North Medford's Almeir Barlow tries to get away from a South Eugene defender during Friday's game. Mail Tribune Photo / Jamie Lusch - Mail Tribune/Jamie Lusch

Tornado snaps skid

A North Medford homecoming crowd witnessed Jordan Ellis turn potential into reality on the Spiegelberg Stadium turf Friday night.

Playing only his third game since being inserted as the Black Tornado starting quarterback, Ellis shredded visiting South Eugene for five touchdown passes and accounted for 405 yards of offense in a 46-35 Southwest Conference victory.

Ellis' performance changed a season that has been rife with frustration into a moment of elation for the Black Tornado, which ended a five-game losing streak with a season-high point total.

"It's been way too long," said a relieved North Medford coach Jeff Olson. "Gaining some respectability is the hardest thing."

The nimble junior quarterback impacted the game in North's first series when he found senior wide receiver Almeir Barlow on a 30-yard TD pass down the middle of the field. The high-arching pass looked to be overthrown as Barlow sprinted past the Axemen defensive secondary. But Barlow found another gear and hauled in the pass on his outstretched fingers in the end zone.

Ellis and Barlow combined for a 48-yard, victory-clinching touchdown on the same post pattern with four minutes remaining in the fourth quarter to put North ahead 46-29.

"We have not hit a long ball all year," said Olson. "We were waiting and waiting and waiting. (Ellis) spread the ball around and made good decisions. With experience, he's maturing and getting used to the game speed."

Ellis finished 22-of-30 passing for 302 yards. The 6-foot-1, 170-pound quarterback added 103 yards rushing.

South Eugene first-year coach Travis Johnson was impressed with what he saw from the North signal caller.

"It was Jordan Ellis versus South Eugene," commented Johnson. "He's quite a player. We knew he was squirrelly but not that squirrelly.

"They saw our weakness in our secondary and took advantage of it," added Johnson. "We made too many mental mistakes with our coverage breakdowns."

North Medford (3-5, 1-3 SWC) jumped out to a 14-0 lead with 9:40 left in the second quarter when an Ellis to Isaac Silafau 7-yard slant TD pass completed a seven-play, 54-yard drive.

But Nate Sullivan broke a 63-yard touchdown run off left tackle for South Eugene (4-4, 0-4) just 20 seconds later.

Later in the period North experienced its worst offensive series of the game. South Eugene capitalized and tied the score 14-all on Boseko Lokombo's 3-yard TD run after Justin Fabrick recovered a fumble on the Black Tornado 4.

North Medford went into halftime with a 17-14 lead on Alex Russell's 26-yard field goal to cap an efficient 64-yard march with 27 seconds left.

Disaster struck North to begin the second half when Quinton Walker fumbled the opening kickoff and Jordan Lyman returned the loose ball 18 yards for a touchdown to give the Axemen their first lead 21-17.

But Walker responded by returning the ensuing kickoff 37 yards to the South Eugene 49. On a third-and-seven play, Walker hauled in a 9-yard reception to the Axemen 35. Then on the next play, Ellis found the speedy senior running back down the left sideline. Walker appeared he would get knocked out of bounds short of the goal line but tiptoed close to the sideline for a touchdown.

"I felt I let the team down," said Walker about his fumble. "Nothing was going to stop me from getting into the end zone."

South Eugene then put together it's best drive of the game, going 88 yards for a touchdown and converted a 2-point conversion to retake the lead 29-24.

Again the Black Tornado answered back with a five-play, 61-yard drive. This time Colin Sowers went off left tackle for a 6-yard TD run and Ellis passed to Silafau for the 2-point conversion as North went back in front for good, 32-29.

"That was huge," said Olson. "It was a gut check for us to finish off that drive."

Ellis was deferential to his offensive line and receivers following his memorable performance. But he admitted he was surprised on what just took place.

"I'm getting used to putting the ball where it needs to be," said Ellis. "We knew we could score on this team. I just didn't expect that type of offense, especially in just my third week."

Neither did South Eugene.

Reach reporter Frank Silow at 776-4480, or e-mail

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