South Medford, Grants Pass Look to Nix Sheldon's 56
Byline: SOUTHWEST CONFERENCE By Steve Mims The Register-Guard
Sheldon is the only team to ever win the Southwest Conference football title, and the Irish take a well-known 56-game conference winning streak into Friday's SWC opener against Roseburg.
Yet a look at this week's Class 6A poll shows Sheldon ranked third among SWC teams. The Irish are ranked sixth, following No. 4 South Medford and No. 5 Grants Pass.
The pollsters are looking at Sheldon's 2-2 record, which includes losses to Skyline and Southridge, two of the top teams in Washington and Oregon, respectively.
"I think we're in good shape," Sheldon coach Marty Johnson said. "We played some good competition in the preseason and obviously we are not used to having two losses going into league, but I'm not sure that makes much difference. The kids understand how important things are now once it starts to count toward playoff seeding."
Looking at the poll, could it truly be the underdog Irish?
No way, according to South Medford coach Bill Singler, whose senior-laden roster has high hopes this season.
"Our goals are high, we want to compete for the conference championship and ultimately go farther but you have to start in our league with the conference championship because nobody has beaten Sheldon," Singler said. "They are clearly the favorite; they have to be. You can't put us ahead of them because we haven't beaten them in the two years of the league's existence. They are the favorites."
Grants Pass, the only unbeaten SWC team, is the other school in that mix and the Cavemen will be tested right away opening against South Medford and Sheldon.
If the Panthers and Irish both beat Grants Pass, they could be setting themselves up for a showdown for the league title on Halloween, the final night of the regular season.
"We don't play them until the end, so that won't be a concern of ours until then," Johnson said. "We are completely dialed into Roseburg and playing one game at a time."
South Medford has played a regional schedule this preseason with wins over Lincoln, Sprague and West Salem in Oregon and Evergreen of Washington while losing to Foothill of California, a school that went 12-0 last season.
"Going into the season with our tough schedule I didn't down deep think we'd go undefeated in nonleague," Singler said. "It would be great if we did, but I thought we could be a good team if we went 3-2 or 4-1. I was tickled to go 4-1, and we had a chance to go 5-0, but we had too many turnovers against Foothill. I think mentally and physically we are ready for the conference season."
The Panthers, who placed second in the SWC at 4-1 last season, have been pointing to this season with 26 seniors.
"This class as freshmen went undefeated in football, so that was a feather in their cap, and they lost only one basketball game and were good in baseball too," Singler said. "Their sophomore year was a rebuilding year in football at South, and we had about four or five of them starting that year, so we did not do so well finishing 3-6. Last year, they hung together and had a good offseason and finished 8-3 overall and second in league. It was a big transformation to go from last place to second, but the kids were ready to do that. This year, heck, they should set their sights high."
South Medford features the Singler cousins, Mitch and E. …