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Bryce has been Dyer-namic for North Medford

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North Medford senior’s knack for clutch plays spurs Black Tornado

Wondrous and often unexplainable, some athletes just have that special quality about them.

When the outcome of a game hangs in the balance, there they are to make a big play, time and again.

It’s a special treat for a coach and program when you have such a player, and that’s exactly what North Medford High has enjoyed the past few seasons in senior Bryce Dyer.

The 6-foot-5, 200-pound receiver and cornerback proved it yet again last week in the Black Tornado’s thrilling 31-27 win over Liberty, in which Dyer had two touchdown receptions and two interceptions to help turn the tide.

“The ability for him to make a play when it’s needed, he just has that knack about him,” says North Medford football coach Nathan Chin. “He’s an extremely explosive athlete. Being around him for a few months here I can tell you that when games are on the line and there’s something competitive that’s coming, he rises in that level of competitiveness. There’s not a lot of people that operate that way. In competitive situations, he’s going to find a way to make the play.”

In truth, it’s really nothing new for Dyer.

In his first varsity action as a sophomore, it was Dyer who hauled in the winning touchdown in overtime to deny Reynolds in the first round of the Class 6A state playoffs.

On the basketball court, it was Dyer who provided an improbable four-point play in the final seconds to force overtime against crosstown rival South Medford in a dramatic rally that ultimately fell short in double overtime.

While others might shy away from holding their team’s fortunes in their hands, in all humility, the 17-year-old Dyer welcomes it.

“I’ve always been an extremely competitive person in everything I do,” says Dyer, who has earned straight A’s throughout high school. “If I’m taking a test, not only do I want to get the best score but I want to be the first one to turn it in. I just make everything a competition.”

“Especially when it comes to athletics,” he adds, “a loss never feels good and I’m always trying to do whatever to help us win, whether it’s basketball or football. I don’t know if I just have a knack for being in the right spot but usually it turns out well. I always want the ball in my hands, whether it’s basketball or football. I always feel confident enough to help the team win.”

The results certainly bear out that such confidence is well-earned.

This past spring during his delayed junior football season, Dyer was North’s leading receiver with 16 catches for 264 yards and three TDs in six weeks.

After averaging 9.4 rebounds per game as a sophomore in basketball, he shouldered more of a balanced burden weeks following the spring football season to help power the 14-2 Tornado with 8.2 points, 8.3 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game

Already this fall through only three weeks — North Medford (2-1) had its opening game canceled — Dyer has pulled in 15 passes for 237 yards and four TDs entering Friday’s home game against Bend (2-2). Kickoff is 7 p.m. at Spiegelberg Stadium.

“He’s been doing it for the last couple years,” Chin says of Dyer’s clutch efforts, “and you can tell the trust factor that the kids have in him, and we as coaches obviously do, too. He’s a savvy football player and just a kid you want on the field.”

Helping Dyer throughout has been a unique agility and speed for someone his size, along with an unquenchable desire to succeed.

“The ability for him to beat you over the top because of his speed and then also be able to catch a short ball, a hitch or something of that nature, and turn it into 60 yards is incredible,” says Chin. “Those are the things we’ve seen the last couple weeks. Most of his long catches have been 5 or 10-yard catches that go for 50 or 60.”

“You’re going to have to respect him vertically because he is fast and he’s a big receiver,” adds the coach, “but at the same time he can catch something underneath and he’s so quick and agile to be able to make the first guy and the second guy miss. He can turn a short pass into a big play real quick.”

In the third quarter against Liberty, Dyer took the game over with a 49-yard catch and run that saw him take a quick pass from Mason Warren, juke his defender and race untouched into the end zone to give North its first lead at 10-7.

“He just has the ability to put his foot in the ground and go the other direction in a heartbeat,” notes Chin. “It’s very impressive.”

On the ensuing possession, Dyer made his first interception while falling down on the edge of the sideline. He later capped North’s offensive drive with an 8-yard TD catch to make it 17-7.

After sophomore tight end AJ Pugliano, a dynamic playmaker in his own right, took an innocent pass in the flat and turned it into a 52-yard score to put North up for good at 31-27, the game still wasn’t sealed until Dyer’s goal-line interception in the final seconds.

While it may have been the best football game of Dyer’s career with the Tornado, he says it was also a great learning experience for all involved.

“Last week was a great test for us,” says Dyer. “We were hit with a lot of adversity and we fought right back. AJ made a great play on that 50-yard out to the house, and then just bowing our backs at the end and getting that stop on defense was great for us.”

“There’s a lot to be learned from games like that that come down to the end,” he adds. “Obviously it’s great to blow people out and let everyone get in the game, but there’s going to be games, especially in the playoffs, that come down to the end. To have previous experiences like that — and be able to win those previous experiences — will be great for us come playoff time if we’re ever in that situation again.”

In a changing dynamic where more athletes are specializing in one sport more than ever, Dyer suggests it’s his basketball experiences that may help him most of all on the gridiron.

“Jump balls or fade balls are basically like rebounds to me,” he says, noting that practicing his footwork on the court also translates to his agility in football. “I’ve always been a pretty good rebounder so I just try to get it at the high point in the air and try to go over the (defensive back) or defender if it’s basketball. Those things are kind of the same.”

Dyer should know, he spends his year essentially playing one sport or the other. It’s more likely eight months basketball and four months football, but any chance he gets, he’s doing something athletic.

“If I don’t have something like homework to glue me down, I want to be outside ... unless it’s dark and cold,” he says with a laugh. “I don’t even play video games that much because I just don’t sit down very much.”

That’s why getting into athletics at such a young age was a perfect choice for Dyer, and one he’s thankful for to this day.

“I’ve always been drawn to running and going out with my friends and having fun,” he says. “I’ve always thought of sports as something I get to do, not have to do. I like pretty much everything about it. I’ve never really liked baseball but even like soccer, I can go run around and kick a ball and find something fun about that. I’ve just always liked moving around, being active and competing.”

It’s safe to say North Medford fans revel in that, too.

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

Andy Atkinson / Mail TribuneNorth Medford's Bryce Dyer during practice Wednesday.
Andy Atkinson / Mail TribuneNorth Medford's Bryce Dyer catches the ball over Roseburg's Ben Pike for a score during the first quarter during the spring.
Andy Atkinson / Mail TribuneNorth Medford's Bryce Dyer gets fouled shooting a three-pointer for a four-point play to tie the game against South Medford at the end of the fourth quarter.