South's traveling show continues to impress
WEST LINN — Who woulda thunk it?
The South Medford football team, that's who.
For the second straight week, the Panthers ventured north and emerged victorious against a high-profile Portland-area opponent.
Friday's nonconference victim, 27-14, was West Linn, ranked 10th in OregonLive.com's preseason poll.
Who would have thought that South would be 2-0? asked Bill Singler, the Panthers' seventh-year head coach. But we did. The kids did. And the team showed a lot of character tonight, especially in the second half.
— That's when the Lions (0-1) made things interesting, recovering from a 21-0 halftime deficit to creep within 21-14. Junior tailback Brendan Pitts' 4-yard touchdown scamper with 7:16 still on the fourth-quarter clock had West Linn a TD and conversion away from a tie.
The Lion defense forced a punt on South's ensuing series, but the Panther defense also held.
Following a 26-yard punt, South took over at West Linn's 48-yard line with 4:14 remaining.
For the first time in the second half, the Panther offense clicked ' but not without overcoming some adversity.
Junior tailback Ryan Odell sped 31 yards with a right-side pitch to reach the Lion 17.
Chop block and unsportsmanlike conduct penalties moved South back to the 46.
But on second-and-39, senior quarterback Jon Weaver rolled right and lofted a jump ball for his big-play target, Kyle Singler.
The 6-foot-7 sophomore came down with a 32-yard catch, then hauled in a 14-yard touchdown reception from Weaver on the next play.
He's 6-7. Why not? Weaver said of the 32-yard play. Any time he gets down there and it's man-on-man, I like the chances. Why not?
Singler, whose star shines even brighter on the basketball court, also snared an 8-yard TD pass from Weaver in the second quarter and finished with five catches for 82 yards.
Weaver completed 12 of 17 passes for 160 yards and three scores. He was 7-for-7 in the first half and opened the scoring with an 18-yard fade to senior receiver Dan Chancler just 4:14 into the game.
Coach Sing was calling the right plays, we were executing and everybody was clicking on all cylinders, Weaver said of the first half, when he amassed 93 of his passing yards.
At the break, however, 11th-year Lions head coach Ron Chappell successfully reinvigorated his team.
West Linn's power running attack, which follows a pair of 300-pound linemen up front in Ben Loebner and Ryne Holstrom, rolled up 129 of its 172 rushing yards in the second half.
We played a typical first- game first half, said Chappell, whose squad expects to challenge Clackamas, Lake Oswego and Lakeridge in the tough Three Rivers League. You can't put yourself in a hole like that against a team the caliber of those guys. We asked our kids at halftime to respond and come out and take it up a level. And I felt like we grew as a team in the second half.
Bill Singler was not pleased with the Panthers' overall second-half performance, but he did find satisfaction in the final scoring drive and end result.
That's the thing about a good football team; when it mattered, our offense found a way to put a drive together, said coach Singler, whose team vaulted to No. 2 in the latest OregonLive.com rankings after upsetting then-No. — Tigard, 24-21 in overtime, last week. That showed a lot of heart, character and resolve ' all those things that we think this team has.
Also at the heart of South's second straight stirring performance were a gritty running game and a surprisingly stingy defense.
Odell accumulated 99 yards on 18 carries. Senior Logan Boyd, who missed last week's game due to hernia surgery, had 76 yards on six carries, including a 65-yard TD burst on third-and-22 in the last minute of the first half.
The defense limited West Linn's two quarterbacks to 8 of 26 passing for 76 yards and came through in the clutch after a stellar first half, when it twice stymied the Lions inside the Panther 20.
This offseason, we really wanted to focus on our defense, said Kyle Singler, a free safety on that side of the ball. We knew the offense was going to be there. So we worked real hard on defense and were in the weight room all summer. And I've gotta give the credit to (Jerry) Wolfram, who's a great defensive coach.
All the hard work has resulted in a 2-0 start to what has the makings of a special season for South.