Andy Atkinson / Mail Tribune New North football head coach Steve Turner talks during a press conference at North Medford High School Wednesday.

Turner’s return at North creates buzz

Rod Rumrey’s phone has been ringing off the hook over the past few days.

Sure, it was his birthday on Friday so that’s understandable, but many of the calls have been entirely about another celebration among North Medford faithful after Steve Turner was named head football coach of the Black Tornado on Wednesday.

“I talked to Steve today and I told him I’m getting tired of being your secretary,” said Rumrey in typical fashion Friday. “It seems like half of our ex-football players have contacted me wanting his phone number. There is a lot of excitement about a guy that was once very important to our program coming back. A lot of ex-players and parents around, they know what he’s capable of accomplishing here at North Medford and they’re very excited about it.”

Turner served as Rumrey’s defensive coordinator from 1988-97, helping guide the Black Tornado to a 1993 state championship, so you can imagine Rumrey’s opinion on the move by North Medford’s administration.

“I care a lot about Black Tornado football and I care about Steve Turner,” said Rumrey, “and the combination of him being back as head coach is extremely exciting to me as well as a lot of our ex-players.”

When Rumrey left Sweet Home to guide North Medford in 1988, he said he had an opportunity to bring one coach with him and there was no question that Turner was his No. 1 guy. Turner had been an assistant coach at Cascade and then head coach at Rainier for three seasons before coming to Medford.

“I had coached against Steve in the league I was in and I knew about his work ethic and how much he cared about the kids,” recalled Rumrey. “It ended up being an absolute great hire. Steve was one of the most loyal, hard-working coaches I’ve ever had, and I’ve had some good coaches.”

The experience proved mutually beneficial for Turner, who went on to guide Mountain View (5A in 2011) and Cascade (4A in 2015) to state championships and leaped at the chance to return to North Medford after a pseudo-retirement that saw him serve as an assistant coach at Marist in Eugene the past two years.

Turner admitted to talk during his first tour with the Black Tornado as potentially taking over for Rumrey one day, but he realized early on that to do the job justice required more seasoning. He took the head coaching job at Crook County in 1998 and spent seven seasons there before four apiece at Mountain View and Cascade. He has compiled a 106-77 record over his career, going 77-16 the last eight seasons.

“When I was with Rod those years ago it was always, ‘I want you to take over the program,’ but I didn’t have the experience that I needed,” said Turner. “I knew that I needed to go somewhere else and I needed to find other things and other ways to do it. There’s 1,000 different ways to coach and I just didn’t want to be a Rod Rumrey clone — not that there’s anything wrong with being a Rod Rumrey clone — but I have my own personality, I have my own ways of doing things that I’ve developed over the last 20 years. I had ideas and I put those ideas to use at Mountain View and I kept those new ideas at Cascade and I want to bring my ideas here.”

Those ideas are rooted in the fundamentals of football, and the basics of play even in today’s world of spread offensive attacks.

“What you saw at Cascade and Mountain View, it was the same playbook,” said Turner. “A kid asked me today, ‘Can I get a playbook?’ No, we don’t need a playbook. We’ve got four plays, you can remember four plays. So it’s simple, let the kids play. It’s not as simple as that, obviously, there are some tweaks here and there, but that’s it.”

Turner preaches hard work, enthusiastic play and a system that simply let’s kids play with a no-gimmick setup that puts two running backs in the backfield and utilizes two tight ends and just keeps coming at you.

“Some people can say old school, I think I would say good school,” says Rumrey of what fans can expect of a Turner team. “They’ll be very strong in fundamentals, they’re not going to be making mental mistakes, and they will be a sound football team. They’ll be a type of team that will be in every game and they’ll know how to win at the end of the game and have the belief that they can win.”

Turner said his first step has been to try and line up his coaching staff, speaking with current North Medford assistants to gauge their interest and compatibility before making any moves. In the last week he said he’s talked with about 14 coaching candidates and still has another “four or five” that he wanted to speak with before making any decisions.

As for his style of play, Turner said he won’t be looking to force the issue but the tried and true notions of grassroots football have come back around to take many teams by surprise these days.

“I went to a Linfield camp a couple years ago and we got into the single-wing and a young coach said, ‘Coach, what is that?’” said Turner. “He had never seen a single-wing. Spread football is so big now that they don’t know how to defend two tight ends and an I-formation. What, we have to be a balanced defense? How do we do that? So what goes around it eventually comes back around. You’ll see that and some single-wing but I’m not going to fit circles into squares. We’ll look at what will our kids do the best and we’ll do what they do best.”

And with that is also the definition of who Turner is as a coach, said Rumrey. Competitive to the core but also with his players as top priority.

“When he came to North,” said Rumrey, “he had the opportunity to be at North Medford High School or at Hedrick Middle School and his comment to me was, ‘I’m going to be at Hedrick. If I’m at Hedrick, I can be with those kids for six years and not just four years. That’s the kind of guy he is.”

“One thing about Steve, he really cares about kids,” added Rumrey. “He will make a great connection with kids from the junior high maybe even to the Pop Warner programs. He’s going to let them know about Black Tornado football. People say there’s a little bit of a problem with kids coming out for football but I don’t really believe that. I believe if you connect with kids and kind of show them the values of football they’ll be there, and that’s what Steve Turner’s going to do.”

Reach reporter Kris Henry at 541-776-4488,, or

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