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North intent on going out strong vs. Sheldon

The best remedy for overcoming a heartbreaking loss?

This week for North Medford, it’s been all about simply getting back to work.

“It’s hard to talk to kids when something like that happens,” said North Medford head coach Steve Turner of a stunning 35-34 last-minute loss to South Medford last Friday, “but you do and you just have to move on. That’s not the way we want to end our season and we’ve got another opportunity to right the ship if that’s what you want to call it.”

That opportunity comes in the form of annual Southwest Conference favorite Sheldon on Friday in Eugene in a clash many in the Black Tornado camp had been looking forward to before the fall season was pushed back due to COVID-19.

The Irish (2-1) don’t expect to be any easier to handle than the Panthers, but it’s all about the opportunity ahead for North Medford (3-2) to wrap up the season on a higher note.

“They have some really talented young guys and it’s Sheldon,” said Turner. “It’s always a challenge to play those guys.”

“The main thing is we don’t want to finish the year with that taste that we have in our mouth right now,” he added, “and it’s an opportunity to focus on something other than the way we lost and to move forward. That’s the one great thing about sports and athletics, it teaches you a lot of lessons. We’ve just got to move forward and move on to something different.”

North Medford senior running back Devin Bradd is coming off a historic performance in the Black and Blue Bowl, where he set series records for carries (38), yards rushing (306) and tied a record with four touchdown runs.

Running behind a physical offensive line and fullback Jayden Sandusky, Bradd leads the local teams with 859 yards rushing and nine TDs on 133 carries. He got a boost with a twist to North’s regular formation last week, with left tackle David Fuiava joining him and Sandusky in the backfield and Erick Santacruz sliding into the vacated left tackle spot for its Stanford formation.

“That was a nice touch by our coaches to get that in,” said Turner, whose team ran for 314 of its 438 total yards last week. “We’ve got a lot of things we can do offensively and it was nice to see those things work out with our guys. I thought we ran the ball really well. There were some guys that played some really, really good football for us (against South) but it just didn’t get noticed with how hectic it was there at the end.”

North Medford is averaging 359 yards and 30 points per game entering Friday’s finale, with senior quarterback Colby Neron completing 59 of 94 passes for 848 yards, eight TDs and five interceptions.

Neron nearly guided the Tornado to its own comeback last week, advancing the ball to the South Medford 36-yard line before being thwarted by time and a game-ending sack.

Danny Cossette came up with several key catches to keep the chains moving, finishing with five catches for 54 yards to bump the senior’s totals to 12 catches for 102 yards this spring.

Junior Bryce Dyer leads North with 14 catches for 236 yards and three scores, while freshman AJ Pugliano continues his strong debut with 13 catches for 197 yards and senior Nolan Morris has averaged nearly 21 yards per catch with two TDs.

Defensively, North Medford has limited its opponents to 278 yards thus far, but will most certainly get a test in a Sheldon offense that has been spearheaded by sophomore QB Brock Thomas, whose dual-threat abilities have helped keep foes off-balance.

As a running threat, the 6-foot, 170-pound Thomas has averaged at least 100 yards rushing per game and also been very accurate through the air to complement junior target Keegan Line, senior Larson Helikson and sophomore Grafton Robinson.

An added treat Friday will be the presence of sophomore receiver Zach McEwen, whose father John and uncle Seth were Black Tornado standouts in the 1990s. John McEwen went on to national acclaim as a hammer thrower, while Seth McEwen was a defensive lineman at Oregon and currently serves as a captain in the Medford Fire Department.

“The older I get and the longer I’m in this thing, kids come around like that and it’s like, oh, wow,” said Turner. “John and Seth were two of my favorite guys of all time and now I’ve got to go against their son and nephew.”

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

AndyAtkinson / Mail TribuneNorth Medford's Danny Cossette gets tackled by South's Kalem Gartin and Kaleb Barney during the Black & Blue Bowl Friday night.