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Panthers pull away

South Medford relentlessly sent a 230-pound battering ram at the North Medford defense and then capitalized on a few big passing plays to notch a first for the Panthers in the 25th playing of the Black and Blue Game on Friday night.

Senior tailback Kevin Gilmore ran the football 32 times for 217 yards and two touchdowns and junior Jack Singler connected with Josh Havird on a pair of scoring strikes to lead South Medford to a 31-7 triumph at Spiegelberg Stadium.

The win marked the first time in school history that the Panthers have won four straight meetings in the cross-town rivalry.

The game was recognized as part of the 2010 Great American Rivalry series, a national promotion by the U.S. Air Force.

"This is a great feeling because we have a lot of respect for the guys across town," said Havird, who scored on passes of 21 and 36 yards. "We grew up playing everything with them and to come out and take four from them when they were so good ... we're feeling pretty good."

A trophy was presented to South Medford following the game, and Gilmore was named the contest's most valuable player after falling only two carries and 21 yards short of Black and Blue Game records set, respectively, by Manny Alegria (North in 2001) and Patrick Thibeault (South in 2007).

Never before had Gilmore carried the ball as many times or gained as many yards, and the 6-foot-2 standout certainly was key in setting the tone for the Panthers in the Southwest Conference opener.

"I was hungry, I was very hungry indeed," Gilmore said of constantly being fed the football. "I'm glad they gave me the ball, and Jack passed very good so it helped us in the running game and vice versa. We just got off to a good start and kept it going."

"Our O-line was ready for the challenge," added Gilmore. "They were pumped up every huddle and did a great job."

The Panthers (2-1, 1-0 SWC) used six runs by Gilmore and one by fullback Mark Mexia to set up their first score, a 21-yard fade from Singler to Havird over North cornerback Jeremy Scottow in the right corner of the end zone.

North Medford (1-2, 0-1) had an equally promising first drive thanks to strong runs by Jesse Hornbrook and some key completions by senior quarterback Cory Pine in his first varsity start. That drive bogged down, however, and Darren Cossette's 40-yard field goal attempt sailed just left of the uprights.

The Black Tornado caught a break in the second quarter when Gilmore mishandled a handoff by Singler and Cossette picked up the fumble and returned it to the South 45-yard line.

A 24-yard fly sweep by Scottow put North in prime position to tie, and Hornbrook did the rest with a rugged 13-yard run to the 1-foot line and then a short carry up the middle for the equalizer.

The Panthers answered with a 31-yard field goal by Parker Thomas to take a 10-7 lead into halftime, then kept the pressure on by outscoring the Tornado 21-0 in the second half.

"The first half we came out ready to play," said Hornbrook, who finished with 61 yards on 15 carries. "We were getting our blocks down — the linemen did a great job of opening holes — and I hit the holes hard. We just fell apart in the second half. We had a couple mistakes here and there, and then it just got out of hand."

North Medford senior Fiki Silafau returned the opening kickoff of the second half 57 yards to the South 38, but the Tornado only went backwards from there.

North appeared to have the Panthers pinned back moments later but Austin Griffin pulled down a marvelous leaping catch over Cossette and David Nix on third down and then raced 37 yards downfield.

Things only got more disappointing for the Tornado faithful after that when, on fourth-and-22 at the North 36, Havird got inside position on Scottow and hauled in an arcing pass from Singler for a game-changing TD.

"We had them fourth-and-long and mentally we just weren't there and had some breakdowns and they capitalized on it," said North senior linebacker Gage Jacobson.

It was quick recognition for Havird and Singler on the play.

"I saw that they didn't have a safety over the top and I knew Jack's smart enough to know you've got to get that ball out quick if I can get inside him," said Havird, who had four catches for 68 yards. "That was pretty much the icing on the cake."

Up 17-7, South forced another three-and-out series despite Scottow's kickoff return to the Panther 47 and the Gilmore and company took over. Gilmore cashed in from 14 yards out on a scamper to the end zone with 9:20 to play.

At that point, South had 20 offensive plays in the second half to only six by the Black Tornado. North's next drive was halted by Havird's interception near the goal line on a fourth-down pass by Pine, and Gilmore capped the night with an 8-yard score up the middle.

"Gilmore's a great running back," said Hornbrook. "They just kept using him and using him. He kept hitting holes hard and we had a hard time stopping him in the second half."

The physical toll of having to bring down Gilmore became evident in the final 21 minutes.

"When you run the ball like that, you're going to wear a team down and we wore them down in the third quarter," said South Medford head coach Bill Singler. "Anytime you put up rushing numbers like that you're getting some things done up front. We've got a pretty good-sized line and they seem to be coming together pretty well."

The Panthers totaled 269 yards on 40 carries, while Singler completed 8 of 10 passes for 119 yards. Pine hit some passes on the final drive to finish 12 of 23 for 118 yards, with Scottow rushing four times for 53 yards and catching seven passes for 66 yards.

"My hats off to South," said North head coach Jeff Olson, whose team had 191 yards of total offense. "It was a good game for three quarters. ... I don't like how the score finished but that's the way the score finished."

At Spiegelberg Stadium

North Medford 0 7 0 0 —7

South Medford 7 3 7 14 —31

SM — Havird 21 pass from Singler (Thomas kick)

NM — Hornbrook 1 run (Cossette kick)

SM — FG Thomas 31

SM — Havird 36 pass from Singler (Thomas kick)

SM — Gilmore 14 run (Thomas kick)

SM — Gilmore 8 run (Thomas kick)

TEAM STATISTICS

NM SM

First Downs 13 19

Rushes-Yards 27-73 40-269

Passing Yards 118 119

Comp-Att-Int 12-23-1 8-10-0

Total Yards 191 388

Punts 3-28 1-48

Fumbles-lost 2-1 2-1

Penalties-yards 9-64 6-35

INDIVIDUAL STATISTICS

RUSHING

North Medford — Hornbrook 15-61, Scottow 4-53, Alvarez 1-3, Pine 6-(-39), Silafau 1-8.

South Medford — Gilmore 32-217, Mexia 4-18, Singler 1-(-3), Townsend 1-3, Mobley 2-34.

PASSING

North Medford — Pine 12-23-1 118.

South Medford — Singler 8-10-0 119.

RECEIVING

North Medford — Scottow 7-66, Silafau 4-28, Knox 1-24.

South Medford — Havird 4-68, Griffin 1-37, Retzlaff 2-3, Townsend 1-11.

Reach reporter Kris Henry at 541-776-4488, or e-mail khenry@mailtribune.com

South Medford's Josh Havird hauls in a touchdown pass during the third quarter of Friday's game against North Medford. - Jamie Lusch