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With North on the horizon, Crater dismisses Peila from the team

The Comets' leading rusher was removed for disciplinary reasons

With fourth-ranked North Medford on the schedule tonight at Dutch Meyer Field, the last hindrance the Crater High football team needed was the loss of a key player.

But that's what happened this week after leading rusher Mike Peila was removed from the team for disciplinary reasons.

Coach Rich Cable declined to go into detail, other than to disclose that Peila's conduct was inappropriate and unacceptable during and after last Friday's 31-20 loss to Eagle Point.

Peila amassed 586 yards rushing and four touchdowns through the first month of the season to lead the Southern Oregon Conference in rushing. He didn't play the following week due to a shoulder injury and then carried just four times for 10 yards against Eagle Point.

Peila said that he was close to 100 percent for last week's game and admitted he was angry and frustrated that he didn't see more action.

Eagle Point is one of our big rivalries, it's my senior year and I wasn't in the game hardly at all, said Peila, who ran for 305 yards in the Comets' 27-6 victory over Crook County on Sept. 13. I was at full health. There was no reason for me to sit that much.

After the game, Peila left Eagle Point with a friend and, after being told by teammates that he was going to be dismissed from the squad, turned in his gear Monday.

Peila's departure comes at an inopportune time for the Comets. Not only are they facing one of the state's best teams without their leading rusher, but their other top back is ailing as well.

Dan Whitehead, who racked up 125 yards on 14 carries against Eagle Point, suffered a deep thigh bruise on a kickoff return and is questionable for tonight's contest.

The Comets did receive some good news, though: third-leading rusher Tom Hammond is back after missing three games with a shoulder injury.

Cable admits the 1-5 Comets face a daunting opponent in the 6-0 Black Tornado, which leads the Southern Oregon Conference in total offense (404.7), total defense (217.2) and scoring defense (9.0).

North Medford's offense is fuel-injected by tailback Reese Lamson, who ran for 260 yards against Ashland last Friday and now leads the conference in rushing with 849 yards and six touchdowns.

This is a pride issue with our guys, Cable says. We're going to see if we can play hard for four quarters, not have any lulls, and just see what happens.

Tornado coach John Beck says the Comets are one of the hardest-hitting teams in the SOC despite their poor record.

They're very physical and that should get our attention, Beck says. They've had their troubles on offense, but defensively they're pretty solid.

We'll see how physical we can become against a physical opponent.

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