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South Medford overhauls North Medford with dramatic rally

Andy Atkinson / Mail TribuneSouth Medford celebrates after overtaking North Medford, 35-34, in the 35th Black and Blue Bowl.

It didn’t seem possible, and yet it was Friday night at Spiegelberg Stadium.

In one of the wildest comebacks in Black and Blue Bowl history, South Medford roared back from a 20-0 deficit with a fourth-quarter flurry, stunning North Medford with a go-ahead touchdown and extra-point kick with 29 seconds to play for a 35-34 triumph.

“This is just huge,” said South Medford senior tight end Carson Cota amid a frenzied Panther celebration following the 35th edition of the crosstown rivalry. “It’s the last game for most of us in a South Medford uniform and we just went out there and played with all of our hearts in the second half.”

South Medford (4-1) isn’t scheduled to play in next week’s culminating week.

“It was a rough first half but in the second half we came out with it,” said Cota. “I’m just so proud of my teammates, so proud of my brothers.”

North Medford (3-2) led 34-21 with 6:05 to play after senior running back Devin Bradd dashed 58 yards for a score and demolished yet another series of Black and Blue records with his totals in rushing yards (306) and carries (38).

The Panthers, however, showed pure determination as sophomore quarterback Deacon Edgar guided his team 80 yards to paydirt, using a clutch 60-yard connection to Cota where the 6-foot-5, 220-pounder would not be denied until reaching the 2-yard line.

On the ensuing play, Edgar bounced out to the right side and into the end zone for a touchdown to make it 34-28 with 1:53 to play.

With momentum still firmly riding on South Medford’s side, senior Jude Pannell offered up a perfect onside kick that went through a North Medford player’s legs and then squirted around until Lucas Rivera was able to pounce on it for the Panthers.

Still needing 62 yards for a go-ahead score, Edgar opened with a 9-yard completion to senior Garrett Henderson that resulted in 15 more yards after North Medford’s Nathan Prince was flagged for a penalty for throwing Henderson’s shoe off the field after he went to pick it up.

A short Carson Joe run followed by a 16-yard completion to sophomore Andrew Walker made the tension in the air palpable as the clock dipped under one minute to play.

Edgar followed with a fade to the left corner of the end zone that bounced off Cota but resulted in a pass interference penalty on Danny Cossette, who at 5-10 was battling throughout the end zone against the bigger Panther receiver.

With 44 seconds left, Joe bounced to the right side for 4 yards and, as the 15% capacity crowd due to COVID-19 protocols rose to their feet in full throat, Edgar took the ensuing snap and darted 7 yards into the right corner of the end zone to tie the contest.

“These kids just kept playing and that’s the battle cry,” said South Medford head coach Bill Singler. “Just keep playing and good things will happen.”

The Panthers still needed Pannell’s extra-point kick to take the lead, and the soccer standout was true to form as he was a week ago in scoring the clutch winning points for his team. Pannell was 8-for-8 on extra-points last week in a 56-55, triple-overtime win over Grants Pass, and was 5-for-5 Friday.

“Jude Pannell has had about two seasons in five games,” said Singler. “It’s so great to see what he has done in the last two games making 13 straight extra points when they’re all needed and he’s never done it before this year. There’s a lot to go into that with the snap and the hold, for sure, but ultimately that’s the kid that has come through the last two weeks in a big way.”

North Medford’s last-ditch effort to rally appeared promising with Colby Neron connecting on steady gains to AJ Pugliano, Cossette and Bryce Dyer to reach the South Medford 36-yard line with 1 second remaining.

Neron dropped back on the final play but got instant pressure from Cota, who tracked his target down for a sack to the delight of the Panther followers.

“I’m just so proud of the way we played and came together as a team,” said Cota. “We beat North and got our redemption from last year.”

Bradd made it look like last year’s win, which snapped a three-year winning streak by South Medford, was going to be on repeat. He ran for a Black and Blue Bowl record 239 yards on 19 carries a year ago with three touchdowns, and he amassed a whopping 206 on 26 carries by halftime Friday to give North a 24-7 lead at the break.

Besides his yardage and attempts records, Bradd also tied a series record with his four touchdowns rushing.

“It’s just a huge rivalry game so you always have to run hard,” said Bradd. “I’ve got to fight for my team and do the best I can. I was going for the record again, but I wanted the win to top it off.”

Bradd said controllable penalties and potentially a little letting up by North Medford proved to be factors in a loss that left many on the Tornado sideline shaking their heads at what had transpired over the final 6 minutes.

“They have good coaching and they had some really good plays at the end,” added Bradd, “so just props to them.”

North Medford held its crosstown rival to 71 yards of total offense in the first half but a few big plays in the second half proved to be the difference for the Panthers, who did not let up despite their disadvantage on the scoreboard to trim their overall series deficit to 18-17.

“Our guys persevered,” said Singler. “We didn’t play great in the first half obviously but I tell you what, we went in at halftime and I said get all the emotion out and let’s just go play some football because you’re capable. They just had to believe in themselves and look at what happened.”

After completing only 4 of 13 passes for 42 yards and an interception by Mason Warren to end the first half, Edgar came on strong in the second half to finish 13-for-24 for 225 yards, with 138 coming from Cota in his biggest outing of the season and 45 from Walker.

“He’s improving every game," Cota said of Edgar. ”They’ve got to watch out for him next year, he’ll be legit.”

A big reason for South Medford’s inability to move the ball in the first half, however, had more to do with North Medford’s Prince and Jayden Sandusky, especially, disposing of blockers and harassing Edgar and Co.

The Black Tornado also used Devan Blankenship, Tanner Gaoiran, Mason Warren and Luke Pugliano to plug the box and quiet the Panthers’ main mode of attack, its run game.

Neron completed 13 of 19 passes for 124 yards and one interception, which halted a drive with North deep in South territory in the third quarter on a nice read by Asher Johnson.

Cossette finished with five catches for 54 yards to lead the Tornado, while AJ Pugliano had three catches for 29 yards and Dyer three receptions for 22 yards.

North Medford 13 14 0 7—34

South Medford 0 7 7 21—35

NM — Bradd 3 run (Cossette kick)

NM — Bradd 1 run (run failed)

NM — Bradd 1 run (Cossette kick)

SM — Walker 5 pass from Edgar (Pannell kick)

NM — Neron 4 run (Cossette kick)

SM — Cota 32 pass from Edgar (Pannell kick)

SM — Joe 6 run (Pannell kick)

NM — Bradd 58 run (Cossette kick)

SM — Edgar 2 run (Pannell kick)

SM — Edgar 7 run (Pannell kick)

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