Lake Oswego pulls away from South Medford
The bumps and bruises — some minor, some major — took their toll on the South Medford football team this season. New faces in new places became a common theme as the Panthers were forced to fill gaps left by the injury bug.
On Friday, South had the drive but not quite enough in the tank to take down a resurgent Lake Oswego squad in the opening round of the Class 6A state playoffs. The 19th-seeded Lakers, who have overcome their own injury woes, wore down the No. 14 Panthers in the second half, pulling away for a 24-7 victory behind a bruising rushing attack that was held in check in the opening 24 minutes.
Lake Oswego (6-4), a 21-14 loser to South Medford on Sept. 12, will next play Southwest Conference champion Grants Pass in a second-round game next Friday. Grants Pass routed Barlow, 77-14.
South Medford, the SWC’s fourth-place team, ended its season with a 6-4 record.
“All in all, these kids battled all season and didn’t give up in the face of adversity when all these injuries were piling up,” said South Medford coach Bill Singler, whose team was without 20 players because of ailments in last week’s victory over Thurston. “That’s a credit to our seniors. They kept our season together. They wanted a winning season and they can be proud and hold their heads high after what they accomplished.”
One of those seniors, quarterback Craig Contreras, ended his prep career with 158 yards through the air on 15 of 24 passing. Contreras finished his final campaign with 1,748 yards passing and 21 touchdowns against only six interceptions.
“We’re like a family here,” said Contreras. “Each guy is playing for each other, no matter who’s in there. I’d say playing for Bill and this program has been the highlight of my career.”
“(Lake Oswego) just made some great plays when they needed to,” added the quarterback. “It’s tough to end this way but they definitely deserved to win tonight.”
Lakers receivers Devin King and Zach Parker made two of the biggest plays of the night.
Leading 10-7 with just over a minute left in the third quarter, quarterback Mitchell Verburg lofted a fade pass toward the end zone from the South 33-yard line. King, with senior Panther defensive back Nick Henry holding perfect inside position, gave a slight nudge to Henry to create space then leaped over to snag the ball out of the air for a touchdown. The point-after kick gave the Lakers a 17-7 lead and all the momentum heading into the fourth quarter.
“What can I say,” said Lake Oswego coach Steve Coury, “it was a tight game and we needed some guys to make a play and they did. That catch by Devin was a big one.”
Parker later turned a fourth-and-5 play from the South Medford 25 into a first-and-goal at the 4 with a sliding, head-first grab off a throw down the middle from Verburg. That set up a 5-yard touchdown burst around the left end by Will Burton that gave the Lakers a commanding 24-7 lead with 8:32 remaining.
The Panthers drove one last time into Lake Oswego territory before turning the ball over on downs.
“It’s kinda strange,” said Coury, “because it was pretty much the opposite of when we played them earlier this season. We had a bunch of guys out and now (South) was having the same problem.
“Bill does a good job with that team. We just made a couple plays when we had to.”
Burton carried the load on the ground in the absence of injured starting running back Max Mattern. The senior Burton carried 17 times for 114 of Lake Oswego’s 171 rushing yards. The Lakers, who had just 27 yards rushing in the opening half, limited the Panthers to 238 yards of offense.
“I didn’t think we matched up very well up front coming in and it showed,” said Singler. “We ran out of bullets there in the second half against them.”
The Lakers jumped out to a 10-0 lead in the second quarter behind a 25-yard field goal from Ethan Agritelley and a 20-yard TD catch by Nate Hidalgo.
South Medford had an immediate answer.
On the Panthers’ first play from their own 28, Contreras faked a pitch to freshman Kaleb Franklin and rolled right as he scanned the field for an open receiver. With coverage tight down field, Contreras turned back and unloaded a short dump pass to a wide open Franklin, who scooted unabated down the sideline to the Lake Oswego 12. An 11-yard pass completion to Michael Jennings set South up at the 1 before Manuwai busted up the middle for the touchdown.
The Panthers had other opportunities but penalties stalled promising drives.
“You can’t fault the effort out there,” said Singler. “We challenged them before every game and they responded. There were just a few mistakes — the penalties, a fumble — that you can’t have against a team like Lake Oswego.”
Manuwai rushed for 71 yards to lead the Panthers, with 63 of those coming in the first half. Franklin hauled in six Contreras passes for 97 yards.
Lake Oswego 24, South Medford 7
At Spiegelberg Stadium
LO — Agritelley 30 FG
LO — Hidalgo 20 pass from Berburg (Agritelley kick)
SM — Manuwai 1 run (Gomez kick)
LO — King 33 pass from Berburg (Agritelley kick)
LO — Burton 5 run (Agritelley kick)
Lake Oswego — Berburg 3-1, Bucchi 8-56, Burton 17-114.
South Medford — Contreras 8-0, Manuwai 14-71, Franklin 3-(-2), Emerson 1-23, Team 1-(-14).
Lake Oswego — Berburg 10-19-0 159.
South Medford — Contreras 15-24-0 158.
Lake Oswego — Parker 1-21, Oppenheimer 1-17, Dennis 1-9, King 5-80, Hidalgo 1-20, Bartley 1-12.
South Medford — Emerson 1-2, Cota 2-25, Franklin 6-97, Mobley 2-26, Terando 1-4, Manawai 2-2, Jennings 1-11.