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Black Tornado set to open up on road

While many of its peers opened the season last Friday in what is commonly referred to as Zero Week, North Medford used the extra time to continue developing what it hopes will be a winning formula in 2009.

Black Tornado followers will get a chance to see just how far along the local boys are when North Medford travels to face Reynolds tonight at Mt. Hood Community College. Kickoff is at 7 p.m. in Gresham.

Reynolds is coming off a 45-16 loss to South Salem last week.

"This is a huge week, certainly for their growth and for us to get off to a good start," says North Medford coach Jeff Olson. "Reynolds returns a lot of kids from last year, including some talented skill players, and I'm sure they're going to be hungry for a win after last week."

In tonight's other Southwest Conference action, South Medford plays host to Lake Oswego, Sherwood is at Grants Pass, Central Catholic at Sheldon, Roseburg at McNary and South Eugene at Gresham.

Games involving local Southern Sky Conference teams include Ashland at Phoenix, Eagle Point at Henley and Crater at Shasta High in Redding, Calif.

Although tonight's game against Reynolds will be the first as a varsity starter for junior quarterback Brian Reese, it won't be his first time playing against the Raiders.

Reese replaced last year's quarterback tandem of Jordan Ellis and Matt Maurer toward the end of North's 42-14 win over Reynolds, rushing two times for 25 yards before being intercepted on his only varsity pass of the season. The pass caromed off his receiver's hands and into the grasp of a Reynolds defender.

Reese missed the first three days of two-a-days once fall camp started but has picked up steam ever since and has impressed Olson with his take-charge style.

"Brian's an interesting kid," says the fourth-year North coach. "I can joke around with him away from the practice field, but when he gets on the practice field, he's a no-nonsense guy. He's really asserted himself as a leader in the huddle."

Olson says a key to tonight's game will be how Reese handles the good and bad that comes with playing such a high-profile position, although he has quite a support staff to fall back on, including veterans on the offensive line and a senior tailback behind him.

"We're not asking him to do a lot, just control the football," says Olson.

Much of what the Tornado hopes to accomplish this season will be directly related to how well its line performs. Center Robert Ross and right guard Mychal DeSoto return as seniors and will be complemented by tackles Ben Cabral and Drew Gibson and guard Marshall Bertrand.

"We've finally got a little size going on up front," Olson says of a group that averages 240 pounds per player. "We have got to establish an identity, and that identity has got to start with that offensive line and getting the running game going."

Returning to the backfield will be senior tailback Colin Sowers, while Cory Haggans, Jacob Altamirano and Fiki Silafau head the receiving corps. Gage Jacobson and Mark Dickison will also be counted on in the backfield.

For Reynolds, last week's showing against South Salem looked promising after the Raiders took a 13-7 lead midway through the second quarter. But six turnovers — including four through the air — proved to be Reynolds' undoing.

"We certainly can't anticipate they're going to turn the ball over six times again and give us six more possessions," says Olson. "They're going to look at what they did well and what they didn't do well and are obviously going to improve on that."

Quarterback Kyle Shewmaker returns for his senior season at Reynolds, along with last year's leading rusher against the Tornado, Matt Finn, and all of Shewmaker's receiving targets from the game a year ago. Shewmaker finished 4 of 10 passing for 48 yards, while Finn rushed 15 times for 88 yards.

LAKE OSWEGO AT SOUTH MEDFORD — Lake Oswego had its 25-game regular-season winning streak snapped a week ago in a 20-12 home loss to Central Catholic, so South Medford coach Bill Singler is expecting nothing but the Lakers' very best tonight at Spiegelberg Stadium.

"This will be a buzz saw because they're chomping at the bit now that they have a loss under them," says the coach.

Like South Medford, Lake Oswego — the Class 6A runner-up last season — lost a number of key players.

Standout receiver Will Storey has been moved to quarterback to take advantage of his playmaking ability. Storey rushed 14 times for 55 yards and one touchdown against a stout Rams defense but completed only 6 of 18 passes for 56 yards out of the shotgun formation.

The Lakers also were without leading rusher Tyson Coleman, who sat out the game recovering from mononucleosis.

South Medford broke in a lot of new players in new roles last week in a 24-21 win at West Salem, getting 82 yards on 16 carries from tailback Kevin Gilmore and 38 yards on four carries by Brett Wallan.

Allen Fitzsimmons also played a key role with 32 yards on four receptions, including a third-and-six grab for a first down that helped the Panthers run the final four minutes off the clock.

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

Brian Reese will make his debut at starting quarterback for North Medford tonight against Reynolds.