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PREP FOOTBALL: North snares dramatic opening win over GP

GRANTS PASS — North Medford drove the length of the field in the final 3 1/2 minutes, scoring on a pass from Colby Neron to Bryce Dyer with 21 seconds left for a 27-20 season-opening football win over Grants Pass Friday at Mel Ingram Field.

North Medford trailed 20-19 when it took over at its own 4-yard line.

Ninety-six yards and several critical plays later, the Black Tornado was in position to celebrate a win that was in the making for nearly 16 months — the span since its last game before COVID-19 struck.

It came on a cold, rainy night, when the Black Tornado over came numerous mistakes, including six fumbles, three of which it lost.

“Like I told our kids,” said North Medford coach Steve Turner, “I’m really proud of the way we hung in there the whole time. What could go wrong, did go wrong. We could have easily thrown in the towel. Grants Pass is a really good football team. They’re big, they’re physical. We could have just hung it up, but we didn’t.”

Certainly not late in the fourth quarter.

The clutch drive began with the senior Neron hitting the junior Dyer with a 28-yard pass.

On a fourth-and-7 play, they teamed up for 26 yards to the Grants Pass 39.

Moments later, on fourth-and-8, Neron and Devin Bradd kept the march going on a 14-yard pass to the 23.

Bradd had an apparent 12-yard touchdown run negated by a penalty, but two plays later, Neron passed to Dyer in the end zone, where the 6-foot-4, 203-pounder battled Asher Yriarte for possession and the winning score.

“A lot of guys stepped up to make some big plays when they had to,” said Turner.

He noted an interception deep in North Medford territory by senior Luke Pugliano as the Cavemen made a last-ditch effort to pull out a game that was not a thing of beauty.

“You could tell people hadn’t played for a while,” said Turner. “There were big plays galore. We shot ourselves in the foot countless times.”

Grants Pass led 14-13 at halftime in the seesaw contest, but a back-shoulder pass from Neron to senior Chance Costanzo from 20 yards gave the Black Tornado — after its second failed extra-point attempt — a 19-14 advantage.

Grant Pass moved back in front, 20-19, on a 12-yard scamper by Jayden Brown with 8:18 to play.

North Medford turned the ball over on the first play of its next possession, giving the Cavemen a first down at the North Medford 37.

However, Grants Pass came up empty.

“I was really proud of our defense,” said Turner. “We had our backs against the wall all night long.”

North Medford scored on a 75-yard interception return by Dyer to get on the board in the first quarter, then Neron hit Costanzo for a 19-yard touchdown to pull the Black Tornado within 14-13.

In the second quarter, Costanzo made a key interception at the North Medford 2 after a fumble set up the Cavemen with an opportunity.

Neron was 10 of 14 for 153 yards and the three touchdowns.

Dyer had three catches for 75 yards and Costanzo three receptions for 41 yards.

Bradd carried 24 times for 123 yards.

Brown produced 91 yards on 16 carries for the Cavemen, with TD runs of 39 and 12 yards. Jett Hood, who scored from 67 yards, had three carries for 74 yards.

North Medford13068—27

Grants Pass14006—20

GP — Brown 39 run (Anderson kick)

NM — Dyer 75 interception return (Cossette kick)

GP — Hood 67 run (Anderson kick)

NM — Costanzo 19 pass from Neron (kick failed)

NM — Costanzo 19 pass from Neron (kick failed)

GP — Brown 12 run (run failed)

NM — Dyer 21 pass from Neron (Cossette pass from Neron)

EAGLE POINT 24, SPRINGFIELD 7: At Springfield, Eagle Point went from not having a game at the start of the week to scheduling one, then winning it, to get the season started on the right foot.

The Eagles were originally scheduled to host Roseburg Friday, but that game was canceled when a COVID-19 case surfaced at Roseburg.

Against Springfield, among the highlights for Eagle Point was a return touchdown by Wyatt Graves on a bad punt snap by the Millers.

Eagles quarterback Anthony Millian was 5 of 14 passing for 72 yards and a touchdown to Lucas Meerten. Meerten had two catches for 51 yards.

Isaiah Hill led the Eagle Point ground game with 102 yards on 17 carries. David Brown added 32 yards and Millian 29.

Reagan Scheffler added two catches for nine yards.

Jeremiah Cordle converted his lone field goal attempt and made all three extra point tries.

Scheffler led the defense with 11 tackles, including one for a loss, and two forced fumbles.

HIDDEN VALLEY 47, PHOENIX 0: At Phoenix, Phoenix’s offense couldn’t get going against Hidden Valley, which used five touchdowns from quarterback Nate Vidlak to open the season with a win.

Vidlak hooked up with Jeremiah Noga for all three of his touchdown passes and scrambled for two more scores for the Mustangs, who led 34-0 at halftime.

The Pirates’ record dropped to 0-1.

Vidlak was 9 of 14 for 145 yards and three touchdowns.

Noga caught five passes for 96 yards, and Tobias Powers carried eight times for 95 yards and a touchdown.

Phoenix, which lost quarterback Eli Page to an injury in the second quarter, had minus-19 yards of total offense against the Mustangs, last season’s Class 3A state runners-up.

Hidden Valley142067—47

Phoenix0000—0

HV — Vidlak 17 run (No. 99 kick)

HV — Vidlak 1 run (No. 99 kick)

HV — Noga 53 pass from Vidlak (No. 99 kick)

HV — Powers 15 run (No. 99 kick)

HV — Noga 3 pass from Vidlak (No. 99 kick)

HV — Noga 28 pass from Vidlak (No. 99 kick)

HV — No. 32 1 run (No. 99 kick)

CASCADE CHRISTIAN 40, BROOKINGS-HARBOR 8: Quarterback Sam Martin threw two of his five touchdown passes to Kristian Fralich to help Cascade Christian cruise to victory at U.S. Cellular Community Park.

Martin threw four first-half touchdowns — the first two were Martin-to-Fralich connections — as the Challengers (1-0) built a 28-0 halftime lead.

Martin finished 13-for-27 for 222 yards.

Fralich had four catches for 101 yards and scores of 21 and 24 yards. He also carried the ball 11 times for 123 yards, including a 67-yard touchdown scamper in the third quarter.

Brookings-Harbor0080—8

Cascade Christian72166—40

CC — Fralich 21 pass from Martin (Knobloch kick)

CC — Fralich 24 pass from Martin (Knobloch kick)

CC — Reece 3 pass from Martin (Knobloch kick)

CC — McPheeters 16 pass from Martin (Knobloch kick)

CC — Fralich 67 run (conversion failed)

BH — Beasley 34 pass from Holler (Holler run)

CC — Waits 9 pass from Martin (conversion failed)

SOUTH UMPQUA 48, ST. MARY’S 0: At Myrtle Creek, St. Mary’s struggled in wet and muddy field conditions, losing three of its six fumbles, and South Umpqua was able to defend its home turf with a nonconference victory.

Will Heycke led the Crusaders (0-1) on the ground with 38 yards rushing.

St. Mary’s0000—0

South Umpqua208146—48

Andy Atkinson / Mail TribuneColby Neron, shown here during a recent practice, came up big for North Medford against Grants Pass Friday.