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North set to test its growth against Demos

Be it through season-opening excitement or general Black Tornado pride, North Medford football fans might just want to pump the brakes a little.

At least that’s the mindset of second-year head coach Steve Turner, who is certainly happy his team got off to a winning start last Friday but is far from ready to set aside dates for any impending victory parades.

And for good reason.

North Medford won its first two games in impressive fashion last year — 55-27 over McNary ad 62-16 over Jefferson — but managed only one win thereafter.

“We’re trying to be a better team than we were last year,” said Turner, “and we beat McNary last year so we haven’t done anything different than we did last year so far. Even if we beat Jefferson (on Friday) we haven’t done anything different than we did last year. We’ve got a long way to go, we haven’t proven anything to anybody.”

Still, it’s difficult to not get a little excited when North Medford (1-0) is coming off a 45-6 romp over McNary that included a 554-219 edge in total offense and four forced turnovers.

But even with that, anyone in the Black Tornado program will tell you that there were plenty of plays that were left unmade last week. The Celtics were in the midst of promising offensive drives when Cole Zoller and Devyn Grafton landed interceptions and Chance Costanzo recovered a fumble mid-air deep in North Medford territory.

“We’ve got a lot of things we need to fix,” said Turner. “We did some things really good but we did some things we need to fix.”

When asked about his team’s bend but don’t break defense from a week ago, Turner didn’t necessarily take that as a compliment — which is a good sign when it comes to keeping the Black Tornado striving for even better.

“That’s not the philosophy, I don’t like to bend,” he said with a laugh. “I like the turnovers and everything but we don’t want to bend that much, so we’re trying to fix the bending.”

That may be easier said than done considering the up-and-coming lineup fielded by the Democrats this year under well-regarded Portland-area coach Don Johnson, in his first year after stints at Milwaukie, Evergreen High of Washington and Madison.

Spearheading the squad is 5-foot-9, 190-pound junior tailback Damir Collins, who has already received Division I interest from Oregon, Oregon State and Nevada. Collins is listed as the nation’s No. 2 all-purpose back for his class by 247Sports and, during last week’s 28-22 win at Southridge, he carried 23 times for 242 yards and three touchdowns.

“He stands out on film both offensively and defensively,” said Turner. “That’s one of the top athletes in the country and that grabs your attention right away.”

Another attention-grabber, according to Turner, is the size, athleticism and physicality of Jefferson’s linemen, as well as the play of sophomore quarterback Dondrae Fair.

“He’s an outstanding athlete,” said Turner. “He can run it and he can throw the ball and they’ve got some receivers that are 6-5 guys that are hoopers and can jump and adjust to the ball.”

North Medford counters with a balanced offensive attack that saw senior quarterback Brennan Stults complete 7 of 9 passes for 152 yards and two scores, while junior Devin Bradd headlined a run game that amassed 326 yards on 49 carries overall. Bradd finished with 166 yards and two scores on 17 carries.

WILLAMETTE AT CRATER: Crater’s stunning 40-0 road victory at Wilsonville sent the state abuzz after what was expected to be a top-10 nailbiter turned into a rout led by senior quarterback Trever Davis, who passed for 219 yards and three TDs and ran for 104 yards and another score.

Senior Gavin Acrey also went over the century mark rushing and scored a TD, and the best part of the passing attack was that it was so well spread out. Four players had at least 25 yards receiving, led by senior Robert Amoson’s 75 yards, for the second-ranked Comets.

Willamette lost 56-27 against Ashland last week, with junior quarterback Damein Kirkpatrick completing 22 of 30 passes for 334 yards and two TDs. His top target was 6-4 senior Elisha Thompson, who had nine receptions for 179 yards.

SPRINGFIELD AT ASHLAND: Ashland rolled to victory last week behind a solid showing from senior quarterback Rieger Sayre, who passed for 378 yards and six TDs and ran for 111 yards.

Senior running back DaMario Watson helped power the run game with 71 yards on 22 carries against Willamette, and added six catches for 79 yards and two scores. Five Grizzlies had at least 45 yards receiving, led by senior tight end Logan Sanford’s six catches for 87 yards and two TDs.

Springfield also comes into the game at Walter A. Phillips Field with a 1-0 record after beating North Eugene 27-7 last week after Braeden Lowe passed for three touchdowns and ran for another.

REDMOND AT EAGLE POINT: Eagle Point senior Justin McElroy turned in one of the biggest efforts in Southern Oregon during last week’s win over Klamath Union, rushing 25 times for 157 yards and two TDs while also helping a defensive effort that limited the Pelicans to 189 total yards.

Junior Lucas Meerten also helped spark the Eagles (1-0) with a pair of TD receptions from Kyler Kendrick and a 51-yard TD run that helped him finish with 64 yards rushing.

Redmond won 44-7 at St. Helens last week, with junior QB Austin Carter finding Cooper Browning for two touchdowns as the Redmond defense also forced three turnovers.

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