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North struggles in playoff opener at McNary

KEIZER — Putting points on the scoreboard proved problematic for North Medford High on Friday night in the opening round of the Class 6A football state playoffs.

As valiantly as the Black Tornado’s defense fought to keep host McNary from pulling too far ahead, it wasn’t enough to overcome the Tornado’s offensive struggles. As a result, North Medford succumbed to the Celtics with a season-ending 37-7 defeat.

Whether on the ground or through the air, North Medford (4-5) couldn’t get much going offensively.

The Black Tornado generated just 79 yards rushing — Ty Pugliano had most of those with 42 yards on 12 carries — and the majority of its passing yards came on its only touchdown — an 83-yarder from senior quarterback Mason Warren to senior receiver Bryce Dyer in the third quarter.

“We needed to be able to come back, get a good stop and flip the script,” North Medford coach Nathan Chin said. “But we couldn’t get much going on both sides of the ball after that.”

Even that lone touchdown pass nearly went horribly wrong: A McNary defender nearly intercepted it. The ball glanced off the defender’s fingers as he leapt to grab it, though.

Just a few yards behind the defender, Dyer came back, caught the ball near the sideline, and raced to the end zone untouched.

“It was an amazing catch,” Chin said.

Chin had to tip his cap to McNary (7-3) for repeatedly finding ways to disrupt his offense.

“They did a good job giving us multiple looks — both three-man and four-man fronts,” he said. “Blocking guys in space is a challenge. It was a good game plan for them to use against us.”

North Medford didn’t manage a first down until the second quarter. Not until the final minutes of the first half did the Black Tornado advance the ball past the Celtics’ 40-yard line: Junior running back Kilohana Wailehua took the ball 16 yards on a sweep to the right — the Tornado’s longest run of the night — to get North Medford down to the McNary 30.

That was as close to the end zone as the Tornado got before the intermission. McNary linebacker Ben Allen sacked Warren for a 10-yard loss on the next play, and three plays later, Warren threw an interception on the Tornado’s final offensive play of the first half.

Still, thanks to North Medford’s defense, the Black Tornado only trailed 14-0 at halftime. McNary was ahead 23-0 when Warren connected with Dyer for the Tornado’s lone score.

McNary’s offense ultimately wore the Tornado down, however. Celtics running back Jake Allen scored two second-half TDs, and quarterback Tyler Copeland completed 9 of 15 passes for 132 yards and one touchdown after the intermission to put the game out of North Medford’s reach.

Copeland finished 15-for-26 for 142 yards and no interceptions. By contrast, Warren was 8-for-23 for 123 yards.

While Chin was sorry to see the season end so soon, the first-year coach was proud of the way his players bought into what he was teaching this season.

“I wanted more for them,” Chin said somberly. “I hurt more for them than anything. I want them to feel joy.”

North Medford0070—7

McNary77167—37

M – Aicher 2 run (Ready kick), 2:20

M – Smedema 17 run (Ready kick), 7:17

M – J. Allen 4 run (kick failed), 9:42

M – FG Ready 34, 4:45

NM – Dyer 83 pass from Warren (Dominguez kick), 4:10

M – J. Allen 8 run (Ready kick), 0:00

M – Ready 16 pass from Copeland (Ready kick), 3:56

North Medford's Bryce Dyer, shown earlier this season against Sherwood, scored his team’s lone touchdown on an 83-yard reception at McNary. Andy Atkinson / Mail Tribune