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North looks to improve

His team may still have a zero in the win column, but North Medford head coach Mike Mitchell couldn’t be more optimistic about his team heading into Friday’s home opener against Canby at Spiegelberg Stadium.

With another week of practice and some valuable game exposure under the inexperienced belts of the Black Tornado, Mitchell expects his team will be ready to take a big step at 7 p.m. Friday when they host the 1-0 Cougars of the Three Rivers League.

North Medford trailed 14-0 in the third quarter of last week’s opener at Fortuna High in California but responded well to the adversity before ultimately coming up short, 21-14.

“They showed a little bit of what we’ve had here in that we never quit in a game at all,” said Mitchell. “They went out and played a full solid game, and we had chance to win it at the end. With young teams you worry if something bad happens that they may fold the tent and we had some bad things happen and we just kept plugging away at it.”

Four turnovers proved to be the Black Tornado’s undoing, but most were of the unusual variety. North Medford quarterback Greyson Wolff had the ball simply slip out of his hands on the Fortuna 6-yard line for one of the team’s three fumbles, while senior running back Will Spence lost another at the tail end of a long run into scoring position.

“Those are just things I don’t think are going to happen on a daily basis for us,” said Mitchell. “We don’t ever want to turn the ball over but I was pretty optimistic about it because of all that. We’re in a retooling thing here a little bit and when you take all that into consideration, we played pretty well.”

Mitchell was particularly pleased with the play by his defense, which allowed 366 yards overall to the unbeaten and senior-led Huskies (2-0). The Black Tornado forced a pair of turnovers and got contributions from a host of players.

“We actually played a really good defensive game,” said Mitchell. “It sounds funny in a loss but it’s the best tackling we’ve had in the four years I’ve been here. We were really aggressive and that’s what gave me the feeling that we were going to be good in the long run.”

Linebackers Derek Kinsey and Spence led the charge with defensive linemen Tre Holmes and Michael Polataivao and safeties Wyatt Westfall and Tucker Barry.

That defense will be in for a challenge Friday when Canby comes to town. The Cougars opened with a 27-7 win over Roseburg and used a diverse Wing-T attack to muscle past the Indians. Nine different players carried the ball for Canby, with Tanner Monen leading the charge by gaining 51 yards on 13 carries with two touchdowns.

Quarterback Nico Tellache, making his return after a knee injury cost him the 2014 campaign, added 21 yards rushing and one TD on seven carries. Tellache also was crisp in catching Roseburg peeking into the backfield, completing 10 of 17 passes for 163 yards and a 30-yard TD to Aaron Jarmer.

“This should be a good game for us,” said Mitchell, whose team beat Canby 35-21 a year ago. “I expect them to be tough and when they run, they get into a lot of double teams and pulls and that can cause you problems if you let it.”

For North Medford, Wolff is coming off a solid first varsity start in which the senior completed 17 of 33 passes for 212 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. Speedy receiver Preston Johnson was the recipient of one of those scores, hauling in a 50-yard TD, while David Patstone, Mason Barone and Cory Reece provided steady targets as Fortuna focused on Barry.

Spence rushed 17 times for 114 yards to pace the ground game and could see an increase in carries this week to help stabilize the attack.

After South Medford dealt with a temporary scoreboard last week at Spiegelberg Stadium, with Panther regulars James and Amber Wightman lifted well into the chilly air to operate the makeshift setup, the brand new scoreboard is up and ready for all to see Friday.

SOUTH MEDFORD AT LAKE OSWEGO: South Medford was able to net a rare victory over Lake Oswego during Week 2 last season but the Lakers, who returned to full strength for the state playoffs, were able to avenge that loss in the Class 6A first round.

Lake Oswego scored 38 straight points to upend Southridge, 38-14, last week and returns talented senior quarterback Mitchell Verburg, who is in the third year at the helm. Verburg has been known to trust his strong right arm a little too much and been saddled with interceptions, like on the first drive against Southridge, but his overall talent is readily apparent and he also completed 14 of 23 passes for 290 yards and four TDs against the Skyhawks.

Senior receiver Drew Todd hauled in five passes for 163 yards and two TDs last week to pace the Lakers. Andrew Bartley and Devin King each had receiving TDs, while Max Mattern added a rushing TD.

Martin Sorrelhorse and Alex Bassett each had 63 yards rushing to help provide balance for Lake Oswego, which could have scored a shutout after Southridge’s opening drive but ex-Crater standout Jacob Hintemeyer hauled in a 45-yard TD pass with 4:10 remaining.

The Lakers limited Southridge to 230 yards of total offense so South Medford’s energetic offense will certainly be tested. Cody Howard-Marthoski (15-for-26 for 159 yards and three TDs) and Robbie Patterson (8-for-13 for 83 yards and one TD) were smooth in exchanging series for the Panthers in last week’s 35-27 win over Sunset.

The QB tandem completed at least six passes to Chase Cota, Bobby Chaney and Kaleb Franklin but South Medford will need to get more of a push this week if it wants to get a relatively stagnant running game on track. Lumbering running backs Makai Manuwai and Cristian Ibarra combined for only 59 yards on 22 carries last week.

South’s inexperience showed in the secondary during the opener, with breakdowns accounting for three of Sunset’s four TDs. That group will certainly need to be on full alert for Verburg and company in Week 2.

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

North Medford running back Will Spence rushed 17 times for 114 yards against Fortuna High last Friday. MT FILE PHOTO