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North shows who's boss

In the SOC's marquee matchup, Tornado rolls past Eagle Point

EAGLE POINT ' Mother Nature and the seventh-ranked North Medford football team combined to rain on Eagle Point's parade Friday night at Eagles Stadium.

Senior quarterback Ben Running ran for three touchdowns and passed for another as the Black Tornado slowly but surely pulled away from the ninth-ranked Eagles to score a 36-15 Southern Oregon Conference triumph in less than ideal conditions.

It was a hard-hitting game by both teams, said North head coach Rod Rumrey. There were two teams flat getting after it tonight. We were just able to get a little more going than them and came out on top.

The win proved to be a source of redemption for North (6-1, 3-1 SOC), which lost its last game two weeks ago to South Medford, 28-21.

— I just had a great time out there playing with my buddies again, said Running, who completed 9 of 16 passes for 171 yards and rushed eight times for 35 yards.

We remember the feeling from that last game, and that won't happen again, he added. That just hurt us too bad. We need to remember how that felt and make sure we keep playing like we can to keep that from happening again.

It's a negative feeling the Eagles will be forced to face for the first time this year after entering Friday's homecoming affair 6-0 overall and 4-0 in Southern Oregon Conference play.

We just didn't play well, said EP head coach Harry Hedrick. Credit North, credit the weather, credit us or a combination of all three, but that wasn't us tonight. We just didn't react well or play well.

Although both teams played under a deluge of rain, Eagle Point appeared to be the team most affected by the sloppy conditions. Standout quarterback Jered McClellan completed 15 of 33 passes for 164 yards and two touchdowns, but he was intercepted twice, fumbled once and generally had difficulty gripping the football.

It just didn't really click tonight, said McClellan, who also was limited to 29 yards rushing on 10 carries. I couldn't make the throws that I should have made. We'll come back next week and see how we can do.

Next week's games will be crucial in determining the SOC playoff picture, with fourth-ranked South Medford (6-1, 4-0) playing at Eagle Point and Roseburg (5-2, 3-1) at North Medford.

It's going to be crazy coming down the stretch, said Rumrey. There's some huge games coming up. It's going to be an exciting finish in the SOC.

Friday's contest had all the makings of a matchup that might come down to the wire, with the Tornado taking advantage of McClellan's fumble to strike first on a 20-yard hookup from Running to Drew Herrera at the 7:15 mark of the opening quarter.

Undaunted, the Eagles marched 69 yards in 13 plays to answer with a 10-yard pass from McClellan to Jeremy Carvajal with only 8.3 seconds remaining in the first quarter.

Despite a timeout by the Tornado to warn of possible trickery by the Eagles, North was caught off guard on the point-after attempt as EP faked a kick and had AJ Nichols run in for the two-point conversion to give the Eagles an 8-7 lead.

North took the lead right back, however, on its ensuing possession as the Tornado went 61 yards in nine plays for its second scoring drive. Herrera provided a key 27-yard reception on second-and-19 to put Running in position for the first of his three rushing TDs. Running's pass to Herrera on a two-point conversion failed, leaving North with a 13-8 edge with 8:31 to play in the half.

Both teams next traded turnovers in a scoreless conclusion to the first half, with Herrera stepping in front of Nichols for an interception at the North 24 and EP's Tyler Cam pouncing on a botched snap to stop the Tornado at the Eagles' 17.

Eagle Point's gambling ways put itself in a bind on the opening series of the third quarter as Hedrick opted to eschew another punt, this time at the EP 31, for a McClellan pass on fourth-and-four that fell incomplete.

North scored three plays later as Running tucked behind his offensive line for a 4-yard score. Running also ran for a two-point conversion to boost North's lead to 21-8 inside the first 2&

189; minutes of play in the second half.

We thought we had a matchup with them we liked, Hedrick said of why his team went for three faked punts on the night. We hit two of three tonight, it just didn't work out for us on that (second) one. We're not a very good punting team, so we're only going to get up to 20 or 30 yards max on a punt. And at that point we just felt we couldn't keep giving them the ball back. We had a full array of fakes and used them all tonight, we just missed that one.

McClellan used a 31-yard hookup with Nichols to put the Eagles in position to answer, and then found Mychal Williams in the back of the end zone for a 5-yard score on fourth down.

McClellan's kick trimmed EP's deficit to 21-15 with 3:26 to go in the third, but after that it was all North Medford as the Black Tornado used the punishing ground attack of Josh Casebere and Ryan Weisz to work the clock and consistently move the chains.

Casebere finished with 124 yards on 17 carries, while Weisz's 23 yards on 10 carries were more pivotal than the stats let on.

Casebere's 6-yard score at the 10:16 mark of the fourth quarter and a two-point run by Running made it 29-15, and the senior quarterback capped the scoring with 2:05 to play with a 1-yard leap into the end zone.

I thought Ben really bounced back from his last game, Rumrey said of his senior leader, who threw three interceptions against South. His reads were very good all night.

The Tornado also received a breakthrough game from Herrera, who has been slowed most of the year with a knee injury but came up big with four catches for 114 yards and standout play in his first start at safety.

Eagle Point's Nate Idrogo, center, fights for extra yardage against North Medford's Josh Suarez, left, and Eric Stroh. Mail Tribune / Roy Musitelli - Mail Tribune Roy Musitelli