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Drone flight remains a mystery

Last Friday night at Spiegelberg Stadium offered up a first in Oregon high school football and an unfortunate sign of the times with a second-quarter drone delay during the South Medford-Willamette football game.

As of Monday night, there was no telling why the flyover happened and exactly who was the culprit, but the surprising situation was handled quickly and appropriately by those on hand.

“I think somebody was just out there playing around and they decided to do that so that’s what they did,” South Medford athletic director Dennis Murphy said Monday. “There’s enough people around that do all kinds of peculiar things and so someone probably had it out flying around that night and thought it would be great to fly it around the stadium.”

Murphy said he couldn’t know for sure but didn’t believe there was any malicious intent to the use of the unmanned aerial system.

What was clear, however, was how well those on hand dealt with the disturbance.

“I think the officials did exactly what they were supposed to do and did their job and stopped everything,” said Murphy. “Once we got that thing out of there we were able to continue to play and off they went.”

After a timeout with about 1:10 remaining in the first half, Willamette’s Trevor McDonald was tackled for no gain by South Medford linebacker Dillon Alfinito on a third-and-15 play at the Willamette 39. It was shortly thereafter that head referee Jerry Eklund called for both teams to vacate the field once the drone was spotted.

It’s not known how long the black drone had been flying overhead before it was spotted hovering over the playing field with its red flashing lights at the grandstands’ highest point.

“I have no idea how long it was up there,” said Murphy. “You just happened to look up and there it was. For all we know it could’ve been there the whole first half. I think it got down low enough to where I think the referees heard it and they looked up and then acted on it.”

Only three weeks ago, the Oregon School Activities Association adopted a ruling for restrictions on unmanned aerial systems — commonly referred to as drones — that prohibits their use at all OSAA-sanctioned events from one hour prior to the event through one hour after it is complete.

The rule states that: “If the game officials observe an unmanned aerial device flying directly over the playing area, feel that a device may have the potential to harm any individual or if the device actually lands on the playing area, the game officials have the authority to suspend play and may direct the teams to their respective sideline or locker room until such time that game management deems the situation safe.”

After several pleas by the stadium announcer to have whoever was responsible for the drone make it vacate the premises, the device eventually flew out of the stadium. The delay was less than 5 minutes.

TRIPLE CROWN REUNION: The celebrated Medford High Class of 1960 will be honored during its 55th reunion this week that includes an appearance at Friday’s North Medford-South Eugene football game at Spiegelberg Stadium.

Members of that Medford High class pulled off a rarity among Oregon high school athletics, with the Black Tornado winning the state football championship in the fall of 1959 before backing that up by winning state titles in boys basketball in the winter of 1960 and baseball that spring.

Top-ranked Medford beat No. 2 Jefferson in football, 7-6, behind a 77-yard punt return touchdown by Ken Durkee and went on to beat Marshfield, 63-56, in the basketball final to finish 23-3 overall. Medford pulled off the Triple Crown with a 3-1 win over Parkrose in the baseball final.

About 70 members of the Class of 1960 expect to be in town this weekend and attending Friday’s football game, according to reunion organizer Charlene Beaty, with three representatives joining the coin flip ceremony and all on hand recognized between the first and second quarters.

The class also plans to tour Central High, where they went to high school, and have a reunion dinner and dance Saturday at the Inn at the Commons.

FIELD GOAL PUNT: It likely caught most by surprise when Willamette’s Tristan Rekdahl set up for a field goal with a spot at the South Medford 47-yard line and promptly sliced a kick that rolled out at the 10.

It was probably more surprising when that’s exactly the point where South Medford took over for its first possession during last Friday’s 21-14 win over the visiting Wolverines.

That scenario played out two more times, with one such kick advancing into the end zone for a touchback and another popping out of bounds at the Panthers 41, much to the confusion of those on hand.

Willamette first-year head coach Josh Wolfram explained the little known rule following the contest. Oregon high school football does not have a policy of returning the ball to the line of scrimmage on missed field goal attempts, meaning if the football goes out of bounds or stops shy of the end zone then that’s where it is marked as if it were a traditional punt.

“It’s a weird rule, I know,” said Wolfram. “When I was coaching at Southern Oregon University I saw Sherwood doing it and I didn’t know what was going on.”

“We had to go to field goal punt this week because we had a few injuries last week and our punter, who is our quarterback, twisted his ankle and he just couldn’t kick all week,” added Wolfram. “We felt that our kicker had pretty good positioning on his kicks so we felt pretty comfortable going into it with that as our punt.”

Reach reporter Kris Henry at 541-776-4488, khenry@mailtribune.com, www.facebook.com/krishenryMT or www.twitter.com/Kris_Henry