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Dynamic Deacon: Edgar evolves into poised leader for South

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In third year as starting QB, Edgar stands as one of Oregon’s top playmakers for No. 8-ranked Panthers

Sometimes to appreciate where you are, you must also appreciate where you’ve been.

That’s most certainly the case for Deacon Edgar as he helms the South Medford football team in his final year with the Panthers.

Edgar’s journey is one founded as the center for his fifth-grade football team back in Quincy, Illinois, before he ultimately moved to quarterback — and Medford — and has steadily evolved into one of the state’s most pivotal players this year for the eighth-ranked Panthers.

In the past two weeks alone, the 5-foot-11, 180-pounder has passed for nine touchdowns and run for three more to propel South Medford to its first 4-0 start in 11 years.

Overall, Edgar has completed 69 of 102 passes for 1,014 yards with 11 TDs and three interceptions to be among the Class 6A state leaders through the air, and also run 36 times for 146 yards and five TDs.

Not too shabby for someone who first took snaps instead of supplying them in sixth grade, moved to Medford prior to his seventh grade school year and found himself in a starting role as a wide-eyed sophomore during the COVID-created spring campaign of 2021.

“He’s been through the trials and tribulations, obviously, in these years and he’s really grown — not just from getting strong physically but from a mental standpoint,” said South Medford head coach Bill Singler. “I think for quarterbacks that’s the biggest step you want to see taken is how they handle the game mentally and how they can slow things down and the decision-making process during the course of a play, either pre-snap or post-snap.”

While his athletic exploits were always on display as a sophomore and junior, rallying the Panthers to a handful of impressive wins or battling to the bitter end against daunting competition, this season has been different for Edgar and company.

“I’m really just kind of settling into that leadership role that I was kind of thrown into my sophomore year,” the 18-year-old standout said of the poise he’s shown as a senior. “Now that I’m kind of settled in, I feel more confident in myself and my ability, and I think it’s really helping my overall game improve this year.

“I’ve seen a lot and taken a lot of varsity snaps so I’m kind of getting used to good or bad things happening.”

As a sophomore, Edgar found himself with a lot of responsibility and a lot of veteran eyes peering down on him to guide them in what became a solid 4-1 campaign.

Things started feeling more comfortable in the pocket last year, but a relentless schedule left Edgar and company with only two wins despite placing third in the Southwest Conference.

“Developing as a quarterback is definitely harder than people give it credit for,” said Edgar. “You’ve got to read defenses and make throws on time and you’ve got to deal with the whole offense. Growing into that is a challenge, but the reward is very great to playing quarterback and I love playing quarterback.”

“As a younger kid, it’s kind of hard to be poised back there and to make your reads because you’re kind of antsy and you want to prove something to the team, I guess,” he added. “Now that I’m older and more experienced, I think that I’m more confident and calm and collected, which I think for a quarterback is very important because all the great quarterbacks are poised back there.”

All of the great quarterbacks also have that special “it” factor, and Edgar most definitely has proven that he falls into that category.

“Deacon’s a competitor, there’s no question about that,” said Singler. “He’s one of the top competitors that we’ve had in our program in 25 years. When you have a competitor at the quarterback position, that even makes you greater.”

“The guy wants the ball in his hands,” added the coach. “He wants to throw it, he wants to run it, he wants to be a decision-maker for our offense and so far, knock on wood, he has put us in positions, obviously, to win ballgames. He’s certainly made great decisions to make real good plays.”

With his growth has also come a growth in confidence throughout the Panther program overall, with South Medford averaging 41 points and 412 yards per game entering Friday’s homecoming date with Sprague (2-2, 1-1 SCFC).

On defense, South Medford is allowing an average of 16 points and 206 yards per game and has forced eight turnovers.

Friday’s game involves a rare 5 p.m. kickoff time at Spiegelberg Stadium since homecoming festivities will also be held later that night.

“I think we’ve been able to deal with adversity really well this year and I think we’ve definitely executed a lot better than we did last year offensively and defensively,” Edgar said of South’s strong start. “I think we’re more accepting of a challenge than we might have been in the past, and I’m just really proud of our passion this year.”

“I think the team energy is definitely better than what it was before,” he added. “We have a lot of high-energy guys and I think it really correlates to Friday nights. We get out there and we know what we’ve got to do and when we make good plays we’re high-energy about it and I really think it helps the team morale be better than it was maybe last year when we weren’t winning a lot of games.”

For Singler, a lot of that spark stems from Edgar.

“He just loves the game and he loves to play the game,” Singler said of the three-year starter. “You can just see it this year come to the surface. He’s just playing with much more energy and emotion, and that’s what you get when you get seniors.

“We’re seeing that from other kids … Ty Henry, Andrew Walker, Dylan Espinosa, a lot of those guys are playing with that same type of passion because they’re seniors, and it makes a difference. We’re seeing our senior class really rise to the occasion and the juniors are starting to follow them.”

Nowhere was that more evident than last week when the Panthers seemed to be a statewide afterthought but traveled to South Salem and secured a 48-35 win over the then-No. 10 Saxons in a battle of unbeatens. Edgar completed 27 of 47 passes for 387 yards with four TDs and one interception and ran 17 times for 72 yards and two scores.

In that game, Walker hauled in three first-half TD passes and finished with nine catches for 164 yards to boost his season totals to 26 catches for 442 yards and six TDs. Henry also played a prominent role with seven catches for 127 yards and a key TD catch to bump his totals to 14 catches for 252 yards and three TDs, while Espinosa recovered a loose ball in the end zone for a touchdown to pilot a South Medford defense that was more than up to the challenge against one of the state’s most prolific offensive attacks.

“We have a good group of skill guys in our own right and I think you saw that last week against South Salem,” said Singler. “The group of receivers that made plays in the passing game and then, of course, Ryder (Scheid) is really running the ball well when he’s getting called on. It’s not just one guy, we have a surrounding cast this year on offense that makes us pretty dangerous. I think the last couple weeks we’ve seen a little bit of that element.”

Holding it all down has been an offensive line that Edgar said continues to impress and just gets better with each game in Spencer King, Jayden Solis, Anthony DelPizzo, Diego Luna and Li Moala.

“I think they’ve really stepped up to the challenge,” said Edgar of his first line of support. “Last year was kind of rough because we had a lot of young guys on the line, but now that they’ve kind of grown into their role, I think they’ve really improved with pass protection and run protection and all that. I’m really proud of all of those guys, they’re just doing a really great job up front.”

And given time, Edgar has been able to complete 68% of his passes thus far.

“We don’t just throw dinks and dunks,” added Singler, “we throw the ball down the field, so from that standpoint, when you’re throwing that high of a percentage with balls that are going down the field, too, that says a lot about a quarterback.”

And a lot about his receivers, according to Edgar.

“I know those guys well, especially Andrew after throwing to him for three years now,” said the QB. “It’s a good connection to have. I think we have one of the best receiving corps in the state and that just helps me to put trust in those guys that they’re gonna make a play.”

The job, however, is far from complete for a South Medford squad that has lofty aspirations but maybe not the statewide respect they’re hoping to earn with each passing week.

“We’re not the highest ranked team year-in and year-out,” said Edgar, “so I think we still have that chip on our shoulder that we’re here to play and whether you want to give us credit or not, we’re still going to come out every Friday night hungry to win.”

“I’m excited for what’s to come,” he added. “We still have a lot to prove but being quarterback of this team is a really great feeling, and if we keep playing like we are, we should really have a great season.”

All in all, it’s been a pretty cool evolution from Midwestern transplant to West Coast sensation for Edgar.

“I was definitely more nervous than excited about leaving all my friends (after sixth grade) because I think that’s an age where your friends are really important,” said Edgar. “People are always asking me if I like it out here better and I’m like, yeah, for sure. I’ve made so many more friends and I think the friends here are going to stick with me for the rest of my life, and I’m really happy about that.”

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

Andy Atkinson/Mail TribuneSouth Medford senior quarterback Deacon Edgar has passed for 1,014 yards and 11 touchdowns and run for 146 yards and five TDs through four weeks.
Photo by Denise Baratta. South Medford quarterback Deacon Edgar throws a pass in the second quarter, Friday against McNary.
Photo by Denise Baratta. Quarterback Deacon Edgar signals his touchdown to officials after scoring for South Medford, Friday against McNary.