TIGARD — Fifth-ranked North Medford knew it was running into a buzz saw in No. 2 Tigard on Friday night as it prepared for the Class 6A football state quarterfinals.
What the Black Tornado couldn't possibly know heading in is that it would lose the services of a pair of leaders essentially by its second offensive series and face an even more unenviable task here at Tigard High.
With junior tailback Nick Janakes sidelined by a dislocated shoulder only two carries into the first possession of the game and junior quarterback Troy Fowler lost not long after with a concussion, North Medford struggled to gain any traction against the Tigers in a game that gradually slipped away, 42-0.
"That was a good football team, I'm not going to take anything away from them," said North Medford head coach Mike Mitchell. "They play with a passion and a physicality that you have to play with to be at this level. That's the lesson we better learn from what happened tonight. I thought they really were a good, physical, fast football team."
"It didn't help us to lose Troy and Nick but we were in trouble before they got hurt," added the second-year coach. "I think the kids see them as the guts of our football team and we talked about that after the game, you have to learn to lean on other people when that happens to you."
Junior quarterback Jacob Moore and senior running back Micah Brown stepped in admirably to help lessen the blow but a full-strength and hungry bunch of Tigers simply didn't let the Black Tornado stretch its legs on offense beyond the game's first drive.
North Medford (10-2) moved from its own 18 to the Tigard 29 for the bulk of the 95 yards of total offense allowed on this night by the Tigers (12-0), who snapped a 10-game winning streak by the Southwest Conference champions and advanced to their second straight semifinals.
"Everybody talks about how our offense can score points but our defense is the backbone of our team," said Tigard head coach Craig Ruecker, whose team will play No. 1 Central Catholic in next week's semifinals. —¦ Anybody that has a great football team that can get this far has a defense that can play."
"We had all kinds of respect for North Medford and the season that they've had," added Ruecker. "No one would've guessed that the game would've gone like this — I surely wouldn't — but our kids play hard and we play fast and we were able to play great defense, obviously, to keep them off of the scoreboard."
A combination of Fowler, Moore and Greyson Wolff combined to complete 9 of 24 passes for 99 yards and one interception for North Medford, which finished with minus-4 yards on 25 rushing attempts.
"I'm unhappy with the results of this game and I'm unhappy with the injuries," said Mitchell, "but overall I'm happy with the season. I think we've grown tremendously. A 10-2 (record) is good anywhere and these kids have done a good job."
While North Medford struggled to move the football, Tigard used a quick-hitting approach on pitches to senior tailback Manu Rasmussen and company to chip away at the Tornado defense. Rasmussen carried the ball 17 times for 204 yards and two touchdowns to spearhead an offense that used its running game to carve through a bitterly cold and windy night.
The Tigers ultimately carried the ball 50 times for 321 yards and completed 8 of 10 passes for 140 more to finish with 461 yards of total offense. While all earned, those numbers weren't exactly indicative of the defensive effort by North Medford, which was on the field for most of the game.
"They were a good team and we played our hardest," said North Medford junior defensive lineman Skyler Black. "We had a bad start and things didn't go as we planned but we stuck with it. Our offense had a hard time scoring but we kept with it and our defense played strong and played hard. The scoreboard may say 42-0 but we played hard."
Black's two sacks and a fourth-down tackle finally halted Tigard's consecutive series scoring streak on the Tigers' fifth possession with 56 seconds to go in the first half. Junior linebackers Edmund Polataivao and Isaac Grether also came up with a handful of tackles to lead the effort, with senior Hunter Hermansen, junior Calvinn Casaday, sophomore Will Spence and freshman Tre Holmes providing highlight moments.
"We made a lot of stops but we gave up big plays and that really hurt us," said Mitchell.
Everything looked according to plan early on for North Medford as it took the opening kickoff 54 yards using a determined effort to run the ball. Janakes burst through for an 11-yard gain on the second play of the contest and Fowler converted a pair of passes to Tristen Holmes for a total gain of 11 yards to keep the chains moving.
A pass interference penalty and a personal foul helped extend the drive, but it bogged down at the 28 with Janakes already on the sidelines. When the Tornado lined up for a 47-yard field goal attempt by Garrett Byrd, the snap slipped off the frigid fingers of Fowler, who had no choice but to fall on the fumble for a 9-yard loss.
"We started the game right and everything was going good and it looked like we were going to compete and then we just kinda got ourselves in trouble," said Mitchell.
Four quick runs by Rasmussen then put the Tigers in scoring position and A.J. Hotchkins burst into the end zone from 14 yards out to put Tigard up 7-0 with 5:27 to go in the first quarter.
"It looked to me that North Medford kind of came in with an attitude that they were going to keep the ball away from us and on that first series they milked five minutes off the clock," said Ruecker. "But to our kids' credit it only took us about (86) seconds to score, and then our defense really cranked down and got some quick stops and we got the ball back quick and it just started rolling."
After holding the Black Tornado to one more first down — an 18-yard completion from Fowler to senior Eugene Ellis on third-and-12 — the Tigers again took over and quickly made it 14-0 when Rasmussen found a seam and raced untouched for a 69-yard touchdown.
Fowler was sandwiched on an incomplete pass by a pair of Tigard defenders on that second series and was slow to get up. He returned for North's third possession, which was a three-and-out, and then left the game for good just prior to the end of the first quarter.
Fowler finished 3-for-8 for 28 yards while Janakes had 13 yards on two carries. Moore came in to complete 5 of 10 passes for 59 yards while Wolff made a 12-yard completion to Tucker Barry on North's final possession of the fourth quarter.
Junior receiver Jared Evans led the team with 44 yards on three receptions while Tristen Holmes caught four balls for 25 yards.
Tigard scored twice in the second quarter on TD runs by Sam Inos (17 yards) and Tyler Walker (14 yards) to go up 28-0 at intermission. Rasmussen capped the first drive of the second half with a 22-yard TD run and quarterback Jett Even finished the scoring with 20 seconds to go in the third quarter on a 6-yard TD toss to Daren Rodrigues.
Tigard 42, North Medford 0
North Medford 0 0 0 0 —0
Tigard 14 14 14 0 —42
T — Hotchkins 14 run (McGetrick kick)
T — Rasmussen 69 run (McGetrick kick)
T — Inos 17 run (McGetrick kick)
T — Walker 14 run (McGetrick kick)
T — Rasmussen 22 run (McGetrick kick)
T — Rodrigues 6 pass from Even (McGetrick kick)
First Downs 9 23
Rushes-Yards 25-(-4) 50-321
Passing Yards 99 140
Comp-Att-Int 9-24-1 8-10-0
Total Yards 95 461
Punts 8-37.2 3-29
Fumbles-lost 3-2 1-0
Penalties-yards 6-38 7-75
North Medford — Janakes 2-13, Spence 7-4, Brown 10-1, Moore 5-(-12), Wolff 1-(-10).
Tigard — Rasmussen 17-204, Hotchkins 3-31, Even 4-(-35), Alvarizares 8-20, Inos 1-17, Walker 6-38, Imai 1-(-2), Graden 4-2, Floyd 6-46.
North Medford — Fowler 3-8-0 28, Moore 5-10-1 59, Wolff 1-6-0 12.
Tigard — Even 8-10-0 140.
North Medford — Holmes 4-25, Ellis 1-18, Evans 4-44, Barry 1-12.
Tigard — Rodrigues 3-48, McGetrick 2-61, Walker 1-(-2), Rasmussen 1-16, Duron 1-17.
Reach reporter Kris Henry at 541-776-4488, email@example.com, www.facebook.com/krishenryMT and www.twitter.com/Kris_Henry