South Medford travels to play No. 10 South Salem in a clash of unbeatens Friday
Only one local game in Week 4 pits undefeated Class 6A or 5A teams against each other, and there are sure to be fireworks when South Medford travels to play No. 10 South Salem on Friday night.
The Saxons boast one of the most prolific 6A offensive attacks in the state behind senior quarterback Dashel Smith at just over 41 points per game, while the Panthers proved they’re not too shabby on their own, outscoring opponents by an average of 39 -9 so far.
In the battle for playoff positioning in the South/Central Football Conference, whichever team comes out on top in Salem will definitely have an edge over the others. Both teams enter 3-0 overall and 1-0 in the SCFC, with the Panthers not far from that No. 10 spot in the 6A coaches poll.
“We have our hands full and we know that,” South Medford head coach Bill Singler said. “Hopefully we’ll go up and play well. Both teams are 3-0 and both teams have state-caliber talent. It will be one of the big games of the week.”
In Friday’s other SCFC games featuring local teams, North Medford will host North Salem and Grants Pass hosts West Salem.
In 5A action, Crater plays at Thurston and Eagle Point is at North Eugene, while 4A Ashland will host Hidden Valley and in the 3A ranks, top-ranked Cascade Christian hosts Coquille in a battle of undefeated, St. Mary’s is at Lakeview and Phoenix will host Douglas.
South Medford got a stellar performance from senior quarterback Deacon Edgar, who passed for five touchdowns and ran for another in last week’s 55-21 win over McNary. Edgar finished 18 of 24 passing 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 breakout performance from senior tight end Ty Henry against the Celtics. Henry caught a pair of touchdown passes and finished with a team-high 83 yards on four catches to serve as a great complement to all-state standout Andrew Walker.
On the season, Henry has caught seven passes for 125 yards and two TDs, while Walker leads the way with 17 catches for 278 yards and three TDs.
Fellow senior Josh Phillips also provided a key effort, hauling in six catches for 121 yards and two scores in a Friday matchup that expects to see plenty of aerial antics.
“We have a pretty fair group of receivers ourselves, and so do they,” Singler said. “I don’t know if it’s going to turn into a 7-on-7 game — because I don’t know if we want to get into that kind of shootout with them — but it has the potential to be that.”
Junior running back Ryder Scheidt also seemed to get back on track last week and led South Medford with 202 yards rushing with two TDs on 37 carries.
However, it will be an all-hands-on-deck situation if the Panthers are to slow down a Saxons team that head coach Scott DuFault considers one of his best in 22 years at the helm.
It all starts with Smith at QB, who passed for about 2,500 yards and 18 TDs last season and is well ahead of that pace so far. The 6-foot-2, 190-pounder needed just one half of the game to complete 21 of 24 passes for 281 yards and five TDs of his own last week against GP, and also ran for a touchdown for good measure.
Smith has passed for 1,188 yards and 12 TDs so far – a fourth quarter play in just one game.
“He does a really good job of stepping up in the pocket and extending the play,” Singler said, “and he keeps his vision down the field and he’ll leave it.
“They’re wide open and they attack down the field — he can throw it a minimum of 40 times — and they do a lot of no-huddle and things like that. We will take a test in middle school, no doubt about it.
South Salem’s air attack also benefited from multiple top targets, where DuFault said his team could go seven deep and not blink an eye.
Senior Tini Tinitali III (6-0, 195) led Class 6A with 78 catches for just over 1,000 yards last year, and sophomore receiver Esteban Mendez (5-6, 160) also returns in excellent form. The Saxons also got a boost in the offseason with the addition of speedy transfer Zach Wustig from Jefferson, who is considered the fastest player on the team.
South Salem often goes five-spot with Brady Vogt, Jackson Watson, Parker Williams and Eli Johnson all in the mix. Vogt can also move into the backcourt for draws or screen passes, while Noah Scharer showed nice breakout from the backcourt against the Cavemen for a Saxons team that doesn’t run the ball much.
“It’s hard to fake,” Singler said of South Salem’s offense, “but one thing you have to do is just keep playing football. Sometimes you’ll get caught up in thinking, ‘I’ve done my job,’ and then all of a sudden the ball is over your head.”
Defensively, the Saxons have proven to be quite strong and have shifted most of those same skills to limit teams to 14 points per game.
“They give you fits and are a big challenge all over the field,” Singler said.
Still, the Panthers coach is excited about his team’s prospects on Friday and beyond.
“I’m proud of them for getting off to a good start,” he said. “Any time you win a ball game in football it’s a good thing and we didn’t even win three games last year so it’s good to see that. But our schedule is ahead of us, there’s no doubt about that, and it’s definitely going to be a huge challenge.
WEST SALEM AT GRANTS PASS: South Salem took Grants Pass from all it wanted to generate last Saturday, holding the Cavemen (2-1, 0-1 SCFC) to 161 yards of total offense behind QB Jace Blanchard’s four interceptions and a blocking effort in the running game.
West Salem (0-3, 0-1) didn’t fare much better against North Medford last week, so the matchup couldn’t be better for teams looking for their first conference wins.
EAGLE POINT IN NORTH SOUTH: Eagle Point senior running back David Brown has shouldered a heavy load without breaking stride so far, rushing for 300 yards in the season opener and then 240 yards and three scores on 31 carries last week.
One of those touchdowns turned out to be the game-winner on a 69-yard drive in the fourth quarter against Churchill, and the Eagles (2-1, 1-0 MWL) will look to build on that against a Highlanders defense that has allowed 34 points per game.
THURSTON CRATER: No game in the Midwest League has been as important as this one in the last few years, but this year’s contest comes with two teams struggling to find themselves a bit.
Thurston and Crater are 1-2 overall, but the Colts have the only MWL win between them after five losses doomed the Comets in Springfield a week ago.
Crater has enjoyed success in the running game with senior Andrew Kelly, but consistency and overall balance will need to be the mainstay to hold off Thurston’s offense, led by senior running back/linebacker Vaun Halstead.
Thurston held North Eugene to 14 total yards last week, with QB Noah Blair completing 7 of 8 passes for 193 yards and two TDs.
HIDDEN VALLEY IN ASHLAND: Ashland sophomore QB Jojo Harrower passed for 289 yards and three touchdowns — two to senior running back Gavin White — against Henley last week, but the Grizzlies, like Crater the week before, just couldn’t match the Hornets’ experience and firepower .
Ashland (1-2, 0-1 Big Sky) boasts a host of receivers that should make things difficult for Hidden Valley (1-2, 0-1) in Aariq Shadoan, Crosby Lehnerz, Caden Negra and Marcelo Saturen.
The Mustangs are coming off a tough 10-8 loss to Klamath Union that included a missed late field goal attempt. Running back Daniel Iwamizu is the centerpiece of HV’s offense, with QB Austin Klingler stepping into his role as the starter for the first time.
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Photo by Denis Baratta. South Medford’s Andrew Walker (9) celebrates after his first touchdown in the first quarter last Friday against McNary.
Ty Henry, South Medford football
Deacon Edgar, South Medford football
David Brown, Eagle Point football
Andrew Kelly, Crater football
Jojo Harrower, Ashland football