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The Tiger defense proves its mettle against the Panthers, will face Central Catholic next week

GRAPHIC PHOTO: GARY ALLEN - The Tigers' running game, a strong point for the team all season, continued unabated in Newberg's 28-0 win over the Panthers Friday evening at home.

It's abundantly clear by now that the Newberg football team's identity consists of a strong defense and power run game. Teams from the Pacific Conference and elsewhere saw it all season and there wasn't much that anyone other than Sherwood could do to stop it.

The trend didn't waver in the No. 13 Tigers' playoff opener as they shut out No. 20 South Medford 28-0 to advance to the second round of the 6A postseason.

"I thought we had a big challenge tonight with their passing game on offense, and our defense answered the challenge," NHS coach Kevin Hastin said. "They played fast, carried out their assignments and played great team defense. It was really impressive."

A sack from senior defensive lineman Cody Meade stymied South Medford's opening drive, leading to a strong start for the Newberg offense.

After picking up first downs aplenty with run plays up the middle and on the edge, Newberg went up 7-0 midway through the first quarter on a four-yard run by freshman Hudson Davis. The young back churned his legs before running into a wall of defenders, then his offensive linemen used brute strength to push him across the goal line.GRAPHIC PHOTO: GARY ALLEN - The Tigers embrace tradition and ring the school bell upon their defeat of South Medford on Friday evening at Loran Douglas Field.

"I think we did a really good job," senior offensive lineman Robert Allen said. "We put our guys in good positions on the ground and got a good push. Our backs did a great job finding holes, too."

The Panthers followed up with a strong offensive drive that found success with short and mid-level passes, but they failed to convert on fourth and two at the opposing 21. It came down to a measurement, the results of which inspired warrior-like screams from the Tiger defense after securing a big stop.

A few minutes into the second quarter, after converting on fourth and short in its opponents' red zone, Newberg scored again on a 10-yard run by sophomore Sonny Apilando, who stretched the ball over the line before being pushed backwards.

A turnover set up another score for the Tigers as junior safety Armen Tarakhchyan picked off the Panthers at the opposing 43. A few minutes later, Apilando scored again on an edge run from 12 yards away.

Newberg led 21-0 at the half.

On the first drive of the third quarter, the Tigers maintained their measured approach on offense, steadily picking up solid gains on the ground. Then they took a shot to junior wideout Owen Hawley, who caught a long bomb for a first down at the five yard line.

Sophomore running back Price Pothier finished it off with a five-yard touchdown to make it 28-0 Newberg in the early third.

The Newberg defense picked up another key stop late in the third, forcing a turnover on downs when backed up to its own 10. The game remained 28-0 through three quarters.

"They really tightened up in the red zone," Hastin said. "Every snap was critical and our defense did a great job of bending but not breaking. They got in the hole a little bit but they never gave up, played tough and got the shutout."

South Medford threatened once more in the fourth, driving to the precipice of the red zone before Newberg sophomore Charlie Evans recovered a fumble. Time ticked away in the late fourth quarter and the Tigers finished with a convincing win.

Next up for Newberg is a second-round matchup with No. 4 Central Catholic on Friday at Hillsboro Stadium. Kickoff is at 7 p.m.

"It's huge for the community," Hastin said. "We want to make our town proud of Newberg football and we took another big step in the right direction. We're a dangerous team that plays good defense and runs the ball well, and I have full confidence in these guys."

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