North romps past Roseburg in lone home game of the spring
Things couldn’t have started worse for North Medford, which saw the opening kickoff by Roseburg fall into empty space and then check backwards to enable a recovery that put the Indians deep into Black Tornado territory right off the bat.
It got much, much better for the hometown team thereafter Friday night at Spiegelberg Stadium.
Just three plays later, Devan Blankenship stepped in front of a Dominic Tatone pass and found nothing but open territory in front of him as the senior linebacker returned the interception 79 yards for a touchdown that sparked his team to a 35-0 victory.
Colby Neron followed with three touchdown passes and Devin Bradd added a TD run to help the Black Tornado win going away in a game that included a running clock in the second half after North Medford had built a 35-0 advantage by intermission over a young but gritty Roseburg squad.
In a rule change made for this year, a running clock is initiated when a team builds a 35-point margin.
While the contest itself may have come to completion quicker than most would expect, it certainly didn’t diminish the joyful feeling on the North Medford sideline to finally be playing a home game after starting the first three weeks of the season on the road.
“It was an amazing atmosphere,” said Neron, who completed 8 of 15 passes for 135 yards. “I’m just so happy that my family and friends could come and watch. After all that’s happened this year that’s been so unusual, it’s a blessing to be able to play at home.”
North Medford head coach Steve Turner echoed those remarks, noting Friday was the first and last time his team will be in its black uniforms since the Tornado (3-1) is technically the road team for next week’s Black and Blue Bowl against South Medford as well as in the culmination week.
“People don’t understand the aura of being a Black Tornado and being at Spiegelberg Stadium,” said Turner. “It’s a special place. For me as a coach it’s special and for the players it’s special, and that really brightened our outlook today. We finally got to come home in front of our fans and ring our victory bell.”
While the offense enjoyed its share of highlight moments, it was the defense on this night that reigned supreme as North Medford limited Roseburg (0-3) to minus-9 yards of total offense in the first half and an eye-popping 29 yards overall.
Blankenship’s interception return may have been the marquee moment, but the Black Tornado was impressive all around with big plays being made all night by Tanner Gaoiran, Jayden Sandusky, Luke Pugliano and just about anyone who toed the line of scrimmage.
“We played three pretty good quarters (of defense) last week (against Crater) and we played pretty well this week,” said Turner. “The defense got us started tonight with the big turnover touchdown. Those kinds of things really ignite teams.”
While North Medford wasn’t exactly as crisp on offense as it has shown in previous weeks, the Black Tornado was able to hit several big plays to make up for it.
On fourth-and-15 from the Roseburg 20-yard line, Neron lofted a perfect ball to junior Bryce Dyer on a fade into the end zone for the Tornado’s first offensive score with 4 minutes to go in the first quarter.
On North’s next possession after a three-and-out for Roseburg, Neron had a couple double-digit completions to freshman AJ Pugliano to key a drive that was settled by the extra efforts of Bradd, who took a short pass from the 15 and shrugged off defenders to reach the goal line.
Luke Pugliano later pulled the ball away from Roseburg running back Alaric Kaul to put his team in good scoring position, and Bradd again did the bulk of the damage before powering in from the 8-yard line to make it 28-0 with 4 minutes to go in the first half.
Another defensive stand allowed the Black Tornado to strike for the final time when Nolan Morris hauled in a jump ball in the end zone for a 36-yard touchdown.
Bradd finished with 74 yards on 11 carries to go with his 15-yard TD reception, while Dyer had two catches for 46 yards, AJ Pugliano three catches for 39 yards and Morris two catches for 35 yards.
“All those dudes work so hard and it pays off,” Neron said of his deep receiving corps.
After relying almost exclusively on the running game last week, Turner said he was pleased to see North Medford get back to making big plays in the passing game.
“They do a lot of things to take away what we do so we had to spread things out a little bit tonight,” Turner said of Roseburg’s defense, which came up with several strong efforts in the trenches. “We’ve been waiting for it to happen and it happened tonight, and hopefully we can get better at it as we go on. You cannot be a one-dimensional football team and win games. It’s always nice to see us spreading the ball around and putting points on the board.”
NORTH MEDFORD 35, ROSEBURG 0
NM — Blankenship 79 interception return (Cossette kick)
NM — Dyer 20 pass from Neron (Cossette kick)
NM — Bradd 15 pass from Neron (Cossette kick)
NM — Bradd 8 run (Cossette kick)
NM — Morris 36 pass from Neron (Cossette kick)