Mirror images set to square off at Spiegelberg

The color schemes may be different, but just about everything else will be the same when second-ranked South Medford and No. 7 Southridge square off at 7 tonight in the Class 6A state quarterfinals at Spiegelberg Stadium.

Physical running games and potent passing attacks, check.

Defenses that are stingy and fly to the football, check.

Coaches aiming to capitalize on their strong senior class, check.

You name it, both teams have it in what stands to be a down-to-the-wire clash.

"It looks like, on paper, a very evenly matched game," says South Medford head coach Bill Singler. "It'll be interesting to see which team will hold up throughout the whole game."

"I would say that we're mirror teams," adds Southridge head coach Brad Mastrud.

Mastrud knows a little something about playing in Spiegelberg, having served as an assistant at Roseburg under Thurman Bell from 1981-99 before taking over the Skyhawks program.

This time, however, the drive will be a little longer and the stakes higher than most trips he's made to the Rogue Valley.

"I'm really looking forward to them having the opportunity," Mastrud says of playing at Spiegelberg. "Not very many kids from the metropolitan area get that opportunity to play in an environment like that. It's going to be exciting for our kids, I just hope they can handle the situation."

Southridge has handled just about every situation it has been in thus far, with its two losses in 11 games coming in close battles to Beaverton (10-7) and No. 3 Jesuit (19-16 overtime). In fact, the only teams remaining in the 6A state playoffs that the Skyhawks have yet to face are South Medford and top-ranked Lake Oswego.

Besides the Beaverton and Jesuit outcomes, Southridge has already beaten quarterfinalists Tualatin (27-7 on the road), No. 8 Canby (24-0 at home) and No. 10 Sheldon (20-17 on the road). The No. 3 seed from the Metro Conference has not lost a road game all season, including last week's dominant 45-7 win over No. 9 Lincoln in the second round.

"We all feel like we belong there," Mastrud says of possibly advancing to the semifinals and beyond. "There's eight teams left and all good football teams. It's just going to be a matter of who comes out and makes good plays."

Especially in recent weeks, the running game for each team has been pivotal in allowing Southridge and South Medford (10-1) to effectively control their opponents. Skyhawks senior tailback Kirk Werhane is coming off a 157-yard, two-touchdown effort on 19 carries last week against Lincoln, while Panthers senior tailback Patrick Thibeault carried 21 times for 223 yards and three TDs in last week's 42-20 win over David Douglas.

Werhane, who stands 5-foot-11 and 191 pounds, carried 148 times for 853 yards and nine touchdowns during the regular season. Thibeault, at 6-1 and 205 pounds, has rushed for 1,191 yards and 20 scores on 221 carries through 11 games.

"The last part of the year, especially, they're running the ball very well and so are we," says Singler. "Thibeault and Werhane are really workhorses for each of their teams."

Werhane is aided in his efforts by the blocking of junior fullback Matt Tanuvasa, who is also adept at toting the football in goal-line situations, and an offensive line led by first-team all-Metro guard John Wall (6-2, 248) and second-teamers Patrick McNally (6-2, 216) at center, Paul Tuma (6-1, 229) at guard and Matt Acey (6-5, 245) at tackle.

"They really do a great job blocking at the point of attack so we have to meet that physicalness," says Singler.

Guiding the whole process is senior quarterback Kellen Mastrud, who took over those duties in the last five games of his sophomore season and hasn't looked back. He led Southridge to the 2006 state championship game but was unavailable after breaking his foot in the semifinals.

The younger Mastrud completed 100 of 172 passes for 1,158 yards with 10 TDs and three interceptions in the regular season, and threw for 249 yards and four scores in a 48-9 win over Oregon City to open the state playoffs.

"He's had a good year," says coach Mastrud of his son. "One of the things you've got to do is take care of the football, we talk about that all the time, and he's done that for us."

Mastrud's prime weapon on the outside includes 6-6 standout Mitch Mathews, who suffered a broken foot in Southridge's opening game but returned three weeks ago. Mathews is an especially involved target when the Skyhawks near the red zone, opting to utilize his leaping skills on fade patterns to the corner.

The Skyhawks also feature a bevy of solid receivers in Matt Moshofsky (23 catches for 285 yards), Kyle Rose (17 for 203), Trevor Harman (17 for 160) and Taylor Goodling (12 for 171). Senior D'Cota Fry doubles as a threat running the ball (30 for 225) and catching the ball (11 for 131), while Werhane occasionally leaks out from the backfield as a receiver.

"We've made it a serious attempt to be as balanced as we can," says coach Mastrud. "One we're doing what we're doing to win a game, and the next week it might be totally different. That's the way it's been for the last three weeks or so."

Harman is one of the Skyhawks' most versatile threats. Along with his receiver duties, the senior played quarterback against Aloha when Kellen Mastrud was sick and utilized those skills to trick up the defense three weeks ago against Westview by taking a lateral pass and then firing a 47-yard scoring strike to Mathews. Harman also plays safety and is 15-for-18 on field goal attempts thus far, including a 50-yarder three weeks ago.

Tuma was named the Metro's defensive lineman of the year thanks to his non-stop motor, while Werhane and Mastrud help steady the linebacker corps and senior Kalen Powell is a leader in the secondary at quarterback.

The Skyhawks kept their opposition scoreless in the first quarter until Oregon City took a 9-0 lead two weeks ago, and led Jesuit 10-0 in the fourth quarter before letting that game slip away.

South Medford's defense will get a boost with the return of tackle Zack Bargé, who suffered a broken radius Oct. 31 against Sheldon but has been cleared to play. Steve Lankford played well in the place of Bargé last week and could see more playing time tonight with Rylee Jackson and David Reed as the Panthers look to be steady up front against Southridge's determined running attack.

Linebackers Blake Lippitt, Jordan Lundgren and E.J. Singler will also be tasked with stepping up their play, while safety Austin Randall is coming off one of his best games of the season after notching 10 tackles against the Scots.

Fellow defensive back Daniel Kinney, the Southwest Conference's co-defensive player of the year, wasn't far behind with eight tackles as South Medford took David Douglas out of the game early.

South Medford has yet to make it past the state quarterfinals and is one of only two programs (Canby) remaining in the playoffs without state championship experience.

"These kids have worked long and hard for this type of experience and this type of game, so they're ready to play and are looking forward to it," says coach Singler.

Reach reporter Kris Henry at 776-4488, or e-mail khenry@mailtribune.com

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