Special seasons like the one enjoyed by South Medford last year in its journey to the Class 6A state championship game are rare.
As such, this year’s Panthers aren’t out to repeat their run to the state final. Instead, South Medford aims to remain competitive on the 6A landscape and hopes to secure a third straight Southwest Conference crown.
It’s an outlook that has always been preached by Panthers head coach Bill Singler since he took over in 1998, and being the state runner-up from a year ago doesn’t change that.
“We haven’t even talked about 2017,” said Singler leading into the 2018 campaign. “Every year you have a new cast of characters and you move on. That’s kind of the fun thing about high school football, you can’t recruit to replace kids you lost. You’ve got to coach them up and structure your offense and defense around the players you have.”
And suffice it to say, this year’s cast doesn’t carry the same pedigree as the prior one. The Panthers return only one starter on offense in senior receiver Trent DeBoer and two starters on defense in senior linebacker Cole Boster and senior safety Jace Campbell.
“We have goals but we’re very inexperienced as far as varsity returners and guys who have had playing time,” said Singler. “But we have a bunch of kids that know how to compete and they’ve learned how to do that through the program and win. We have 21 seniors so it’s their time to come out and be the leaders and show what they’ve got.”
In reality, the cupboard is far from bare at South Medford. That’s good, since no one is likely to give the Panthers any slack when they line up against them after what South Medford accomplished last year.
“We’ll have a target on our back, which is good, we need to play with an edge,” said Singler. “We’ve got to be ready to take everybody’s best each week.”
Running back Terrence Butler and quarterback Giovanni Bottero, both seniors, expect to anchor the Panthers on offense. Each faces big shoes to fill in the departed Jaylin Parnell and Robbie Patterson, respectively.
In a reserve role last year, Butler still managed to run for 621 yards on only 64 carries, scoring 11 touchdowns and averaging 9.7 yards per carry en route to second-team all-SWC acclaim. The 5-foot-10, 185-pound Butler has breakaway speed and no qualms about vying for the tough yards up the middle. He will be complemented by junior Mason DeVries (5-9, 180), who averaged 7.3 yards per carry and scored twice in limited action last year.
“Both kids give us the element I like because they’re multi-dimensional backs,” said Singler. “They can catch the ball out of the backfield, they can block and they can run so they do the stuff we like them to do. They’re good downhill runners inside the tackles, which keeps the defenses concerned about that element that we have, and can also get outside a little bit.”
Bottero saw far less action as Patterson’s backup, completing only 1 of 3 passes for 10 yards with one interception, but the 6-1, 190-pounder has worked diligently to make the most of his opportunity to start. Junior Zac Ankeny is also vying for the No. 1 spot, although he missed most of the spring and summer workouts while playing baseball and will enter the season behind Bottero.
“I would feel a lot differently going into this year with all the inexperience we have if we had quarterbacks that were questionable,” said Singler, “but I think our kids are fine. Both kids are very capable and good students of the game and can throw the football.”
DeBoer was part of a deep receiver corps last year and had 11 catches for 113 yards and one TD. He’ll be flanked on the opposite edge by a potential breakout candidate in junior Austin Boster, who is a track standout and showed flashes of his playmaking abilities as a kick returner last season.
Adding to the receiver corps will be the return of seniors Trevor Marthoski and Trevor Narlock, with quick slot receivers Adam Nanez and Spencer Fowler also providing potent options.
South Medford’s biggest question mark heading into the season may be up front, where a lot of experience, strength and toughness was lost. Spearheading the line will be seniors Ramiro Cabrera (center), Cole Boster (guard), Fernando Alvarez (guard), Jake Ramsay (tackle) and junior Jacob Hermant (tackle), with junior transfer Jack Stanley from Roseville, California, also in the mix.
The strength of the defense stands to be a linebacker corps that is in good hands with all-SWC returner Cole Boster and senior Jaxin Kinler on the inside with help from senior Jayven Butler and junior Jagger Burrill. On the outside, juniors James Duane and Jamal Parnell have shown a knack for getting to the football.
On the defensive line, the Panthers will look for all-SWC senior Sam Willis to help provide a push with junior Justin Josephson, Alvarez and Hermant.
The secondary is filled with speedy athletes like DeBoer, Austin Boster, Campbell, Marthoski, Nanez and senior Matt Phillips.
Bill Singler (21st year, 126-84).
South Medford has advanced to the state playoffs in 15 of the last 16 years and moved beyond the quarterfinals for the first time in school history last year, finishing as the Class 6A runner-up.
ASSISTANTS: Jason Bauer (assistant head coach/running backs/defensive line), Chris Parnell (defensive coordinator/linebackers), Damian Jackson (offensive line), Chad Cota (defensive backs), Dan Woodward (quarterbacks/JV head coach), Matt Retzlaff (receivers/defensive backs), Mike Tejada (linebackers), Noah Berman (strength/conditioning), Sean Johnston (freshman head coach), Dave Alonzo (freshman), Mike Johnston (freshman), Foley Wheeler (freshman), Logan Emonds (freshman).
2017 LEAGUE RECORD: 6-0 (first, SWC).
2017 OVERALL RECORD: 12-2.
PREDICTED FINISH THIS YEAR: Second.
14West Linn 21
28South Salem 21
55North Medford 6
40Grants Pass 21
56South Eugene 12
28West Salem 14
49Lake Oswego 27
OFFENSE (1): Receiver Trent DeBoer (5-11, 165, sr.).
DEFENSE (2): Linebacker Cole Boster (5-10, 215, sr.), strong safety Jace Campbell (6-0, 195, sr.).
Running back/linebacker Terrence Butler (5-10, 185, sr.), receiver/defensive back Austin Boster (5-8, 150, jr.), quarterback Giovanni Bottero (6-1, 190, sr.), quarterback Zac Ankeny (6-0, 160, jr.), running back/linebacker Mason DeVries (5-9, 180, jr.), running back/linebacker Jamal Parnell (5-8, 155, jr.), receiver/defensive back Trevor Marthoski (5-10, 165, sr.), receiver/defensive back Trevor Narlock (6-0, 170, sr.), receiver/defensive back Adam Nanez (5-6, 145, sr.), receiver/defensive back Spencer Fowler (5-6, 150, jr.), lineman Ramiro Cabrera (5-8, 170, sr.), lineman Fernando Alvarez (6-0, 225, sr.), lineman Jake Ramsay (6-3, 245, sr.), lineman Jacob Hermant (5-11, 225, jr.), lineman Jack Stanley (6-1, 215, jr.), lineman Sam WIllis (6-3, 230, sr.), running back/lineman Justin Josephson (5-11, 170, jr.), lineman/linebacker Jaxin Kinler (5-10, 195, sr.), tight end/linebacker Jayven Butler (6-0, 185, sr.), lineman Jagger Burrill (6-0, 190, jr.), tight end/linebacker James Duane (6-2, 195, jr.), receiver/defensive back Matt Phillips (6-3, 175, sr.).
Aug. 31CENTENNIAL, 7 p.m.
Sept. 7at Canby, 7 p.m.
Sept. 14at Liberty, 7 p.m.
Sept. 21MCMINNVILLE, 7 p.m.
Sept. 28at McNary, 7:15 p.m.
Oct. 5ROSEBURG, 7 p.m.
Oct. 12SHELDON, 7 p.m.
Oct. 19at Grants Pass, 7 p.m.
Oct. 26NORTH MEDFORD, 7 p.m.
Reach reporter Kris Henry at 541-776-4488, email@example.com, www.facebook.com/krishenryMT or www.twitter.com/Kris_Henry