Tornado airs it out
Not only did North Medford get big plays from its seniors stars — quarterback Troy Fowler and Tristen Holmes — in a 41-7 victory over Wilson from Portland in the opening round of the Class 6A state playoffs Friday at Spiegelberg Stadium. But role players Will Spence and Josh Hansen also contributed mightily to the victory.
Fowler put up big numbers — throwing for 308 yards and three touchdowns on 22 of 31 passing with no interceptions. And Holmes, a Southwest Conference first-team all-star on offense and defense, caught nine passes for 104 yards and two touchdowns and also made an interception to set up North’s final score.
But Spence and Hansen constantly made their presence known.
This is the first time North Medford has advanced to the second round of the playoffs in consecutive years since the 2002-03 seasons. The Black Tornado (8-2) will play at seventh-seeded Jesuit, a 41-14 winner over Gresham, next week.
“We knew we had matchup advantages throughout their secondary,” said Fowler. “I wasn’t getting pressure that much. Our guys were running great routes and making plays.”
Fowler demonstrated his experience and composure late in the first half when North Medford took over at its 17-yard line after a punt with just 1:36 remaining and holding a comfortable 21-7 lead. Fowler engineered a seven-play, 83-yard drive that ended with a 26-yard touchdown pass to Hansen.
“With us there’s no running out the clock,” said Fowler, “but you have to be smart with the ball. It was a big momentum changer.”
On the scoring play, Fowler had to move in the pocket to buy time, then spotted Hansen breaking open in the left part of the end zone. The pass appeared to be long but the senior receiver snatched the high throw just inside the back line.
“I thought I overthrew it,” said Fowler, “but Josh has the best hands on the team. He made an amazing catch.”
Hansen made another big play after the Trojans (5-5), the Portland Interscholastic League runner-up, took its first possession of the game 80 yards to tie the score 7-all.
On the ensuing kickoff, Hansen broke a 43-yard return that put the Black Tornado on the Wilson 47. Just three plays later, Spence took a handoff off the right side, went to the outside then cut back inside and scored from 39 yards out to put the Black Tornado ahead for good.
“I just followed my blocking, went to the outside then decided to cut back,” said Spence. “I started stumbling a little but once I saw the end zone, I started sprinting.”
When Wilson coach Ken Duilio gambled on a fourth-and-3 at the Trojan 40 on the first possession of the second half, it was Spence who filled the hole to deny running back Sam Katter a first down by a slim margin.
“We were really trying to get something going and get more physical,” said Duilio. “This game was getting out of hand so we were wanting to push it.”
The Black Tornado capitalized on getting the short field. Fowler hooked up with Holmes on a 5-yard TD on the seventh play of the drive to increase North’s lead to 34-7 with 9:07 to go in the third quarter.
“They’re passing attack wears you down like a running attack,” said Duilio. “After a while they get people open.”
Holmes responded with a big play just minutes later when he intercepted a Ben Turker pass at the Wilson 30 and raced up the North sideline before being knocked out of bounds on the 2. Nick Janakes went up the middle one play later for North Medford’s final touchdown.
“We were in the right coverage,” said Holmes. “We were playing with a high intensity. It was all about execution.”
North finished with 413 yards in offense, only punted once and didn’t commit a turnover. Wilson picked up 222 of its 235 total yards on the ground.
“Our kids wouldn’t let them control the line of scrimmage,” said North Medford coach Mike Mitchell. “Our line played strong. Our defense was really physical at the start of the second half and that set the tone.”
North Medford 41, Wilson 7
At Spiegelberg Stadium
NM — Janakes 2 run (Grether kick)
W — Davis 26 run (Woodward kick)
NM — Spence 39 run (Grether kick)
NM — Holmes 53 pass from Fowler (Grether kick)
NM — Hansen 26 pass from Fowler (kick failed)
NM — Holmes 5 pass from Fowler (Clarkson kick)
NM — Janakes 2 run (Clarkson kick)
First Downs 14;14
Wilson — Katter 14-63; Rodriguez 7-37; Turker 6-30; Kendall 7-33; Davis 11-61, Moser 2-8, Dixon 1-(-3), Marion 1-(-7).
North Medford— Janakes 10-40, Spence 3-49, Fowler 6-2, Baldovino 2-4, Freda 3-10.
visiting team — Turker 3-8-0 13, Dixon 0-1-1 0.
North Medford — Fowler 22-31-0 308.
visiting team — Davis 1-(-1), Marion 1-9, Burby 1-5.
home team —Evans 4-45, Holmes 9-104, Hansen 4-81, Barry 1-15, Spence 2-35, Moore 1-12, Janakes 1-16.
Reach reporter Frank Silow at 541-776-4480 or by email at email@example.com.