It wasn’t looking good for North Medford in the first half of last week’s game at Grants Pass, but the Black Tornado football team found a way to turn things around for one of its biggest wins of the season.
On Friday in Roseburg, North Medford will look to build off that gritty effort and move closer to assuring a spot in the Class 6A state playoffs.
“It’s always good to win no matter what the situation is,” said Black Tornado head coach Steve Turner, “but we’ve had some close games lately and it was a chance for those guys to feel the excitement of winning and maybe help us with some confidence the rest of the way.”
“We were 14 points down and to come back against a team like that, that showed a lot,” added Turner of the 37-29 Southwest Conference triumph. “We’ve been telling them to never give up and all the things that we’ve been talking about came true.”
In Friday’s other SWC games, South Medford will play host to Sheldon at Spiegelberg Stadium and Grants Pass hosts Westview.
At the Class 5A level, the Crater-Eagle Point rivalry will be renewed at Dutch Meyer Field, while Ashland takes on North Eugene in a matchup at home.
Phoenix is home against Cottage Grove in 4A action, while 3A front-runner Cascade Christian will host Douglas and St. Mary’s plays at Brookings-Harbor.
Big plays in the passing game, a staunch defense and the steady running of senior Eli Spence proved to be the backbone of last week’s comeback effort for North Medford (3-3, 1-1 SWC), and it will need more of the same this week against a Roseburg team that has shown steady improvement with quarterback Collin Warmouth leading the way.
“You watch them on film and their quarterback is a viable quarterback and a really good athlete,” said Turner. “He throws the ball and runs the ball and anytime you face guys like that it creates a problem.”
Warmouth has passed for 901 yards, seven touchdowns and four interceptions while also running for 284 yards and five scores to pace the Indians (1-5, 0-2). D’Angelo Adams has come on strong to spark the offense in the past few weeks with his breakaway speed, hauling in 16 passes for 350 yards and four scores to complement fellow receiver Peyton Bryant, who has 22 catches for 252 yards and three TDs.
In the backfield, Roseburg has utilized shifty running back Doran Gillespie and the power of Zack Mandera — who also doubles as one of the SWC’s top linebackers — to keep teams honest on defense.
With the state’s No. 22 power ranking, North Medford is in great position to reach the state playoffs this year but the Black Tornado won’t want to take any chances by missing a quality opportunity in Roseburg.
During last week’s win, Spence was his usual punishing self in the backfield and has now rumbled for 1,407 yards and 16 TDs on 176 carries.
By virtue of Grants Pass loading the box to try and contain Spence, junior quarterback Brennan Stults was able to post one of his best games of the season as he completed 8 of 10 passes for 191 yards and three touchdown passes. Senior Anthony Taylor was on the end of two scoring strikes, 87 and 19 yards, and junior Jett Carpenter snared the other for a 34-yard score.
“I think making some big plays in the passing game really helped us,” said Turner of the win at GP. “The football gods gave us a few breaks. Those breaks had been going the other way and there’s that saying it’s better to be lucky than be good, and it’s nice to be good and lucky, too. All those little things mount up to the big things.”
Stults has now completed 30 of 50 passes for 506 yards, eight touchdowns and three interceptions, while Taylor is up to 208 yards receiving on eight catches and Carpenter is at 186 yards receiving on 11 catches.
A real difference came from the Black Tornado’s focus in fine-tuning its pass protection, which wasn’t really there a week before against Sheldon but rounded into form nicely against the Cavemen.
“Often times quarterbacks get too much credit and too much criticism,” said Turner. “Kudos to us for being a good run blocking team, but we went back to the drawing board and said we’ve got to pass block better. We’re not where we want to be but that’s such an important part of the game. It’s tough to throw football anyway but really tough when you have four or five guys in your face.”
Reach reporter Kris Henry at 541-776-4488, firstname.lastname@example.org, www.facebook.com/krishenryMT or www.twitter.com/Kris_Henry