Big first half propels South to Black and Blue Bowl win
With city bragging rights on the line once again just a few short months after one of the most thrilling endings the Black and Blue Bowl has ever seen, South Medford head coach Bill Singler was more than attune to what a good start could do for his team Friday night.
The Panthers did just that — and then some.
Scoring on every one of its four first-half possessions, South Medford was able to build a 14-point halftime lead and claim a 40-34 win over North Medford in the 36th Black and Blue Bowl at Spiegelberg Stadium.
“That was flawless ... flawless for us on offense,” Singler said of his team’s first-half performance. “We executed very well. I told the kids, ‘It’s not an emotional game, it’s an execution game, and we have to execute to win the game. And our kids did. They played at a really high level in the first half.
“I knew (North) would be hard to stop and we traded touchdowns to start the first half, but we got off to the kind of start we needed to and it was really important for us to get ahead in this game and to feel good about ourselves.”
South (2-7, 2-2 Southwest Conference) got three touchdown runs from running back Carson Joe and a monster first-half performance from quarterback Deacon Edgar, who was 9-for-10 for 243 and a pair of touchdowns in the first half.
The win Friday night gave South its fifth win in the last six meetings with North, as well as pulled the Panthers even in the series at 18 wins apiece.
“We just came out firing,” Edgar said of the Panthers’ first half. “We had nothing to lose, we had a losing record, but we just came out firing and balling like we always do.”
South never trailed in the game and took a 6-0 lead less than two minutes in on Joe’s first touchdown of the game.
North (4-4, 1-3) — which closed the season losing three of its last four after starting out 3-1 — was forced to play from behind as a result, with Ty Pugliano’s 6-yard touchdown run tying it at 6-all to cap an eight-play drive.
Pugliano, North’s workhorse in last week’s win over Grants Pass, had another big night Friday, finishing with 188 yards on 25 carries.
The Panthers and Black Tornado traded touchdowns again, with Edgar connecting with Ty Henry for a 6-yard pass in the front of the end zone before North tied it at 13-13 on the first of three Mason Warren touchdown runs, this one from 3 yards out.
But then came one of the biggest swings of the night all of 18 seconds after North tied it.
South receiver Andrew Walker showed off every bit of his electrifying speed on what first appeared to be a short pass that North had contained. Instead, Walker broke it back outside and raced down the South sideline. Once he turned the corner, Walker was virtually untouched from there, going 68 yards to the house.
“It looked like he was running the 200 meters,” Singler quipped, “but he’s fast.”
Edgar, who threw the pass out into the flat to Walker, couldn’t believe it.
“That was insane,” Edgar said. “I was ready to block for him because I thought he was going to come all the way around, but then he went the other way and I was like, ‘OK, Andrew.’ That boy’s fast.”
South capped its big first half after forcing a Warren fumble. After Edgar and Walker connected on a 46-yard pass play, the Panthers’ junior QB tossed an 18-yard touchdown pass into the back corner of the end zone to Colton Samis to put his team ahead 27-13.
Edgar finished the night 11-of-13 for 252 yards with the three first-half touchdown passes, while Walker had a pair of catches for 114 yards.
“They did a great job and coach Singler is a great offensive coordinator,” North Medford head coach Nathan Chin said. “We were able to match, match and then things started to separate. It really was just execution — and full execution on both sides when things started to go south for us. We just got to be able to stay more composed and be able to execute longer through those.”
North cut into the South lead on the first possession of the second half when Warren scored on a 12-yard run, but South took advantage of an Asher Johnson interception and turned it into points, with Joe scoring on a 14-yard run.
“It’s hard to win a football game when you lose the turnover battle,” Chin said. “Is it all on the offense? No. Do we need to take care of the football? Absolutely. Do we need to create takeaways on defense? One-hundred percent. So we need to find ways to do it on both sides.”
Warren scored on a 6-yard touchdown run and threw a 2-yard TD pass to receiver Bryce Dyer in the fourth quarter.
Warren finished 14-of-24 for 193 yards and a touchdown but threw a costly interception, while Dyer caught eight passes for 108 yards and a TD. Warren also carried the ball 14 times for 84 yards with three TDs.
“Our kids, man, not many gave them a shot,” Singler said. “But we know our team, we know we can beat North because we’ve had success the last few years. But I thought our guys up front really came of age. I didn’t suspect we would run the ball that well, but I thought we ran the ball extremely well — which kept them off-balance.”
SM — Joe 2 run (pass failed)
NM — T. Pugliano 5 run (kick failed)
SM — Henry 6 pass from Edgar (Parker kick)
NM — Warren 3 run (Dominguez kick)
SM — Walker 68 pass from Edgar (Parker kick)
SM — Samis 18 pass from Edgar (Parker kick)
NM — Warren 12 run (Dominguez kick)
SM — Joe 13 run (run failed)
SM — Joe 2 run (Parker kick)
NM — Warren 6 run (Dominguez kick)
NM — Dyer 2 pass from Warren (Dominguez kick)
Reach reporter Danny Penza at 541-776-4469 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @penzatopaper.