By Bob Lundeberg
Over the next few weeks, SBLive Oregon will break down every 6A, 5A and 4A football team in the state in anticipation of a six-week season in March and April. Even if the season is postponed or canceled, we will continue to highlight more than a hundred teams and more than a thousand players in Oregon. Here’s our look at the South Medford Panthers of the Class 6A Southwest Conference.
Bill Singler, 23rd season (138-89)
2019 AT A GLANCE
Overall record: 6-4
League record: 2-2, third in Southwest
Playoffs: Lost 28-0 at Newberg in first round
ALL-LEAGUE PLAYERS DEPARTED
WR Austin Boster, first team
DL Justin Josephson, first team
LB James Duane, first team
DB Reujhaun Sharrer, first team
WR Trey Alvarez, second team
OG Jacob Hermant, second team
OT Jack Stanley, second team
DB Rylee Heim, second team
DB Mitchell Walker, second team
QB Toren Tuttle, honorable mention
RB Mason DeVries, honorable mention
K Luke Allen, honorable mention
DL Nate Krupp, honorable mention
P Zach Miller, honorable mention
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Carson Cota, sr., WR/DE
A familiar name to football fans in the state, Cota is the son of former Oregon and NFL safety Chad Cota and the younger brother of current UCLA receiver Chase Cota. The 6-foot-4 Carson also is a Division I talent and is rated a three-star prospect by 247Sports. He was a second-team all-Southwest Conference tight end last season and a solid pass rusher from the defensive end position. “Carson gives us experience both ways,” Singler said. “He has versatility and size and experience as a receiver, and that’s nice to have.”
Nick Varner, sr., OL/LB
Varner was a second-team all-SWC linebacker last season. He also contributes on the offensive line. “He is a good-sized kid, and we are looking forward to him having a big year,” Singler said. “He gives us a little experience and is definitely a kid to watch.”
Carson Joe, jr., RB/LB
Joe received playing time at the varsity level as a sophomore and garnered all-SWC honorable mention on offense. He recently underwent an appendectomy but is not expected to miss significant time. “So, he’ll be out for a bit, but he should be up and running soon and ready to go by March,” Singler said. “He’s a good football player and we really like him.”
Mayson Ramirez, sr., OL/DL
An honorable mention all-SWC selection on the offensive line as a junior, Ramirez is a returning starter at center. Singler said Ramirez put on some weight over the offseason and appears to be more athletic. “He’s calm, kind of sentry-like, not a high-stress guy, and he can handle things,” Singler said. “We’re excited to have him back.”
Brycen Guches, jr., RB/DB
Guches was having a strong sophomore year when he went down with a season-ending knee injury at Roseburg. Now healthy, Guches will be counted upon to play a major role for the Panthers. “He will be a kid rotating in in the secondary, and we are inexperienced back there,” Singler said. “But he was playing really well for us and I think he will have a good junior year.”
Garrett Henderson, sr., RB/DB
A transfer from North Medford, Henderson has impressed the coaching staff with his performances during workouts. He is likely to receive time at running back and in the secondary. “I don’t know him as a practice player because I haven’t seen him much yet, but he played against us last year and bring good versatility,” Singler said. “He looks to be a motivated football player and we’re excited to have him in the program.”
For the first time in a while, South Medford is entering a season with an extreme lack of experience at the quarterback position. Sophomore Deacon Edgar reminds Singler of former Panthers great and current Montana quarterback Robbie Patterson, but Edgar is completely unproven at the varsity level. He will be competing with newcomer Jeremy Gaut, a senior who got hurt early in his freshman season and chose to focus on basketball the past two years.
“We are very inexperienced at quarterback right now,” Singler said. “This is one of the first years we’ve not had an older, experienced quarterback, and I think that’s one of the things that’s helped us be competitive throughout the years.”
South Medford is big and deep up front with about nine seniors who can play on the offensive and defensive lines. Along with Ramirez and Varner, Singler is expecting major contributions from Gio Rios, Charlie Campbell and Jalen Steadmon, a 6-foot-5, 260-pound senior who has stood out in practice.
“He’s a good-sized lineman, a smart kid in the classroom and one hell of a practice player,” Singler said. “I think Steadmon is a sleeper. He can definitely play at some level of college football. Hopefully SOU will take a look at him.”
Singler also likes the team’s depth at running back with a couple of returning players and newcomers.
“That is a plus for us because we need to run the ball to take some pressure off the quarterback,” Singler said.
The Panthers have been a consistent playoff team under Singler, suffering just two losing seasons since 1999. South Medford has four quarterfinal appearances during that stretch and came up just short of the 2017 state title, falling 31-30 to Clackamas on a last-second field goal in the championship game.
While the Panthers were unlikely to be competing for a state title in the fall of 2020, the team had more than enough pieces to secure another playoff berth. Instead, they’ll happily settle for a few winter and spring games against regional competition.
“We’re not the football school in this town … so we’ve had to earn our stripes,” Singler said. “But we are a competitive ball club, and we always play a good schedule.”
“The best thing we’re doing is getting the kids outside and together. We are practicing some football. We can’t go inside and lift indoors, so everything is outdoors. … We’re doing that stuff, just trying to keep our kids mentally and physically fresh.” — Bill Singler
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