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High-flying Eagles brace for Indians

Give Eagle Point High football coach Harry Hedrick a good set of skill position players and he'll give his fans all the yards, points and excitement they could ever want in a football team.

Hedrick didn't have many talented skill players during his first two seasons with the Eagles. But now he does, and his team is putting up big numbers.

The Eagles play host to an equally potent Roseburg High squad Friday night at Eagle Stadium in the Southern Oregon Conference opener for both teams.

Fans are advised to bring their calculators and put their heads on swivels.

In other games involving SOC teams Friday, top-ranked North Medford (3-0) visits Ashland (1-1), Crater (0-2) travels to ninth-ranked South Medford (2-1) and Grants Pass (1-1) journeys to Canby (1-1).

— We've had some kids who could run around pretty well, but they had a hard time catching the ball and we didn't have a quarterback who could get it to them on a regular basis, Hedrick says. I knew this team had the potential to be pretty good.

Eagle Point's catalyst has been quarterback Jered McClellen, who has registered all-world statistics in his first two games. The 6-foot-2, 175-pound senior has completed 24 of 32 passes for 342 yards and five touchdowns, and he's run for 171 yards and five more scores as the Eagles have soared to 40-26 and 39-21 victories over Madison and Lebanon.

McClellen tops the SOC pass efficiency rankings in a year where several other quarterbacks have wielded hot hands. He's also first in scoring (34 points) and third in rushing.

I don't know if I've ever had anyone play as well as Jered has these first two games, Hedrick says. To hit 75 percent of your throws is almost unheard of at the high school level.

He's reading the defenses and he's letting the ball go on time.

He's also running the option very effectively.

McClellan has a pair of top-flight receivers in senior Jeremy Carvajal (17 catches, 171 yards, two TDs) and junior A.J. Nichols (six catches, 102 yards, two TDs).

Senior tailback Cody Schwietert has helped the ground attack with 141 yards on 36 carries and one touchdown, and the Eagles figure to get a big lift Friday when senior Nate Idrogo, a second-team all-conference running back from a year ago, makes his 2004 debut. Idrogo missed the first two games after suffering a concussion in a car wreck.

As well as the Eagles have played, Hedrick knows their schedule has been soft. That will change Friday when Roseburg comes to town.

The Indians also have been an offensive juggernaut this fall. Veteran coach Thurman Bell has junked his ground-oriented, veer option offense for a wide-open passing attack.

Like McClellen, Roseburg quarterback Brett Stephens is off to a remarkable start. The 5-8, 160-pound junior has hit on 37 of 63 passes for 642 yards, eight touchdowns and just one interception, and he's rushed for 132 yards and three scores in leading the Indians to a 2-1 record.

We knew back when Stephens was in the eighth grade that he was going to be a player, Bell says. He came to all our camps and he was throwing the ball better than the older kids.

He's not someone who's going to throw the ball through a wall, but he's accurate.

Bell opted to change his offense after taking a good look at Stephens during the summer, and then noticing how many quality receivers he had.

We had a lot of receiver-type kids and a quarterback who could get them the ball, Bell says. And so we said, shoot, let's get them in the ball game and spread the field.

Stephens has thrown to eight different receivers this season. His favorite target has been Isaiah Smith, a 6-4, 195-pound senior who has 12 receptions for 297 yards and five touchdowns.

Smith ranks fourth in the SOC in receiving, while Brian Benson (nine catches, 108 yards, one TD) ranks seventh and Josh Brink (eight catches, 190 yards, one TD) eighth.

Smith has really matured over the past two years, Bell says. He played mostly defensive back last year. We didn't know he could catch until we finally threw one to him.

Although Stephens is averaging 21 pass attempts per game, the Indians haven't abandoned the run. Junior tailback Jimmy Zhu (6-1, 195), the SOC's fourth-leading rusher with 159 yards, is an emerging star.

With Eagle Point averaging 404 yards and 39.5 points per game and Roseburg averaging 340 yards and 33.7 points, both coaches agree that the winner of Friday's game will be the team that can play the best defense.

We haven't shown that we're a quality defensive team yet, says Hedrick, whose defense is anchored by senior linebacker Yoni Turcious. We've made some big plays, but we've got to be more consistent if we're going to slow down a team like Roseburg.

NORTH MEDFORD AT ASHLAND ' The top-ranked Black Tornado will get back offensive guard/defensive tackle Lorenzo Arenas, fullback/linebacker Ryan Weisz and wide receiver/defensive back Drew Herrera, who missed last Friday's 25-19 victory over Clackamas with injuries.

North Medford boasts three of the state's top play-makers in quarterback Ben Running, who has thrown for 770 yards and eight touchdowns; tailback Josh Casebere, who has rushed for 460 yards and three scores; and wide receiver Kyle Williamson, who has 17 receptions for 325 yards and five TDs in the Tornado's three games.

The thing that pleased North Medford coach Rod Rumrey the most during the win over Clackamas was his team's eagerness to get physical.

We were taking the hits the first two games instead of delivering them, Rumrey says. But in that Clackamas game we came out a lot more aggressive. It was a point of emphasis before the game and the kids responded.

Ashland was picked for last in the SOC but the Grizzlies are coming off a 48-13 win over Cleveland of Portland and they look vastly improved under second-year coach David Coldiron.

Like North Medford, the Grizz has a nice corps of skill position players led by quarterback Sam Littleton, tight end Jeff Skinner and wide receivers Steve Jorgensen, Aaron San Nicholas and Josh Cornelius.

Littleton, a 5-10, 165-pound junior, inherited the QB duties when Beau Lewis quit the team in August. Littleton has connected on 33 of 59 passes for 404 yards, four touchdowns and three interceptions.

The Grizzlies' biggest improvement from last season is up front, where they are no longer getting pushed around.

We spent some time in the weight room in the offseason and I think we're more physical across the board, Coldiron says.

GRANTS PASS AT CANBY ' Grants Pass meets another quality nonconference opponent and will have to perform without starting quarterback Nolan Morgan, who was lost for the season with a knee injury during last week's 42-6 victory over Wilson.

Morgan, who tore both his ACL and MCL, is scheduled to undergo surgery next Thursday.

Senior Mark Medart, who came off the bench against Wilson to complete 6 of 8 passes for 120 yards and one touchdown, takes over for Morgan.

Mark doesn't have Nolan's arm strength, but he's an accurate passer and he's an even-keeled kid, Grants Pass coach Tom Blanchard says. He came in last week and showed a lot of poise. We're lucky to have him.

Grants Pass has sparkled on defense behind the play of end Jake Dean, tackle J.D. Haer and inside linebacker Mike Schlottig, but figures to get a stern test from Canby's wing-T offense that features standout running back Shawn Doman.

The Cougars opened their season with a 35-14 loss to Tigard but rebounded with a 25-18 victory over Forest Grove last Friday.

We know we'll be in for a tough fight, but we want games like this to get us ready for the conference, says Blanchard, whose Cavemen open SOC play next week against Eagle Point.

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