Dave Heuberger never doubted that Roseburg High would be tough enough.
He believed it three years ago when he applied to replace a legend as the RHS football coach. He just had to get the players to believe it, too.
On Friday night at Finlay Field, those athletes did. They took a punch to the figurative mouth in the first 22 seconds, spit, and proceeded to play tougher, meaner and better than North Medford in a Southwest Conference game.
“It was North Medford, they’re tough, and they’re chippy, but we just stayed with it and worked through it,” RHS senior center Ryley Culberhouse said.
Trailing 7-0, senior Zack Mandera broke a 59-yard run on the first offensive play and Roseburg followed the Portland State-commit’s lead the rest of the way to a 42-14 victory.
It is the second-largest margin of victory in Heuberger’s tenure at Roseburg, which improved to 2-5 overall and 1-2 in the SWC.
North Medford’s Elias Spence came into the game as the leading rusher in Class 6A. He got his yards, but he was hardly a factor in the outcome despite 24 carries for 116 yards and two scores.
Roseburg saw to Spence on defense with a five-man front. Tornado quarterback Brennen Stults was unable to pick on the three-man secondary as he completed 5 of 15 passes for 97 yards with an interception.
“We said let’s turn this into a who’s tougher deal,” Heuberger said. “My money is on a Roseburg kid, so we loaded the box. We played good fundamental football; we moved our feet, we were violent with our hands and we made plays.”
Boy, did RHS make plays.
After losing a fumble on the opening kickoff and giving up a 21-yard, two-play drive to Spence, Roseburg went to work on offense behind the offensive line, Mandera and quarterback Collin Warmouth.
“Here’s the deal: our line has gotten so much better in the last three weeks. It’s unbelievable how much better they’ve gotten,” Mandera said after rushing 21 times for 179 yards and three touchdowns. “Ryley Culberhouse, he’s such a good center. He does such a good job blocking and it’s so easy to follow him as a running back. It’s the easiest thing in the world.”
Roseburg five plays to tie the game, going 69 yards with 59 on Mandera’s first carry and Warmouth going the last 1 for the score.
Josh Mendoza intercepted Stults’ tipped fourth down pass to set RHS up at its own 25, and seven plays later Garrett Zeimet darted in from the 8. Peyton Bryant, how missed the previous week’s game at South Medford with an injury, booted through the second of his six conversion kicks, and the rout was building with Roseburg up 14-7 at the quarter.
With the offense clicking, the defense just had to get the ball back for Roseburg to extend its lead. It did so with a fourth-down stand at its own 25. A 58-yard pass from Warmouth to D’Angelo Adams made it 21-7.
“There were a couple of plays where Zack Mandera got his sites squared on 44 (Spence) and it changed the way that kid ran the ball the rest of the night,” Heuberger said. “That’s what you want from your senior running back and linebacker.”
Warmouth completed 8-of-9 passes for 138 yards to go over 1,000 yards passing on the season, and RHS put up more than 400 yards in total offense.
A North Medford three-and-out set up a 65-yard drive capped by Mandera’s first TD run with 2:59 left in the half, and RHS caught a big break on the kickoff when Spence muffed the catch and Mendoza recovered. Mandera bulled in from the 6 with 30 seconds left to the half for a 35-7 lead, and Roseburg was looking at modifying its game plan for final 24 minutes.
“How’s that, we start off the game saying we’ve got to move the ball and not get into a game of possession, and then we go in at halftime and say we have got to eat up some clock,” Heuberger said. “Jeff Freeman with the offense and Kyle Dever with the defense, the whole coaching staff and the players did a great job.
“A kid leading the state at 6A and we give up a buck-16, I’ll take that any time.”
A year ago, Roseburg led North Medford by 18 in the third quarter before losing the in overtime; last week, N.M. rallied to defeat Grants Pass after trailing at halftime.
Roseburg made sure there was no miracle comeback, as it ran the clock down in the second half, putting together a six-minute drive in the fourth quarter and forced North Medford to chew up clock in order to move the ball itself.
“It was tons of fun,” senior Carson Ellis said. “Last season left a sour taste in our mouth and some of us were reliving that today. Then we just stuck to our plan and it worked out fine for us.”
Roseburg travels to Sheldon, a 45-20 victor over South Medford on Friday, next Friday to finish off SWC play.
N.Medford 7 0 7 0 — 14
Roseburg 14 21 7 0— 42
N.M. — Elias Spence 3 run (Tucker Houck kick), 11:38
R — Collin Warmouth 1 run (Peyton Bryant kick), 9:22
R — Garrett Zeimet 8 run (Bryant kick), 3:26
R — D’Angelo Adams 58 pass from Warmouth (Bryant kick), 8:46
R — Zack Mandera 2 run (Bryant kick), 2:59
R — Mandera 6 run (Bryant kick), 0:30.0.
R — Mandera 3 run (Bryant kick), 2:49
N.M. — Spence 17 run (Houck kick), 2:06.