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Showdown for SOC supremacy

No. 5 North Medford visits No. 9 Roseburg on Friday with first place at stake

Buckle your seat belts and hang on to your hats: It's crunch time in Southern Oregon Conference football.

A standing room-only crowd of about 6,000 is expected to pack Finlay Field on Friday night in Roseburg when the ninth-ranked Roseburg Indians play host to the fifth-ranked North Medford Black Tornado.

The winner of the matchup between state powers will secure no worse than a tie for the SOC title. North Medford can also clinch the SOC's No. — state-playoff berth with a victory.

The Tornado handed Roseburg coach Thurman Bell his worst-ever loss last season when it rolled to a 49-6 victory at Spiegelberg Stadium, but that was an early-season game.

— Bell's teams typically have come on like South Atlantic hurricanes in September, and this fall is no different.

Since a 35-7 loss to top-ranked Canby on Sept. 19, the Indians have reeled off four straight victories and head into Friday's contest 6-1 overall and 4-0 in the SOC ' the same records as North.

The Indians are also fresh off a 38-7 romp over Grants Pass last Friday in what clearly was their best performance to date.

We're not a program that does a whole lot of work in the summer, and I think that helps us this time of year, Bell says. Our kids are still fresh and hungry to play football in October and November.

Another factor in Roseburg's resurgence since its blowout loss to Canby is injuries. The Indians lost starting center Craig Malone (dislocated elbow), backup center and starting inside linebacker Eli Peterson (knee) and starting outside linebacker Brian Benson (broken leg) to debilitating injuries during that game, with Malone and Benson returning to the lineup just last week.

Getting those kids back was a big plus, and we developed some other kids when they were out, Bell says. Now our depth is better than before.

The Indians have also gotten a big boost from Kerry Hall, who has been the team's MVP on defense from his inside linebacker position and lately has been productive on offense while lining up at fullback and tight end.

In the first month of the season, Hall served as the team's backup quarterback.

We decided that we needed to have him on the field for an entire ballgame and not just on defense, Bell says of the 6-foot, 195-pound Hall, who caught six passes for 51 yards against Grants Pass. He's been playing great on both sides.

North Medford coach John Beck expects a tussle for four quarters.

Our players know those (Roseburg) guys will come out half-crazed and smelling blood, Beck says. We've got to be able to match that intensity.

We jumped on them really quick last year, and things just snowballed. I'd be really surprised if that happened again.

The outcome could be decided in the trenches.

Few would argue that North Medford boasts the top offensive and defensive lines in the SOC. Offensive guard and defensive tackle David Faaeteete (6-3, 275, sr.) is regarded by many as the top lineman in the state, and fellow guard Lorenzo Arenas (6-2, 262, jr.), center Johnny Vaigafa (6-2, 296, so.) and tackles Frank Clifton (6-2, 225, sr.) and Tim Endicott (5-10, 212, so.) are no slouches.

But Roseburg has some competent behemoths of its own, anchored by senior tackles Steve Jorgensen (6-4, 270) and Brett Lowman (6-3, 310)

Bell calls Faaeteete a man-child.

We don't have to tell any of our kids what his number is ' they know, adds Bell.

Faaeteete can barely wait for the blocking and tackling to begin.

It's going to be a fun game ' lots of hitting and lots of pain, he says.

As for the skill-position matchups, the game will feature the SOC's top two rushers, Roseburg's Austin Shoptaw and North Medford's Rob Folsom.

Shoptaw, who amassed 252 yards and four touchdowns in a 42-16 win over Bend on Sept. 12 and had 187 yards and three scores last Friday, tops the SOC in rushing (938 yards) and scoring (16 touchdowns, 96 points).

Folsom is second in rushing with 716 yards and eight touchdowns and is averaging a conference-best 10.1 yards per carry.

They're pretty similar backs ' tough, hard-nosed kids with decent speed, Bell says. I just hope our kid (Shoptaw) finds a few creases to run through.

Bell, however, is most worried about North Medford quarterback Beau Hovland, who has passed for 1,018 yards, run for 321 and had a hand in 19 touchdowns ' 12 passing and seven rushing.

He's very tough to sack, and when he breaks containment he can make things happen, Bell says. In effect, he's their No. 2 running back.

Roseburg quarterback Brodie Harvey, meanwhile, is quietly having a good season of his own. Harvey moved up to No. 2 in the SOC quarterback rankings after completing 9 of 13 passes for 89 yards against Grants Pass.

On the season, Harvey has thrown for 757 yards, nine touchdowns and six interceptions.

EXTRA POINTS ' Each of the past three games has been a rout. North Medford won 49-6 last year and 31-0 in 2000, while Roseburg rolled to a 47-0 victory in 2001 ... The Black Tornado is the most penalized team in the SOC and was hit with 15 infractions for 122 yards in its 33-0 win over Eagle Point last Friday ... Construction to school buildings has left the Roseburg High parking lot a mess, and North Medford fans are encouraged to park elsewhere. A good alternative is a parking garage about a few blocks from the stadium. To get there, turn right off the freeway exit and proceed four or five blocks to the east. The parking garage is on the left. A shuttle bus will appear every 15 minutes.

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