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Tornado gets a Running start at QB

Ben Running leads the state in passing yards, and he's cool under pressure

Ben Running didn't need much time to get comfortable as the North Medford High quarterback. In his first start, Running guided North Medford to a 65-yard, eight-play drive in the game's final 2&

189; minutes and finalized it with an 11-yard touchdown pass to Kyle Williamson to fuel the Black Tornado to a 35-31 victory over Lakeridge.

Running admits he was nervous going into that game ' he hardly slept the night before ' but once he expunged the butterflies the 6-foot-4, 218-pound senior has performed at such a high level that those who watch him have a hard time believing he's a first-year starter at quarterback.

I must admit, I've surprised myself, Running says.

Running has completed 64 of 102 passes for 1,192 yards, 13 touchdowns and just four interceptions for the top-ranked and unbeaten Black Tornado (5-0), which meets cross-town rival and seventh-ranked South Medford (3-1) Friday night at Spiegelberg Stadium.

— Running's yardage total leads the state, but his most distinguishing attributes might be the same ones that Boomer Marshall brought to South Medford a couple of years ago: Self-confidence and poise under pressure.

Two weeks after Running calmly orchestrated the Tornado's winning touchdown drive against Lakeridge, he completed 20 of 30 passes for 328 yards and three touchdowns in a 25-19 win over then No. — Clackamas.

That game was played on the road and in a steady rain. North Medford was also without four starters that night, including Drew Herrera, one of Running's favorite receivers.

I've never had a quarterback throw the ball that well in the rain, says North Medford coach Rod Rumrey, now in his 32nd year as a head coach. Ben put on a passing clinic in conditions that a lot of guys would have struggled in.

Running downplays the performance, citing his big hands and a composite ball as useful aides against the elements.

I used a leather ball the first two games but we went to a composite one that night and I was able to grip it pretty well, Running says. I've been using it ever since.

Add the composite ball to Running's list of superstitions. He also wears the same underwear, T-shirt and socks for every game, and he plays the same compact disc that includes songs by AC/DC, Guns and Roses, and his favorite song, In the Air, by Phil Collins.

Rumrey will allow Running to adhere to any idiosyncrasy ' within reason ' as long as he keeps putting up big numbers.

After watching some of the athletic things he did in practice last season I knew he was going to be good, Rumrey says. He's probably one of the better athletes in the state.

Running caught eight touchdown passes last season as a wide receiver and he was also a valuable asset on defense, where he filled in at three or four positions. With North Medford lacking depth at quarterback, Running has been used sparingly on defense this season.

But that could change as the season progresses and our backup quarterback (Darren Bruhns) develops, Rumrey says. Ben is one of our top two or three best defensive players.

Running readied himself for this season by attending a quarterback camp in Thousand Oaks, Calif., last July. He learned a great deal but came away with a sore arm after throwing more than 500 passes a day.

After visiting his doctor, Running learned that he had separated his shoulder while diving on a fumble in last season's Class 4A state championship game loss to Tigard, then aggravated the injury at the camp.

Running's arm was so sore that he couldn't throw for nearly six weeks.

At first, the doctor thought I had torn my rotator cuff, Running says. But it was just a bad separation, and what I needed was some rest.

Running didn't throw a football again until daily doubles began the third week of August, which makes his 149-yard, two-touchdown performance against Lakeridge in Game — all the more remarkable.

Running has started to draw attention from college coaches, who view the versatile recruit as a superb athlete who could help them at several positions.

If someone wants to pay for my college education, I'll play any position, Running says.

He might even leave his old socks and undergarments behind.

North Medford?s Ben Running leads the Black Tornado against South Medford on Friday.