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Black Tornado stays perfect with rout of Eagle Point

EAGLE POINT ' When 6-foot-3, 262-pound David Faaeteete rumbled 70 yards with the opening kickoff of the second half, the party started for the North Medford football team Friday night.

Faaeteete's touchdown, on which the massive junior lineman unveiled shocking speed and elusiveness after fielding a short kick, staked the Black Tornado to a 24-0 lead in what would become a 38-8 victory at Eagle Point.

Can you believe that? North head coach John Beck wondered about Faaeteete's display, the first kickoff return for a score he has seen from a lineman in 19 years of coaching. Pretty impressive. ... He's got the option to run back and return it because he's as fast as most of our other guys.

That play also marked the point when the Tornado was officially able to begin looking ahead to next week's showdown with South Medford at Spiegelberg Stadium.

The Panthers' 28-21 win over Grants Pass wasn't decided until much later, but it ensured that the Black-and-Blue game will determine the Southern Oregon Conference champion as both teams enter 6-0 in league play.

I did not want that coin-flip stuff, any of that, at all, said Beck, who was rooting for South to beat the Cavemen to end the possibility of a three-way tie for the conference crown. It's the cross-town rival, and it's for the city championship and the league championship.

Third-ranked North (8-0 overall) wasn't expected to have many problems handling the Eagles (3-5, 2-4 SOC), but the game was close early on.

Led by linebackers Christian Mannenbach and Ricky O'Callahan, Eagle Point's defense forced a punt on the Tornado's first possession and buckled down after three first downs on the second. Shawn Hale's 36-yard field goal to give North a 3-0 edge was the first quarter's only scoring.

Unfortunately for the Eagles, they weren't able to enliven their homecoming crowd with much offense. The Tornado defense, top-ranked in the SOC, allowed just one first down on Eagle Point's initial three series.

Senior tailback Reese Lamson, junior quarterback Beau Hovland and the North attack got rolling in the second quarter, marching 68 yards in 12 plays. Lamson's 9-yard surge on fourth-and-6 from the Eagle 37-yard line kept the drive alive, and Hovland's 1-yard keeper made it 10-0 with 5:42 remaining in the half.

The Tornado took the ball right back, as sophomore linebacker Ryan Weisz recovered senior wide receiver Bryan McClellan's errant pitch on an attempted hook-and-ladder hookup with senior receiver Casey Hedrick.

North was in business at the EP 17, and two plays later, Lamson skipped through the middle for an 8-yard TD. It was 17-0 with 4:02 to go in the half.

The Eagles answered with their first sustained drive. After taking advantage of a Tornado penalty on fourth down for the possession's inaugural first down, EP senior quarterback Tyson Nelson completed passes of 27 yards to senior tight end Mike Cutts and 10 yards to sophomore running back Nate Idrogo.

Following the Eagles' final timeout at 42.1 seconds, Nelson kept for 5 yards on fourth-and-1 to get to North's 1.

Fearing the Tornado's beefy line would stack up a run and kill the clock, EP head coach Harry Hedrick opted for a pass.

We didn't have time, Hedrick said. We thought we'd take one shot, and we'd get it or nobody gets it.

But North senior Tyler Engle, a premier playmaker at slotback and cornerback, intercepted Nelson's fade intended for senior receiver Brandon Sychla in the left corner of the end zone, preserving the 17-0 lead entering the half.

Faaeteete's return started the second half with a bang for the Tornado, and then the Eagles were again denied at the end of a long drive. They earned four first downs and covered 60 yards to advance as far as North's 16, but Nelson's pass slipped through a diving Casey Hedrick's fingers in the back of the end zone on fourth-and-14.

The Tornado promptly went 80 yards in seven plays, with Hovland finding senior receiver Brian Clifton with an 12-yard fade for a 31-0 cushion.

Early in the fourth quarter, Hovland launched a 56-yard strike to senior receiver Brett Timmerman, then the QB kept for a 1-yard score.

We got an ass-chewing, you could say (at the half), said Hovland, who finished 12-of-18 for 202 yards in teaming with Lamson's 126 yards rushing that put the tailback over the 1,000-yard mark for the season. But we responded. ... We feel good about how everything's going.

EP finally dented the scoreboard on senior running back Chris Boyd's 1-yard plunge to cap an 80-yard drive with 3:04 remaining.

I thought we executed well and played well on defense, said Hedrick, whose Eagles were eliminated from postseason contention with the defeat. North gets so much penetration on defense and they're more physical than us, and that made things tough.

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