South Medford travels to play No. 10 South Salem in an undefeated struggle on Friday
Only one domestic match in Week 4 has undefeated Category 6A or 5A teams against each other, and fireworks are definitely expected when South Medford travels to play in the 10th seed South Salem on Friday night.
The Saxons boast one of the state’s most prolific 6A offensive tackles behind top linebacker Daschle Smith with over 41 points per game, while the Panthers have proven themselves not to be shabby by outperforming their opponents averaging 39-9 so far.
In the battle for the playoff spots in the Southern/Central Football Conference, any team that leads in Salem will have a definite leg over the others. Both teams enter 3-0 overall and 1-0 in SCFC, with the Panthers not far from 10th in the 6A coaches poll.
“We have our hands full and we know it,” South Medford coach Bill Singler said. “Hopefully we will rise and play well. Both teams are 3-0 and both teams have some talent of state caliber. It will be one of the biggest matches of the week.”
In Friday’s other SCFC matches involving local teams, North Medford will host North Salem and Grants Pass will host West Salem.
In the 5A move, Crater plays in Thurston and Eagle Point in North Eugene, while 4A will host Ashland Hidden Valley and 3A ranks see Cascade Christian host Coquille in an undefeated battle, St Mary’s in Lakeview and Phoenix will host Douglas.
South Medford is coming off a stellar display from senior quarterback Deacon Edgar, who passed for five touchdowns and ran for another in McNary’s 55-21 defeat last week. Edgar finished completing 18 of 24 passes for 267 yards and ran for another 68 yards.
So far this season, Edgar has completed 42 of 55 passes for 627 yards with seven TDs and two interceptions.
The Panthers also enjoyed a great performance from tight end Ty Henry against the Celtics. Henry had a pair of touchdown passes and finished with an 83-yard team on four catches to be a great complement to the all-state outstanding Andrew Walker.
This season, Henry has seven passes for 125 yards and two TDs, while Walker leads the way with 17 catches for 278 yards and three TDs.
His senior teammate Josh Phillips also put in a major effort and took six catches for 121 yards and two degrees in a showdown on Friday that expects to see plenty of aerial antics.
“We have a pretty fair set of receivers ourselves and so do they,” said Singler. “I don’t know if it will turn into a 7v7 game – because I don’t know if we want to get into that kind of penalty shootout with them – but it probably will.”
It looks like Junior running back Ryder Shedd got back on track last week and leads south of Medford with a 202-yard dash with two TDs on 37 buggies.
It would be a hands-on deck situation, though, if the Panthers wanted to slow a Saxon that head coach Scott Duvault regards as one of his best 22 years at the helm.
It all starts with Smith in QB, who passed about 2,500 yards and 18 TDs last season and is really ahead of that pace so far. The 6-foot-2, 190-pounder needed just one half of play to complete 21 of 24 passes for 281 yards and five TDs on his own last week against the GP, and also ran for touchdowns for good measure.
Smith has passed 1,188 yards and a 12 TD so far—playing in the fourth quarter in only one game.
“He does a really good job going up the pocket and stretching the plays,” said Singler, keeping his sights on the court and letting it go.
“They’re wide open and they attack you on the field – he might throw it at least 40 times – and he does a lot of things they don’t have in common with those things. We’ll get a high school test, no doubt about that.”
The air raid crime in South Salem also benefits from a set of prime targets, with Dufault saying his team can go seven depths and not bat.
Tini Tinitali III (6-0, 195) topped the 6A with 78 catches for just over 1,000 yards last year, and the second leading receiver Esteban Mendez (5-6, 160) is also back in basic form. The Saxons also got an off-season boost with the addition of quick transfer Zach and Stig from Jefferson, considered to be the fastest player on the team.
South Salem often goes to five points each with Brady Vogt, Jackson Watson, Parker Williams and Eli Johnson. Vogt can also move into the backcourt to play draws or screen passes, while Noah Scharer showed a great blast from the backcourt against Cavemen for the less-running Saxons.
“It’s hard to simulate the South Salem attack, but the only thing you have to do is keep playing football. Sometimes you’ll calm down to think ‘I did my job’ and then all of a sudden the ball is over your head,” said Singler of the South Salem attack.
Defensively, the Saxons proved very brave and handed most of these skilled players to determine teams to 14 points per game.
“They give you fits and are quite challenging across the field,” said Singler.
However, the Panthers coach is excited about his team’s expectations for Friday and beyond.
“I am proud of them because they got off to a good start,” he said. “Anytime you win a football match is a good thing, and we didn’t even win three matches last year, so it’s good to see that. But our schedule is ahead, no doubt about that, and that will be a huge challenge for sure.”
West Salem at Grants Pass: South Salem grabbed Grants Pass from whatever they wanted to get last Saturday, blocking Cavemen (2-1, 0-1 SCFC) to 161 yards of total attack behind four interceptions from QB Jace Blanchard and a closing effort in the running game.
West Salem (0-3, 0-1) didn’t do much better against North Medford last week, so the game couldn’t be better for teams looking for their first conference wins.
Eagle Point in North Eugene: Eagle Point quarterback David Brown has carried a heavy load without breaking his stride thus far, running for 300 yards in the season opener and then 240 yards and three runs in 31 times last week.
One of those touches proved to be the game winner after a short 69-yard run in the fourth quarter against Churchill, and the Eagles (2-1, 1-0 MWL) will be looking to build on that against the Highlanders defense that allowed it. 34 points per game.
Crater in Thurston: There hasn’t been a Midwest League game as pivotal as this one over the past few years, but this year’s competition comes with two teams struggling to find themselves quite a bit.
Both Thurston and Crater are 1-2 overall, but the Colts have the only MWL win between them after five turnovers that Comets were sentenced to in Springfield a week ago.
Crater has enjoyed success in the running game with Andrew Kelly, but consistency and overall balance should be the mainstays to fending off a Thurston attack led by linebacker/top linebacker Vaun Halstead.
Thurston kept North Eugene for 14 yards total last week, as QB Noah Blair completed 7 of 8 passes for 193 yards and two TDs.
Ashland’s Hidden Valley: Ashland’s second QB pass Jojo Harrower for 289 yards and three touchdowns—two back racer Gavin White—against Henley last week, but the Grizzlies, like Crater a week ago, simply couldn’t match the Hornets’ experience and firepower.
Ashland (1-2, 0-1 Big Sky) boasts an array of receivers that should make things difficult for Hidden Valley (1-2, 0-1) at Aariq Shadoan, Crosby Lehnerz, Caden Negra and Marcelo Saturen.
Mustang come out with a tough 10-8 loss to Klamath Union that included a missed late field goal attempt. Retreating Daniel Iwamizu is HV’s central character in attack, with QB Austyn Klingler growing into his role as a first-time rookie.
Do you have a story idea? Contact Sports Editor Chris Henry at 541-776-4488, [email protected] or via Twitter @Kris_Henry
Photography by Denis Baratta. South Medford’s Andrew Walker (9) celebrated after his first touchdown in the first quarter last Friday against McNary.
T Henry, South Medford Football Club
Deacon Edgar, South Medford Football Club
David Brown, Eagle Point Football
Andrew Kelly, Crater Soccer
JoJo Harrow, Ashland Football