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Tornado wants to bring its 'A' game versus Pelicans

Tornado wants to bring its 'A' game versus Pelicans

The first month of the season was unquestionably the toughest stretch for the North Medford High football team.

Now that the Black Tornado has gone 4-0 over that period ' beating seventh-ranked Lake Oswego, defending Southern Oregon Conference champion Roseburg and traditional rival Grants Pass along the way ' what can coach John Beck do to keep his team motivated?

The Tornado plays host to Klamath Union tonight at Spiegelberg Stadium, and barring the inexplicable, it should win comfortably.

The players know it. The coaches know it. The fans know it.

What I've told our kids is that it's human nature to let down a little in a game like this, but if they want to win the conference championship, they better bring their `A' game every Friday, Beck says. We've put ourselves in a real good position. Why blow it now?

Beck says his team didn't play particularly well during last Friday's 19-13 victory over Grants Pass, especially when compared to the 49-6 win over Roseburg the previous week. There is a collective longing to crank up the effort and execution levels to where they were before, he says.

We made some great individual plays last week but there wasn't a lot of consistency, Beck says. Our guys know that they took some breaks during that game.

Klamath Union comes into tonight's contest with a 1-3 record and fresh off an exasperating, 28-27 loss to Ashland in which the Pelicans gave up a long touchdown pass on the game's final play.

Two of the three Pelican losses have been by a touchdown or less.

When you lead for almost the entire 48 minutes, it's frustrating to lose a game like that, Klamath Union coach Wayne Amos says. But the kids came to practice on Monday and were ready to go. We didn't spend much time agonizing over it ' there was nothing we could do.

Klamath Union runs the fly offense, a spread-the-field scheme that features a lot of motion and misdirection plays and often a good deal of passing.

The Pelicans are more of a running team, however, and they feature two of the SOC's top eight rushers in senior Donnie Skelton (351 yards, two touchdowns) and junior Sean Anderson (207 yards, five touchdowns).

The 5-foot-9, 185-pound Skelton ran for a season-high 155 yards against Ashland.

I've told both of those backs they better run low this week or they're going to get killed, Amos says. We know North Medford has the best defense in the SOC, and we're going to need an error-free game to stay with them.

The Tornado defense is allowing only 209.5 yards and 7.8 points per game, and hasn't given up more than 13 points in a game this year.

Offensively, North Medford is looking to regain the edge it showed in its big win over Roseburg.

The Tornado features the hard-nosed running of Reese Lamson, the SOC's second-leading rusher with 479 yards and four touchdowns, and the explosive skills of do-everything slotback Tyler Engle, who is eighth in the conference in receiving (13 catches, 220 yards, three TDs) and 10th in rushing (167 yards, two TDs).

It was Engle's 40-yard touchdown dash with 1:02 to play that lifted North Medford over Grants Pass last Friday.

The Tornado has also been getting good production from quarterback Beau Hovland, who leads the SOC in pass efficiency. Hovland has completed 32 of 46 attempts for 500 yards, seven touchdowns and no interceptions.

North Medford lost starting guard Brandon Weston for four to six weeks after he broke his leg in the game against Grants Pass. He'll be replaced by Phil Card, a 5-10, 200-pound junior.

Reach reporter Don Hunt at 776-4469, or e-mail