Kinney steps up in Panthers' triumph

PORTLAND — Just call Daniel Kinney '6A' from now on.

The senior running back, who transferred this year from Class 3A Cascade Christian, played a key second-half role and scored two touchdowns to help South Medford to a dramatic, 42-35 football win Friday at Lincoln.

Kinney had just two carries in fourth-ranked South Medford's previous four games, but he was called on for 11 rushes and gained 58 yards against the Cardinals after starting running back Patrick Thiebault suffered a shoulder injury late in the first half.

"I don't know," Kinney said, smiling. "I guess I finally earned my respect as a 6A football player."

South Medford quarterback Josh Milhollin said the team jokingly used to call Kinney '3A.' That won't happen anymore.

"Now he's officially '6A,'" Milhollin said. "It's awesome. He's a great running back. He's smart, has learned the offense so quick and he's just so attentive in practice. If we didn't have Daniel, I don't know what this game would have ended like."

The Panthers seemed to be in control as they held a 28-14 lead in the third quarter. After South Medford senior David Reed recovered a fumble by Lincoln's Nate Kirkpatrick, the Panthers took over at Lincoln's 46. Kinney later scored on an 8-yard run with 5:17 to play that gave the Panthers a commanding, 35-14 lead.

Lincoln wasted little time closing the gap, though.

DeAndre Taylor hauled in an 86-yard touchdown pass from Rudolph on the first play of Lincoln's ensuing possession. The Cardinals closed the gap even further when quarterback Blake Rudolph, who completed 17 consecutive passes at one point, threw an 8-yard touchdown pass to Kirkpatrick with 11:29 remaining.

The Panthers' lead had dwindled to 35-28.

Luckily for South Medford, however, Kinney stepped in again. He capped a 55-yard drive with a 5-yard rushing touchdown with 9:24 to play.

The score proved to be monumental because Lincoln kept coming. The Cardinals were driving the ball downfield when Rudolph suffered an injury to his left leg. However, backup quarterback Henry Fuhrman hit J.D. Esters for a 15-yard touchdown pass in the corner of the end zone with 2:21 remaining to cut South Medford's lead to seven points.

Lincoln attempted an onside kick, but the Panthers fell on the ball at the 47 with 2:20 and ran out the clock by handing off to Kinney.

South Medford coach Bill Singler was happy for Kinney.

"I always talk about taking advantage of a window of opportunity, and Daniel took advantage of his window of opportunity tonight," Singler said. "I think that will springboard him even further."

Milhollin, who was 14-for-20 passing for 248 yards with two touchdowns, including a 65-yard scoring pass to Mitch Singler, credited the offensive line for the win.

"They were clicking," he said. "They were getting deep into guys and pushing guys 2 and 3 yards off the line every single time. It was good pass (protection) and I had two, three, four and five seconds to throw the ball. That was what changed the game."

As a team, the Panthers rushed for 172 yards, including 63 by Sam McLaughlin. McLaughlin also hit two field goals and rushed for a touchdown.

"I think, offensively, we found our rhythm a little bit," coach Singler said. "We wanted to capture the line of scrimmage tonight. We really wanted to run the ball, and I felt like our offensive line really did play pretty well."

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