North aims to get back on track
Dwelling on a setback has not been part of the plan for Mike Mitchell since taking over as head coach at North Medford High, so Friday only offers opportunity for the Black Tornado football team as it seeks out its first Southwest Conference victory at Spiegelberg Stadium.
Coming off a tough 36-35 loss at Roseburg where the outcome was decided in the waning seconds, North Medford will look to right the ship against visiting South Eugene at 7 p.m. Friday to highlight Week 4 play in the Rogue Valley.
North Medford (1-2, 0-1 SWC) held a 35-28 advantage over the Indians until the host team, making its final stand against the Black Tornado under head coach Thurman Bell, rallied with a 1-yard touchdown and subsequent two-point conversion with 27 seconds to play.
“We’ve heard a lot of comments about Roseburg,” said Mitchell, “but the bottom line is in the second half we played pretty good defense except for one series. They only scored one touchdown in the second half, it just happened to be with 27 seconds to go.”
“There were an awful lot of good things in last week’s game,” he added, “and I’ve got to give Roseburg credit. When you break the film down, some days you just come to play and Roseburg came to play last Friday night.”
Mitchell expects a similar effort this week from a South Eugene team coming off its first true SWC victory since beating Crater on Oct. 1, 2010. The Axemen (2-1, 1-0) held off Thurston 20-14 one week ago.
South Eugene’s conference drought is a little misleading, however, because it technically registered a win four years ago over North Medford. The Black Tornado won the Sept. 23, 2011 contest on the field, 46-44, with a late defensive stand but had to forfeit its lone victory of that season after it was later discovered North played with an ineligible player.
Either way, the Axemen expect to be in high spirits when they hit town on Friday.
“They’re a much better team this year,” said Mitchell. “They haven’t played a lot of power teams yet but we certainly are not a team that can not respect everybody we play. I think they are a better football team than they’ve been but they’re certainly a reachable team if we come out and play like we can play.”
In Friday’s other SWC matchups, South Medford (2-1, 1-0) plays at No. 3 Sheldon (2-1, 1-0), Grants Pass (1-2, 0-1) is host to Thurston (0-3, 0-1) and Roseburg (1-2, 1-0) is at Willamette (1-2, 0-1).
Inconsistent play has hindered Mitchell’s squad thus far, although the Tornado has shown tremendous capability when on top of its game.
“Canby was a good football team and we had a good solid effort against them,” Mitchell said of North’s lone victory. “The other two games haven’t been what I’d call a solid effort so we just need to get back to business and play like we did against Canby. If we can do that then we can become OK.”
North Medford senior running back Will Spence and quarterback Greyson Wolff continue to lead the charge on offense, with Spence rushing for 151 yards and one TD on 18 carries last week while Wolff completed 9 of 15 passes for 113 yards, two TDs and one interception.
Spence ranks second in SWC rushing at 362 yards on 51 carries and the ground game got a boost with the production of Wyatt Westfall against Roseburg (six carries, 34 yards, one TD). Wolff is 38-for-70 passing for 504 yards, five TDs and four interceptions in his first season as a varsity starter.
Mason Barone scored a receiving TD to go with a kickoff return TD in last week’s nail-biter, while Tucker Barry is tops on the team with 10 catches for 164 yards.
Defensively, North Medford is allowing about 347 yards and 22 points per game after Roseburg’s breakout game resulted in 440 yards of total offense.
Beyond last week’s big triumph, South Eugene also owns a 23-14 win over Madison to go with a 33-14 loss at Lebanon. The Axemen are led by quarterback Parker Mannila, who combined with speedy receiver Myles Green-Richards on two TDs last week.
SOUTH MEDFORD AT SHELDON: Sheldon quarterback Justin Herbert has guided the Irish to an average of 467 yards and 45 points per game against some of the state’s best competition and will pose a huge challenge for a South Medford defense that is allowing 320 yards per game.
Misikei Thomsen has romped for 204 yards on 35 carries in two weeks as a starter in the backfield after taking over for the injured Taylor Bratton, and the Irish boast the SWC’s top two receivers in Tanner Zenke (12 catches, 296 yards, four TDs) and Jack Johnson (20 catches, 293 yards, three TDs).
South Medford sophomore Robbie Patterson handled the majority of snaps at quarterback last week and will be looking for a little more time in the pocket this week so he can take advantage of prime perimeter threats Chase Cota, Kaleb Franklin and Bobby Chaney.
Panthers senior Cristian Ibarra mounted his best effort with 64 yards on nine carries and will look to build off that, while sophomore Jaylin Parnell gave the running game a boost with 10 carries for 40 yards and was a key contributor at linebacker against Willamette.
Reach reporter Kris Henry at 541-776-4488, firstname.lastname@example.org, www.facebook.com/krishenryMT or www.twitter.com/Kris_Henry