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North rides strong start to rout of Crater

CENTRAL POINT ' There wasn't much doubt before the game.

North Medford made sure there was absolutely none once it started.

The fourth-ranked Black Tornado slammed Crater, 42-13, in Southern Oregon Conference football Friday at Dutch Meyer Stadium.

The Comets (0-4, 0-2 SOC) received the game's opening kickoff and went three-and-out, with two runs stuffed and a pass falling incomplete.

— North (4-1, 2-0) then got the ball at its own 18-yard line and went 35 yards right away, as senior tailback Will Brown sped down the home sideline off a screen pass from senior quarterback Beau Hovland.

Six plays and two first downs later, Hovland completed a 17-yard pass to junior wide receiver Ben Running on third-and-12 to reach Crater's 2.

Following a false start, Hovland kept on an option to the left for a 7-yard TD and 7-0 lead at 7:05 of the first quarter.

The drive covered 82 yards in eight plays and lasted — minutes, 21 seconds.

And the rout was on.

I really thought that the kids went out and they got to work right away, said Tornado head coach John Beck.

The Comets gained one first down on their ensuing possession before senior tailback Cody Ponder's fumble was recovered by North senior linebacker Rob Folsom on the Crater 45.

Brown's 5-yard scoring scamper capped an eight-play drive to make it 14-0 with 2:13 to play in the first.

The Comets backpedaled 5 yards on their next series to set up another punt.

Senior returner Sammy McHenry used that opportunity to show off his blazing speed. After initially fumbling, McHenry burst 88 yards down North's sideline for a school record for a punt return.

And the lead ballooned to 21-0 with 20 seconds remaining in the opening quarter.

There's no question that he's got a lot of speed, Beck said of the 5-foot-8, 145-pound McHenry, whose dash wiped Tyler Engle's 76-yard effort in 2001 off the Tornado books. He's a big threat.

Crater did turn the second of three interceptions of Hovland ' and the final of two picks on consecutive North plays by senior defensive back Gary Gomes ' into a score with 6:28 left in the half.

Ponder's 1-yard plunge punctuated a four-play, 15-yard march.

Just in case any doubt was appearing with the gap cut to 21-7, the Tornado promptly answered.

Folsom, a tailback offensively, broke two tackles to scoot free on a 51-yard scamper.

Hovland then hit junior wide receiver Drew Herrera for a 15-yard score, making the march go 66 yards in two plays and 15 seconds.

It was the same play that the two interceptions came on, Herrera said of the first TD of his varsity career. We noticed that the free safety was staying in the middle, and that leaves No. 2 (among the receiving options on the play) wide open.

Herrera's work for the half wasn't done, nor was McHenry's.

The Comets' fifth punt of the first 24 minutes was brought back 29 yards by McHenry to the Crater 38.

North's first snap was limited to a 1-yard run, but then Hovland rolled right, pumped once and gunned a 37-yard touchdown to Herrera.

We ran a bubble and go, and I faked like I was blocking and then went up the chutes, said the 6-foot, 160-pound Herrera, whose score made it 35-7 with 3:08 to go in the half.

Brown's second TD of the night, a 10-yard job, ended the Tornado's opening possession of the second half and completed its scoring.

Up 42-7 with 11:02 left in the third period, Beck began playing the backups.

The nice thing about it was we didn't let up at all against a team that's not as good as us, said Folsom, who was one of the starters to sit down after a six-carry, 79-yard night offensively and some stellar defensive work. We played up to our potential.

The Comets never quit and put together a 15-play, 62-yard push that ate up the final 7:25 of the third quarter and first four seconds of the fourth.

Ponder's 1-yard plow preceded an errant PAT kick, for the final 42-13 tally.

We're doing some real good things, said Beck, whose team now gears up for next Friday's showdown with South Medford at Spiegelberg Stadium. I'm really pleased with the progression offensively, and I think our defense and special teams are playing well.

We're pretty much playing the way we wanna be playing at this point in the season.

North outgained Crater, 329-184.

Hovland, though intercepted three times, needed just nine completions in 15 attempts to accumulate 187 passing yards.

Herrera accounted for 91 of that total, reaching back for a one-handed snare of a middle screen and accelerating for 39 yards on his lone non-scoring reception.

For the Comets, who travel to Eagle Point next Friday, senior fullback John Furnish fought for 55 yards on 10 carries and senior wideout Dan Whitehead snagged five passes for 44 yards.

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