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South puts streak on the line at Roseburg

It was a mid-November night in Medford in 2011 and, under legendary head coach Thurman Bell, Roseburg had surprisingly scrapped its spread offense for a return to the veer and South Medford’s football team simply could not slow the Indians.

That night cut short a promising season for the host Panthers in the second round of the state playoffs.

It also has served as the last time the Indians gained the upper-hand on South Medford, which takes a seven-game winning streak in the series into Friday’s Southwest Conference opener at Finlay Field in Roseburg.

“We’ve had some pretty good success lately,” said Panthers head coach Bill Singler, “but we can’t think about that. We’ve just got to worry about us right now. There are still a lot of things to cinch up on our part.”

In a league race that saw Sheldon gain the advantage with last week’s 28-27 win over North Medford and no easy game on the schedule, Singler is certainly right to be cautious. Roseburg and South Medford share a common opponent thus far in McMinnville, and the Indians dominated that matchup to the tune of 42-0 while the Panthers had to battle for a 21-7 triumph.

“I think (Roseburg coach Dave Heuberger) has done a really nice job up there the last couple years,” said Singler. “You can really see the program developing.”

In Friday’s other SWC action, North Medford is home against Grants Pass at Spiegelberg Stadium.

At the 5A level, third-ranked Crater is set to play at South Eugene in a rare Thursday night contest, while Friday’s matchups include Eagle Point at No. 5 Ashland.

Phoenix is home against No. 7 Henley in 4A football, while Friday’s 3A matchups include South Umpqua at sixth-ranked Cascade Christian and No. 8 St. Mary’s at top-ranked Hidden Valley.

Roseburg (2-3, 0-1 SWC) is coming off a 42-21 loss at Grants Pass that was closer than the final score would indicate, with the Cavemen scoring twice in the final 51/2 minutes to break open a contest that saw the Indians rack up 222 yards on the ground.

Carson Thompson ran for 98 yards and two scores to pace the Indians last week and has served as a steady complement to fellow senior Doran Gillespie, who leads Roseburg with 282 yards rushing overall. Thompson is averaging 7.4 yards per carry for a 223 total, while Alaric Kaul has been a dual threat as a receiver with 195 yards of total offense.

Senior Jace Stoffal propels Roseburg’s attack from the quarterback position and has completed 56 of 98 passes for 765 yards, seven touchdowns and six interceptions.

Leading targets Carson Six (13 catches, 254 yards, two TDs), Garrett Zeimet (17 catches, 209 yards, three TDs) and Skyler Moore (eight catches, 158 yards, one TD) have shown big-play potential for an Indians squad averaging 316 yards and 25 points on offense.

“They spread you out and anytime a team spreads you out, you’ve got to make plays in space,” said Singler. “That becomes an element for the defense, and that’s been kind of an Achilles’ heel for us, open-field tackling. We’re going to have to cinch that up this week because I know that they’re going to create some situations where we need to make those tackles in space.”

Defensively, the Indians have allowed 359 yards and 24 points per game and will face a Panther program that appeared to get its running game back on solid foundation last week in a 31-9 homecoming win over McNary. Despite the loss of senior leaders Isaac Dillon (injury) and Jamal Parnell (concussion protocol), South Medford was able to move the ball well behind the running of senior Zach Miller and, in his varsity debut, 5-foot-5 change-of-pace sophomore Brycen Guches.

“We felt like we didn’t play well up front and didn’t run the ball well after the McMinnville game so it was a major point of emphasis in practice last week,” said Singler. “I was excited about getting Miller some carries and Brycen Guches, of course, coming in and giving us a spark (164 yards on 19 carries). Those are the things you like to see, especially when you have some guys nicked up, other guys step up like that.”

Senior quarterback Toren Tuttle continues to develop a more balanced passing attack, with Trey Alvarez and Carson Cota each stepping up to take full-time attention off senior Austin Boster, who still leads the SWC with 527 yards and eight TDs receiving on 24 catches. Alvarez has 16 catches for 190 yards and four scores, and Cota has 11 catches for 155 yards and notched his first varsity TD reception last week.

Singler said he was pleased with the interior play on the defensive line and at linebacker last week in slowing a powerful running game by McNary. The Panthers are allowing an average of 302 yards and 19 points per game.

“We had to stop the run, that was their bread and butter, and force them to pass and we did that,” said Singler. “I thought our defense played great and I think we need that kind of effort now as we get into the conference games. I’m not sure we’re up to outscoring teams like Grants Pass or North (Medford) or Sheldon. I think we have our moments but we have to play really good defense and keep the game scores somewhere where we have a manageable chance to win the game.”

CRATER AT SOUTH EUGENE: South Eugene senior quarterback Bryce Boettcher boasts a powerful arm and equally damaging legs to pace a dangerous Midwestern League squad that averages 37 points per game.

The game against the Axe (4-1, 1-0 MWL) was moved ahead one day due to the University of Oregon playing its game against Colorado on Friday. According to Crater coach Randy Waite, South Eugene staffers apparently help with Duck home games and needed to move from the regular schedule of Friday affairs for this week.

Crater senior quarterback Trever Davis was outstanding one week ago, passing for five TDs to boost his totals to 16 against only three interceptions thus far. Davis has completed 67 of 115 passes for 896 yards and also run for 175 yards and a score for a team averaging 439 yards and 49 points per game.

The Comets (4-1, 1-0) have been especially solid on defense, allowing only 268 yards and 13 points per game. Senior linebacker Brady Brock has played an integral role with his hard-hitting style, with tackles typically involving a host of Crater players flying to the football.

EAGLE POINT AT ASHLAND: Ashland (5-0, 1-0 MWL) has been on a tear this season, putting up balanced numbers on both sides of the ball to put itself in contention for a potential Midwestern League South title.

The Grizzlies have averaged 469 yards and 53 points on offense, while limiting teams to 264 yards and 13 points per game.

Senior running back DaMario Watson continues to haunt teams with his versatility out of the backfield, running for 476 yards and seven TDs to go with another 221 yards and five scores through the air.

Logan Sanford has been a sure-handed security blanket on the perimeter for senior QB Rieger Sayre, with Sanford hauling in 33 passes for 373 yards and eight TDs.

Overall, Sayre has completed 67 percent of his passes (102-for-152) for 1,293 yards and a whopping 23 TDs with five interceptions.

Noland Rinefort, Austin Harris and Gabe Ekwell each have eclipsed 145 receiving yards for Ashland.

Eagle Point junior Lucas Meerten showed off his playmaking versatility in last week’s loss to South Eugene, running for a 90-yard TD to go with his 30-yard scoring strike to Kyler Kendrick.

Meerten and senior Justin McElroy have combined for 777 rushing yards and seven TDs to propel the Eagles (2-3, 0-1), while Meerten also boasts 183 receiving yards and four TDs and completed 6 of 14 passes last week for 79 yards to spark the passing game.

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

South Medford High senior QB Toren Tuttle scrambling downfield past Liberty High defenders at Spiegelberg Stadium. (PHOTO BY: LARRY STAUTH JR)