South seniors help Panthers repeat as SWC champions
South Medford took its Senior Night football celebration to the extreme Friday night at Spiegelberg Stadium, with six different seniors scoring touchdowns in the first half to set the stage for a 56-12 romp over South Eugene in the regular-season finale.
“We didn’t try to orchestrate it that way,” said Panthers head coach Bill Singler of the senior outburst, “but it’s kinda neat.”
With the win, the No. 2-ranked Panthers solidified their second straight Southwest Conference title and third since the league was formed in 2006.
“Being Senior Night and all, everyone just wanted to come and show out for the hometown and play together and have fun,” said South Medford senior quarterback Robbie Patterson, who completed four of his five pass attempts for 45 yards on a run-heavy night that saw him churn out 42 yards on three carries.
It was Patterson who got things going after senior safety Jaron Emerson intercepted a pass deep in South Eugene territory.
Given a short field to work with, Patterson capped a three-play drive with a 25-yard scamper to the end zone and, within a few short moments, he was joined in the touchdown barrage as Jaylin Parnell scored on a 17-yard run and Josiah Johnson returned a punt 30 yards for a score for a 21-0 lead midway through the first quarter.
“It just kind of went on from there, from Jaylin and Chase (Cota) and everyone,” said Patterson. “It just seemed like everyone wanted a part of it.”
That rang true especially for the seniors, who stood 24 strong for South Medford (8-1, 6-0 SWC) against a squad in South Eugene (1-7, 0-6) that only suited up 26 players for Friday’s clash.
Patterson hooked up with senior Chase Cota for a 33-yard TD pass early in the second quarter and Peyton Shipley followed soon after with a 56-yard punt return for a score for a 35-0 advantage that started the ball rolling toward full-sale changes throughout the Panther lineup.
“It’s just a great class,” Singler said of the senior group. “These kids have been playing together for a long time and I’ve seen some of their Facebook posts when they were in Pop Warner playing together or against each other. They’ve grown up and they have a great sense of friendship and camaraderie. They work out hard together and it’s no shock that they’ve attained a great level in our league and in the state because they’ve really worked hard.”
South Eugene was finally able to get on the board after a 7-yard pass from Bryce Boettcher to Elliot James with 2:11 to go in the first half, but the Panthers struck right back on a 38-yard TD run by fullback Trent Snyder.
“That was super awesome,” said Snyder of his run. “I got that cutback and I saw open field and I just took it to the end zone. I was looking for flags because the past two games I’ve had touchdowns that have been called back, but thankfully not tonight.”
South Eugene was able to tack on a final score 19 seconds later when James got behind the defense for a 48-yard connection from Boettcher to make it 42-12 at intermission.
Overall, the Panther defense limited the Axemen to one first down in the first quarter and five overall for the first half.
The second half was all about keeping the clock moving for South Medford, which needed only three plays to score to open the third quarter as Parnell capped the drive with a 10-yard burst to paydirt after his own 41-yard scamper.
Johnson added a third-quarter interception in the end zone and junior Terrence Butler closed out the scoring with a 13-yard TD run with 7½ minutes to play.
Snyder paced the Panthers with 102 yards rushing on five carries, while Parnell ran for 72 yards and two TDs on six carries and Butler amassed 53 yards on seven attempts as South Medford totaled 279 of its 324 yards on the ground.
“It was super fun to just be able to be back there with Terrence, switching off every run,” said Snyder on a night when Parnell only saw a handful of snaps to balance out last week’s yeoman’s effort against Sheldon.
Cota caught two passes for 39 yards and gave way to his teammates to finish off the final two quarters as the Panthers turned their attentions toward being ready for the first round of the Class 6A state playoffs next Friday.
“I’ve been playing with these men since third and fourth grade and it’s been a blast hanging out with them,” said Snyder. “We want to continue our season all the way to the state championship so hopefully we can do that.”
Playoff tickets for the first round will go on sale at 9 a.m. Monday for current South Medford season ticket holders, with tickets opening up for purchase to the general public after noon on Tuesday.
For South Eugene, Boettcher finished 10-for-30 for 136 yards, two TDs and two interceptions, James had five catches for 86 yards and Oskar Mertz ran 10 times for 71 yards in the season-ender. The Axemen finished with 226 total yards.
Reach reporter Kris Henry at 541-776-4488, firstname.lastname@example.org, www.facebook.com/krishenryMT or www.twitter.com/Kris_Henry