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North puts it on line in win

When a football team wins the battles up front, it usually wins the game.

Count North Medford in that category Friday night at Spiegelberg Stadium.

The Black Tornado's offensive and defensive lines won the war in the trenches, fueling a 27-7 Southern Oregon Conference victory over Eagle Point.

North Medford's offensive line opened the door for senior tailback Ryan Folsom to rush for 160 yards on 27 carries and two touchdowns, while the defensive line ' with a little help from the Tornado linebackers ' sacked Eagle Point quarterback Brandt Nevin eight times and harassed him throughout.

We knew this was going to be a physical game up front, and our guys wouldn't be denied, said Folsom. We kept going right at them in the first half and I think we demoralized them a little bit.

— The victory kept North Medford (4-3, 3-1 SOC) in the hunt for a state playoff berth, while Eagle Point's (4-4, 1-4 SOC) faint hopes for a postseason berth were snuffed out.

North Medford had two weeks to prepare for the Eagles thanks to a bye, and it spent much of that time tidying up its offensive line and working on its running game ' specifically the zone or stretch plays that Folsom makes a killing on if he can find a seam.

He found plenty of seams Friday, carrying the ball eight times for 62 yards on North Medford's opening drive that covered 80 yards. Folsom finished it with a 12-yard touchdown run for a 7-0 Tornado lead.

We got into a bad habit of running past the first level (of defenders) and going for the linebackers, said North Medford tackle Tim Endecott. Tonight, we stayed on our blocks at the first level and let the linebackers come to us.

All Ryan (Folsom) needs is a little crease. If we can get him upfield just a few yards, he'll do a lot of damage.

Eagle Point didn't seem bothered by North Medford's opening touchdown drive, however. The Eagles put together an impressive drive of their own, marching 69 yards in 12 plays with senior tailback Kris Butler scoring the touchdown on a 7-yard burst that created a 7-7 tie with 1:29 left in the first quarter.

The Eagles held North Medford on its next possession, but a Butler fumble that was recovered by Steven Wales at the Eagle Point 47 put the Tornado back in business.

Three plays after the turnover, North Medford quarterback Darren Bruhns lofted a 36-yard touchdown strike to Troy Driskell on a go route and the Tornado had the lead for good at 14-7.

I just threw the ball out there and Troy (Driskell) ran under it, said Bruhns.

After Eagle Point came away empty-handed on a drive that reached the North Medford 5, the Tornado returned to its physical style of play. It pounded its way for 80 yards in nine plays, with Folsom dragging would-be tacklers the final 15 yards for the touchdown.

Tyler Lake's third straight PAT kick made it 21-7, Tornado, with 52.3 seconds left in the first half.

I thought our offensive line really took over on that final drive of the first half, said North Medford coach Rod Rumrey in pointing to center Jon Volgarino, guards Jason Slowey and Hugh Rogers, tackles Endecott and Scott Freeman and tight end Eric Stroh. The line fired off the ball, and Folsom ran hard. That was the key part of the game because they failed to score and then we drove the field to get a two-touchdown lead.

The only score of the second half came after Folsom sacked Nevin for a 9-yard loss on a fourth-down play that allowed North Medford to take over at the Eagle Point 45 late in the third quarter.

On the Tornado's first play following the change of possession, Bruhns used crunching blocks from Driskell and Folsom to dash 18 yards on a quarterback keeper. One play later, Bruhns fired a 16-yard touchdown pass to Driskell.

It didn't matter that Lake's PAT kick was blocked ' the 27-7 lead was plenty safe.

The second half was marred by penalties ' North Medford had 10 of its 13 infractions after the intermission while Eagle Point was whistled 10 times for 95 yards on the night. The Eagles also lost the ball twice on fumbles and another time on an interception.

North Medford generated 236 yards on the ground and 323 yards overall while holding Eagle Point, the SOC's No. 1-ranked offensive team, to 226 total yards.

Fumbles and penalties ' that's kind of been the story of our season, said Eagle Point coach Harry Hedrick. We just kept shooting ourselves in the foot.

It didn't help EP that starting center and defensive tackle Tyler Cam went down with an ankle injury in the first half. He didn't return.

North Medford now hits the road for important games against Roseburg and Grants Pass to close the regular season.

We've talked a lot about being strong finishers, said Rumrey, whose team has won three straight. Now's our chance to prove it.

North puts it on line in win"dhunt@mailtribune.com.

At right, North Medford?s defense swarms to tackle Eagle Point quarterback Brandt Nevin (11). Defenders for the Tornado are Franco Caballero (57) and Jason Slowey (54). Mail Tribune / Andrew Mariman - Mail Tribune Andrew Mariman