North makes strides leading up to Week 3 tilt
For all the hope a football team can muster, North Medford really didn’t have much of a chance to show its true abilities last week.
You really don’t go into a contest against the No. 2 team in the state having hardly any outdoor practices and no game experience and shine like a diamond.
That was the case for the Black Tornado, which struggled to gain traction against West Linn in a 49-7 loss during Week 2 that also served as its season opener after a COVID issue at Del Norte High forced a Sept. 3 cancellation.
“That was not the ideal situation,” said first-year North Medford coach Nathan Chin, “but we don’t make excuses. That West Linn team is very talented and they did a really, really good job.”
Chin called it a learning experience for his team, and one that hopefully will allow North Medford to show its true colors Friday against Sherwood at Spiegelberg Stadium. Kickoff is 7 p.m.
In other 6A action, South Medford plays at No. 3 Lake Oswego at 7:30 p.m. Friday, while Grants Pass is at McNary.
“I think even though the scoreboard wasn’t pretty, it gave us a chance to learn about ourselves,” said Chin of the runaway win by the Lions. “And that’s what we needed. We needed a chance to go play some competition and learn about ourselves. Obviously we would’ve loved to be able to get some outside practices to prepare, but that was the situation we were dealt, and now we just learn from it and move forward.”
Spiegelberg Stadium went without hosting a football game for the opening two weeks in 2017 due to poor air quality in the Rogue Valley, and the situation has repeated itself this year.
Chin said he and his team are excited to get a chance to play the first game at Spiegelberg this season, even if it is a couple weeks later than they had hoped.
“All of the kids and coaches are just excited to be able to get a home game,” said Chin. “You almost kind of forget until you type a schedule out that it’s actually Week 3 and we’re trying to get our first home game in.
“I know everybody in Southern Oregon is going through the same thing, but it’s definitely refreshing to know that we’re going to play at home and get a shot to play at Spiegelberg and be in front of our people.”
That’s not to say the challenge gets much easier in Sherwood, which boasts a lot of talent and a wing-T offense that creates headaches.
“Sherwood is a good football program,” said Chin. “They are going through a similar transition, minus the fact of having to practice inside, as we are. They had the same coach (Greg Lawrence) for almost 30 years, so having a new coach come in and some different stuff I’m sure has been different for them like it has been for us.”
After four seasons at Newberg, Kevin Hastin has taken over at Sherwood and inherited a third-year starting quarterback in senior Bjorn Bergstrom, a breakout hopeful in sophomore Nolan Scott and gritty running backs in senior Seth Glenn and junior Nick Gribble.
“When you’re a wing-T team, you have to have backs that are going to be able to put their foot in the ground and get vertical when they see open grass,” said Chin of Glenn and Gribble, “and they do a really good job of it. They run hard.”
The Bowmen (0-2) look to get Scott involved as much as possible from a variety of ways as a receiver and runner, with Bergstrom also taking advantage of speedy senior Cody Hall on the perimeter when the defensive focus turns too much on the line of scrimmage.
Sherwood has lost to a pair of top-10 teams — 42-21 at Lakeridge and 48-20 versus Lake Oswego — and expect to be determined in trying to net Hastin his first win at Sherwood.
That same feeling will be on North Medford’s sideline as it relates to Chin, along with a sense of taking a much-needed step forward after being ultimately stymied by West Linn.
Junior running back Ty Pugliano provided a big spark last week and expects to be featured even more this week to help open passing opportunities for senior quarterback Mason Warren. Pugliano was limited to 29 yards on 10 carries by the Lions but was able to score his team’s lone touchdown on a determined 5-yard run. The 5-foot-10, 185-pounder set up that opportunity by taking a swing pass from Warren 47 yards deep into West Linn territory.
“We knew we were going to count on him,” Chin said of Pugliano, a first-year starter. “I think a lot of people didn’t quite realize what you’re going to get out of Ty, but there’s no doubt in my mind he was going to be a spark plug for us. He runs the ball well — he runs hard and has good speed — and then his ability schematically on the defensive side to help us get aligned is awesome.”
With West Linn building a commanding lead early, Warren was put under constant pressure and completed only 8 of 21 passes for 107 yards with one interception. Leading target Bryce Dyer hauled in five of those passes for 58 yards.
Given a chance to practice outdoors leading up to Friday’s game, Chin said a primary focus has been on tackling fundamentals and shoring up things in the running game and vertical passing game.
“I think the last couple days have been really good for us to move forward and get better this week,” said Chin. “I think it’s given the kids a little more confidence in the open field being able to do all that stuff after finally being outdoors.”
“I really honestly feel that for every Southern Oregon team it’s going to be that way,” added the coach. “I would venture to say that you’re going to see a huge improvement for everybody this week just from us all being able to be outside.”
SOUTH MEDFORD AT LAKE OSWEGO: The friendship between head coaches Bill Singler and Steve Coury dates back for more than two decades, but each brings a vastly different team into Friday’s matchup.
Coury, in his 30th season, has one of the best teams in the state in the Lakers, while Singler has one of his most inexperienced squads in 24 years.
“They have a really, really good team,” Singler said of the Lakers. “They’re well-balanced on both sides of the ball with a lot of speed. Obviously we have our hands full, but we enjoy playing Lake Oswego because they’ll give you a great game and they coach their kids right. It’s always a great test for us.”
Senior quarterback Jack Layne (6-2, 195) passed for four touchdowns and ran for another in last week’s 48-20 win over Sherwood. At his disposal are a bevy of playmakers in running backs Gabe Olvera and Calvin Macy and a deep receiver corps led by Justius Lowe and Ethan Park.
Senior Gavin McGuire (6-1, 200) had three sacks and four tackles for loss last week and anchors an athletic defensive line.
“We’re just going to have to keep our wits about us and worry about us and not get enamored watching them,” said Singler. “We really have to compete this week every play; you can’t take one play off.
“We’re not going to cower down, obviously, we’re just going to go up there and put our best foot forward and hopefully we have some fuel in the gas tank.”
Senior running back/linebacker Carson Joe led the charge last week as South Medford put a better foot forward on both sides of the ball. Joe ran for a touchdown and caught a touchdown pass from junior Deacon Edgar, who also added his own TD run and a 15-yard TD pass to senior Colton Samis.
The Panthers were tied 21-all with Bend at halftime but ultimately wore down in the 41-27 loss.
“We made some strides last week in Bend, which I was pleased about,” said Singler. “We had a much better offensive output in that game and defensively for a while we did OK, we just have to get better in the tackling area and physicality area.”
“Some of these guys are making the leap from freshman to varsity and it’s really not fair to them,” added the coach, “but that’s just the cards we’re dealt. A few of them did make big strides last week and we’ve just got to do the same thing this week.”
South Medford is averaging only 229 yards per game and allowing 427 thus far, with the onus being on Edgar in the absence of a reliable running game. Edgar has completed 29 of 56 passes for 373 yards with four TDs and two interceptions, with Andrew Walker hauling in nine passes for 113 yards to lead a diverse attack that has included Samis (five catches, 79 yards) and Joe (six catches, 68 yards) and junior Josh Phillips (four catches, 73 yards).
Reach sports editor Kris Henry at 541-776-4488, firstname.lastname@example.org or www.twitter.com/Kris_Henry