Panthers seek district title, playoff rematch

If it all works out in Creston/O-M’s favor Friday night, a playoff rematch from 2011 will take place Wednesday at Panther Field.

The four playoff qualifiers from Class 3A District 1 are set, but seedings won’t be determined until the outcomes are known when the four teams are involved in games against each other Friday — Lewis Central at Creston/O-M, and ADM (Adel) at Harlan.

The team that emerges as the No. 1 seed will host the No. 4 seed from District 2, which happens to be Spencer. A year ago, the scenario was the same, and the Tigers came away 28-18 upset victors over the Panthers.

Besides an opportunity for revenge, Panther coach Brian Morrison said achieving the highest seed possible could prove important down the road as those higher seedings continue to earn home games.

“Our kids understand the importance of this game,” Morrison said. “We talked all summer long, back at the Northwest Missouri team camp. Now we’ve put ourselves in a situation to earn the number one seed, and we want to take advantage of it.”

The complete breakdown of playoff possibilities is outlined in a separate story today in the CNA. But, basically, if ADM beats Harlan and the Panthers lose, they would travel to Sioux City Heelan as the No. 4 seed.

Heelan, one of only three Class 3A undefeated teams, is the District 2 champion, and Le Mars and Carroll are playing for the second and third seeds. Spencer is No. 4.

Creston/O-M and Harlan can finish as any of the top four seeds, while it appears Lewis Central could only be a No. 3 or 4. ADM could finish anywhere but fourth.

So, a win at home Friday is critical for the Panthers in hoping to open the 2012 postseason at home.

Adversity

Both the Titans and Panthers have had to deal with the loss of major contributors from their lineup this season. Now, it’s a matter of who has adjusted better.

In a week four 38-20 victory over Atlantic, Lewis Central lost the services of two-way star Alex Reed at running back and safety. Morrison likened his impact to that of Panther quarterback/safety Luke Neitzel.

“Reed is a game-changer,” Morrison said. “You always hate it when a kid like that, and a high-character kid like Alex Reed, has something happen like that his senior year.”

The Titans have gone with senior Alex Martin at running back, and Mark Savage has four interceptions replacing Reed at safety. The only two losses occurred after the Atlantic game — 35-10 to Harlan and 43-24 to ADM.

There was plenty of experience on hand even without Reed. There are still 18 starters on the team from 2011, a team that went 3-5 but with five losses coming by a total of only 18 points.

Last year, Reed alternated at quarterback with Sam Duggan, now a senior and son of coach Jim Duggan. This year, promising sophomore Austin Simmons has stepped in to split time with Duggan. Martin handles much of the running load, and Luke Harrison is a dangerous receiver.

Last week, the Titans clinched a playoff berth with a 20-7 victory over Glenwood, while Atlantic was losing in overtime to Harlan. The win moved LC (6-2) to 3-2 in the District 1 standings.

The Titans got a 53-yard touchdown run from Martin in the first quarter. Simmons capped a 10-play, 57-yard drive with a 1-yard sneak to make it 14-0. Harrison had an interception in the fourth quarter to set up another TD run by Simmons for a 20-0 lead.

Martin ran for 138 yards on 26 carries to lead the Titan offense. Glenwood managed only 208 total yards

“Everybody expected them to be good this year, and they are,” Morrison said. “They are solid on defense. Offensively they run the ball well, and they have a really good quarterback in their sophomore. He does a really nice job in play action. Their running back may not be Alex Reed, but he’s explosive. He can get away and break it.”

Several injuries have hit Creston/O-M, likewise, including starters Caleb Thompson in the secondary, and more recently, all-district running back Bryce McIlravy. The offense stalled early in last week’s 20-19 win at Winterset, but gathered steam late in the contest.

Position switch

Morrison said guard Adam Baker, one of the fastest players on the team, is moving to fullback and sophomore Jordan Thompson, recently back from injury, assumes the right guard duties. Trevor Frain moved last week from fullback to running back.

“Our offensive line is a big reason why we’ve played well the last two seasons, and they continue to play well,” Morrison said. “You don’t just go out and replace a player and a leader like Bryce McIlravy. But, we still have enough firepower to make a real run.”

Gavin Leith is the team’s placekicker, replacing Conner Pals, out with injury.

“It’s too bad Gavin slipped on his (extra-point) kick last week on the wet turf, because he’s been consistent in practice,” Morrison said.

Freshman kicker Caleb Shudak has been a threat for LC, kicking 25 extra points and four field goals.