South capitalizes on Centennial miscues in rout
GRESHAM — South Medford’s football team capitalized on five minutes of follies from Centennial to run away with a 40-13 win in Friday’s season opener.
The Panthers were clinging to a one-point lead when they came out of the locker room and booted the second-half kickoff to Centennial.
The Eagles would do nothing with their chance at the lead.
A bobbled kick return had Centennial pinned inside its own 10-yard line. A fumble on first down followed, which the Eagles recovered. Next up, it was a pass play into the flat where South Medford linebacker James Duane blew up the intended receiver and the ball fell incomplete.
A delay of game backed the ball up inside the 5-yard line.
It would get worse.
The Eagles bobbled the ensuing shotgun snap on third-and-long, and QB Kyle Fitzgerald was unable to cover it for a safety. The ball remained loose when South Medford lineman Nate Krupp swooped in for the defensive touchdown.
“We just worked hard and stayed on our jobs,” Krupp said. “That was a huge momentum changer that led to the rest of our touchdowns. It felt great.”
Centennial fumbled the ball again on its next possession when South Medford’s Rylee Heim crashed into the backfield and laid on a hit that popped the ball loose. It took a series of wild bounces toward the hashmarks where South teammate Justin Josephson completed the turnover.
“I saw the ball bouncing, and I just scooped it up as it came toward me — I would have scored if I hadn’t tripped,” Josephson said. “They are an option team, so we stayed to our assignments and took on who we were supposed to get.”
South Medford was back in the end zone three plays later when Panthers’ QB Toren Tuttle left a short pass for Mitchell Walker, who found a seam through a crowd of Centennial tacklers 10 yards for the score.
South Medford kicked off for the third time in a matter of minutes.
And again, the Eagles could not keep hold of the ball.
This time it wasn’t a fumble, but South’s Jagus Cattanach picking off a pass along the sideline.
On the next play, Tuttle zipped a deep ball toward the sideline where Austin Boster got past a pair of defenders, spun back toward the sideline to adjust for the catch before going out of bounds at the 5.
Two plays later, Tuttle bobbled the snap which killed the designed run play.
No matter, he gathered the ball, faced down an onrushing Centennial lineman and spun back the other direction looking for an open receiver.
“I wasn’t sure what had happened, but I saw Toren coming my way, so I just got away from my defender and gave him a spot to throw the ball,” Boster said.
The window was small along the sideline, but Tuttle fit it in. Boster snagged the catch with two hands and dragged a foot inbounds for the touchdown.
Believe it or not, the follies were not yet finished.
Centennial missed a pitch-out on its next play from scrimmage, and South’s Cameron Davis scooped it up and raced 20 yards to the end zone.
In five minutes of game time, South had seen its 7-6 halftime edge blow up to a commanding 33-6 margin.
“In all my years coaching I don’t think I’ve seen a game swing so quickly,” South coach Bill Singler said. “It was great to see us recapture the momentum.”
Centennial would score early in the fourth quarter, but South Medford recovered an onside kick and drove to the end zone to squelch any comeback thoughts.
Isaac Dillon caught a pass in the flat and turned up the sideline to move the chains on third-and-8, and the Panthers would strike big on third-and-1.
A Centennial cornerback turned his back at the line of scrimmage anticipating a running play when Boster blew by him to the pylon. Tuttle faked a handoff and fired a pass over the top to Boster for the clinching 14-yard touchdown with 8:59 to play.
“I’m happy with the effort we showed tonight, and that’s all we talk about in these first games,” Singler said. “And any time we win on the road, I’ll take it.”
South Medford saw its opening drive end with a fumble at the Eagles’ 6-yard line.
A couple possessions later, the Panthers would find their way onto the scoreboard when Tuttle left a screen pass for Boster, who took it 49 yards for a 7-0 lead.
South Medford seemed poised to take that lead into the locker room, but another fumble, this time at midfield, gave Centennial the ball with less than a minute on the clock.
Fitzgerald fired a pair of short passes to Kahleed McCallister and Alex Ibarra before the Eagles spent their final timeout of the half with three seconds on the clock. With the ball at the 33-yard line, a desperation heave to the end zone was the obvious play.
Fitzgerald rolled to his right and fired a high ball that hit Daniel Leyva in the end zone only to trickle down his body to the turf.
But the half wasn’t over yet.
A pass interference flag kept the teams on the field, and an unsportsmanlike penalty complicated the Panthers’ situation. The ball was moved inside the 10-yard line for one untimed play.
Centennial made it count when Fitzgerald lasered a pass to McCallister on an out pattern. He secured the catch on the goal line and stretched the ball over the pylon to assure the touchdown before going out of bounds.
South Medford got a surge through the middle to deflect the extra point, which came up short of the crossbar to keep the Panthers clinging to a 7-6 lead.
SM — Boster 49 pass from Tuttle (Allen kick)
C — McCallister 10 pass from Fitzgerald (kick blocked)
SM — Krupp fumble recovery in end zone (kick blocked)
SM — Walker 10 pass from Tuttle (Allen kick)
SM — Boster 5 pass from Tuttle (kick failed)
SM — Davis 20 fumble recovery (Allen kick)
C — Ibarra 8 pass from Fitzgerald (Plieth kick)
SM — Boster 14 pass from Tuttle (Allen kick)