It’s really quite simple.
Both Lewis Central and Creston/O-M will be playing with a sense of urgency Friday night at Council Bluffs.
While Lewis Central’s situation might be a little more dire, neither circumstance is ideal should a loss occur Friday.
A defeat could bump the Titans out of the playoffs altogether, if Harlan beats ADM and Glenwood moves into contention with a win over last-place Atlantic.
Creston/O-M, meanwhile, can lock up second place and a home game with a win over the Titans Friday, provided Harlan defeats ADM. A loss likely drops the Panthers to fourth, creating a situation identical to 2012 with a trip to No. 1 Sioux City Heelan looming in the playoff opener Wednesday.
A win, and a second-place finish, likely means a home game hosting Spencer. Two years ago Creston/O-M won a district title and was upset at home by fourth-place Spencer in the first round.
ADM is the two seed with a win and a Creston/O-M win over Lewis Central, dropping the Panthers to number three. That could mean a trip to Carroll if standings hold in District 2. (Harlan would probably be matched with District 2 fourth-place Le Mars.)
So, while Spencer is no slouch — rated No. 2 in the state earlier this season — meeting the Tigers at home shapes up as more favorable than trips to either Carroll or Heelan.
Rams in hunt
If Glenwood wins and Lewis Central and ADM both lose, points would determine the final two spots between those three.
Glenwood stayed alive with last week’s 28-17 victory over Lewis Central. Glenwood takes the number four spot with a win and wins by ADM and Creston/O-M, forcing Lewis Central out.
Currently, Harlan is locked in as champion at 5-0. Creston/O-M, LC and ADM are each 3-2, with Glenwood a step back at 2-3. Only Perry (2-4) and Atlantic (0-5) are out of contention.
“If they lose, Lewis Central could be completely out of it, so this is big for LC,” Panther coach Brian Morrison said. “For us, we’re essentially looking at it as two or four, at least that’s the way we see it. Certainly, we’d like to win the football game and have a chance to play at home.”
Last year, Creston/O-M went into week nine with a chance to finish first in the district, and tumbled to fourth in a tiebreaker after losing to the Titans, 16-7. Quarterback Luke Neitzel suffered a strained thumb on his throwing hand in practice, and saw only limited snaps at quarterback in the game, and the team had already lost running back Bryce McIlravy two weeks earlier.
Neitzel ran for the Panthers’ only touchdown and finished with 91 yards rushing. Brandon Phipps, this year’s senior starter, was pressed into quarterback duty and went 7-of-12 for 102 yards and no interceptions.
This year, the Panthers’ injury situation seems to be improving rather than deterorating. Last week, safety Alex Nielsen returned from an ankle injury to play about half of the Winterset game. Linebacker-guard Seth Maitlen saw only limited action, also with an ankle injury, but practiced this week.
While Nielsen and Maitlen aren’t listed as starters, Morrison said both will play Friday.
Also back in the lineup is center Nathan Haley, who suffered a knee injury against Winterset.
The Titans’ record is deceiving, losing to quality crosstown rivals Abraham Lincoln and St. Albert, 34-27 and 35-28, in the first two weeks. Indianola then nipped the Titans, 21-20.
Since the 0-3 start, Lewis Central is 3-2, losing to Harlan 24-14 before last week’s loss to Glenwood.
“LC had some untimely turnovers in the red zone against Glenwood,” Morrison said. “They threw two picks. Both teams were athletic, LC looks fast on film, but they couldn’t stop Glenwood’s run game.”
Lewis Central had the ball inside the Glenwood 10 three times in the second half but came away with just three points by all-state kicker Caleb Shudak, who kicked three field goals against the Panthers last year.
Quarterback Corey Bertini and running back Spencer Smith spearheaded Glenwood’s 432-yard rushing attack against the Titans.
But LC also had offensive success in the game, before the costly turnovers. Quarterback Austin Simmons ran 18 times for 169 yards. He also completed 10 passes for 132 yards and a touchdown to Jake Rodgers, the Titans’ most dangerous receiver and kick returner. Rodgers had six catches for 91 yards.
Titan tailback Ryan Main added 71 yards on 17 carries against the Rams.
Morrison said Simmons is a dangerous catalyst of the LC offense. He was the winning quarterback in the matchup last year, passing 9-of-18 for 134 yards and running for 72 yards at Panther Field.
“He runs some counters and draws, but a majority of Simmons’ yards come when he gets out of the pocket, and he takes off running when the receivers are covered,” Morrison said. “He’s an elusive runner, and probably has the strongest arm we have played against.”
Last week’s outcomes played in Creston/O-M’s favor, with LC and ADM suffering upset defeats to teams below them in the standings. It created a situation in which the Panthers can still play for a home playoff game, something that seemed difficult after the last-second, 36-35 loss at ADM after dominating most of the second half.
“We had to fight our way back through a lot of tough teams,” Morrison said. “Now we’re in the position we want to be in, and the focus and mindset is exactly where we want it. I think our last two games have been our best two games of the year.”
Playoff pairings and a brief recap of the Lewis Central game will be available online at www.crestonnews.com late Friday night or shortly after midnight.