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Well-armed Tornado off o a 3-0 start

North Medford High football coach Rod Rumrey knew that the only way his team stood a chance at knocking off then top-ranked Clackamas last Friday was for senior quarterback Ben Running to have a big game passing.

That plan was put in jeopardy when the Black Tornado encountered a nasty rainstorm as it traveled up Interstate-5 on its way to the game.

Running was up for the task, however. The 6-foot-4, 218-pound senior completed 17-of-29 passes for 314 yards and three touchdowns as the Tornado posted a 25-19 victory over the Cavaliers.

The win left North Medford with a 3-0 record and it elevated the Tornado into the No. — spot in both The Associated Press and OregonLive.com polls.

I've never had a kid throw the ball that well under those conditions, Rumrey said. It rained the whole time. It was impossible to keep the ball dry, but none of that bothered Ben. He threw the ball on the money all night.

— Running's strong and accurate right arm was a godsend on a night when North Medford was missing three two-way starters because of injury ' offensive guard/defensive tackle Lorenzo Arenas, fullback/linebacker Ryan Weisz and wide receiver/defensive back Drew Herrera. Starting linebacker Ryan Folsom also missed the game due to disciplinary reasons.

We knew we couldn't possibly depend on a steady diet of running at them ' they were so big and physical up front, Rumrey said. We ran the ball just enough to maintain respect, and Ben did the rest, although we did run the ball fairly well in the second half.

Despite throwing just eight passes while backing up Beau Hovland last season, Running has quickly emerged as one of the top quarterbacks in the state. He showed exceptional poise in North Medford's season-opener when he led the Tornado on a last-minute touchdown drive to beat Lakeridge, 35-31, and he's gotten better each game.

Running's three-game stat line: 43-of-69 for 756 yards, eight touchdowns and two interceptions.

Not that Running beat Clackamas single-handedly. Rumrey was equally proud of the players who filled in for the injured starters, namely sophomore tackle Jason Slowey, senior wide receiver Ty Ryan and junior linebackers Adam and Eric Stroh.

The Stroh twins combined for 23 assisted and unassisted tackles ' Adam had 12 and Eric 11 ' while Ryan Slowey filled in admirably for Arenas. Ryan, meanwhile, made a great catch on the 1-yard line to keep alive North Medford's 87-yard touchdown drive that put the Tornado in front 18-6 in the third quarter.

Slowey had gotten very few snaps the first two games, Rumrey said of the 6-3, 250-pounder. But he got his opportunity and did a very nice job.

Another player who came through with his best effort was senior tight end Steve Johnson, whose 16-yard touchdown catch gave the Tornado an early 6-0 lead. Johnson, who played sparingly on offense last season, had five catches on the night, including one in which he dragged a half-dozen Cavaliers for several yards before being taken down.

Before Steve hit the ground, there were 11 black shirts (Clackamas players) at the pile, Rumrey said. He looked like (former New York Giants tight end) Mark Bavaro out there.

While North Medford returned seven starters on offense and three on defense from last season's state runner-up squad, what it has accomplished to start the season is somewhat remarkable. As most local football fans know, the Tornado was left without a head coach and nearly all of its assistants when John Beck and Co. went to Crater last February.

Rumrey spent more time during the summer searching for assistant coaches than he did holding camps and practices. But it all came together by late August.

We told the kids a long time ago that because we have a new staff that we're not going to do everything perfectly, Rumrey said. We told them to just hang in there and believe in each other, and they have.

The staff has seen the worst side of me a few times, but they're doing a great job. I see a lot of loyalty.

GETTING DIRECTIONS off the Internet is never a sure thing, as the South Medford High boys soccer team found out Saturday.

The Panthers were scheduled to play Roseburg High at Umpqua Community College but found themselves in a cemetery near the Garden Valley exit ' several miles south of their intended destination.

After getting new directions from a Roseburg resident, the Panthers found the college, but couldn't find the field and drove back into Roseburg. Finally, one of the South Medford parents reached their son on a cell phone in the bus and guided the team to the game site.

The Panthers didn't reach the field until five minutes before kickoff, and suffered a 3-1 loss.

It was quite an adventure, South Medford coach Dave Potter said.

Three years ago, with another set of Internet directions in hand, Potter's team got stuck in a farmer's driveway while on its way to Oregon City for a playoff match.

JEN HOWARD, the lone female placekicker at a Class 4A school in Oregon, has drilled 5-of-6 extra-point kicks for the Rex Putnam High football team this season.

The 5-3, 125-pound senior missed her first kick during a 13-9 win over Ashland on Sept. 10, but went 4-for-4 in the Kingsmen's 28-14 win over Jefferson on Friday.

When she makes an extra point, the applause is louder than when we score a touchdown, Putnam coach Johnny Cox told the Oregonian.

Cox talked Howard into coming out after watching her boom the ball during a powder puff game last year.

Howard is also a defender on the school's soccer team.

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