Will Spence rushed for 188 yards and two touchdowns and the North Medford football team pulled away in the second half to down South Eugene, 42-10, during Southwest Conference action at Spiegelberg Stadium on Friday.
The Black Tornado led just 14-10 at halftime before finding its rhythm and taking advantage of Axeman turnovers.
Neither team was particularly sharp: North Medford (2-2, 1-1 SWC) finished with 14 penalties for 130 yards and South Eugene (2-2, 1-1) 18 penalties for 136 yards.
Black Tornado quarterback Greyson Wolff threw three first-half interceptions, but North Medford capitalized on three Axeman fumbles in the second half.
“We told them at halftime, let's go out there and play without turning the ball over and see what happens,” North Medford head coach Mike Mitchell said. “I'm happy with the adjustments we made.”
Spence carried the ball 21 times. He already had 111 yards on the ground and both his scores on eight attempts by the end of the first quarter, when the Black Tornado led 14-0.
His TD runs were 12 and 10 yards. His fumble at the South Eugene 3 in the second quarter led to the Axemen’s most explosive play of the night.
Quarterback Parker Mannila connected with Josh Bowers for an 84-yard touchdown on a slant play after the North Medford turnover, trimming their deficit to 14-7.
The defensive back Bowers finished with two interceptions, while Brae Dubie-Gadsby’s second-quarter pick set the stage for Campbell Sheidow’s 42-yard field goal.
And just like that, the score was 14-10.
North Medford’s Wyatt Westfall ran in a 5-yard score in the third quarter after an Axemen fumble and recovery by Michael Polataivao.
Wolff’s 3-yard TD run helped give the Black Tornado a 28-10 edge with 11:19 left in the game, then North Medford’s Daniel Ibarra and Andrew Burnett each recovered South Eugene fumbles in the end zone to set the final score.
Ibarra had never scored before.
"I hit my gap and thought the ball was back in the end zone,” he said. “I thought safety, and then I see the ball bouncing at my feet and our coaches teach us to scoop and score, so I jumped right on it and took a couple steps. I thought I was right by the line. I didn't even know I scored. I got up and everyone was like ‘Danny.’ I was like, 'I recovered the fumble,' and they were like, 'No, you scored.' I had no idea but then I got hyped after that.”
Wolff finished 7 of 16 for 54 yards for North Medford, which was blessed with great field position most of the night.
The prospect of a South Eugene comeback in the second half faded quickly as North Medford gained momentum.
“I feel like in the second half we got fired up and the crowd got behind us,” Spence said. “Home field advantage. The team got on the horse again and pushed it.”
Mannila was 8-for-27 with one interception and 137 yards.
The Axemen finished with minus 13 yards on the ground on 16 attempts, while North Medford had 237 rushing yards on 38 carries.
“We did some good things,” South Eugene head coach Kevin Leonard said. “We fought back and again, we are learning how to compete for four quarters. And that is a darn good football team over there. … We are coming together as a group and they’ll continue to improve.”
North Medford was coming off a heartbreaking 36-35 loss to Roseburg last Friday.
“We had ourselves backed up against the wall a little bit,” Mitchell said. “We had to win to be in the hunt.”
The Black Tornado was hungry to get back on the field, Spence said.
“As a team, (the loss to Roseburg) made us stronger because it made us humble,” he said. “We had a totally different kind of respect for South Eugene coming in.”
Reach reporter Dan Jones at 541-776-4499, or email email@example.com. Find him online at twitter.com/danjonesmt