Recent history in the Class 6A state playoffs has not been kind to the second-ranked South Medford football team, and the Panthers entered Friday’s first-round matchup with Gresham fed up with early exits.
What followed was an absolute dismantling of the Gophers as South Medford scored on its first series and never let up to secure a 63-0 triumph on a chilly night at Spiegelberg Stadium.
The result marked the biggest margin of victory in playoff history for the Panthers and tied for most playoff points after South stormed past Centennial 63-21 in 2011.
“We even wore the same uniforms (as last year) to put it to rest with the (white helmet, blue jersey, white pants),” South Medford senior Chase Cota said of exorcising any playoff demons. “It was just a mindset the whole offseason that we have to win the first one for sure, and that’s what we did.”
Cota hauled in two touchdown passes from fellow senior Robbie Patterson and repeat Southwest Conference offensive and defensive player of the year Jaylin Parnell ran for two first-half scores before giving way to junior Terrence Butler just prior to halftime.
All Butler did was follow with four TDs of his own before passing the baton to sophomore Mason DeVries, who capped the scoring on a night when a running clock was set in motion four minutes into the third quarter.
The runaway win by South Medford (9-1), seeded fifth in the 6A bracket, erased the bad memory of last year’s upset loss to Newberg when the Panthers were the No. 3 seed. The victory also snapped a streak of four straight first-round losses and gave South its first playoff win since beating Beaverton in 2012.
“These guys have been so focused since last year and had such a great year in preparation — on and off the field — and they’re just intent on climbing the mountain,” said Panthers head coach Bill Singler.
“These guys didn’t want to let that happen tonight,” he added of a possible first-round exit. “It wasn’t going to happen. I don’t care who we were playing, they weren’t going to lose this game tonight.”
For their efforts, South Medford will get a chance to host Lincoln next Friday in the second round of the state playoffs. The 12th-seeded Cardinals (8-2) used 230-plus rushing yards and six TDs by Nick Ostmo to score a 49-38 win over Lakeridge on Friday.
South Medford last played Lincoln in 2010, when the Cardinals won 35-31 at home to open the state playoffs. The previous two years in regular-season play, however, the Panthers won both matchups.
“They’ll have some athletes,” said Singler. “We’ve had some tough battles with them.”
Gresham (4-5) came in ready to give South Medford a scare Friday but it just wasn’t going to happen on this night.
Parnell cruised into the end zone from 8 yards out on the opening drive of the game and, after South stopped the Gophers on a fourth-and-two play at the Panther 43-yard line, it became 14-0 when Cota made a nifty one-handed grab on a pass toward the back pylon by Patterson.
“I looked up and there were two guys around me so I was maneuvering and then it was just right there,” said the four-star recruit. “I just had to get my hand up quick and there it was, it felt pretty sweet.”
A 50-yard TD run by Parnell made it 21-0 three minutes into the second quarter and Cota essentially put the game out of reach with 5:44 to go before halftime when he took a pass from Patterson and cut upfield for a 65-yard score.
“I turned and I thought I was going to see somebody right away but I just saw a huge gap so I just shot it,” said Cota. “I’ve been hurt for five weeks but I finally felt fast again so it felt really good to be able to shoot the gap and go.”
After another defensive hold by the Panthers, the night came to an end for the likes of Parnell and essentially Cota on a final drive that was capped by an 11-yard TD run from Butler to make it 35-0 with 1:44 to go until halftime.
Parnell finished with 154 yards rushing on 14 carries, while Cota hauled in three passes for 81 yards on a night when Patterson was content in completing 7 of 9 passes for 125 yards and two scores.
By halftime, South Medford had amassed 201 yards on the ground compared to 89 by Gresham, which did not complete a pass in the opening 24 minutes. Overall, the Panthers outgained the Gophers in total offense 461-139.
“We’ve worked all year long for this moment,” said Butler. “The seniors have been thinking about it, the people under them have been thinking about it and tonight it was just a great success for all of us.”
Butler showed again why the Panthers have ultimate confidence in putting the ball in the junior’s hands with a dominant third-quarter showing that saw him score on runs of 20 and 25 yards in his first two carries before wrapping up his night with a 1-yard TD plunge that made it 56-0 as the horn sounded to end the third quarter.
Butler finished with 102 yards and a career-high four TDs on nine carries.
“It was a blast to be out there,” said the 5-foot-11, 175-pounder. “The linemen were working great and every time I get an opportunity to go in the game I run as hard as I possibly can. It was pretty cool tonight to be able to score that much.”
A forced fumble by junior Cole Boster set up Butler’s first TD just 56 seconds into the third quarter, while a 47-yard punt return by senior Peyton Shipley set up his next score.
For Gresham, junior running back Charles Ndayizeye was a bright spot with 93 yards rushing on 17 carries but the Gophers’ best chance at scoring following a long kickoff return to the Panthers’ 30 in the second quarter was quickly turned back by consecutive strong defensive plays by Trent Snyder, Parnell and Brandon Ditty inside the 15.
Reach reporter Kris Henry at 541-776-4488, email@example.com, www.facebook.com/krishenryMT or www.twitter.com/Kris_Henry