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Folsom's Tornado tough

If there were any doubts about how Rob Folsom would fare at tailback for the North Medford High football team this season, the hard-nosed senior put them to rest on opening night.

Folsom, a converted fullback, ran for 122 yards on 15 carries and two touchdowns during the Black Tornado's 30-29 victory over Jesuit.

Although not particularly big at 5-foot-9 and 181 pounds and not particularly fast, Folsom showed that he can be among the top running backs in the state this season.

He's not fancy, but he finds a way to get the job done, says North Medford coach John Beck, whose team meets Mountain View in Bend Friday night at 7. He has good vision and makes good cuts, and he's quicker than people think.

— Prior to last Friday's game, Folsom hadn't played tailback since his freshman year. He produced 289 yards and six touchdowns last season while serving as the Black Tornado fullback, but his greatest value heretofore has been at linebacker, where he earned second-team all-conference honors last season and is a three-year starter.

As a freshman I could outrun almost everyone to the sideline, get the corner and be gone, Folsom says. Things are different now. The guys are faster and take better angles, and I'm having to be more patient as a runner.

Sometimes all you're going to get is — or 4 yards, but that's positive yardage and I'll take it.

Folsom proved, however, that he can take it to the house when he galloped 58 yards to pay dirt on an option play against Jesuit. The second-period score pulled the Tornado within 14-7 and gave it a shot of much-needed momentum.

Beau (Hovland) did a great job of setting the play up, Folsom says in reference to the North Medford quarterback. He was 10 yards up the field when he pitched me the ball, and I had an open field the rest of the way.

Hovland had a solid game himself, completing 14 of 22 passes for 157 yards and one touchdown and adding 109 yards and one TD rushing.

Hovland's 23-yard touchdown run and ensuing two-point conversion with 31 seconds left in the game were the two biggest plays for the Tornado.

The North Medford-Jesuit game matched the state's two best teams ' according to the Oregonlive.com poll ' and was played before a crowd of 5,000 at Jesuit's stadium.

Friday's game against Mountain View in Bend won't carry the same intensity, and Beck admits he's fretting over a possible letdown.

That's something you always worry about in a situation like this, he says. But we've talked about it. Our kids know if they go out and execute, they'll be just fine.

The Tornado romped over Mountain View, 30-0, in last year's season-opener, but the Cougars made the state playoffs out of the Intermountain Conference and they're confident they can make a return trip.

However, Cougars coach John Nehl knows it could be rough sledding against the Tornado.

North Medford is a very legitimate No. — pick (in the state), Nehl says. After watching them on film against Jesuit, they deserve every accolade.

This will be a character check for us.

The Cougars' top players include quarterback Sean Hynes, tailback Sean Wilcox, all-conference linebacker Chris Havnier and center Reid Smith, a 6-1, 260-pound senior who finds himself in the starting lineup for the third straight year.

We think we're a better team than last year and a tougher team, Nehl says. That doesn't mean we match up well against North Medford, but it's like I told the kids, you don't get to play a No. — team very often.

We'll tee it up and see what happens.

EXTRA POINTS: Senior safety Jordan Spence was named North Medford's defensive player-of-the game against Jesuit after making nine solo tackles, an equal number of assists and causing a fumble ... Sophomore tackle Tim Endecott, who earned a start against Jesuit after senior Brian Heil unexpectedly quit the team last week, earned high marks from coaches in his varsity debut. Endecott helped spring Sammy McHenry on a 52-yard punt return in the fourth period when he blasted Bryan Floberg, knocking the wind out of the Jesuit player ... Highly-touted Jesuit running back Mike Jones, who is headed to Oregon State on a football scholarship, gained 116 yards against the Tornado, but he needed 22 carries and his longest run from scrimmage was only 17 yards.

North Medford senior Rob Folsom, shown sacking Klamath Union quarterback Angelo Dearborn last season, has been a force for the Black Tornado?s defense for three years but is now being asked to pack the same punch on the offensive side of the ball.