Panthers push back for comeback win

·4 min read

Sep. 10—When push came to shove, and that was the mentality of the game all night, 10th-ranked South Medford needed someone to make a big play Friday night.

Enter Andrew Walker.

The 6-foot-1 senior put all his athleticism and playmaking ability into one key play, darting 48 yards for a go-ahead score with just under three minutes to play to help lift the Panthers to a 21-7 win over Del Norte at Spiegelberg Stadium.

"They actually brought a blitz on the outside and he planted a foot, cut upfield and then just cut outside to daylight," said South Medford coach Bill Singler of the run by his star receiver. "That was a great run by him and great instincts."

On the next play after that, Walker stepped in front of a pass by Del Norte senior quarterback Cooper Maxwell for an interception and the Panthers tacked on an 8-yard touchdown run by Ryder Scheid to essentially seal a comeback win in South Medford's home opener.

"We found a way to win the game instead of finding a way to lose it," said Singler, whose team was coming off a 41-0 drubbing of Beaverton.

"We didn't do well in the red zone this week," he added. "We graded 'A' last week and 'F' this week, but when you can grade 'F' in the red zone and still win the game, sometimes you've just got to win any way you can."

Del Norte (2-1) entered the game having outscored its opening opponents 113-13 and didn't waste time in flexing its muscle behind a punishing and methodical wing-T offense. The Warriors marched 79 yards on their opening drive — all runs — before seeing senior RJ Loftin walk in for a 2-yard score.

Loftin, who ran for nearly 1,500 yards last season, ran 23 times for 157 yards on Friday as Del Norte amassed 212 yards on 37 carries.

"They're a well-coached team," said Singler. "That wing-T stuff gives you a lot of problems, and they did a great job in the first half of keeping us off the field."

South Medford's offense was only on the field for 10 plays in the first quarter as Del Norte played keepaway with 3 yards and a cloud of dust over and over again.

An interception by Dylan Espinosa on a rare pass by Maxwell appeared to fire up the Panthers in the second quarter and they marched to the Del Norte 2-yard line before penalties and solid defense by the Warriors kept them out of the end zone.

Del Norte then ran out the rest of the clock, seeing their final drive end at the South 2-yard line.

After that, it was all about regrouping and reconfiguring a plan of attack.

"I told them at halftime keep your poise," said Singler, "let's put the first half behind us, play with a clear head and we're going to make some plays and get back in the game, and we finally did."

In the second half, the Panthers bowed their backs on defense — getting key plays from linebackers Gio Livingston and Espinosa — and pitched a shutout.

"I thought our defense, after that first drive, they really played great," said Singler. "They did what they were supposed to and didn't give up a big play and kind of had that bend but don't break mentality again."

"Keeping them out of the end zone in the second half was terrific," he added, "and it just gave us enough time to finally get something going."

The Panthers marched 89 yards on their opening drive of the second half, using a 2-yard touchdown run by Deacon Edgar and extra-point kick by Ty Henry to tie the game at 7-all.

The teams traded defensive stands until a clutch three-and-out by the Panther defense gave the offense the ball back on the Del Norte 48 with 3:01 to go.

The rest was simply Walker being Walker.

The 100- and 200-meter sprint state champion made his way into open space and when he did, he was gone to make it 14-7 with 2:52 to go.

Walker also finished with seven catches for 70 yards as Edgar completed 13 of 18 passes for 113 yards. Scheid carried 10 times for 37 yards after reaching the century mark a week ago.

Del Norte7000—7

South Medford00714—21

DN — Loftin 2 run (Gonzalez kick)

SM — Edgar 2 run (Henry kick)

SM — Walker 48 run (Henry kick)

SM — Scheid 8 run (Henry kick)

Have a story idea? Reach sports editor Kris Henry at 541-776-4488, khenry@rosebudmedia.com or via Twitter @Kris_Henry