North Medford's Colin Sowers breaks through the Crater defensive line during the second quarter of Friday’s game at Spiegelberg Stadium.

Too much Tornado

Crater had hoped to run with the big boys on Friday night, but North Medford didn't give the Comets a chance at Spiegelberg Stadium.

The Class 6A Black Tornado pounded on 5A Crater time and again with a relentless running attack that kept the Comet offense off the field and gradually wore down their defense.

North rushed a season-high 48 times for 281 yards and racked up 411 yards of total offense to only 181 for Crater en route to a runaway victory, 35-3.

"They dominated us in most every facet of the game," said Crater coach John Beck. "I thought they had a great game plan, and I thought they played extremely hard. My hat's off to them, that was a great job."

It all started up front for North Medford (3-1), where the offensive line of center C.J. Mitchell, guards Mychal DeSoto and Robert Ross and tackles Bryant Hall and Padraic Roberts opened one gaping hole after another.

Junior tailback Colin Sowers and senior Isaac Silafau were the primary recipients, with Sowers carrying 13 times for 73 yards and a touchdown and Silafau rushing 16 times for 104 yards in his return to the backfield.

"The line worked really hard this week, I have to give it to them, and that helped a lot," said Sowers, who also hauled in TD passes of 10 and 56 yards from Matt Maurer. "We'll see it on film, but they were the hosses up front and that gave me so much room to run."

North Medford coach Jeff Olson was similarly impressed by the play by his offensive linemen and credited offensive coordinator Tom Powell with the group's revival. Powell previously served as the offensive line coach at Southern Oregon University under Olson prior to joining the Black Tornado.

"Coach Powell said when last season got over that he wanted to take over the O-line, and he's been pushing the kids that this is what we need to get back to, running the football," said Olson. "We challenged the kids from Day 1 that it had to start at the front, and they've bought in and come together as a unit."

When the tailbacks weren't gashing through the defense, North's quarterback tandem of Jordan Ellis and Maurer were joining the club with positive efforts of their own. Only a week removed from dislocating his right kneecap, Ellis carried six times for 42 yards, and Maurer rumbled 11 times for 54 yards and one score to complement his 115 yards passing.

"We played hard, they just dominated up front," said Beck. "I kept thinking if we could've just gotten some stops then it would've been a different game, but we just couldn't do it."

"They just took it and bam, bam, bam, bam ... just beat us up front."

It's not like Crater (2-3) played badly, quite the contrary. The Comets were just a little overmatched.

It also didn't help matters that Crater played without starting tailback/inside linebacker Kenny Fahndrich, who was serving a one-game suspension due to a school disciplinary matter.

But, even without Fahndrich, the Comets received great play from quarterback Josh Lokeno (12-for-23, 125 yards) and receivers Josh Dalton (four catches, 47 yards), Jacob Ziegler (four for 21) and Jeff Lee (two for 44).

"I really liked our passing game," said Beck. "I thought it was better than ever."

Senior Danny Mitchell, who like Silafau was moved from receiver to running back this week, also turned in a 45-yard run to set up Crater's lone score of the game — a 33-yard field goal by Christian Massey — to open the third quarter.

But plays like that were few and far between thanks to North's time-consuming drives.

The Comets only advanced into North territory twice in the first half, getting as far as the 31-yard line. After the field goal, Crater managed only two other trips past midfield but neither reached beyond the 36.

Junior linebacker Cory Haggans played a key role in disrupting several of those drives, coming up with a pair of sacks and three tackles for loss in the second half alone.

"I was amped up a little extra and our team play helps us out on tackles," said Haggans. "One person takes on the block and the other one gets the decleat, and I ended up being the one that got to make the tackle."

Lokeno certainly didn't make it easy for the North defenders. On several occasions he eluded the pursuit to get off passes, but it was unrealistic to hope that he could make every play.

"He's a quick kid," said Haggans. "I just tried to take good angles to get him. Sometimes he got me and sometimes I got him."

When he wasn't blowing up Crater's plays, Haggans was also playing a key role on special teams. His biggest effort might have come on an 87-yard punt return for a score by Ellis, who broke loose in front of the North Medford sideline and then had Haggans escort him into the end zone with great downfield blocking.

"That's all Jordan," Haggans said, deferring credit. "I was just trying to make stuff happen and he got into the end zone."

That special teams score came on the heels of another big play by the Tornado, with Sowers turning a screen pass into a 56-yard score to make it 28-3 with 8:39 to go in the fourth quarter.

Silafau made a nice downfield block after Sowers slipped through an arm tackle by Sammy Clark to set up the score.

"As soon as I caught it my eyes just lit up because there was no one there," said Sowers. "My heart just went to my throat."

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

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