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Panthers feted for turnaround

South Medford football coach Bill Singler admits he may be a little biased but, in his opinion, E.J. Singler is the best overall player in the Southwest Conference right now.

While the coach's nephew didn't receive the honor for offensive or defensive player of the year in the SWC during the recent all-league voting, the league coaches certainly showed their respect for what E.J. Singler can do by making him one of only five players named to both the first-team offense and defense.

"E.J.'s the consummate football player," says coach Singler. "He's an athlete and he comes to play every day. He understands the game of football and plays it very hard and very well."

E.J. Singler tied cousin Mitch Singler for the team lead in receptions with 53 from his tight end spot, and his 816 yards receiving was second to his teammate in the SWC. From his rover position in the secondary, E.J. Singler also ranked third on his team in tackles (54) to go with seven sacks.

Still not done, the 6-foot-6 junior also was named to the all-league second team as a punter.

"Offensively, defensively, special teams, whatever you need," says Bill Singler, "if I had a pick, I'd take E.J. before anybody else. That's meant as no disrespect to anyone else, I just think he's that special of a football player."

Zach Todd, Brandon Baker, Tyler Martell and Andrew Roberts of Sheldon were the only other players to earn first-team nods on both offense and defense.

Todd, a 6-foot, 185-pound senior, was named the league's offensive player of the year after leading the SWC in rushing (1,292 yards on 151 carries) and scoring (22 touchdowns). Fellow senior Baker was named the SWC's defensive player of the year, while Irish coach Marty Johnson was honored by his peers as coach of the year after guiding Sheldon to its second straight undefeated run in the SWC.

For a South Medford team that received only six nods overall last year — and no first-teamers — this year's breakdown resembled the remarkable turnaround from a team that went winless in the SWC last year to runner-up to Sheldon this time around. The Panthers had 14 different players listed in 17 positions overall on the all-league selections.

"That's really a tribute to the football team and shows with this many nominations that it truly was a team effort on our part this season," says coach Singler. "It really shows the improvement in our football team, and there's a lot of satisfaction knowing that a lot of the hard work that these kids have put in has paid off for them."

Joining E.J. Singler on the first-team offense from South Medford were senior quarterback A.J. Palazzolo, junior running back Patrick Thibeault and junior wide receiver Mitch Singler. Senior linebacker D.J. Titus was named to the first-team defense.

North Medford didn't have any first-team selections but finished with seven representatives in eight positions overall. Senior Jason Weisz was the lone two-position honoree for the Black Tornado, earning second-team acclaim as an offensive guard and honorable mention status at linebacker.

"He has an unbelievable work ethic and is a tremendous leader," says North Medford coach Jeff Olson. "He's the whole package. That kid is going to be extremely successful in his life."

Palazzolo earned the nod at quarterback thanks to his 2,348 yards passing with 21 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. He has completed 161 of 252 passes heading into tonight's state-playoff opener against Barlow at Spiegelberg Stadium.

After a slow start in the nonconference schedule, Thibeault tore up the SWC en route to 819 yards rushing on 132 carries to go with 309 yards receiving on 32 catches. Using a combination of power and speed, Thibeault raced to a single-game record 292 yards rushing when the Panthers pinned the first loss of the season on Grants Pass.

For the first time in South Medford history, and potentially Southern Oregon history, Mitch Singler has posted over 100 yards receiving and scored a touchdown in every Panther game thus far. The junior led the SWC with 1,094 yards receiving and 14 TDs through the air in nine games.

Titus has had the look of a one-man wrecking crew at times for South Medford thus far, and finished one tackle shy of his goal of 100 tackles in the regular season. In two games this season, the standout linebacker accounted for at least 20 tackles.

Also earning all-league recognition for the Panthers were second-teamers Eric Henneman (center), Cody Smith (offensive guard), Rodolpho Contreras (offensive tackle), Brett Wallan (defensive line), Sam McLaughlin (linebacker) and John Adamson (defensive back).

Earning honorable mention nods for South Medford were McLaughlin at placekicker, Rylee Jackson at defensive line and defensive backs Cameron Kynard and Michael Harthun.

Senior Almeir Barlow joined Weisz on the second-team offense at wide receiver for North Medford, while junior teammate Isaac Silafau (wide receiver) was joined on the honorable mention offensive list by junior Jordan Ellis (quarterback) and senior Alex Russell (placekicker).

Senior Richard Treiber headlined the Black Tornado selections on defense with a second-team nod at linebacker, while sophomore Matt Maurer was named to the second team as a punter.

FIRST TEAM

OFFENSE

QB - A.J. Palazzolo, South Medford Sr.

RB - Patrick Thibeault, South Medford Jr.

RB - Zach Todd, Sheldon Sr.

WR - Mitch Singler, South Medford Jr.

WR - Buddy Saxon, Grants Pass Sr.

WR - Tyler Martell, Sheldon Sr.

TE - E.J. Singler, South Medford Jr.

C - Andrew Roberts, Sheldon Sr.

OG - Jordan Guthrie, Roseburg Jr.

OG - Will Rogers, Sheldon Sr.

OT - Brad Page, Grants Pass Jr.

OT - Brandon Baker, Sheldon Sr.

PK - Lucas Walker, Roseburg So.

DEFENSE

DL - Ben Hughes, Grants Pass Sr.

DL - Brady Whitman, Roseburg Sr.

DL - Andrew Roberts, Sheldon Sr.

DL - Curtis White, Sheldon So.

LB - Brandon Baker, Sheldon Sr.

LB - Justin Hannah, Grants Pass Jr.

LB - Tyler Martell, Sheldon Sr.

LB - D.J. Titus, South Medford Sr.

DB - Zach Todd, Sheldon Sr.

DB - E.J. Singler, South Medford Jr.

DB - Nate Sullivan, South Eugene Sr.

DB - Nolan McGinnis, Roseburg Jr.

P - Dakota Cavens, Roseburg Jr.

OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR - Zach Todd, Sheldon, Sr.

DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR - Brandon Baker, Sheldon, Sr.

COACH OF THE YEAR - Marty Johnson, Sheldon.

SECOND TEAM

OFFENSE

QB - Jordan Johnson, Sheldon So.

RB - Nate Sullivan, South Eugene Sr.

RB - Criss Bowen, Grants Pass Jr.

WR - Dee Wiersma, Grants Pass Sr.

WR - Almeir Barlow, North Medford Sr.

WR - Gideon Sharp, Roseburg Sr.

TE - Jennings Stewart, Grants Pass Sr.

C - Eric Henneman, South Medford Sr.

OG - Parker Strom, Sheldon Sr.

OG - Jason Weisz, North Medford Sr.

OG - Cody Smith, South Medford Jr.

OT - Rodolpho Contreras, South Medford Jr.

OT - Taya Alami, Sheldon Sr.

PK - John Campbell, Sheldon So.

DEFENSE

DL - Jordan Guthrie, Roseburg Jr.

DL - Parker Strom, Sheldon Sr.

DL - Brett Wallan, South Medford So.

DL - R.J. McGahuey, Grants Pass Sr.

LB - Richard Treiber, North Medford Sr.

LB - Austin Embery, Sheldon Sr.

LB - John Tardieu, Grants Pass So.

LB - Sam McLaughlin, South Medford Jr.

DB - Pete Jaeger, Sheldon Sr.

DB - John Adamson, South Medford Sr.

DB - Ryan Miller, Grants Pass Jr.

DB - Tony Castro, Roseburg Sr.

P - E.J. Singler, South Medford Jr.

P - Matt Maurer, North Medford So.

HONORABLE MENTION

OFFENSE

QB - Jake Johnson, Roseburg, Sr.; Zach Morgan, Grants Pass, Sr.; Jordan Ellis, North Medford, Jr.; Dustin Haines, South Eugene, Jr.

RB - Jordan Radford, Roseburg, Sr.

WR - Justin Goode, South Eugene, Sr.; Abe Lapite, South Eugene, Sr.; Matt Carman, Sheldon, Sr.; Anthony Yakovich, Sheldon, Jr.; Isaac Silafau, North Medford, Jr.; Boseko Lokombo, South Eugene, Jr.

TE - Alex Coleman, South Eugene, Sr.; A.J. Royal, Roseburg, Sr.; Curtis White, Sheldon, So.

C - Max Wohlhuter, Grants Pass, Jr.; Karsten Tindal, South Eugene, Sr.

OG - Eddie McDonald, South Eugene, Jr.

OT - Jason Bennett, Roseburg, Sr.; Daniel Schrenk, South Eugene, Sr.

PK - Sam McLaughlin, South Medford, Jr.; Alex Russell, North Medford, Sr.

DEFENSE

DL - Justin Fabrick, South Eugene, Jr.; Rylee Jackson, South Medford, Jr.; Casey Burke, Sheldon, Sr.; Jennings Stewart, Grants Pass, Sr.

LB - Boseko Lokombo, South Eugene, Jr.; Matt Carman, Sheldon, Sr.; Jason Weisz, North Medford, Sr.

DB - Cameron Kynard, South Medford, Jr.; John Campbell, Sheldon, So.; Abe Lapite, South Eugene, Sr.; Andrew Agerter, Sheldon, Sr.; Michael Harthun, South Medford, Sr.

Reach reporter Kris Henry at 776-4488, or e-mail khenry@mailtribune.com

South Medford’s E.J. Singler is one of five players to be named to the all-Southwest Conference offensive and defensive first teams. - Jamie Lusch