Tornado defense to clinch the matter.
The Tigers had trouble fielding Brown's kickoff and when Shaun Negra finally picked up the ball, he was promptly hammered to the ground by freshman Rob Folsom at the Tiger 3.
North's defense had surrendered big plays earlier in the contest, led by Buck, who finished with 189 yards passing on 12 completions.
But the Tornado gave up little this time. On fourth-and-six from the 7, Buck threw to Negra, and North linebacker Tyler Graham promptly dropped him 2 feet short of the first-down marker.
I knew he was close to a first down, and I knew I had to stop him, Graham said. I didn't want the momentum to change.
Foreman kept the ball three times, adding an insurance score on a 1-yard option with 42 seconds to play.
We've played with a lot of emotion ever since the Grants Pass game, Rumrey said. The last four weeks we've played at a high level of emotion, and that's not good when you?re in the playoffs.
The Tornado discovered quickly that it was in for a different experience when Newberg drove 64 yards in seven plays on its first possession.
After procedure and delay penalties, the Tigers faced a third-and-21 from their own 25. But as happened throughout the half, Newberg pulled the big play out of the hat when it needed.
Buck found Negra all by himself in front of the Newberg bench, and Negra rambled all the way to the North 29 for a 46-yard gain before he was bumped out.
Four plays later, Eric Hefferon ran a post pattern, sliced between Brian Weeks and Poulton and hauled in Buck's strike for a 17-yard score.
A bad snap led to a missed PAT, keeping the score 6-0.
North responded with an eight-play, 64-yard drive. Foreman's pass to Poulton for 16 yards and MacLauchlan's 11-yard gain left North with a first down at the Tigers? 20.
Ouellette rambled 15 yards to the 5, then two plays later Foreman rolled to his right, waited for Poulton to break free in front of Bobby Haven and Hazenberg for a 5-yard score.
North's offense was quickly on the move after the Tigers went three and out on their next possession.
The Tornado whirled 51 yards in eight plays as Foreman ran or passed seven times on the drive. He found Olson wide open in the middle for an 18-yard score with 9:14 left in the half.
But with 4:18 left in the half, Newberg took over on downs at its own 34 and drove 66 yards in seven plays.
Buck connected on a 25-yard TD pass to Hazenberg and Negra ran in a 2-point conversion to give the Tigers a 14-13 advantage 1:12 before intermission.
We weren't concerned about the score, Foreman said. We knew we were coming back. We didn't say much, we just looked at each other knew what we had to do.
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