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North loses SWC tug-of-war at Sheldon

No. 9 Irish uses field goal with 1:39 to play to turn back Black Tornado

North Medford once again showed its mettle against a Southwest Conference leader, but once again didn’t get a final reward in the win column.

After staking Sheldon to a 14-0 lead, North Medford roared back in fine fashion and held a fourth-quarter lead until the host Irish were able to salt away a 37-35 victory inside the final two minutes Friday in Eugene.

One week prior, the Black Tornado was able to rally from a four-touchdown deficit against unbeaten Roseburg to make it a one-score game in the fourth quarter before all fell apart in the final nine minutes.

It’s been an ongoing story for North Medford, which used clutch fourth-quarter efforts to go on a three-game winning streak after losing to West Linn in its opener.

“We like to play close ones,” said North Medford coach Nathan Chin with a slight chuckle. “We’ve just got to get on the other end of this thing like we were before rather than how it’s gone the last two weeks.”

There once again was no quit in the Black Tornado Friday in spite of a pair of first-quarter touchdown runs by quarterback Brock Thomas for ninth-ranked Sheldon (6-1, 2-0 SWC).

Senior QB Mason Warren spearheaded North Medford’s comeback effort, scoring on TD runs of 8 and 2 yards to tie the game at 14-all with 2:39 to go in the first half. The second score was set up by a nice screen pass and run by Connor Cesaro.

In the waning seconds of the first half, Warren was then able to put the Tornado on top for the first time on an 8-yard TD completion to Bryce Dyer with 6.8 seconds left before halftime.

“The kids did a good job, and really did it almost sooner than we’ve done it the past couple week, of anchoring in and figuring stuff out. We got a couple drives going and it was really nice to see us going for 21 straight points.”

Building off that momentum, junior running back Ty Pugliano stunned Sheldon early in the third quarter when he took an inside handoff, waited for his linemen to create a hole and then quickly darted through the Irish defense for a 44-yard TD run to make it 28-14.

Sheldon, however, had an answer as Luke Leighton scored on a 9-yard pass from Thomas and then the junior QB came right back with a 2-yard TD run with 2:16 left in the third to bring the teams all square once again.

The Irish momentum carried over on the ensuing drive as Isaac Peters stepped in front of a pass intended for Cesaro and returned it 30 yards for a score.

The ensuing point-after kick sailed wide by Poole, which left Sheldon’s lead at 34-28 and would later come into play.

With about six minutes to go in the game, Warren capped a nice drive by North by connecting again with Dyer for a 1-yard score. Brandon Dominguez’s PAT regained the lead for the Tornado at 35-34.

Thomas used his escapability to drive Sheldon down to the North Medford 9-yard line but, after being stuffed for limited yardage on two plays prior, the Irish turned to Poole and he converted a 26-yard field goal with 1:39 left on the clock to put the Irish ahead yet again.

“The game’s about six or eight plays usually and you never know when those six or eight are going to get you or when you need to make a play,” said Chin. “We had opportunities to sack the quarterback (Thomas) in that drive and he slithered out. He’s a good ballplayer, my hat’s off to him.”

North Medford’s final drive started with a pair of promising screen passes by Warren to collect a first down, but four passes inside the final minute fell incomplete to stall the Tornado’s hopes for more fourth-quarter magic.

“I’m proud of these kids, they show a lot of will and they show no quit,” said Chin. “They continue to show that regardless of the situation and I’m super proud of them in that way. As a coach you want them to have that feeling at the end of the game of victory ... but I was proud of how they played tonight.”

North Medford02177—35

Sheldon140203—37

S — Thomas run (Poole kick)

S — Thomas run (Poole kick)

NM — Warren 8 run (Dominguez kick)

NM — Warren 2 run (Dominguez kick)

NM — Dyer 8 pass from Warren (Dominguez kick)

NM — T. Pugliano 44 run (Dominguez kick)

S — Leighton 9 pass from Thomas (Poole kick)

S — Thomas 2 run (Poole kick)

S — Peters 30 interception return (kick failed)

NM — Dyer 1 pass from Warren (Dominguez kick)

S — FG Poole 26

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 Mason Warren, seen here in a file photo, threw for two touchdowns and rushed for two more in Friday night’s game against Sheldon.