South Medford dominates the clock and ball, but the Apollos challenge
CEDAR MILL - Control.
Control of the ball, control of the clock and control of the scoreboard were the story of the day in Sunset's 24-14 non-league loss to South Medford on Friday night.
The Panthers (2-1) used their potent running attack (290 yards rushing on 64 carries) to dominate possession at Sunset High School Friday, running off 73 offensive plays to the Apollos' 29, holding the ball more than three times as long as Sunset and keeping Sunset's undersized defense on the field most of the night. The loss closed out the non-league portion of Sunset's schedule with the Apollos at 2-2.
'They were bigger and they were stronger than us, but our kids are scrappy and they fought so I was pleased with that,' said Sunset coach Mike Mitchell. 'But it was disappointing we only ran 31 plays on offense; it's tough on your defense to be on the field that long.'
'We made a couple minor mistakes but ... we played well,' said Sunset senior running back Kerry Degman, who scored his team's first touchdown and played a solid game at linebacker as well. 'You come into the half down by seven, and a game that close, a game you want to win that bad, it comes down to whoever makes less mistakes wins the ballgame.'
And on Friday, the Panthers were virtually flawless.
South Medford, which got 134 yards rushing from Patrick Thibeault and another 118 from Donte Henry, took a 7-0 lead when quarterback Ben Weaver's 1-yard sneak capped its first drive - a 14-yard march that took 8 minutes, 9 seconds off the clock - and provided a 7-0 lead.
Sunset answered in kind, though, taking its ensuing possession and driving 58 yards in nine plays to tie the game on Degman's 1-yard dive early in the second quarter. Kyle Harper added the first of two extra points to tie the game at 7-7.
South, however, came right back to re-take the lead three minutes later, getting a 5-yard Thibeault scoring run (he had four carries for 39 yards on the drive) to lead 14-7 with 6:03 left in the first half and keeping its edge the rest of the way.
Neither team scored again in the first half - Sunset's Joey Dunn blocked a 27-yard field goal attempt by Conner Egan with 17 seconds remaining - but the Panthers extended their advantage to 17-7 on a 23-yard Egan field goal with 5:09 left in the third quarter. That score was set up when Sunset's Tim Molloy (who led his team with 90 total yards) fumbled the ball away after a 6-yard reception.
The Apollos weren't done yet, though. On their next series, Molloy ran for 30 yards on three carries, finishing a 58-yard drive with a 10-yard scoring run around right end with 2:54 remaining in the third quarter, and Harper's PAT cut the gap to 17-14.
But South Medford did not blink. The Panthers responded with a 13-play scoring drive that took almost six minutes off the game clock, ended with a 1-yard Thibeault blast over the left side with 8:53 left in the game and gave them a 24-14 lead.
'They ended up killing us in the long run with a lot of long runs and they ate up the clock,' said Harper, who hit on 4-of-13 passes for 39 yards and one interception.
Sunset's last chances to respond didn't last long. On Sunset's next series, Harper's first-down pass attempt to Kevin Petermeyer was intercepted by Dylan Anderson. And then, after a stop by the Apollo defense, Sunset was forced to punt the ball away and South Medford ran out the clock.
'We just made a couple too many mistakes today,' Harper said. 'If we would have eliminated some of them, our defense could have did good, our offense could have thrown more and we could have won this game.'
South Medford 'looked good on film against Tualatin and they looked better in person,' Mitchell said. 'But I think the guys showed that they're not anybody to be taken lightly, and that's good.'
In addition to his team's solid running game, Weaver completed 7-of-9 passes for 81 yards, led by E.J. Singler's four grabs for 56 yards. For Sunset, Molloy led the Apollos with 65 yards rushing on nine carries and 25 more yards on two receptions.
'I think they showed that they'll play with everybody and if you leave the door open, we're going to go in,' Mitchell said. 'These guys just didn't leave the door open.'