A sigh brought both relief and satisfaction from North Medford football coach Nathan Chin, and it said a lot about Friday’s dramatic finish for the Black Tornado at Mel Ingram Field in Grants Pass.
North Medford fended off a final rally from host Cavemen to secure a fifth straight series win, 20-14, in a game that went all the way.
“We like to make things interesting,” Chin laughed as he prepared for a winning return to Medford.
Minutes before, Grants Pass had closed in on the North Medford red zone and faced a fourth-and-4 from the Tornado 12-yard line with about 1 1/2 minutes left.
The Cavemen had already received a pass interference penalty to get into prime position, but a similar pass from Jace Blanchard to a Troy Osborne cross was interrupted by linebacker Jeremiah Robbins to allow the Tornado to escape with a third Consecutive match South / Central Football Conference Victory.
“It just shows the courage of our kids no matter which side of the ball has to do it,” Chin said. “Obviously we fumbled a lot in attack in the second half – we moved the ball around and just didn’t score it – and the defense got stronger. They got the only score in the fourth quarter there- low, but to be able to get into the red zone and stop on the fourth down like that was huge.
North Medford (3-2, 3-0 SCFC) had put themselves in a winning position in the long-running rivalry with a 51-yard touchdown by Ty Pugliano in the second quarter to break a tie at 7. On the play, the senior running back found free space in the middle behind a David Fuiava release block in the second tier, then lost a pair of potential tacklers before rushing into the end zone.
“I think we did a good job being physical at the line of scrimmage,” Chin said. “We were able to run the ball between Ty and Diggy (Alexander Angulo) and really our front seven, if you add the two tight ends, were doing a great job of being physical in attack. It’s obviously our MO and we have to do it, but we also have to be more efficient in the passing game.
After younger brother AJ Pugliano nabbed a pass down the middle through Caiden Lacey and galloped 52 yards before diving just short of the goal line at the end of the second quarter, Ty Pugliano finished the scoring with an effort of avoidance of one meter until the end. zone that gave North a 20-7 halftime lead.
Ty Pugliano finished with 20 carries for 134 yards, while Angulo had 11 carries for 87 yards and Lacey completed 19 of 25 passes for 163 yards to go with a 5-yard TD run.
AJ Pugliano provided four catches for 63 yards, and passing totals could have had more of a “wow” factor if a long Connor Cesaro reception hadn’t been called up due to a penalty.
Grants Pass, however, did not back down at all.
The Cavemen used a second TD connection between Blanchard and Jackson Tunick, this from 33 yards, to shoot within a score late in the fourth quarter. Tunick had an 80-yard catch in the first quarter and another 68-yard voided by penalty.
“Tunick is a tough kid,” Chin said. “He’s a good strong lad and he’s hard to tackle and he’s a good vertical ball player. We knew Blanchard throws the ball well, he gets the ball up there and does a good job of throwing it in depth and getting the ball out for his guys to play.
That night, however, it was North Medford’s defense that managed to make the big final plays. Ty Pugliano had an interception earlier in the game and the Tornado forced and recovered a fumble as it looked like Trevor Reeves was destined for the end zone in the second quarter.
Raiden Takahashi and Malachi Kinyon also had an interception for GP, with Blanchard completing 17 of 36 passes for 295 yards as Tunick turned seven catches for 209 yards.
NM – Lacey Race 5 (Knobloch-Scott kick)
GP – Tunick 80 pass from Blanchard (kick from Leach)
NM – T. Pugliano 51 run (missed kick)
NM – T. Pugliano 1 point (Knobloch-Scott kick)
GP – Tunick 33 Blanchard pass (Leach kick)
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Ty Pugliano, North Medford football
Jeremiah Robbins, North Medford Football
David Fuiava, North Medford Football
Alexander Angulo, North Medford footballer