CENTRAL POINT — For someone who had only two first-half carries all season and eight overall, South Medford junior tailback Denzel Mobley had every right to be nervous Friday night at Dutch Meyer Field.
With Panther standout Kevin Gilmore being treated on the sideline for a fractured left hand suffered about eight minutes into the Southwest Conference football game against Crater, Mobley had no idea how that might affect his night.
And neither did the Comets.
Mobley came off the bench to surpass his entire season rushing total in the first half and finished with 122 yards on 18 carries in playing a vital role in South Medford's ball-control offense during the 28-6 road triumph.
"This is only my fourth varsity game, so it's a new experience every time," the 5-foot-10, 186-pound slasher said following the game.
While the jitters may have been brewing inside, Mobley didn't let it show with crisp cuts and darting efforts through the Crater defense. He entered the game with 57 yards rushing on eight carries, and gained 84 yards and a touchdown on his eight first-half carries on Friday.
"That was really nice to see a kid like Denzel Mobley step up and we didn't miss a beat," said South Medford head coach Bill Singler. "He's been waiting for his opportunity as well. He brings a different little bounce to his step than Gilmore, he's got a burst to him and I think you saw some of that change of speed."
The only pressing concern that began to creep into the back of Mobley's mind was whether or not Gilmore would be able to return to action.
"I was a little worried about support because you never know what's going to happen," he admitted, "but I was like, 'You've got to put it all out there and leave it all on the field.'"
Gilmore did return just prior to halftime with his left hand padded and wrapped up. The SWC's leading rusher went on to total 65 yards on 19 carries as South Medford (3-1, 2-0 SWC) amassed 208 of its 206 yards on the ground.
"They just did a great job up front, it didn't matter who was back there," said Crater head coach John Beck. "And their fullback (Mark Mexia), I thought, did a good job of doing the short yardage stuff and they just moved the chains."
Senior Parker Thomas capped a 17-play drive that opened the game with a 25-yard field goal, and later added field goals of 39, 22 and 31 yards to keep building on the Panther lead.
"I'm disappointed we didn't finish some of those drives but I'm really excited about our field goal game, in that respect, because down the road that's going to pay dividends for us," said Singler. "It's nice to give our kicker some confidence, knowing that we're ready to go to him when we need to."
South led 5-0 through one quarter after Crater punter Austin Siegel downed his knee in the end zone for a safety while trying to reach for a short, low snap on the Comets' initial possession.
The Panthers held a 15-0 lead at halftime, and it was 18-0 with 4:12 to go in the third quarter before Crater (2-2, 0-2) managed its initial first down of the contest. The Comets finished with only four first downs for the game, sporting 43 yards rushing on 22 carries and 38 yards passing.
"They had the momentum for most of the game and they just did a good job of keeping it," said Crater quarterback Tyler Turituri, who ran for 37 yards and completed 3 of 10 passes for 38 more. "They had some really long drives and that kinda stalled our offense out a little it seemed like. Everybody just got out of the rhythm of it."
"Their linebackers did great and they filled the holes real well," added the senior, "and they did a good job covering the routes, too."
The Comets had only 10 plays from scrimmage in the first half but finally broke through with a scoring drive capped by Turituri's 5-yard run with 1:38 to go in the third quarter. Matt Retzlaff blocked the extra-point attempt by Siegel.
"Our game plan was to control the ball on offense because we knew if Turituri gets it, he shows flashes of being very, very good and so does their offense," said Singler. "I felt like if we could establish ourselves offensively physically, and the same thing defensively, it would take a little of the wind out of their sails."
Crater attempted an onside kick after Turituri's score but was penalized, giving the ball back over to South. Jack Singler later found Josh Havird for a 31-yard touchdown pass, and Thomas' 31-yard field goal capped the scoring.
At Dutch Meyer Field
South Medford 5 10 3 10 —28
Crater 0 0 6 0 — 6
SM — FG Thomas 25
SM — Safety, ball downed in end zone
SM — Mobley 16 run (Thomas kick)
SM — FG Thomas 39
SM — FG Thomas 22
C — Turituri 5 run (kick blocked)
SM — Havird 31 pass from Singler (Thomas kick)
SM — FG Thomas 31
First Downs 18 4
Rushes-Yards 47-208 22-43
Passing Yards 98 38
Comp-Att-Int 7-16-1 3-12-0
Total Yards 306 81
Punts 0-00 4-34
Fumbles-lost 2-0 1-0
Penalties-yards 3-15 7-35
South Medford — Mobley 18-122, Gilmore 19-65, Mexia 6-28, Singler 2-(-12), Townsend 2-5.
Crater — Turituri 13-37, Barden 6-13, Siegel 1-(-12), Wynant 1-1, Cartwright 1-4.
South Medford — Singler 7-16-1 98.
Crater — Turituri 3-10-0 38, Cooper 0-2-0 0.
South Medford — Havird 3-56, Griffin 3-29, Retzlaff 1-13.
Crater — Wynant 2-36, Cartwright 1-2.
Reach reporter Kris Henry at 541-776-4488, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org