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Tornado delivers final blow

North Medford rallies from a 21-7 first-half deficit to post a last-minute victory over the high-octane Pacers

The North Medford and Lakeridge football teams slugged it out like a couple of heavyweight boxers in a prize fight at Spiegelberg Stadium on Friday night.

And while the visiting Pacers had third-ranked North Medford on the ropes a few different times, it was the Black Tornado that landed the knockout blow.

Senior quarterback Ben Running led the Tornado on a 65-yard, eight-play drive in the game's final 2&

189; minutes and punctuated it with an 11-yard touchdown pass to Kyle Williamson with 15.4 seconds remaining, cementing a 35-31 victory.

They left too much time on the clock, said Running, who threw for 149 yards and two touchdowns in his first varsity start. We've been working on our two-minute offense quite a bit in practice. I was real confident we could go down the field and score on that last drive.

Lakeridge, the defending Three Rivers League champion, had taken a 31-28 lead on a 39-yard field goal by Scott Vanden Bos with 2:30 left.

— North Medford's Josh Casebere, who ravaged the Pacers for 179 yards rushing and scored a pair of touchdowns, returned the kickoff 23 yards to the North Medford 35, and then Running went to work.

First, he hit Williamson over the middle for 20 yards, then gained 12 more on a scramble that quickly moved the ball to the Lakeridge 33. Fullback Ryan Weisz blasted his way for 10 yards on the following play, but three more plays left North Medford with a fourth and inches at the Pacer 13.

now, the clock had melted to 30.3 seconds and the Tornado had no more timeouts. Rather than go for a game-tying field goal, head coach Rod Rumrey had Running take off on a quarterback sneak, which he carried to the 11.

There was no doubt whatsoever that we could get the first down, Rumrey said, and that stopped the clock for a few seconds (while the officials moved the chains).

Running had planned to throw a fade route to senior wide receiver Drew Herrera on the right side of the field on the following play. But when Lakeridge subbed in a small defensive back on the other side to defend the 6-foot-3 Williamson, Running lofted a pass his way instead.

I knew Kyle could outjump their guy ' all I had to do was lay the ball out there, Running said.

Added Williamson: Once they subbed in that shorter guy, I said to Ben, 'It's over.'

North Medford, which hurt its cause with four lost fumbles and one interception, found itself trailing 21-7 with four minutes left in the first half after Lakeridge quarterback Brian Carter fired an 11-yard touchdown pass to Andrew MacAusland.

But the Tornado struck back quickly as Running connected with Casebere on a perfectly-executed 40-yard screen pass for a touchdown.

Then came what might have been the biggest play of the game. As the first half was coming to a close, Vanden Bos lined up for a 48-yard field goal. The snap was high, and rather than just fall on the ball, holder Doug Tarlow took off up the field. He was hit from behind and fumbled the ball to Herrera, who took it 70 yards up the left sideline for a touchdown, allowing North Medford to tie the game at 21-all at the half.

We were ready to go up by 10 points, and instead it's a tie ballgame, Lakeridge coach Joe Bushman said. We made some mistakes that cost us, but it was a heck of a high school football game.

I'm not discouraged at all.

Carter was brilliant in defeat, completing 25 of 41 passes for 250 yards and three touchdowns. Lakeridge finished with 443 yards of offense compared to 411 by the Tornado.

That had to be an exciting game for the fans to watch, but I'm a little drained, said Rumrey, directing his first game since coming out of a four-year retirement. I'm just so proud of the way our guys kept fighting.

I had a good feeling on that last drive because I know what kind of kids we have and I know how competitive Ben Running is.

Casebere, the Tornado's hard-running senior tailback, amassed 115 of his 174 yards in the second half, most of them on option plays with Weisz throwing crushing blocks in front of him. One of Casebere's runs went 45 yards for a touchdown late in the third period that tied the contest at 28-28.

North Medford?s Ryan Weisz, right, jars the ball loose from Lakeridge?s Doug Tarlow during Friday?s game. Drew Herrera picked up the fumble and returned it 70 yards for a touchdown late in the first half in what might have been the biggest play of the ga Mail Tribune / Roy Musitelli - Mail Tribune Roy Musitelli