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Comets, Tornado both face home SWC tests

While the Week 8 matchups in the Southwest Conference aren't brimming with classic battles, there's definitely a sense of taking care of business — or growing for the future — in each matchup.

Only one conference victory separates Crater and Grants Pass, who meet tonight at Dutch Meyer Field in Central Point, but statistics show a great divide, especially on the offensive side of the ball.

The Comets (4-3, 2-3 SWC) are averaging 393 yards and 39 points on offense, while Grants Pass has struggled to reach the end zone while averaging 239 yards and 9 points per game.

Tailback Alex Albright suffered a bruised hip last week against South Medford so the Cavemen (2-5, 1-4) could be slowed in their attack tonight, although Logan Dean showed last week that his bounce is back after an injury of his own. Grants Pass did suffer a tough loss last week, however, when kicker Zach Ward suffered a break in his tibia where it connects to his knee and tore his meniscus. Ward underwent surgery last Saturday at Rogue Valley Medical Center.

Crater dealt with its own issues last week when Matt Cooper stepped in at quarterback to replace Chase Mackey, out sick, and completed 9 of 19 passes for 147 yards and three touchdowns. The Comets also rolled up a whopping 479 yards rushing in a rout of North Medford, with Garrett Alner (124 yards) and Ty Wolf (117) leading the charge. Six players had at least 35 yards rushing against the Black Tornado.

Defensively, Crater has fared a little better and allows an average of 16 yards and six points less than GP, with lineman Sal Flores playing a key role in slowing the opposition for the Comets.

ROSEBURG AT NORTH MEDFORD — Wednesday's sudden resignation by head coach Nate Becksted is certain to play a factor in tonight's contest, and it's not like Roseburg (5-2, 3-2) needed any help because the talented Indians are enough of a distraction in their own right.

Roseburg is coming off a 31-7 loss to top-ranked Sheldon and will be determined to get back on track as the regular season winds down. The Indians boast a potent ground game led by Javier Mandera, Selmar Hutchins and Ben Goirigolzarri, and quarterback Hayden Lent is a capable threat running and passing the football.

The Black Tornado (1-6, 1-4) is toward the bottom of the SWC in total defense at 475 yards and 49 points allowed, making it a weekly challenge for a team that has shown some ability to move the football but struggled to cash in its drives. North averages 282 yards and 12 points per game.

The Tornado lost running back Evan Hisey with a rib injury early in last week's loss at Crater and his status for tonight is unclear. Quarterback Zach Tanner has had to shoulder the brunt of the load on offense, and that took its toll last week with several hits before the senior ultimately suffered a leg injury and gave way to sophomore Mark Winans, who finished 9-for-11 passing for 75 yards and one TD.

Tom Powell, known primarily for his work with linemen at Southern Oregon University and North Medford, will serve as the interim head coach for the rest of the season.

SOUTH MEDFORD AT SOUTH EUGENE — South Medford (7-0, 5-0) finds itself in a trap game that's sure to test its focus tonight. South Eugene (0-7, 0-5) enters the game winless and the Panthers have a potential SWC title showdown set for next week with Sheldon at Spiegelberg Stadium should they hold true to their season play.

Quarterback Braeden Emerick is the offensive spark for the Axemen, while Da'Mion Gibson helps supply some balance in the backfield.

The Panthers have been led all season by senior quarterback Jack Singler, who has completed 111 of 161 passes for 1,677 yards with 23 TDs and only two interceptions.

Denzel Mobley and Christian Bowley could each be in line for big nights for the Panthers should South Medford take a sizable early advantage. Mobley has run for 664 yards and six TDs, while Bowley is averaging 10.3 yards per carry and used three TD runs last week to boost his total to seven overall.

Defensively, South Medford is coming off a game in which it allowed only 103 yards of total offense to Grants Pass, dropping its season averages to 283 yards and 13 points per contest. The Panthers have also been adept in forcing turnovers, with 24 takeaways and only four giveaways signifying their playmaking ability, as well as their overall focus on the field.

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