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No rest for weary Tornado

Rod Rumrey notched a nerve-wracking 35-31 victory over Lakeridge in his first game back as the North Medford High football coach.

It doesn't look like he'll be able to relax anytime soon.

One week after watching Lakeridge quarterback Brian Carter torch the Black Tornado for 250 yards passing and three touchdowns, and the Pacers pile up 443 yards in total offense, Rumrey must prepare for a Central Catholic team that advocates a similar offensive philosophy.

The Tornado and the Rams square off at 7 p.m. Friday at Spiegelberg Stadium.

We're going to see an offense that's very similar to what we saw last Friday, says Rumrey, who came out of a four-year retirement last week. They're going to spread us out and throw the ball around, just like Lakeridge did.

— The North Medford players weren't ready for all the energy it took to chase around the Lakeridge players. Many were exhausted in the second half and several cramped up before the game was over.

Rumrey has put his players through extended conditioning drills this week in an effort to alleviate the problem.

They (Lakeridge) ran a lot of no-huddle stuff at us and we weren't in shape for it, North Medford linebacker/fullback Ryan Weisz says. We know our defense can play better.

Central Catholic went 5-4 last season under first-year head coach Steve Pyne, but with seven starters back on offense and six on defense, the Rams, who will be playing their season-opener Friday, are expected to contend for the Mount Hood League title.

Mark Grbavac, who was sidelined by mononucleosis at the start of the 2003 season, steps in at quarterback to lead the Rams' spread attack.

He played mostly defense and wide receiver for us last year, but he's a good athlete, says Pyne, noting that the 5-foot-10, 175-pound Grbavac expects to sign a baseball letter-of-intent with Oregon State in November. He throws the ball well and he's a savvy competitor.

Grbavac will be surrounded by a bevy of talented receivers, led by Riley Showalter, a 6-3, 225-pound senior who ran a 4.6 in the 40 at the Nike Combine last June. He'll be joined at wideout by Chad Koenig, who led the Rams in catches last season with 42 for 650 yards, Anthony Button and Daryl Valdez.

Showalter is one of the better athletes I've coached, Pyne says. He's a big kid who can move.

The Rams will attempt to keep defenses honest by handing the ball to Brad Lindsey, a 5-9, 180-pound junior tailback who can titillate fans with his speed and fancy moves.

He's one of those kids who can score anytime he touches the ball, but he can also lose 20 yards on one play, Pyne says.

Up front, the Rams are led by second-team, all-conference center Alex Pfannensteil (5-11, 240, Sr.) and tackle Jake Manning (6-3, 245, Sr.), who doubles as a first-team, all-conference linebacker.

Pyne is confident Central Catholic can move the ball on North Medford, but he worries that his team, which features first-year starters across the defensive front, won't be able to stop the Tornado.

North Medford racked up 262 yards rushing, 411 yards of total offense and 35 points against Lakeridge despite turning the ball over five times.

We watched them on tape and the thing that sticks out is those five guys up front, Pyne says in reference to North Medford's offensive line. They've got some big horses up there and those kids get off the ball very well.

The main beneficiary of the line play last week was senior tailback Josh Casebere, who ran for 179 yards on 17 carries and one touchdown. Casebere also had a 40-yard touchdown reception.

The Tornado may be without starting inside linebacker Kansas Mendelson, who suffered a shoulder injury in the win over Lakeridge. If Mendelson can't play, Weisz would move from outside to inside linebacker with Josh Suarez and Eric Stroh sharing Weisz's spot.

Suarez, a first-team, all-conference pitcher in baseball who hasn't played football in recent years, has been a pleasant surprise on the gridiron, Rumrey says.

He's one of our better pass defenders and he's got a nose for the ball, Rumrey says.

Tornado receiver Drew Herrera hyperextended a knee in last Friday's game but should be ready for Central Catholic.

North Medford's Ryan Weisz fends off a Lakeridge defender during last Friday's 35-31 victory over the Pacers. Weisz's play on offense and defense was a catalyst in helping the Black Tornado rally in its season opener. Mail Tribune / Roy Musitelli - Mail Tribune Roy Musitelli