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Fowler earns top SWC honor

When football is fun, good things typically happen.

And when you make sure to put in extra work behind the scenes, even better things often can come of it.

Troy Fowler likes to have fun on the football field and is as dedicated to his craft off of it, and both those traits helped the North Medford junior quarterback earn the nod as the Southwest Conference offensive player of the year in voting by the coaches released Tuesday.

The 6-foot, 165-pound junior set a school record by passing for 2,170 yards and enters the playoffs one touchdown pass shy of another record after providing a guiding force for a Black Tornado squad that went 7-0 in SWC play.

"I think he was the best player in the conference this year," said North Medford head coach Mike Mitchell, who had his point validated by his peers. "I think he really did a good job all the way through. The bottom line is you've got to win games when doing stuff and Troy's put up good numbers while winning games and I'm really happy for him."

For his efforts in guiding North Medford to its first conference title and winning season since 2005, Mitchell was named SWC coach of the year. Sheldon senior linebacker Marcus McGovern was named defensive player of the year.

As for Fowler, Mitchell said the quarterback's intangible qualities — some seen on the field but most saved for moments away from the spotlight — are what set him apart.

"He's a tireless worker," said the second-year Tornado coach. "He just really is a kid that wants to excel and does what it takes to do it. He never missed weight training or a summer workout and just does all the little things it takes to do what he does. Now the secret's going to be to get him to do this another year, but I think he's going to do it. He's not the type to settle."

Fowler's more the type to run North Medford's first-team offense in practice, then move over to the scout team quarterback so he can test the first-team defense. And when bored and being called out by his peers, he's the type to pull the helmet back on during scout offense and run routes at receiver.

"It means a lot, obviously, to be named player of the year," said Fowler, who has 23 touchdowns against seven interceptions after completing 134 of 224 passes. "At the beginning of the year and during the summertime that was one of my main goals. I told my parents and my coaching staff that whatever it took I just wanted to be that. But none of it could have happened without all these guys around me and my coaches."

North Medford senior Hunter Hermansen and junior Nick Janakes each were named to the first-team offense and defense, with Hermansen getting the nod as an offensive tackle and defensive lineman while Janakes earned his honor as a running back and linebacker.

"Hunter is a really, really good leader and really talented," said Fowler. "At defensive end he smacks people and our offense is based off setting up behind him a lot. And then Nick, he's just Nick. He's a freak by nature and just has a motor that doesn't stop and you have to respect that."

Janakes finished second in the SWC in rushing with 1,018 yards and 10 touchdowns on 189 carries, while Hermansen and first-team junior guard Zak Kuitert were key cogs in an offense that churned out 407 yards per game. Junior receiver Jared Evans was also a first-team honoree after leading his team with 37 receptions for 636 yards and eight TDs.

On defense, Hermansen teamed with first-teamers Janakes, junior Edmund Polataivao (linebacker) and junior Tristen Holmes (cornerback) to help form the top defense in the SWC at 310 yards allowed per game.

"What was the X-factor is we had over 160 to 200 workouts in the morning," said Fowler. "(Defensive coordinator Chris) Kincaid turned the weight program around and coach Mitchell knows how to build a program, obviously, and we just wanted it too bad to not have it happen the way it is."

South Medford sophomore Makai Manuwai turned in a breakout season in his first full season on varsity and was a first-team selection at defensive lineman, while SWC-leading receiver Kory Bennett (54 catches for 818 yards and nine TDs) of Crater and senior teammate Davey McCollum (defensive back) were also chosen for the first team after stellar seasons.

The only other SWC players to earn first-team honors on both sides of the ball were Sheldon's McGovern (offensive tackle/linebacker), Mitchell Herbert (tight end/defensive back) and Kellen Strahm (receiver/defensive back).

All-SWC Football

FIRST TEAM

OFFENSE

C — Dusty Baker, Sr., Sheldon.

G — Tanner Davies, Sr., Sheldon; Zak Kuitert, Jr., North Medford.

T — Hunter Hermansen, Sr., North Medford; Marcus McGovern, Sr., Sheldon.

TE — Mitchell Herbert, Sr., Sheldon.

RB — Levi Holden, Sr., Roseburg; Nick Janakes, Jr., North Medford; Zac Hannan, Jr., Grants Pass; Yadie Dunmore, Sr., Sheldon.

WR — Kory Bennett, Sr., Crater; Kellen Strahm, Jr., Sheldon; Jared Evans, Jr., North Medford; Carson Cook, Sr., Thurston.

QB — Troy Fowler, Jr., North Medford.

PK — Nathan Starnes, Sr., Sheldon.

DEFENSE

DL — Quinton Richardson, Sr., South Eugene; Hunter Hermansen, Sr., North Medford; Jake Snyder, Jr., Roseburg; Makai Manuwai, So., South Medford; Drake Brennan, Sr., Grants Pass; Liam Talty, Sr., Sheldon.

LB — Marcus McGovern, Sr., Sheldon; Nick Janakes, Jr., North Medford; Edmund Polataivao, Jr., North Medford; Travis Dever, Sr., Roseburg.

DB — Davey McCollumn, Sr., Crater; Mitchell Herbert, Sr., Sheldon; Kellen Strahm, Jr., Sheldon; Tristen Holmes, Jr., North Medford.

P — Ryan Carhart, Sr., Roseburg.

OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR — Troy Fowler, Jr., North Medford.

DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR — Marcus McGovern, Sr., Sheldon.

COACH OF THE YEAR — Mike Mitchell, North Medford.

SECOND TEAM

OFFENSE

C — Blaine Marshall, Jr., North Medford.

G — Walker Pope, Sr., Grants Pass; Isaiah Smith, Jr., Roseburg.

T — Tyler Kailiuli, Sr., Roseburg; Jake Mazzola, Sr., Grants Pass.

TE — Conner Still, Sr., South Eugene.

RB — Roy Jackson, Sr., Thurston; Anthony Gomez, Sr., South Medford; Josh Hall, Jr., South Medford.

WR — Tristen Holmes, Jr., North Medford; Dallin George, Sr., Crater; Kirkland Meadows, Jr., Grants Pass.

QB — Joseph Kuehn, Sr., Sheldon.

PK — Riley Williams, Sr., South Medford; Moges Dinkins, Jr., Grants Pass.

DEFENSE

DL — Skyler Black, Jr., North Medford; John Gonzalez, Jr., Crater; Wade Perry, Sr., Thurston; Jordan Thatcher, Sr., Grants Pass; Willy Spears, Jr., Sheldon.

LB — Carlos Higuera, Sr., Crater; Anthony Gomez, Sr., South Medford; Levi Rotherham, Sr., Sheldon; Isaac Grether, Jr., North Medford.

DB — Brady Breeze, So., South Medford; J.C. McKinley, Jr., Grants Pass; Micah Brown, Sr., North Medford; Yadie Dunmore, Sr., Sheldon.

P — Taylor Tharp, Sr., Sheldon.

HONORABLE MENTION

OFFENSE

C — Andres Palomera, Jr., Grants Pass.

G — Alex Shapiro, Jr., South Eugene; Kaighn Humphries, Sr., Thurston; Cesar Cabrera, Sr., South Medford.

T — Jeremy Sparks, Jr., North Medford; Casey Stribling, Sr., Crater; Zack Caddock, Jr., Roseburg; Will Cooney, Jr., South Medford; Zach Randall, Sr., Grants Pass.

TE — Travis Dever, Sr., Roseburg; Kameron Lightheart, Sr., Thurston.

RB — River Sigrest, Sr., Roseburg; Ben Dean, Jr., Grants Pass.

WR — Jonah Musser, Sr., Grants Pass; Levi Rotherham, Sr., Sheldon; Liam Duncan, Jr., South Eugene; Eugene Ellis, Sr., North Medford; Mark Winans, Sr., South Medford; Keegan Weiss, Jr., Grants Pass; Josh Baugh, Sr., South Medford; Dylan Morgan, Jr., Crater.

QB — Javan Appling, Jr., Grants Pass; Ty Fox, Sr., Crater; Ray Roundtree, So., South Eugene; Brendin Quinn, Sr., Thurston.

PK — Jay LaVesque, So., Thurston; Austin Walker, Sr., Roseburg.

DEFENSE

DL — Calvinn Casaday, Jr., North Medford; Zach Caddock, Jr., Roseburg; Jesse Webb, Jr., Roseburg; Jacob Ridgeway, Sr., South Medford; Ethan Straw, Sr., Grants Pass; Dontae Mims, Sr., North Medford.

LB — Isaac Hartwick, Jr., Roseburg; Jacob Patterson, Jr., Thurston; Trevyn Reed, Sr., Grants Pass; Quinn Cota, Jr., South Eugene; Ben Planck, Sr., Sheldon; Ian Oakerson, Sr., South Eugene.

DB — Taran Lewis, Sr., Crater; Cody Walker, Sr., Roseburg; Ben Glaeser, Sr., Grants Pass; Jared Evans, Jr., North Medford.

P — Riley Williams, Sr., South Medford; Hunter Hermansen, Sr., North Medford; Dylan Morgan, Jr., Crater.

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

Junior quarterback Troy Fowler set a North Medford school record with 2,170 yards passing this season.