By Rusty Rae • Sport Editor • 

Grizzlies fall to South Medford, 21-12

MEDFORD, Oregon -- McMinnville's Grizzly football team (3-1, 0-0 PWC) couldn’t find the combination to turn the tide against an experienced South Medford squad at Speigelberg Stadium, dropping its first game of the season 21-12.

McMinnville had several opportunities to match scores with the Panthers, or even take the lead in the hard-fought physical game against the 6A state runner-ups from a year ago. 

Down 14-6 at the end of the first half, McMinnville received the kick to open the second stanza, driving 80 yards for its second score. However, Parker Spence missed the PAT to leave the Grizzlies down by a 14-12 margin. But the defense, playing an exceptionally strong third quarter shut down the Panthers.

Grizzly offense then drove to the South Medford 21, and appeared to be on the cusp of taking the lead. However, Grizzly QB Sam DuPuis saw a fierce rush from South Medford. He was sacked on the first down play, and then under duress on the next two plays whizzed incomplete passes to his main two targets on the night, Parker Spence and Colton Smith.

On a fourth and 10, head coach Ryan McIrvin called on Spence for a 38-yard field goal, an opportunity to take the lead, 15-14 if he splits the upright. But third time wasn't a charm, as he missed wide right. It was an empty night for Spence in the kicking department as he had one PAT blocked, missed on his next chance, and the aforementioned field goal.

Spence, however, gave DuPuis another big target in the passing game and hauled in several key passes to keep drives alive. None bigger, perhaps, than his catch on the Grizzlies' final drive of the night that kept the drive going after DuPuis was sacked. The Panthers helped the Grizzlies on the drive with numerous penalties, including a pass interference call when Smith had raced by his defender and was wide open, only to be smashed out of bounds by a South Medford defender.

Smith was DuPuis other go-to guy, scoring both touchdowns for Mac. His score to open the second half deserved to be a Sportscenter Top-10 highlight. On a fourth and 10 from the Panthers' 24, Smith drew double coverage from the defense. DuPuis saw extreme pressure from the defense, but zipped a laser strike between both defenders and into the hands of Smith on the dead run. He tumbled into the end zone for the TD.

With the Grizzlies down by nine points, it would have taken a miracle for them to earn the win, and ultimately the game ended on a pass over the head of Smith in the end zone as DuPuis saw pressure for every side of the line.

McMinnville meets Centennial Friday at Wortman in the Grizzlies' homecoming contest. Kickoff is 7 p.m.

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Story updated to reflect one blocked punt, one missed PAT, and one missed FG; it was earlier reported two missed PATs by Spence.

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