North Medford’s Matt Maurer (18) is tackled late out of bounds by McMinnville’s Josiah Cook during the third quarter on Friday. - Jamie Lusch

North gets back on track

In the world of Black Tornado football, what a difference a week makes.

After a somewhat lackluster performance last Friday in a three-point loss to Willamette, North Medford came out with something to prove at Spiegelberg Stadium on Friday and turned things around in a hurry against McMinnville.

Using a perfect combination of speed, power and execution on both sides of the ball, the Black Tornado ripped through the Grizzlies for a 35-0 triumph.

"Last week, we really didn't come out and play our game," said North Medford quarterback Matt Maurer. "We were a little soft last week and this week was definitely a week we said we've got to play well."

Colin Sowers helped set the tone with some steady running on offense, while a few changes in personnel on defense paid off in a big way in limiting McMinnville to only seven first downs and 182 yards of total offense.

"They executed to a T tonight," North coach Jeff Olson said of his team, which improved its record to 2-1. "I'm very, very, very pleased."

Sowers danced his way around the Grizzlies (2-2) for his best game of the season, finishing with 116 yards on 15 carries and his first touchdown of the season.

"That was a nice feeling getting that first one," said Sowers, whose running set up North's game-opening TD and forced the Grizzlies to play him honest in the second half.

"The strategy was we would chip away, chip away and then run," added the junior tailback, "but we found out that running was effective so we just kept going with that. If we can run, that opens up so many doors."

Sowers' play on offense became that much more important after senior quarterback Jordan Ellis went down with a dislocated knee cap with 1:13 to go in the second quarter. Ellis, who had already thrown a 12-yard TD pass to Isaac Silafau, was forced to scramble when a second-down play broke down and was at his best dipping and darting through the Grizzlies' defense before coming up lame after a nifty 19-yard gain.

"He had a great run on the one he got hurt," McMinnville coach Greg McAnally said later. "That was one of the better runs I've seen in a while."

Ellis said his knee cap was jolted to the outside of his right leg before the trainers were able to pop it back into place. He spent the second half standing on the sidelines with an ice pack wrapped around his knee.

"It felt good right after it was popped back, so hopefully it's going to be good," added Ellis. "I could've gone back in and played but it wasn't worth it."

Maurer made sure of that, along with a stifling Black Tornado defense that has seen its starters allow only one TD this season.

"We couldn't do much offensively and that really hurt us," said McAnally. "For a good speed team like that you've got to keep them off the field and we didn't do that. Our offense didn't play very well, but you've got to give them credit defensively because they came out and stopped what we do. We thought maybe we could come out and establish the run a little bit and it didn't happen tonight."

The insertion of Kirii Ross on the defensive line helped stabilize the trenches, while Sowers also returned to the secondary and sophomore Gage Jacobson moved into the mike linebacker slot and was sensational. Jacobson unofficially approached the 20-tackle mark and was one of many reasons why the Grizzlies couldn't get untracked.

"The kid plays downhill very well," said Olson. "For a kid that weighs about 160 pounds and plays middle linebacker, it's unreal. He plays a lot bigger than that."

Also playing big was Maurer, who has split time with Ellis all season but got extended playing time in the senior's absence. Maurer completed Ellis' final drive with a 15-yard fade pass to the right corner of the end zone to Brock Heaton, who made a twisting catch on the play.

The junior left-hander then connected with Jacob Altamirano on a two-point conversion to give North a 14-0 lead heading into halftime.

Given the nod for the entire second half, Maurer provided more of the same. He completed four of his six pass attempts for 59 yards and another TD — a 1-yarder to Altamirano — over the final 24 minutes. For the game, he was 8-for-14 for 84 yards and the two scores.

"I was definitely excited," said Maurer of the second-half spotlight. "It was the first chance to really go in there and be quarterback by myself. The offensive line really stepped it up. They were amazing in the second half and just everything opened up for me as a quarterback."

Nowhere was that more evident than in the fourth quarter, when Maurer took advantage of excellent blocking and a defense keying on Sowers for a 63-yard touchdown run.

"It was just an option to the right and the Red Sea just parted and I just took off," he said of the run. "It was a great job blocking downfield by the receivers, too. They laid some hats on people on that one."

Maurer finished with 88 yards rushing on eight carries to keep the Tornado from suffering a lull in Ellis' absence.

"Matt Maurer didn't blink an eye when he came in," said Olson. "He was very poised and executed like we know he can. We're very blessed to have two quarterbacks like that."

Silafau added 68 yards receiving on six catches, including his first-quarter TD, while Ellis finished 7-for-10 passing for 61 yards and carried three times for 14 yards before his injury.

Nik Patterson led McMinnville with 51 yards rushing on 17 carries, while backfield mate Bryan Toft remained sidelined by a hamstring injury for the second straight game.

Reach reporter Kris Henry at 776-4488, or e-mail

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