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Patient Panthers ease by Wilsonville

Almost everything about Friday’s football season opener between South Medford and Wilsonville seemed different, save for the setting and the final outcome.

Forced to switch game sites midway through the week due to unhealthy air conditions in Southern Oregon brought on by smoky conditions, perennial Class 5A power Wilsonville got a rare second straight home date with the Class 6A Panthers on Friday.

With a chance to earn a little homefield redemption after South Medford hung a 73-34 win over the Wildcats in a 711-yard offensive explosion last year, Wilsonville changed things up in as many ways possible but still couldn’t contain the talented Panthers.

South Medford senior quarterback Robbie Patterson passed for 204 yards and four touchdowns and senior running back Jaylin Parnell added 119 yards rushing with one TD on the ground and another through the air in a patient 35-7 dismantling of the Wildcats.

“It was a good win,” said South Medford head coach Bill Singler. “This Wilsonville team was a much better team physically this year than last year and we had to really work for everything tonight.”

“They also played a lot of man coverage last year and this year it was all zone,” he added, “so we had to be patient. We just couldn’t get too greedy on them. We settled into running the ball and throwing a little shorter and we had a couple nice drives for touchdowns.”

Parnell got everything rolling for the Panthers (1-0) with a 9-yard scoring run on South Medford’s opening drive, and continued to provide big runs to help move the chains on a night when the Panthers rushed for 176 yards overall and amassed 380 yards total.

“He played a really good game,” said Singler. “He’s a workhorse and a really good runner inside the tackles. He’s just so well-rounded as a back. He catches the ball, he runs the ball and he blocks — he just gives you everything. He got off to a good start for us and we got the ground game going and that was good to see.”

Just as familiar to see for South Medford was the play of Patterson, who completed 15 of 24 passes with one interception and four TDs.

Patterson connected with fellow senior Chase Cota on a 13-yard scoring strike that saw Cota bring the ball in over two defenders in the second quarter, then connected with Jaalen Owens for a 32-yard TD pass to cap off a successful two-minute drive before halftime. On the play, Owens caught a quick pass, shook off his defender and then raced down the sideline untouched.

“I thought Robbie handled the team real well at the line,” said Singler. “The touchdown to Jaalen was an audible and we’ve talked about that with him. He’s a three-year starter and if he sees something the defense gives him then go ahead, he’s got the green light. He made a nice call and Jaalen caught it and turned it into a touchdown.”

While the offense had its shining moments, the ability of South’s defense to pitch a shutout in a 21-0 first half and keep Wilsonville (0-1) off the scoreboard until the final drive was just as impressive. The Panthers limited the Wildcats to 89 yards rushing on 36 attempts and 187 yards of total offense, twice forcing turnovers.

“All in all our defense played great,” said Singler. “They kept them in check the whole game and made some big stands when they had to.”

One of those stands came in the third quarter, when Wilsonville got inside the 5-yard line and was stopped short of the goal line on four straight attempts, with the final one resulting in a fumble recovered by senior linebacker Evan Dallas.

On the ensuing drive, Parnell supplied a key second-down run to get the ball out to the 19-yard line and suddenly the Panthers were off on what went on to be a 97-yard scoring drive. Senior Kaleb Franklin supplied another nice catch and run — finishing with six receptions for 59 yards — and Parnell tacked on another big run later in the drive before ultimately finding the end zone on a 16-yard pass from Patterson.

“That was a great drive,” said Singler. “That took a lot of wind out of their sails.”

If that didn’t do it, a 51-yard TD pass to Cota may have done it as the Panthers closed the third quarter with a 35-0 advantage. Another fumble recovery by Dallas set up the drive.

Cota finished with three catches for 75 yards, while Parnell hauled in four passes for 31 and Owens turned two catches into 39 yards. The Panthers also got a boost off the bench from reserve running back Terrence Butler, who carried 13 times for 59 yards to help close out the contest.

Wilsonville scored in the waning minutes on a 15-yard pass from Nathan Overholt to Trevor Antonson. Overholt completed 12 of 17 passes for 98 yards, and Cooper Mootz paced the running game with 18 carries for 62 yards.

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