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South braces for Lincoln's air attack

In the wake of a tough road loss at Sprague, South Medford football coach Bill Singler opted to use the Panthers' bye week to shore up the team's fundamentals.

Exactly how fine-tuned No. 5-ranked South Medford is these days will come to light tonight, when Lincoln brings its high-powered spread offense to Spiegelberg Stadium. Kickoff is at 7.

In tonight's other action involving local Class 6A and 5A teams, North Medford plays at Crater, Eagle Point plays host to Churchill, Springfield is at Ashland and Grants Pass plays at Tualatin.

"They put four receivers on one side and create a lot of mismatches," Singler says of the Cardinals. "They can be scary. They're going to put it in the air, that's for sure."

The two teams combined for 77 points a year ago in a 42-35 Panther win, and a handful of key players return for this year's matchup — including quarterbacks Josh Milhollin for South and Henry Furman for Lincoln.

One glaring difference on the Lincoln sideline will be the absence of 38-year-old head coach Chad Carlson. After serving a suspension following a late-night encounter with police on Aug. 29 that included two assistant coaches, Carlson was officially terminated by the Portland Public Schools district Wednesday. The two assistants each resigned, allegedly in the face of being fired.

The Oregonian reported Wednesday that police said Carlson and assistants Kyle and Kacy Fairfax were "verbally interfering," intoxicated and uncooperative as officers investigated a woman's complaint that a 23-year-old man, another Lincoln assistant, had groped her. The assistant denied the allegation and the woman didn't press charges.

Assistant coaches Adam Grimes and John Colasurdo, who will complete a three-week suspension for his role in the incident after tonight's game, were named interim coaches following Carlson's suspension. The district said both will remain in that role until a permanent replacement is selected.

On the field, the Cardinals have done well to move past the distractions to post a 2-2 record.

Furman suffered a concussion in a Sept. 11 loss to West Linn and did not play in a 36-32 win over Centennial and last week's 46-7 loss to Jesuit, but he is expected to return to the field tonight. The 6-foot-5 Furman was forced into action in last year's game against South Medford when starting quarterback Blake Rudolph was knocked out of the game and has the typical game-breaking skill set Cardinals signal-callers have utilized in recent years under Carlson.

Furman passed for three TDs and ran for another against West Linn before being undone by a 32-yard field goal with 30 seconds remaining. His replacement, Peter Williams, connected with Ryan Elliot on a 43-yard scoring strike for Lincoln's lone score against Jesuit, while senior running back D'Andre Warren scored three times to rally the troops against Centennial.

Singler said the Cardinals expect to get another boost on offense tonight with the return of standout receiver DeAndre Taylor, who apparently was granted a fifth year of high school eligibility two weeks ago and will be available for the first time tonight.

To offset Lincoln's air assault, Singler says the onus will be on his defensive line to make things difficult for Furman.

"We've got to get some kind of a pass rush," says the coach. "We're going to need the front four to put some pressure on. We can't let their quarterback sit back there and scan the field and throw the ball."

In the 39-34 loss to Sprague, South Medford (2-1) continued to gain a rhythm with its own passing game thanks to the emergence of Allen Fitzsimmons, Brandon Dollarhide and Josh Havird as legitimate targets for Milhollin.

Fitzsimmons leads the team with 15 catches for 184 yards with one TD, while Dollarhide has 14 receptions for 174 yards and three scores and Havird has hauled in five passes for 109 yards and one TD.

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