North Medford sets sights on SWC title
North Medford will take on a different look this season under first-year head coach Nathan Chin but, in many ways, the song remains the same for the Black Tornado.
A preseason favorite to be Southern Oregon’s top Class 6A team this past spring, North Medford will carry a similar role entering the 2021 fall campaign after being picked in a preseason coaches poll to claim the Southwest Conference title when all is said and done.
It’s a position that Chin and company don’t shy away from, with the coach stating that his team “without a doubt” plans on challenging for the title this fall.
And for good reason.
North Medford returns a pair of college-level playmakers in senior receiver Bryce Dyer and sophomore tight end AJ Pugliano, who already holds an offer from Oregon, and a bevy of road graders in the trenches that would make any opposing coach envious.
“I’m super excited,” Chin said of taking over the North program after Steve Turner retired in May following three seasons at the helm. “I think the challenge is awesome and I think the potential here is endless. I just can’t wait to get these kids through training camp and really progress and get better these next few weeks.”
While Dyer and Pugliano expect to be the marquee players this season for North, it all starts with an offensive line that returns three starters and a fourth who saw considerable time in the spring.
Seniors Jacob Johnson (5-10, 220) and Erick Santacruz (6-2, 250), junior David Fuiava (6-2, 300) and sophomore Terrell Kim (6-3, 320) anchor the front line and complement each other extremely well.
“Those kids are all big, strong kids,” said Chin. “We’re going to look a little different offensively but they've done a great job of grasping onto everything. They’re all one year older and they’ve got one more year of experience and it’s definitely a good group for us to rely upon.”
Kim has been especially impressive with his ability to move well for his size, leading Chin to consider moving him in from tackle to center due to his athleticism.
If that weren’t enough, the line of candidates to fill in includes sophomore Connor Trinca (6-0, 240) and seniors Adam Burkett (6-2, 220), Kyler Steel (5-11, 270), Conner McDougall (5-9, 220) and O’Shea Miller (6-5, 255).
“We almost have two full groups to go after things with our linemen,” said Chin.
That group will be tasked with giving time for senior quarterback Mason Warren to find the likes of Dyer and Pugliano on the perimeter. Warren served mostly in the Black Tornado secondary this past spring but was also the backup QB so there’s plenty of familiarity with the position.
“He carries himself well back there and he does a pretty good job,” said Chin. “He poses a multiple-option game because he’s not just a thrower. He’s a fairly athletic kid that moves well and he likes the physical side of football, for sure.”
After graduating one of the state’s leading rushers in Devin Bradd, who averaged 27 carries and 173 yards per game in the spring, the Black Tornado will feature more of a committee approach this fall.
Ty Pugliano (5-10, 185) was the JV’s leading rusher and boasts quick feet with a hard-charging approach to each carry, while fellow junior Kilohana Wailehua (5-11, 180) is equally adept at helping North move the chains. Ty Pugliano ran four times for 56 yards in a season-ending rout of Sheldon, 48-16.
“They’re good, physical runners,” said Chin. “They’re athletic and they run well. They’re not the same back obviously as Devin, they don’t have that downhill, but both of them are strong runners.”
Each expects to get a good amount of carries, with junior Alex Angulo (5-6, 170) complementing as a change-of-pace slot receiver who can move into the backfield, but it may not be in the same vein that Turner’s troops carried the ball in recent years.
“We’re going to be more of a spread offense,” said Chin. “Obviously that's kind of my take on football so we’ll be a little bit more in that fashion. I’m not saying that we’re going to throw the ball 50 times per game, we’re just going to line up in that kind of look. They’ve always had a sprinkle of it in the past here so it won’t be completely new.”
What also won’t be new is the focus of the aerial attack: Dyer (6-5, 200) and AJ Pugliano (6-4, 220), who offer matchup nightmares due to their size and agility.
Dyer had 16 catches for 264 yards and three TDs to be North’s leading receiver in the spring, while AJ Pugliano burst on the scene with 14 catches for 215 yards and one TD to rank a close third.
“Bryce and AJ, those guys are going to get heavy targets,” said Chin. “They’re going to definitely be heavy load-carriers for us. We’re going to try to get them the ball in space and let them do stuff with the ball.”
Defensively, senior Brandon Dominguez (6-2, 250) returns to lead an odd-front set that will take advantage of North’s depth at the line of scrimmage. The linebacker corps is equally deep, with Wailehua joined by AJ Pugliano and junior Hudson Greisen (6-1, 185) in leading the charge.
Dyer, a safety, will get new help in the secondary but Chin is excited by a host of options at his disposal.
Nathan Chin (first year)
ASSISTANTS: Josh Dykes (offensive coordinator), Jim Bosworth (co-defensive coordinator with Nate), Doug Elam (quarterbacks), Johnny Vaigafa (offensive line), Jered Gail (tight ends), Masi Tunoa (defensive line), Curtis Stout (secondary), Mike Olson (receivers), Dan Hamlin (JV head coach/offensive coordinator), Will Salade (JV defensive coordinator), Michael Rucker (JV/freshman line), Dan Smalley (freshman head coach), Dave Pettersen (freshman defensive coordinator).
2020 OVERALL RECORD: 4-2.
PREDICTED FINISH THIS YEAR: First.
North Medford Opponents
45 McNary 6
62 Jefferson 30
47 Bend 19
38 Mountain View 7
27 Sheldon 28
34 Grants Pass 27
54 Roseburg 7
33 Aloha 35
52 South Medford 21
55 Reynolds 49 (OT)
35 Tualatin 50
North Medford Opponents
27 Grants Pass 20
28 Tualatin 41
25 Crater 18
35 Roseburg 0
34 South Medford 35
48 Sheldon 16
OFFENSE (5): Receiver Bryce Dyer (6-5, 200, sr.), lineman Jacob Johnson (5-10, 220, sr.), lineman David Fuiava (6-2, 300, jr.), lineman Terrell Kim (6-3, 320, so.), tight end AJ Pugliano (6-4, 220, so.).
DEFENSE (2): Lineman Brandon Dominquez (6-2, 250, sr.), safety Bryce Dyer.
Lineman Erick Santacruz (6-2, 250, sr.), quarterback Mason Warren (5-11, 210, sr.), quarterback Ty Carpenter (6-0, 155, jr.), running back/defensive back Ty Pugliano (5-10, 185, jr.), running back/linebacker Kilohana Wailehua (5-11, 180, jr.), running back/linebacker Hudson Greisen (6-1, 185, jr.), receiver/defensive back Alex Angulo (5-6, 170, jr.), receiver/defensive back Koda Passey (6-0, 190, sr.), receiver/defensive back Aidan Becksted (6-0, 180, jr.), tight end/defensive lineman Kellen Thomey (6-1, 205, jr.), receiver/defensive back Caleb Yonker (6-0, 165, sr.), tight end/linebacker Stephen Seus (6-1, 185, sr.), lineman Connor Trinca (6-0, 240, so.), lineman Kyler Steel (5-11, 270, sr.), lineman Conner McDougall (5-9, 220, sr.), lineman O’Shea Miller (6-5, 255, sr.), lineman Adam Burkett (6-2, 220, sr.), lineman Easton Abbott (6-3, 200, jr.), running back/linebacker Atreaue Roe (5-11, 170, sr.), receiver/defensive back Isaac Chavez (6-0, 155, jr.), receiver/defensive back Isaiah Chavez (6-0, 155, jr.).
Sept. 3 DEL NORTE, 7 p.m. (canceled)
Sept. 10 at West Linn, 7 p.m.
Sept. 17 SHERWOOD, 7 p.m.
Sept. 24 at Liberty, 7 p.m.
Oct. 1 BEND, 7 p.m.
Oct. 8 at Roseburg, 7 p.m.
Oct. 15 at Sheldon, 7 p.m.
Oct. 22 GRANTS PASS, 7 p.m.
Oct. 29 SOUTH MEDFORD, 7 p.m.
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