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Triumph and tragedy

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A year of team and individual championships — triumph accompanied by tragedy — is about to close, and the Mail Tribune sports staff has sorted through the variety of local story lines to choose the most impactful.

They ranged from South Medford’s greatest football season in school history, and an inspiring run by Southern Oregon University to the NAIA football national semifinals, to a high school running star gutting it out through injury and the passing of a revered baseball manager.

The annual list of top stories was particularly taxing for our panel of voters, made up of 11 current and former sports staff members and other newsroom personnel.

The abundant list of offerings resulted in some championships that would have made the top 10 in previous years being relegated to honorable mention.

South Medford football was No. 1, garnering eight of 11 first-place votes and a total score of 105 points.

Second-place SOU football had two firsts and 98 points, followed by Crater distance ace Andy Monroe (68) and North Medford’s state-champion softball team (51), which bagged the final top vote.

The top three were named on all 11 ballots, while North Medford softball was on nine and No. 5, Cascade Christian’s state-winning football team, appeared on eight.

The ballot had 27 entries. Of those, 23 received at least one vote.

Here are the Mail Tribune's top 10 sports stories of 2017:


The Panthers enjoyed their finest season since the school opened in 1986, riding a talented senior class to the Class 6A state championship game. South Medford came up short of a title, losing 31-30 to Clackamas when Jeffrey Nelson hit a 37-yard field goal with three seconds left for the victory. It was the closest title game in 32 years.

Through the finale, the Panthers set numerous records, including victories in a season with a 12-2 mark, a second straight Southwest Conference crown and the program’s first wins at the quarterfinal and semifinal levels.

They set team records for most points in a season (578) and most points in a game (63-0 over Gresham), and 10 individual records fell, all by seniors capping a handful of remarkable careers.

In all-state balloting, linebacker Jaylin Parnell was 6A defensive player of the year and first team at running back and linebacker. Bill Singler was co-coach of the year. Center Daniel Shenk and guard Brandon Ditty were first-team offense, and Josiah Johnson was a first-team defensive back.

Wide receiver Chase Cota, a four-star recruit, chose UCLA over a host of suitors that included some of the top programs in the country.


Because of tragic and triumphant circumstances, Southern Oregon University’s football program was in the news much of the year. It began with the sudden death of popular head coach Craig Howard, who passed away during the night of Jan. 16 at his home.

Longtime Ashland High coach Charlie Hall, who had lots of previous experience in the college ranks, was chosen to succeed Howard, and, with returning senior quarterback Tanner Trosin at the controls, the Raiders embarked on a memorable season.

SOU went 12-1 and claimed the Frontier Conference title. Its first loss came in the NAIA semifinals at Reinhardt, Georgia, dropping that contest, 37-34, in double overtime. A victory would have put them in the national championship game a third time in four years.

Trosin, who threw for 31 TDs with only seven interceptions while completing 62.5 percent of his passes, and junior defensive end Sean Rogers were chosen All-Americans. Hall was selected Region 5 coach of the year.


The Crater distance runner’s talents have been on display for a while. This year, his toughness was at center stage, first in the 5A state track championships in the spring, then in the state cross country meet in the fall.

Monroe turned in an inspiring performance to win his second straight 3,000-meter title in track. With a mile left, he felt the plantar fascia ligament in his right foot tear. He hobbled home, clocking 8:37.28, then collapsed at the finish line. The time was only 4½ seconds off his PR.

He couldn’t defend his 1,500 title the next day, but recuperated enough to run cross country and defend that state title.

Despite ongoing foot issues, he finished a painful, thrilling victory over Ashland sophomore EJ Holland. Both were timed in 15:19, fifth fastest of all time on the course.


In the Class 6A state championship, the Black Tornado did most of its heavy lifting in the second inning, and that was enough to dispatch Westview, 11-3, for the program’s eighth title and third in six years.

Third-seeded North Medford rallied from a 1-0 deficit with 10 runs in the second inning. Mahal Miles, the team’s player of the game, had both her hits, including a triple, and three RBIs in the frame. Jordan Neathammer, one of nine seniors, added a two-run homer.

Only once in history has a team scored more runs in the title game.

The Black Tornado finished with an 18-game winning streak and a 30-1 record.

North Medford’s Mike Mayben was state coach of the year. North Medford seniors Taelor Mayben, the coach’s daughter, and Olivia Lethlean were selected all-state first-team.


Cascade Christian proved to be an offensive juggernaut, led by dual-threat quarterback Haiden Schaan, throughout the season. But the Challengers called on their defense to nail down the program’s third state championship when it beat Santiam Christian, 28-21, for the Class 3A crown.

A pass deflection by Cristian Flores-Alatorre and a resulting interception by Josiah Sills with seven seconds left sealed the outcome. Cascade Christian, the fourth seed, led 21-7 at halftime. No. 2 Santiam Christian rallied with the help of two interceptions and a fumble recovery.

After SC tied it at 21, Schaan directed a 13-play, 80-yard touchdown drive. He hit Ben Dunn thrice for 58 yards before Caleb Jordan scored on a run from the 4.

Schaan threw for 247 yards and a score to Dunn, and ran for 77 yards. Dunn had eight catches for 125 yards for the Challengers, who finished 12-1.


The winningest manager in Medford Mustangs history died unexpectedly at his home in Talent on Aug. 14. Kensinger, who had retired from teaching at Hedrick Middle School the previous year, was 59.

The affable coach stepped down from the Mustangs American Legion baseball team in 2011 with a career record of 758-239 and a winning percentage of .760 over 19 seasons.

Under Kensinger, the Mustangs made it to the American Legion World Series three times (1992, 1997 and 2009), placing as high as second in 1997 and 2009. Medford captured seven of the program’s 15 state championships with him at the helm.

He was inducted into the Medford Sports Hall of Fame in 2012 and was named an Oregon Athletic Coaches Association middle school coach of the year for 2014-15.


The American Legion AAA baseball team became the first in Oregon history to win four straight state championships, coming from behind to defeat Dallas, 11-9, in 10 innings. It was Medford’s 15th overall crown.

In the finale, Medford forced extras with a run in the ninth, and won with two in the 10th. In the bottom of the 10th, Ryan Lorenz threw out a runner at third with no outs in what manager Nate Mayben called the play of the year.

Center fielder Cole Carder was tourney MVP, going 2-for-5 with his third state homer and saving three runs with a diving catch. Nick Sanderson homered, doubled twice, had three runs and three RBIs in the title game.

At the Northwest Regional, Medford lost two of three games, ending with a 37-12-1 record.


Cascade Christian avenged one of its regular-season losses in the Class 3A championship match, defeating Santiam Christian for the Challengers’ second straight state crown.

Cascade Christian lost the first two sets before righting the ship for a 21-25, 20-25, 26-24, 26-24, 15-8 victory. Caroline McMahon, a junior who was later named co-player of the year in the state, notched 42 kills, 17 digs and four aces to lead the top-seeded Challengers. Junior libero Aubrey Kievit had 24 digs in the finale.

Cascade Christian had a 25-3 record, overcoming the loss of one of its top players, senior outside hitter Alyssa Vaughn, to injury late in the regular season.

Senior setter Allison Winter joined McMahon on the all-state first team. Rob Kleker was coach of the year.


The former Ashland High and Oregon State right-handed pitcher made his major league debut for the Seattle Mariners on May 11, coming out of the bullpen against the Toronto Blue Jays.

The 6-foot-2, 200-pounder went two innings, allowing one run on two hits with four strikeouts. His first start came on May 18 against the Chicago White Sox, and Gaviglio pitched three-hit ball over five innings without getting a decision.

He had one more solid start against the Washington Nationals, giving him a 1.38 ERA, before getting his first victory in a road game against the Colorado Rockies. He pitched into the sixth, allowing five runs on six hits.

Seattle lost Gaviglio to Kansas City via a waiver claim Sept. 1. Between the two teams, he pitched in 16 games (four with KC), going 4-5 with a 4.36 ERA.


The Crusaders twice had to battle back in the Class 3A state championship game to secure the school’s first baseball crown in 35 years, beating Glide, 5-3.

Fourth-seeded St. Mary’s finished it off against the No. 6 Wildcats with three runs in the bottom of the sixth inning to help run its season record to 26-4.

Senior Nathaniel Savage scored the Crusaders’ first run, drove in the go-ahead run in the sixth and was 2-for-3 with one run and one RBI. Ben Robinson was also 2-for-3 with a run and an RBI.

Senior Travis Danielson pitched the first six innings for St. Mary’s before giving way to senior Joe Johnson, who saved it with a scoreless seventh.

Letendre, Johnson and Danielson were all chosen first-team all-state.


Golfer Dylan Wu wins the Big Ten scoring title and makes it to the U.S. Amateur round of 32.

Former South Medford basketball star Remi Mejia returns to the area to play for Southern Oregon.

The Medford Rogues win their first Great West League title and notch a club-record 44 victories.

Crater wrestler Logan Meek paces the Comets to their first state championship in 11 years.

Air quality issues from wildfires throughout the region disrupt athletic schedules.

Prep track and field athletes bring home multiple championships from their state meets.

The OSAA announces classification changes for the next four years, affecting many local schools.

Southern Oregon distance runner Jessa Perkinson becomes a 10-time NAIA All-American.

The Medford Sports Hall of Fame holds inductions for the first time in five years, adding 11 members.

Cole Watson wins the men’s Pear Blossom, beating the course record and its owner, Max King.

Cascade Christian’s boys and St. Mary’s girls successfully defend state golf championships.

Boxer Mike Wilson ups his professional record to 18-0 with a win in Rogue Valley Rumble 8.

Medford powerlifter Shane Sevcik, 39, wins the World Masters Games gold medal.

— Reach sports editor Tim Trower at 541-776-4479 or ttrower@mailtribune.com










Crater's Andy Monroe wins a painful 3,000 meters in state track. [MT FILE PHOTO]
Members of the North Medford Black Tornado softball team celebrate after the 6A championship game. [MT FILE PHOTO]
Medford Mustangs claim their fourth straight crown. [MT FILE PHOTO]