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Comets hope their yo-yo season set to climb yet again

Few football teams in the area have experienced the kind of ups and downs that Crater has endured in recent weeks.

The Comets went from a dismantling by South Medford to a thumping of South Eugene to another overwhelming loss to Sheldon in a three-week span.

If you follow that yo-yo pattern, that bodes well for Crater as it plays host to North Medford on Friday night at Dutch Meyer Field in Central Point. But for Comets head coach John Beck, he'd just as soon have things level out a little more than continue what has been a roller-coaster run through 2011.

"I just think we need to play consistent," Beck said of getting things geared up for a late run. "What we have been doing a good job of is taking care of the football and giving ourselves a chance. We cleaned up our secondary coverage the last two weeks and we really feel good about that aspect. But to beat (North Medford and the remaining opponents), we have to play hard for four quarters and play consistent for four quarters."

It certainly won't hurt that the Comets (3-3, 1-3 SWC) will be looking to make their ascent against a Black Tornado squad that is giving up yards and points in bunches. North Medford (1-5, 1-3) made strides on defense in a 14-7 loss to Grants Pass last week, but still is allowing an average of 450 yards and 46 points per outing.

"We thought we improved dramatically on defense last week and we're hoping to do the same this week," said North Medford head coach Nate Becksted. "It's going to take another solid effort this week, and we're also going to have to find a way to put some points on the board."

In Friday's other Southwest Conference games, No. 3 South Medford is home against Grants Pass, top-ranked Sheldon is at No. 5 Roseburg and winless South Eugene is at Thurston.

At the Class 5A level, Eagle Point gets a jump on everyone else with a game tonight. The Eagles, coming off a heartbreaking overtime loss at Springfield, will look to get back on track when they play host to North Eugene at Eagle Stadium. Kickoff is at 7 p.m.

On Friday, Ashland will play host to Springfield.

While the results have been going from one extreme to another, Beck said he's proud of how his team hasn't flinched and done its best to stay the course during its second season at the 6A level. Last week's 42-0 loss to Sheldon was one of the most lopsided Beck has endured in terms of statistics, with the Comets managing only 27 yards of total offense while allowing 480 to the Irish, but nothing has derailed the team from prepping for the task at hand Friday.

"If you get hung up on that in our league, good luck because you're just not going to get it going again ever," said Beck. "We learned that last year. Our kids have done a really good job of just moving on to the next game and who we're playing."

And the reality is, Sheldon's pretty darn good and has had its way with everyone on its schedule thus far.

"Sheldon is maybe the best team I've coached against and I've coached against some really good teams in the past," said Beck. "It's ridiculous. On film they look good but they didn't look that good, but then you play them and it's like, 'No wonder they're averaging 50-something points and not playing anyone past the third quarter.'"

"Defensively we played really well and gave up 400-something yards and 42 points," he added. "We played really hard and really good and it didn't really matter."

The Comets opted to utilize the power running style of Chance Fahndrich to take the Irish head on and kept Ty Wolf and Garrett Alner on the defensive side of the ball. Such a strategy isn't likely to be in place Friday against the Black Tornado, meaning all three will be at Beck's disposal to try to break down North's frontline defense.

"Offensively they kinda throw a lot at you, which makes it difficult to defend," Becksted says of the Comets. "They do a nice job of mixing up their looks offensively and are real aggressive on defense. They've done a nice job of defending the run and are very well-coached on both sides of the ball. It's going to be a challenge for us, for sure."

Another challenge will be to kickstart an offense that, save for a 46-point outburst against South Eugene, has been stuck spinning its wheels most of the season when it comes to putting points on the board. The Black Tornado is averaging 12 points and 278 yards per game, relying mostly on quarterback Zach Tanner's power and athleticism to move the chains.

Last week saw Evan Hisey continue his rise as a capable threat in the backfield with 97 yards rushing on 12 carries, while Mario Saldana and Darren Cossette have each had their moments at receiver. Putting it all together has been the team's Achilles' heel, however, as something always seems to trip up the Tornado on potential scoring drives.

"We're just really struggling with our screens and our passing game isn't working as well as we'd hoped," says Becksted. "Against Grants Pass, we just didn't execute and take advantage of our opportunities. It's my job now to figure out what we can do and try to do it."

GRANTS PASS AT SOUTH MEDFORD — Grants Pass garnered a much-needed victory last week against North Medford and will look to pull off a sweep of the Medford teams on Friday with a new quarterback and refreshed outlook on the season.

Senior Ben Geith took over control of the Cavemen (2-4 SWC, 1-3) from starter Hunter Rich last week and was relatively efficient in getting the team up and down the field. Grants Pass was able to amass 368 yards of total offense, with Geith completing 10 of 17 passes for 106 yards but with two interceptions.

"Ben played OK," said GP head coach John Musser. "He didn't set the world on fire but we found some rhythm on offense with him."

Alex Albright also firmly entrenched himself back into the role of tailback after running for 157 yards on 29 carries against the Tornado. Logan Dean, who played exclusively on defense last week, could be in line to see some carries Friday as well as he returns from injury.

"They're coming off a win so they're going to have a bounce in their step," said South Medford head coach Bill Singler. "We just want to go out and play hard and play well."

The Panthers (6-0, 4-0) could see the return of a couple starters as well on Friday, with offensive tackle Joe Cooney returning from a two-week absence due to illness and standout senior lineman Desmond Harrington also set to make his return, albeit somewhat limited, after missing last week following an ankle injury sustained in Roseburg. One saving grace in their absence was the return of senior tackle Wade Kerr, who made his season debut at Roseburg.

The Panthers have won 10 of the last 11 meetings against the Cavemen, including six out of seven played at Grants Pass. Last year, South Medford had to rally from an early deficit to score a 34-27 victory, rushing for 383 yards on 53 carries as then-senior Kevin Gilmore had 192 yards and current senior Denzel Mobley added 148 more.

Reach reporter Kris Henry at 541-776-4488, khenry@mailtribune.com, www.facebook.com/krishenryMT or www.twitter.com/Kris_Henry