CORVALLIS -- The South Medford Panthers went from elation to heartbreak in a matter of minutes Saturday afternoon as what looked like the school's first-ever state championship slipped away in the closing seconds. The Panthers lost to Clackamas, 31-30.
After jumping out to a 10-0 lead early, South Medford mostly held serve with Clackamas. The Cavaliers kept on coming as running back James Millspaugh scored three touchdowns on the ground. Once the Panthers went up 30-28, the teams hit a stand still.
Following a handful of punts from each side, Clackamas was around midfield and went for it on fourth and inches. The Panthers stopped Millspaugh behind the line of scrimmage and started trying to put the game on ice.
On third and 9, quarterback Robbie Patterson was in trouble. He scrambled at least 15 yards in the backfield before turning back up field and miraculously picking up eight yards. The Panthers went for it on fourth and 1 and Patterson kept it himself, barely inching ahead of the line to gain.
With less than two minutes to play, the Panthers just needed one more first down to get into victory formation. Then, disaster struck. Senior running back Jaylin Parnell took the carry up the middle and had the ball stripped, which was recovered by the Cavaliers.
Having very little time, Clackamas marched downfield in a hurry. Parked at the 28-yard line, rather than go for a prayer with six seconds left, the Cavaliers decided to send in kicker Jeff Nelson to attempt a 45-yard field goal to win the game. South Medford tried icing him by taking a timeout before his kick. It didn't work.
Calmly, Nelson knocked the game winner right through the uprights and the Cavaliers were sent into pandemonium. On the Panthers sideline, emotions ran wild.
In his postgame speech after the stunning loss, head coach Bill Singler told his team, "This is a game. There has to be a winner and a loser, but when you go back to Medford, that community is going to be so proud of what you've accomplished."
The second-place finish at state is the best in the history of South Medford football.