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Pride at stake for longtime rivals North, GP

State playoff implications are normally at stake when Grants Pass and North Medford knock heads on the football field.

That won't be the case tonight, however, when the longtime rivals meet at Mel Ingram Field in Grants Pass.

The fifth-ranked Black Tornado has already clinched the No. — state playoff berth in the Southern Oregon Conference, while the unranked Cavemen are assured of postseason spectator status regardless of tonight's outcome.

— We're playing for pride ' that's our rallying cry, says Grants Pass coach Jeff Weiss, whose team is 4-4 overall and 3-2 in the SOC. We can also achieve a winning record with a victory, and so it's not like we've got nothing to play for.

And just going against North Medford is pretty good incentive.

In other SOC games, Roseburg travels to South Medford and Ashland journeys to Crater. Klamath Union ventures to Eagle Point in a nonconference game.

North Medford (7-1, 5-0 SOC) can't improve its playoff status, but it would like to maintain its momentum heading into the playoffs. The Tornado will meet Glencoe ' the No. — seed from the Metro League ' next Friday at Spiegelberg Stadium in the first round.

I'm pumped up to play this game, North Medford lineman David Faaeteete says. Grants Pass has played us tough the last few years, and we'd like to go over there and show them what we're all about when we're playing our best football.

Grants Pass has won two of the past five meetings, and the Tornado needed Tyler Engle's 40-yard punt return with 1:02 left in last season's game to pull out a 19-13 victory.

They always seem to play one of their best games against us, North Medford coach John Beck says of the Cavemen. This might not be one of their better teams, but they're still fundamentally sound, and they're still playing good defense.

The Tornado owns the SOC's No. — defense, giving up just 211.1 yards per game, but GP is No. 2 at 243.0.

The talent gap between the teams is at the skill positions, where North Medford features top-ranked quarterback Beau Hovland, who has passed for 1,180 yards and 14 touchdowns, and hard-running tailback Rob Folsom, who has 904 yards rushing and nine touchdowns.

Folsom is coming off a career-high 188 yards during last Friday's 34-14 victory over Roseburg.

I've never seen Folsom run like that, Weiss says after viewing the film of the North-Roseburg game. He acted like he was in a wrestling match and he was going to win every battle every time he carried the ball.

I don't know if he was angry or what, but he definitely made a statement.

ASHLAND AT CRATER ' Beau Lewis has emerged as a budding star for Ashland. The junior quarterback passed for 311 yards and four touchdowns during a 32-27 loss to Eagle Point on Oct. 10, then threw for 144 yards and four TDs as the Grizzlies (3-5, 0-5 SOC) broke a five-game losing streak with a 40-22 victory over Klamath Union last Friday.

Winless Crater (0-8, 0-5 SOC) posted a season-high 181 yards passing and 343 yards in total offense during last week's 34-14 loss to Grants Pass, but the Comets crippled their chances of winning by losing three fumbles.

KLAMATH UNION AT EAGLE POINT ' Last Friday's loss to South Medford knocked Eagle Point out of the state playoff picture, but a victory tonight would give the Eagles (4-4, 2-4 SOC) their first winning season since 1997.

We think that's significant in the building process, Eagle Point coach Harry Hedrick says. Our goal was to make the playoffs and that's gone, but a winning season is still a worthy accomplishment.

And sometimes you've got to take baby steps before you can take bigger ones.

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