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South Medford's Matt Retzlaff (5) catches the ball in front of Crater's RJ Morgan during Friday's game. - Andy Atkinson

Air strikes destroy Crater

Crater essentially dared South Medford to pass the football, and the fifth-ranked Panthers were happy to oblige Friday night at Spiegelberg Stadium.

South Medford's receivers routinely turned around the Crater secondary and Panther quarterback Jack Singler was given enough time to carve up the defense en route to a 42-14 rout in Southwest Conference play.

No player was more pivotal to the Panthers' success than senior slot receiver Matt Retzlaff, although he downplayed his efforts as much as possible following the game. Retzlaff broke the school's single-game records for receptions (with 13) and yards receiving (with 256) to go with three touchdowns and a double-digit effort in tackles on defense from his rover position.

"Numbers don't matter to me and numbers shouldn't matter for this team," said the 5-foot-11, 180-pound standout. "We're a family and we're going to stick together and move onto the next game."

That next game stands to be a little more daunting than Friday, with the Panthers heading to third-ranked Roseburg for a key clash between unbeaten teams. Both teams improved to 4-0 overall and 2-0 in SWC play on Friday.

"It's going to be a tough game, for sure," said Singler, who was 22-of-27 passing for 424 yards and five touchdowns. "We've just got to come and play our best."

Against the Comets (2-2, 0-2 SWC), South Medford head coach Bill Singler figured it would be tough sledding for his offense heading into the contest. Crater committed its defensive front to stopping the running game and Panther senior Denzel Mobley, leaving the defensive backs to fend for themselves against South's air assault.

"They had seven guys in the box the whole game," said coach Singler. "That's tough to block when you only have six. There are games where you just have to do what you have to do to win. In that game they just loaded it up and they were just daring us to throw, so we did."

Singler opened his touchdown barrage with a 16-yard strike to Retzlaff on South's opening drive, then found junior Max Farthing for a slip screen on the next series that wound up going for 66 yards and another score as he filtered through lead blocks in the flat from Desmond Harrington and D.J. McGinnis.

Singler added a 45-yard strike on the opening drive of the third quarter to junior Adrian Garcia, who had gotten behind cornerback Corey Wynant after the quarterback reloaded for the deep pass. That put the Panthers up 21-0, and the damage was far from over for Crater's overmatched secondary.

Farthing finished with four catches for 79 yards and Garcia had four for 85 to complement Retzlaff, who likely will be in the nightmares of safeties R.J. Morgan and Wyatt Williams and cornerbacks Wynant and Andrew Horton.

"Our receivers continue to impress," said coach Singler. "Those guys catch the football, they run with the football after the catch ... and when you leave a kid like Matt Retzlaff open, I mean shoot, you're going to pay the price."

It wasn't like the Comets chose not to pay attention to Retzlaff, they simply couldn't keep up with him.

"You've got to cover a guy," said Crater head coach John Beck, clearly frustrated by his team's ultimate undoing.

"We did some good things but when you get them in third-and-long situations and they can't run the football, you've got to be able to stop the pass," he added, "and we didn't stop the pass, not once all night."

The Comets were able to trim their deficit to 21-7 with an 87-yard drive spearheaded by the playmaking ability of quarterback Chase Mackey and running of senior Garrett Alner and junior Ty Wolf, who capped the drive with a 1-yard dive.

Seventy-eight seconds later, however, South Medford was back in the end zone after Retzlaff got behind Alner and Williams for a 48-yard touchdown.

"He's an unbelievable player," Jack Singler said of Retzlaff. "He's my favorite target, for sure, and my best friend. I'm glad I'm playing with him my senior year because he's an unbelievable player. He's legit."

The Comets caught on to a big play of their own when Mackey followed up a pair of nice Alner runs by faking a handoff and then tucking around the right side past cornerback Daniel Jimenez for a 50-yard TD scamper that made it 27-14 with 11:34 to play.

A good kickoff return by Christian Bowley put the ball on the Crater 43 and South needed six plays to answer with another Retzlaff reception, this one from 10 yards out on a nice diving grab following a rollout by Singler. The two connected again on a two-point conversion to push the lead back up to three touchdowns.

Through it all, Retzlaff said he never really took notice of the night he was having.

"Not a single idea," he said when asked if he knew he was on pace for a record night. "I'm not worried about myself, I'm just worried about this team and putting points on that board for the home team."

The only concern Retzlaff said he truly had was figuring out ways to get open so South could keep moving the chains.

"I had a feeling they were going to bracket me after I got my first few catches," said Retzlaff. "I expected that so I put a little bit more sugar on my routes and it just happened to work out for the better for us."

"Jack did his job, the line did their job," he added, getting back to his main focus. "I've got to give it up to Jack, he's been working hard in practice and been a true leader on that offensive crew and we're just clicking right now. We've just got to keep this thing going, we can't lag behind, we've got to stay focused."

The Panthers finished with 491 yards of total offense after being limited to 67 yards rushing on 21 attempts, while Crater ran 45 times for 228 yards and passed for 127 more yards before being undone by a pair of interceptions from senior Jake McCoy.

Alner (72 yards), Mackey (64) and Wolf (57) each had positive moments moving the ball on the ground, with Mackey going 9-for-15 passing for 74 yards. Backup QB Matt "Moose" Cooper added 53 yards and a second-quarter spark before finishing 5-for-12 with the two picks.

Mobley, the SWC's second-leading rusher, was limited to 18 yards on 10 carries thanks to good efforts up front from Michael Crippen, Sal Flores and Eduardo Duran. Bowley had 41 yards on six carries.

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

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