Panthers welcome red-hot Roseburg to Spiegelberg on Friday
South Medford took a much-needed step last week in securing its first win of the season over Grants Pass.
Doubling its pleasure, now that’s going to require an even bigger leap Friday at Spiegelberg Stadium when the Panthers play host to one of the hottest Class 6A teams around in seventh-ranked Roseburg.
The Indians are 6-0 for the first time since 2010 and will look to continue what has been a senior-driven revenge tour throughout the Southwest Conference with a hunger for more.
“(Roseburg coach Dave Heuberger) has done a great job with them and they’re playing at a really high level this year,” said South Medford coach Bill Singler. “We’re running into a buzzsaw, obviously. We’ve got our hands full and we know that but that’s OK, we’ve had some success against Roseburg in the past and we’ll just kind of keep plugging along.”
That method has paid off in recent weeks, with South Medford (1-5, 1-1 SWC) giving Sheldon a challenge into the fourth quarter before last week’s win over GP that saw the Panthers play well in all three phases of the game.
“It was a really good win for us last week, I thought that the kids really buckled down,” said Singler of the 31-19 victory.
“I wouldn’t say it was a pretty game by any means but I think we went in with an idea that we want to establish ourselves on both sides of the ball up front and try to create some confidence with those guys, and I thought we did.
“I thought both our offensive lines and defensive lines responded pretty darn well against Grants Pass, and we needed that. We needed to run the ball and keep them off the field a little bit.”
Carson Joe wound up running for three touchdowns and fellow seniors Brycen Guches and Colton Samis gave South a boost to keep the chains moving in a game played fairly close to the vest by the Panthers.
“We didn’t open up the playbook as much as we normally would,” said Singler. “Our guys were really wanting to run the ball and we felt like that was a way for us to keep our defense off the field.”
South Medford will need much more of the same Friday to contend with a Roseburg squad that is averaging 400 yards and 38 points per game. Clackamas is also the only 6A team that has allowed fewer points (51) than Roseburg (60) entering Week 7.
“We’re going to have to find ways offensively to drive the ball because we have to keep them off the field,” said Singler.
Prior to this season, the Indians (6-0, 2-0) hadn’t enjoyed a winning season since going 6-5 in 2013. Their last conference win was in 2018 when Roseburg beat North Medford 42-14.
So to say this year’s success has taken the state by storm would not be an understatement, but Singler said the buzz is well-deserved.
“Nobody’s talked about Roseburg in the last 10 years and then all of a sudden, boom,” said Singler. “Right now they’re playing probably better than any team in our league, and I think their quarterback definitely is an offensive player of the year candidate the way he’s playing.”
That quarterback has been converted receiver Colton Marsters, who initially got the call to action when no other QBs were available during the summer but quickly showed he could become a game-breaker.
The 6-foot, 160-pound Marsters leads the SWC in rushing at 872 yards on 69 attempts with 13 touchdowns. He’s shown a knack for eluding tacklers and the speed to get to the edge and break free for big yardage. In last week’s 38-20 win over North, Marsters ran for 189 yards and three TDs and at times left the Tornado looking like it was chasing a ghost.
“You think you might have the angle on him and you don’t,” said Singler. “His long strides just allow him to run by you. He made North look silly on two quarterback draws that he took the distance. Guys looked like they had the angle and then all of a sudden they didn’t. It’s scary, really.”
“We know how important it is to keep that guy in the corral,” he added of Marsters, “because if he gets out, he’s going to run like a wild horse.”
While running is more of a strength for Marsters, he has completed 45 of 74 passes for 540 yards with five TDs and four interceptions.
With a returning offensive line, Roseburg has also been able to free up sophomore running back Cayden Eckel (5-7, 150), whose quick feet and ability to change directions has made it difficult to focus on Marsters’ QB keepers. Eckel ranks third in the SWC with 729 yards rushing on 109 carries to go with nine TDs.
The Indians also like to utilize their receivers in the run game, while also hoping to suck in the defense for big hitters over the top to seniors Landyn Dupper and Logan Klopfenstein. Dupper has 12 catches for 203 yards and Klopfenstein, who broke last week’s game open with an 87-yard kickoff return for a score, has caught 15 passes for 187 yards.
Junior defensive tackle Tiger Black (6-4, 250) is an all-conference returner and anchors Roseburg’s effort with Marsters at safety and Klopfenstein at linebacker.
For the Panthers, the availability of junior quarterback Deacon Edgar will be a key factor Friday. Edgar took a hit on a two-point conversion attempt last week and has been dealing with a bruised lower back.
Edgar has helped steer South to 280 yards and 22 points per game and provided a dual-threat of his own with 289 yards rushing and 1,036 more passing (68-for-130). He’s had a hand in 12 total TDs.
“We’re glad it’s just a bruise and not anything worse,” said Singler. “We’ll just see how he is in the next few days. We don’t want to throw him out there if he’s not healthy.”
Samis was able to capably step in and finish off last Friday’s win, and has increased his reps this week at quarterback should the need arise.
Samis has seen time at quarterback in each of his seasons since transferring from Phoenix High, and was in the mix during a 2020 QB competition with Edgar and Henry Williams before it was determined his skills would be more needed at receiver.
The spark Guches was able to provide last week to a run game that produced 157 yards, with his own 72 yards receiving, was a welcomed commodity after being slowed by injuries through the first half of the season.
“He’s had a really nice career for us and he’s a great kid so that was really good to see,” said Singler of Guches’ impact. “He really does a lot for us in all three phases so it was good to see him be able to take some of the pressure off of Carson Joe to where you couldn’t just key on him. We’re going to need the same kind of thing this week against Roseburg.”
Junior standout Andrew Walker, who set a school record with his interception return against GP, continues to provide a big-play threat at 400 yards receiving on 18 catches.
Samis has 16 catches for 213 yards in his own right, and has joined Guches and junior Josh Phillips in giving South Medford good field position with their special teams play. Two of the Panthers’ scoring drives last week were set up by a kick return from Samis and punt return by Phillips.
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South Medford’s Carson Joe looks for room to score during the second quarter of last Friday’s win over Grants Pass. Andy Atkinson / Mail Tribune