North Medford vies for 1st SWC win
Good teams can find a way to see the positives even after a loss.
As much as North Medford football coach Nathan Chin and his staff have been able to do that in recent weeks, it sure is nicer when those pats on the back also come with a victory in hand.
The Black Tornado will go in search of its first Southwest Conference win Friday as part of homecoming and senior night festivities when North plays host to Grants Pass at Spiegelberg Stadium. Kickoff is 7 p.m.
“We’ve packed a lot into this week so we’ve got to be able to still focus and play ball,” said Chin. “At the end of the day, homecoming is built around a football game, so our job during homecoming is to go win a football game.”
In other Week 8 action Friday, South Medford will caravan to Westview for a 5 p.m. contest, while Eagle Point plays host to North Bend and Ashland is at Thurston.
In a marquee 3A matchup, No. 4 Cascade Christian will host No. 3 South Umpqua at U.S. Cellular Community Park, while St. Mary’s plays at Sutherlin and 4A Phoenix is at Mazama.
Crater hosts 6A Summit in a rare Saturday contest that kicks off at 1 p.m.
North Medford (3-3, 0-2 SWC) is coming off two straight road trips where it battled to the end, but fourth-quarter efforts by the Tornado’s opponents kept it out of the win column against SWC leaders Roseburg and Sheldon.
There was plenty to be upbeat about regarding last week’s 37-35 loss to the 10th-ranked Irish, from a more diversified running game to another dynamic effort from senior receiver Bryce Dyer, but Chin also noted the minuscule difference between winning and losing.
“As good as they played, they have to understand that there’s going to be six to eight plays within a game that are going to make the difference in a game,” said Chin of his players. “The trick is that you never know when they are as an athlete, so you have to execute and play with high energy and high effort every single play, or that one play is going to hurt you.”
The combination of senior quarterback Mason Warren, junior running back Ty Pugliano and versatile junior Alex Angulo played a big role last week for North and Chin is hoping for continued success from that combination.
Warren was able to run for a pair of touchdown runs and Pugliano added another to help the Tornado build a 28-14, third-quarter lead on Sheldon last Friday. Angulo also stepped in to give North a boost with six carries for 41 yards and two catches for 17 yards.
“Those three give us a lot of dynamics in different ways,” said Chin, “so it is really good to have that. They did a good job of finding some ways to get things going for us. It’s good when you start to add more weapons to your arsenal.”
With sophomore tight end AJ Pugliano sidelined by injury, Dyer and sophomore receiver Connor Cesaro also stepped up for North, with Dyer turning 11 receptions into 126 yards and two TDs. Cesaro also had four catches for 54 yards and some good downfield blocking to help free Dyer.
“Bryce was awesome,” said Chin. “He got in a mode and wasn’t going to be stopped. Once you can start getting the ball in Bryce’s hands and let him go be dynamic with the ball, he’s a special athlete.”
North Medford will look to maintain that balance on offense Friday against the Cavemen (1-6, 0-2), who are allowing 25 more yards per game than the Tornado has been able to muster (325 average total offense).
Grants Pass has enjoyed an emergence at running back from Trevor Reeves in recent weeks, with 5-foot-11, 167-pound junior now ranking fifth in SWC rushing after consecutive triple-digit efforts. Reeves has run for 426 yards on 80 carries with five TDs.
Quarterback Jace Blanchard has completed 116 of 203 passes for 1,204 yards with six TDs and five interceptions, with Jackson Tunick leading the SWC in receiving at 523 yards on 38 catches.
“They’ve got a lot of good misdirection with their run-pass option stuff,” said Chin of the Cavemen. “Blanchard does a nice job of reading it and getting the ball out. He’s not the same runner that we’ve seen the last two weeks (in Colton Marsters and Brock Thomas) but he can get the yards so we need to do a good job of containing him.”
SOUTH MEDFORD AT WESTVIEW: Ninth-ranked Westview marks the fifth top-10 team South Medford will face this fall — with unranked McNary not far off that list — and the ranking is certainly justified for the 6-1 Wildcats.
Westview’s lone loss came in a 44-42 setback against No. 7 Jesuit on Sept. 24, when the Crusaders rallied from a 21-0 deficit.
Westview boasts the state’s top recruit in senior receiver Darrius Clemons, who is a four-star playmaker with a sub. 4.4 40-yard dash that is mulling offers from Auburn, Oregon and Penn State.
Clemons is coming off an eight-catch effort against Sunset that resulted in 155 yards and two TDs from quarterback Sam Leavitt, who is averaging 203 yards passing and three TDs per game.
Leavitt is also a capable runner at 5.7 yards per carry to keep teams honest, but it’s junior backfield mate Jordan Fisher who powers Westview’s ground game. Fisher ran for a career-high 288 yards and five TDs to lead the Wildcats over then-No. 10 Sunset last week, 48-13. Fisher averages about 160 yards rushing and two TDs per game.
South Medford showed moxie against Roseburg last Friday even without starting QB Deacon Edgar as Colton Samis stepped in and was joined by seniors Brycen Guches and Carson Joe in directing the Panthers to the most points allowed and closest margin of victory for Roseburg in a 35-26 showing.
Edgar, Guches and Samis are now each averaging around 5 yards per carry and South will look to continue its trend of trying to limit its opponents’ opportunities with a ball-control effort.
Joe has run for 207 yards and five TDs and caught 13 passes for 176 yards and two scores, while Guches has run for 123 yards and two TDs and caught 13 passes for 144 yards to provide a dual-threat out of the backfield.
Should the Panthers air it out, especially with Edgar behind center, junior Andrew Walker and Samis continue to provide big-play options. Walker leads South with 18 catches and 400 yards, with Samis not far behind at 16 catches for 213 yards.
Due to a shortage of bus drivers here in Medford, the Panthers will be tasked with caravaning in a collection of vehicles to make their trip to Portland and back.
To help alleviate potential travel issues, kickoff for the game was moved up to 5 p.m. Friday.
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