MEDFORD -- It's only fitting that on Thanksgiving weekend, it is a match up between two cousins that will help decide who advances to the 6A state title game. Star South Medford wide receiver Chase Cota will go toe-to-toe with cousin Bryson Breeze, who is a star safety for Lake Oswego, the Panthers' top-ranked semifinal opponent.
Breeze is the Three Rivers League defensive player of the year and a force in the middle of the field. Cota is one of the top-ranked four-star receiver recruits in the country, fielding offers from various Pac 12 schools. Inevitably, one is going to get in the other one's way. It's just a matter of who will get the best of the other cousin.
"Our whole family will be up there in Portland getting together that weekend, so it will be a special opportunity," Cota said, "We've lost to them the last two times we've played them, so we just have to go up there and compete with a really good team."
The Panthers have played king slayer a couple times this season. Their only loss of the year was a 21-14 defeat to defending 6A champion West Linn on the road with just two of five starting offensive lineman healthy. They thumped powerhouse Sheldon, 31-14 on the road and then beat fourth-ranked West Salem on the road 28-14 in the state semifinals. Now, they get Lake Oswego, the top-ranked team in the state.
The Lakers dominated traditional power, Jesuit 48-17 in the quarterfinals to reach this round. Cota said the high expectations of Lake Oswego help give the Panthers an edge.
"It's nice, because the pressure is on them, it's not on us," Cota said, "It's up in Portland and they're the one seed, so we just get to go in and play loose."
A win would punch the Panthers' ticket to their first-ever state title game. This is the furthest a South Medford team has ever gone. They kick off with the Lakers at 5 p.m. Friday Night in Hillsboro, Oregon.