Class 1A State Playoffs: Title talk
Imbler heads to Hillsboro to take on Lowell in the Class 1A football championship game Saturday
Two teams head to Hillsboro Stadium Saturday looking for the same thing — a state championship.
For the Panthers, it’s the first appearance in the title game since 2009, a 38-34 loss to St. Paul. Imbler has 12 playoff appearances since 1981, and three times have made it to the final game. That three-game stretch began in 2007, and the Panthers walked away with the lone state title in school history in 2008. It was a showdown of Old Oregon League schools, as Imbler beat Joseph 48-36.
This season, it took Imbler a little while to get going. Still, that meant one loss during an 8-1 regular season.
As of late, the Panthers have looked unstoppable. The closest game during the current 10-game winning streak was a 36-point spread against Dufur. Imbler has won games by an average of 32 points during the streak.
The winning has been a two-prong attack — putting up points and playing defense.
Imbler is averaging 65 points per game in the playoffs, while allowing 14.
Most of the season had been a two-man show. Quarterback Kyle Johnson and running back Joe Griffin. But, that peak they it before the playoffs, may have just been a quick stopping point.
During last week’s 62-6 win against Triangle Lake in the semifinals, Johnson and Griffin got some help. Tightend Clint Porter collected a touchdown on the ground and through the air. Receiver Rustin McDonald reeled in his third touchdown pass of the season.
Griffin is looking to climb up the national record books. The junior has 52 total offensive touchdowns this season, which ranks as the fifth best season nationally according to the National Federation of High Schools record page. He’s five touchdowns away from moving to fourth on the list. The national leader is Cory Eikmeier with 67 total touchdowns set in 1996.
On the defensive side, Imbler held the Lakers to 228 yards of total offense. The Panthers came up big when it mattered on third and fourth down, holding Triangle Lake to a combined 2-of-23 in those situations.
But, they’ll be up against a much tougher challenge against the high-powered Lowell offense.
The Devils are the No. 1 scoring team in Class 1A football this season, averaging 72.5 points per game. According to the NFHS record page, the Devils are 22 points away from setting the 8-man record for points scored in a season. Freemont Hills, Ia., owns the record with 891 points in a season, set in 2011.
Look no further than quarterback Josh Cardwell for the secret to Lowell’s success. The senior is a dual threat quarterback, who showed what he could do in a 66-44 win against Camas Valley in the semifinals last Saturday.
He completed 7-of-18 passing for 158 yards with three touchdowns and two interceptions. He also ran for 186 yards on 17 carries with two scores.
He also has help in the backfield with Austin McNichols running the ball. The junior carried the ball 22 times for 182 yards and a touchdown.
The key will be turnovers for both teams.
Imbler turned the ball over twice, tying the season-high, in the semifinal win against Triangle Lake.
The Lakers committed three turnovers, but fumbled the ball four times against Camas Valley.
Triangle Lake is making its first appearance in the championship game. The Lakers fell in the semifinals last season to St. Paul.