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There's no welcome mat

After a close first half, North Medford romps in former coach Beck's return

North Medford gave its old coach a rude welcome home party at Spiegelberg Stadium on Friday night.

Ben Running passed for three touchdowns and ran for another score to lead the top-ranked Black Tornado to a 42-6 victory over Crater.

Comets head coach John Beck shocked the football world in Southern Oregon last March when he left North Medford after three years as its defensive coordinator and three years as its head coach.

Beck made the move mostly to enhance his career outside of football as he was named athletic director and assistant principal at Crater in addition to his coaching duties.

But the Tornado players vowed to give him and his new team a whipping, and they made good on their promise.

— Our guys were hurt when he left, and we've been waiting all spring and summer for this game, North Medford junior center Johnny Vaigafa said. Payback is sweet.

Tornado senior fullback Ryan Weisz, who scored a pair of touchdowns, echoed that sentiment.

We had to take it to these guys ' we had some things to prove, Weisz said.

Some feared the contest might degenerate into a backyard brawl, or at least get bogged down with a few unsportsmanlike conduct penalties. But it was cleanly played.

And even though North Medford secured the rout it so badly wanted, the Comets went down begrudgingly.

North Medford scored on its first two possessions of the game but led just 14-0 at halftime. And when Running made a bad pitch on an option play to start the third period and Crater's Ron Lee recovered at the Tornado 16, the Comets suddenly had reason to feel hopeful.

That feeling intensified a few moments later when Crater tailback Callan Hartzer dashed over right tackle to pay dirt from 17 yards out. Jason Juveland missed the extra-point attempt after the Comets were penalized for illegal motion, leaving the score at 14-6.

I think our guys showed some resolve, Beck said. We got down 14-0 early, but then it's 14-6 in the third quarter against the No. — team in the state.

However, Crater's lone touchdown of the night seemed to light a fire under the Tornado.

When North Medford got the ball back, it used some punishing runs by senior tailback Josh Casebere to drive 76 yards in nine plays. Casebere carried six times for 36 yards on the march, but it was Weisz who got the touchdown on a 10-yard burst over right end on a trap play.

As soon as I got the ball, I knew I as in ' I never got touched, Weisz said.

The Comets went three-and-out the next time they had the ball, and North Medford needed just two plays to find the end zone again. This time it was Running who made the play as he rolled to his right and, with two Comets barreling down on him, lofted a perfectly-thrown 27-yard touchdown pass to senior wideout Drew Herrera.

That score padded the Tornado's lead to 28-6.

That was a play-action bootleg pass and they blitzed off the edge, said Running, who completed 12 of 18 passes for 223 yards, three touchdowns and one interception. They got good pressure on me, but I saw Drew get open by a step. I knew if I put the ball on his outside shoulder that he'd make the catch. And he did.

Running hit Weisz with a 12-yard touchdown pass on North Medford's next possession, giving the Black Tornado a 35-6 advantage with 11:03 to play. Backup quarterback Darren Bruhns tallied the game's final TD on a 14-yard scamper as the Tornado scored on its first four possessions of the second half.

As soon as the score got to 14-6, that's when our guys stepped it up, said Rod Rumrey, the North Medford coach who took over for Beck. We've done that all year ' step it up whenever we're put into an adverse situation.

The Tornado gained 166 of its 235 yards rushing in the second half and finished the game with a 458-174 edge in total offense.

Casebere, who entered the game as the state's second-leading rusher, wound up with 159 yards on 19 carries.

We pounded them in the second half, Running said. Our line took over and Josh (Casebere) ran hard.

Beck, meanwhile, took his medicine and managed a smile afterwards.

We've played four teams, and I'll guarantee you three of them will make the playoffs, said Beck, meaning Lincoln, South Medford and North Medford. We did some good things out there tonight. I think we can give some people some problems down the road.

The Comets threw a monkey wrench or two into North Medford's high-powered machine Friday, but in the end, the Tornado got what it wanted.

North Medford linebacker Ryan Folsom, right, drags down Crater quarterback Colin Hodges during the No. 1-ranked Black Tornado?s 42-6 rout of the Comets Friday before a large crowd at Spiegelberg Stadium. Mail Tribune / Roy Musitelli - Mail Tribune Roy Musitelli