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North, South boys and girls squads set to tangle

Bragging rights, conference championships and state postseason seeds will be on the line when the cross-town rivals square off this week

Motivation is never lacking when rivals tangle.

But were any extra incentive needed for the participants in this week's North and South Medford soccer clashes, there's plenty available.

The Black Tornado and Panther boys are set to meet Tuesday at 4 p.m. at North's Hoffbuhr Field, while the girls kick off Wednesday at 4 p.m. at South's Fichtner-Mainwaring Park.

The girls contest is for a perfect SOC campaign and the No. — postseason seed that accompanies with a conference crown.

After sharing the conference championship each of the last three years, the Panthers and Tornado will settle outright coronation matters on the field this time.

"It's just whoever comes to win," North coach Dick Darcy says. "There's gonna be a bunch of girls with a lot of pride out their fighting for it."

The boys match will help clear a cluttered SOC playoff picture.

A South victory gives the Panthers (10-2-1 overall, 5-1 SOC) second place in the conference. A North win requires tiebreaking measures to decide state-playoff seeds Nos. 2-4 from the SOC, assuming Ashland defeats last-place Eagle Point on Tuesday.

Obviously, the ramifications extend beyond normal city bragging rights.

"There's so much pressure on them before the game, they can't get spit in their mouths," says South coach Dave Potter of his players. "Now, it's gonna be harder for them to get spit in their mouths."

But back to the girls showdown.

The Tornado claimed a 2-0 victory last fall that gave it the conference's No. — seed despite both Medford schools finishing 6-1 in the SOC.

The Panthers shoot for revenge and their first solo league crown since 1995 this time around.

"It's the mother of all games," South coach Buzz Thielemann says. "You have two teams that are crosstown rivals, and everybody knows each other. Sometimes it's not the best soccer because aggression takes the place of skill.

"But it's always a fun game to watch."

The match could well be won or lost in the central midfield, where North's returning all-SOC tandem of senior McKenzie Weiler and junior Lisa Munyon do battle with South's Colleen Salisbury, a senior who was also first-team all-conference in 2000.

Both coaches claim the game is more for bragging rights - or "strutting rights," as Thielemann likes to call them - than anything else, as neither squad can do worse than second place and the state-playoff bracket looks about the same for either seed.

Still, the bravado that comes with a win in this match means a ton to the players involved.

"At the beginning of the year, the girls write what they want out of their season," Thielemann says. "Every one of them writes, of course, 'Beat North.'"

The SOC slate dictates that neither team has much of an opportunity to scout the other, and both coaches say they'll play the way they have all fall.

"We're gonna play, and let them worry about their own game," says Darcy, who has had 14 returning varsity letter-winners to work with this fall.

Adds Thielemann, who has nine seniors on his roster of 19 girls, "Bum Phillips had the wonderful expression, 'You dance with who brung ya.' That's what we're gonna do."

The boys battle may not be for quite as many as marbles as the girls matchup, but the rivalry and postseason implications will have both teams fired up.

"You throw the records out in these games," says North coach Rich Garcia, who has 13 seniors on his 17-man roster. "It's North-South, who wants it more?"

The last two intracity tussles have gone to penalty kicks, with the Panthers winning last season's deciding shootout and the Tornado claiming 1999's.

The 2001 edition figures to be more of the same.

"Even if there isn't even anything riding on it, it's a big game, and it's a close game," says Potter, who will be missing one of his six seniors, forward Justin Baldoni, because of a red card in Saturday's match.

"It's always entertaining. It's well-played soccer. ... We look forward to it."

Reach reporter Tim Pyle at 776-4483 or e-mail

North, South boys and girls squads set to tangle