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Tornado Takedown

For a third straight Friday, one quarter was all it took for third-ranked North Medford to take control of its Southwest Conference matchup.

Such a situation likely won’t occur four weeks in a row thanks to a heavyweight battle on the horizon against No. 4 Grants Pass but, at least for one more night, the Black Tornado could rest easy in another runaway victory.

North Medford limited Thurston to 193 yards of offense and forced three turnovers to complement an offense that was clicking on all cylinders en route to a 57-7 rout on homecoming night at Spiegelberg Stadium.

The Black Tornado (5-0, 3-0 SWC) opened a 28-0 lead through one quarter of play and built a 50-point advantage before turning the game over to its reserve players with three minutes left in the third quarter.

It was the third straight game in which the defending SWC champions have limited a team to seven points or less. Thurston (1-4, 1-2) entered the game averaging 25 points and 319 yards of total offense.

“We really wanted to prove that we’re not a team to mess with this year,” said senior tailback/linebacker Nick Janakes. “Everyone comes in and obviously they’re going to play hard because of last year but some teams still have in the back of their mind that the past couple years we weren’t that good. ... The drive that our defense had this whole week of practice was insane. I’ve never been around a group of kids this week that wanted to prove something more than they did.”

Interceptions by Calvinn Casaday and Jared Evans set the stage for a pair of scoring drives in the first quarter for North Medford, which was coming off a school-record 69-point effort against South Eugene. Jack Freda added a fourth-quarter interception in a game that featured some punishing hits by the Black Tornado defense.

“I think overall we got a lot done tonight,” said North Medford head coach Mike Mitchell. “Defensively there was some great hitting out there. I think our defense is really good and they’re going to get better and better we hope. It sounds like we need to next week. Next week to me, obviously, whoever wins it has the inside road to winning the championship so it’s a big, big game for us and we’re excited about it.”

Grants Pass enters the key clash also undefeated and brimming with confidence after its 52-0 romp over South Medford on Friday.

“It feels good to win this one,” said North quarterback Troy Fowler, “but we’ve got a really big test ahead of us this week and we’ve got to prepare even harder. It’s up in their house and it’s hard to win up there. I’m happy right now, but we’ve got to get back to work.”

Fowler, who has played only one third-quarter series in the past two weeks, was as crisp as ever against Thurston in directing an offense that piled up 546 total yards. The senior completed 18 of 23 passes for 307 yards and touchdowns to Josh Hansen (8 yards), Tristen Holmes (80 yards) and Tucker Barry (22 yards) before taking a seat after two series in the third quarter.

“This was one of the weeks where you put a scout defense out there and they did exactly what our scout defense was doing to us all week,” said Fowler. “We were prepared and ran the plays we wanted to run and executed them. It all worked well for us.”

Janakes was his steady self yet again, compiling 134 yards rushing on 11 carries. The SWC’s leading rusher scored on touchdown runs of 2, 25, 15 and 28 yards — and his best run of the night didn’t even count after a 53-yard TD scamper was negated by a personal foul away from the ball.

Holmes used his 80-yard dash to pay dirt to finish with 123 yards receiving on four catches, while Barry hauled in five passes for 87 yards, including a 35-yard TD strike from backup QB Greyson Wolff on an improvised play early in the fourth quarter.

The only downside to the game was the potential loss of senior linebacker/fullback Isaac Grether to a knee injury. Grether came up limping after an 11-yard catch on North Medford’s opening possession and only returned to attempt a point-after kick before having to be sidelined. His loss left the Tornado to try for two-point conversions in the first half before essentially having kicker tryouts in the second half.

“We don’t know how bad it is and you never know until Monday,” added Mitchell. “I don’t feel good about what we’ve been told right now so we’ll have to wait and see. Isaac definitely would be a guy we’d miss. He’s definitely been great for us as a leader and as a player on both sides of the ball.”

Thurston was limited to 95 yards rushing on 30 carries, with leading runner Jacob Patterson rushing 10 times for 22 yards. Quarterback Logan Marsh, who replaced Cade Bates in the second quarter, added 29 yards on seven carries and completed 11 of 16 passes for 58 yards, one interception and a 3-yard TD to Cade Morton. Robert Connor set up the lone scoring drive with a 62-yard kickoff return.

“Our D-line looked absolutely spectacular tonight,” Janakes said of a group led by Casaday, Tre Holmes, Skyler Black and Dalton Ireland. “They were working so hard that it made our linebackers look good. That’s how it works, the D-line does the dirty work and the linebackers get the credit, but I give so much thanks to my line for what they do.”

Thurston; 0 0 7 0 — 7

North Medford; 28 16 6 7 — 57

NM — Hansen 8 pass from Fowler (kick failed)

NM — Holmes 80 pass from Fowler (run failed)

NM — Janakes 2 run (Hansen pass from Fowler)

NM — Janakes 25 run (Evans pass from Fowler)

NM — Janakes 15 run (Holmes pass from Fowler)

NM — Barry 22 pass from Fowler (Evans pass from Janakes)

NM — Janakes 28 run (kick failed)

T — Ca. Morton 3 pass from Marsh (LeVesque kick)

NM — Barry 35 pass from Wolff (Clark kick)

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

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North Medford junior Tucker Barry looks for an opening against the Thurston defense Friday. PHOTO BY LARRY STAUTH JR.
Black Tornado junior Will Spence knocks Thurston running back Johnny Contreras off his feet in their Southwest Conference contest Friday. PHOTO BY LARRY STAUTH JR.