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North Medford, Crater square off in marquee tilt

Coming off their first losses of the season, North Medford and Crater will look to shore some things up in what shakes out to be another physical affair Friday at Dutch Meyer Field in Central Point.

“We’ve got our hands full, those boys can play football,” said Crater coach Berk Brown of the incoming Black Tornado, “but we’re looking forward to it.”

In other 6A/5A action Friday, South Medford will host Eagle Point at Spiegelberg Stadium and Grants Pass plays at Roseburg.

At the 4A level, Phoenix hits the road to take on Klamath Union, while 3A unbeaten Cascade Christian plays host to Douglas at U.S. Cellular Community Park and St. Mary’s plays at Brookings-Harbor.

Battling tremendous adversity that included no locker room access before, during or after the game at Tualatin among other unexpected COVID-related quirks, North Medford (1-1) found itself in a back-and-forth battle before ultimately falling short last week, 41-28.

“The deck was really stacked against us and even then we had our chance in the fourth quarter to tie it and go ahead,” said North Medford coach Steve Turner, “so I really like the way our kids handled the whole situation.”

Crater (1-1) was forced to overcome some adversity of their own with three replacement linemen — Caden Lasater, Sage Wilson and Jimmy Jordahl — and a host of issues that forced a tightened rotation of players against Grants Pass.

Even with that, the Comets led at halftime and appeared in position to upend the 6A Cavemen before a rash of second-half turnovers allowed GP to escape with a 21-13 triumph.

“If you look at the job our coaches did putting together game plans on both sides of the ball for the kids that were available for us and healthy for us, and you look at how hard our kids played, it was nothing short of amazing,” said Brown. “Yeah we came up short on the scoreboard but I think if you look at what we had, we really played about 16 guys throughout that game last week and to go step for step with a 6A program with 16 guys is pretty impressive.”

Brown said his Comets remain in flux after missing the services of four-year starting lineman Dawson Davis and senior center Vincent Cottini last week and having Jordahl play both ways without much opportunity for rest.

Turner said the Black Tornado is preparing for Crater to be at its best Friday, and that’s been pretty darn good for a while now.

“They’re really fast and aggressive defensively, as well as on offense,” said the Tornado coach. “They want to spread you out and run the ball and take what you want to give them. They’ve got some really, really good offensive linemen and defensive linemen, so they’re a pretty good mix of what you want in a football team.”

North Medford couldn’t have asked for much more from its offense last week, with quarterback Colby Neron dialed in for two touchdown passes and Devin Bradd popping off big runs to go with his two TDs.

“We did what we wanted, we just didn’t put it in the end zone enough,” said Turner.

Bradd leads the local teams with 298 yards rushing on 49 carries, while Neron has completed 26 of 41 passes for 462 yards, five TDs and two interceptions.

North Medford has also gotten big plays from its receiving corps, with Bryce Dyer (six catches, 134 yards, two TDs), Nolan Morris (four catches, 126 yards, one TD), AJ Pugliano (six catches, 111 yards) and Chance Costanzo (13.7 yards per catch, two TDs) creating prime options for Neron.

The Black Tornado was victimized by some big plays by Tualatin receiver Cole Prusia, who at 6-foot-3, 200 pounds proved to be a matchup issue as he hauled in four TD passes to keep North at bay after the game was tied at 21-all at halftime.

“We moved the ball, our problem came defensively,” added Turner. “We didn’t tackle. We gave up 41 points so that’s not a good deal. We’ve got to do a better job. Crater’s an explosive football team and we can’t give them explosive plays.”

As such, Crater’s Trevor Jaasko is coming off a 12-catch, 175-yard performance and joins Dawson Douglas in leading the locals with 15 receptions overall. Jaasko has 189 yards and one TD, while Douglas battled through leg cramps last week but still has totaled 158 yards and two scores.

Crater QB Blake Eaton stood in the pocket well despite taking some big shots last week against the Cavemen, and he’ll get another stiff test with the three-man front of Jayden Sandusky, Brandon Dominguez and Nathan Prince. Eaton has completed 40 of 66 passes for 461 yards with three TDs, but had three of his four interceptions last week.

In all, Crater turned the ball over on its first three possessions of the second half against GP and five of its six possessions overall with three picks and two fumbles.

“We got into our staff meeting on Sunday and we realized we hadn’t done enough ball security stuff and that showed last Friday,” said Brown. “That’s our fault for not doing a better job as coaches working in ball security drills to our practices. Beginning this week that was part of our everyday drills, making sure that we’re ready to hold onto the rock on Friday.”

Cameron Kramer has come on as Crater’s primary running back, with Angel Perez sharing time but also thriving at linebacker. Kramer has run for 96 yards on 21 carries and gave the team a spark to help take some pressure off Eaton one week ago.

“Cameron’s always been a great running back for us, he was just in the shadows of the likes of Gavin Acrey the last couple years,” said Brown. “Now he’s getting his time to shine as our primary ball carrier and if you put that kid in space, he’s going to make some people miss.”

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

Andy Atkinson / Mail TribuneCrater's Cameron Kramer runs for a first down and extra yards during the 3rd qurter.
Andy Atkinson / Mail TribuneNorth Medford coach Steve Turner works with linemen Tuesday evening at Bowerman Field.