South Medford travels to take on No. 10 South Sale on Friday in a matchup of undefeated
Only one local matchup in Week 4 pits undefeated teams from either Class 6A or 5A, and there are sure to be fireworks when South Medford heads to 10th-ranked South Salem on Friday night.
The Saxons boast one of the state’s most prolific offensive attacks behind senior guard Dashel Smith, who is averaging just over 41 points per game, while the Panthers haven’t been too shabby themselves, outscoring their opponents by an average of 39-9.
In the race for a South/Central Football Conference playoff spot, whichever team wins in Salem will have some advantage over the others. Both teams are 3-0 overall and 1-0 in the SCFC, with the Panthers not far from 10th in the 6A coaches poll.
“We have our hands full and we know it,” South Medford head coach Bill Singler said. “Hopefully we’ll step up and play well. Both teams are 3-0 and both teams have state-level talent. It will be one of the main games of the week.”
In other local SCFC games on Friday, North Medford hosts North Salem and Grants Pass hosts West Salem.
In action, 5A Crater plays Thurston and Eagle Point plays North Eugene, while 4A Ashland hosts Hidden Valley and in 3A Cascade Christian hosts top-ranked Coquille in a battle of undefeated, St. Mary’s is Lakeview and Phoenix is host Douglas.
South Medford is getting a stellar performance from senior running back Deacon Edgar, who passed for five touchdowns and ran for another in last week’s 55-21 rout of McNary. Edgar completed 18 of 24 passes for 267 yards and ran for another 68 yards.
This season, Edgar completed 42 of 55 passes for 627 yards with 7 TDs and two interceptions.
The Panthers also enjoyed senior tight end Ty Henry’s breakout performance against the Celtics. Henry caught a pair of touchdown passes and finished with a team-high 83 yards on four catches to complement 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 with six catches for 121 yards and two scores in Friday’s showdown, which is expected to see plenty of aerial antics.
“We have a pretty decent group of receivers 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 shootout with them — but it has potential.”
Junior running back Ryder Scheid also got back on track last week and leads South Medford with 202 yards with two TDs on 37 carries.
However, if the Panthers slow down a Saxons team that head coach Scott Dufault considers one of his best in his 22 years at the helm, it will be a real situation.
It all started with Smith at QB, who passed for close to 2,500 yards and 18 TDs last season and is already well ahead of that pace. The 6-foot-2, 190-pounder needed just one half of a game to complete 21 of 24 passes for 281 yards and five TDs of his own last week against GP, and ran for a touchdown for good measure.
So far, Smith has passed for 1,188 yards and 12 TDs — with only one play before the fourth quarter.
“He does a really good job of working in the pocket and extending the play,” Singler said, “and he keeps his vision on the field and he’ll let it go.
“They’re wide open and they attack you down the field — he can throw it at least 40 times — and make a lot of no-stuffers and things like that. We’ll get a test in high school, that’s for sure.”
South Salem’s air raid will also benefit from a plethora of top targets, where Dufault said his team can go seven-deep and not blink an eye.
Senior Tinie Tinitali III (6-0, 195) led Class 6A with 78 catches for just over 1,000 yards last year, and second-leading receiver Esteban Mendez (5-6, 160) also returns in excellent form. The Saxons also got a boost in the offseason with the speedy transfer of Zach Wusstig from Jefferson, who is considered the fastest player on the team.
South Salem often plays in a five with Brady Vogt, Jackson Watson, Parker Williams and Eli Johnson. Vogt can also move into the backfield for draw plays or screen passes, while Noah Scharer showed good backfield snap against the Cavemen for a Saxons team that doesn’t run the ball often.
“It’s hard to fake,” Singler said of South Salem’s offense, “but one thing you’ve got to do is just keep playing football. Sometimes you’ll be lulled into thinking, ‘I’ve done my job,’ and then suddenly the ball is over your head.”
Defensively, the Saxons have been strong enough and miss most of the same players to limit teams to 14 points per game.
“They get you on offense and are a real 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 win in a football game is good and last year we didn’t even win three games so it’s good to see that. But our schedule is in front 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 stripped Grants Pass of everything it wanted to create 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 run game.
West Salem (0-3, 0-1) didn’t fare much better against North Medford last week, so the matchup couldn’t have been better for the teams looking for their first conference win.
EAGLE POINT ON NORTH EUGENE: Eagle Point senior running back David Brown has shouldered a heavy load without breaking stride, having rushed for 300 yards so far this season, followed by 240 yards and three scores on 31 carries last week.
One of those touchdowns came on a 69-yard run 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 matchup in the Midwest League has been as pivotal as this one over the past few years, but this year’s contest features 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 a five-game losing streak to the Comets in Springfield a week ago.
Crater has found success in the running game with senior Andrew Kelly, but consistency and overall balance will need to be the backbone to hold off Thurston’s offense, led by senior running back/linebacker Vaughn Halstead.
Last week, Thurston held North Eugene to 14 yards and QB Noah Blair completed 7 of 8 passes for 193 yards and two TDs.
HIDDEN VALLEY IN ASHLAND: Ashland sophomore QB Jojo Harrower threw for 289 yards and three touchdowns — two to senior running back Gavin White — against Hanley last week, but the Grizzlies, like Crater a week earlier, just couldn’t match the experience and firepower of the Hornets.
Ashland (1-2, 0-1 Big Sky) boasts a host of receivers that should make things difficult for Hidden Valley (1-2, 0-1), including Arik Shadoan, Crosby Lehnerz, Kaden Negra and Marcelo Saturen.
The Mustangs are coming off a tough 10-8 loss to Klamath Union that included a missed field goal late in the game. Running back Daniel Iwamizu is the centerpiece of HV’s offense and QB Austin Klingler is the No. 1 starter.
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Photo by Denise Baratta. South Medford’s Andrew Walker (9) celebrates after his first touchdown in the first quarter against McNary last Friday.
Ty Henry, football at South Medford
Deacon Edgar, football at South Medford
David Brown, Eagle Point Football Club
Andrew Kelly, Crater football
Jojo Harrower, Ashland football