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North's Forte scores thrice in victory over South

The weather wasn't the only thing that was hot Saturday.

With the mercury above 90 degrees, North Medford's Caleb Forte recorded a hat trick, accounting for all this team's scoring in a 3-1 Southwest Conference boys soccer win over visiting South Medford at Hoffbuhr Field.

The Black Tornado improved to 2-1 overall and 1-0 in the SWC. The Panthers are 0-3 and 0-2.

Forte, a sophomore forward, notched his first goal after a 32-minute defensive struggle. Both teams had good looks at the net, yet South goalkeeper Ruben Rodriguez and North junior net minder Kendal James both made athletic plays on shots, with good support from teammates.

Forte added another score just 52 seconds before intermission with a header.

“We had a tall kid in front of me — Carson (Ehlers) — who made an excellent run-up," said Forte. "Joel (Dawson) made the brilliant throw over. I was able to position myself in a way to get the ball and bury the header.”

“We were prepared the whole week after we beat Ashland,” he said. "We had some momentum coming into this game, and my team found me the ball enough, and I was lucky enough to put them away for us.”

While Forte was humble, Tornado coach Michael Belzberg offered praise.

“He's a monster physically," said the coach. "He's got all those attributes in terms of speed, strength. He's going to be a tough player to defend. If I was defending (Forte), I would be very fortunate to slow him down. It's always nice to have a player like that.”

South Medford gave Black Tornado fans a number of anxious moments. A long kick by defender Jonah Michael was rejected on a tip over the net by James just before halftime. The Panthers' Pablo Gonzalez had a strike carom off the crossbar. James later smothered another shot by Gonzalez, and the Black Tornado goalie also rejected a shot by Justice Evans, who was particularly active after intermission.

Forte capped off North's scoring with a shot from 18 yards out in the 52nd minute. South battled to the final buzzer. Eduardo Alvarez got the Panthers on the board with a shot he zipped past North reserve goalkeeper Caleb Vandersteen.

“Individuals played well. We had a couple of standouts,” said Belzberg. “I think our defense was very solid.”

There's room for growth, he added.

“We're young," said Belzberg. "We're still developing and rebuilding. So, we're still a long ways from where we want to be come November.”

Panthers coach Josh Desmond was quick to praise the Tornado and said heat forced adjustments.

“For the most part, most of my boys can go all 80 minutes," he said. "We had to make some subs. Every time you make subs, it changes the formation a little bit.”

Saturday's game is the only one South plays on grass this season.

“We didn't quit,” said Desmond. “That's going to be our motto for the year. We're just going to keep fighting and fighting.”