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South Medford rallies late to beat GP

GRANTS PASS — South Medford found itself behind entering the fourth quarter in its Southwest Conference opener at a hostile Mel Ingram Field Friday night.

But fourth-ranked South Medford scored 24 points in the final period to rally for a 31-21 victory over Grants Pass.

It's the Panthers ninth victory in the last 10 games against Grants Pass (2-4, 0-1 SWC).

"We drew on our experience playing on the road in a tough environment," South Medford coach Bill Singler said. "There was no panic. It shows the character of our team."

Josh Havird made a fabulous catch in the end zone to put South Medford (4-1, 1-0) ahead for good with 4:13 remaining in the game. A Josh Milhollin fourth-down pass to Allen Fitzsimmons on a fake punt near midfield with about five minutes to go kept the drive going.

The 6-foot-3 Havird went up high over defender Jordy Romick to haul in Milhollin's third touchdown pass of the game on a third-and-10 at the Caveman 19.

"It was a ball that either kid could have caught," said Singler. "The ball was high enough that (Havird) just went up and got it. His size and athleticism let him do it."

The touchdown put the Panthers ahead 24-21. South scored again with less than a minute left after stopping Grants Pass on a desperation fourth-down play and taking over at the Caveman 7.

Grants Pass led 14-7 at halftime.

"It was a tale of two halves," said Singler. "Grants Pass was prepared and played emotional football in the first half. They controlled the line of scrimmage and took us out of our game. But we hung around and kept the game close."

After rushing for over 100 yards in the first half, Grants Pass was held to minus yards on the ground after intermission. South had six tackles for losses and four sacks in the second half.

"We had to regroup and challenge a few kids that weren't playing very well on the offensive and defensive line," said Singler. "We came out and played with a lot more energy and commitment. We stopped their momentum on offense and we started making some plays."

With the Cavemen focused to stop the Panther running attack, Milhollin was forced to go to the air. The South Medford senior quarterback was 20-of-29 passing for 213 yards and no interceptions. Fitzsimmons, a senior receiver, had his finest outing for the Panthers with 11 catches for 131 yards and two touchdowns. Havird added seven catches for 68 yards.

"We had to throw to win this game," said Singler. "We weathered the storm and hung in there and played our football in the second half."

Reach reporter Frank Silow at 776-4480, or e-mail fsilow@mailtribune.com