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Imbler running back Joe Griffin stretches out across the goal line on a two-point conversion try against Triad Saturday in the Class 1A playoffs. The Panthers cruised past the Timberwolves 74-22, moving on to the state semifinals for the second straight season. Imbler will play Triangle Lake at 2:15 p.m. Saturday in Hillsboro. (NANCY CAMPBELL photo)
Griffin powers Panthers into semifinals with seven touchdowns against Triad
Good running backs are fast. Elite running backs have a gear that others can’t reach.
Imbler running back Joe Griffin not only has that top gear, but he shifted to another gear during the Class 1A quaterfinals Saturday.
“He’s phenomonial,” Panthers head coach Lee Lowe said. “The whole team knew that we had to win, and they did what it took to make sure we did.”
Griffin scored seven touchdowns during a 74-22 win against Triad Saturday, moving Imbler into the semifinals.
“That was step one,” Griffin said. “Our season ended in the (semifinals) last season. We’re hoping for two more games.”
That won’t be a problem as long as Griffin keeps this pace.
He rushed for 114 yards on 10 carries in the first quarter, scoring on runs of 56, 5 and 13 yards.
“The offensive line was doing a great job,” Griffin said. “They’ve been great all season, and are the reason that we can run the ball so well.”
The junior finished the game with 185 yards on 17 carries, under his season average of 12 yards per carry coming into the game.
Two of Griffin’s scores came through the air from the arm of quarterback Kyle Johnson.
“Kyle is amazing,” Griffin said. “I wouldn’t want any other person throwing me the ball. He has amazing touch, and can just drop the ball right on the money.”
That’s what Johnson did on a 56-yard touchdown reception by Griffin.
The Triad defender was running stride for stride with Griffin, but the ball fell right over Griffin’s left shoulder on the far sideline.
“He makes it easy because all you have to do is put your hands up,” Griffin said.
He caught three passes for 111 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
Griffin found one other way to score, via a punt return.
“I usually don’t get a chance to return (punts),” Griffin said. “I wasn’t really shocked by seeing it come at me, but I was excited.”
Fifty yards later, Griffin was standing alone in the end zone.
The Panthers not only put on an offensive show, but held the Triad offense in check throughout the game.
“I think that was the best defensive effort we’ve had all season,” Lowe said. “The line did a great job disrupting the offense. This is what we’ve been waiting to see all season, and we’ve been building to it. But, it’s nice to see what the team can do when we put it all together.”
The Timberwolves also hurt themselves fumbling the ball seven times in the opening half, losing two.
Losing is a relative term. Kyle Johnson simply stole the ball on one possession.
Triad had driven the ball into Panther territory, and quarterback Austin McGrew completed a pass to Stewart Teaford in the first quarter.
Johnson, who was running step for step with Teaford, muscled the ball out of Teaford’s arms and returned the fumble 30 yards up field.
Johnson also picked off an errant Triad pass, one of the four Timberwolves’ turnovers in the game.
Cole Campbell also recovered a fumble, and Luke Siblernagle added an interception.
Johnson completed 9-of-10 passing for 141 yards with two touchdowns.
The senior also carried the ball six times for 97 yards and three touchdowns.
Sophomore Tyler Tandy had nine carries for 46 yards.
Josh Hutchison led Triad with 66 yards on 17 carries, while McGrew added 47 yards on 11 carries.
Imbler will face Triangle Lake in the semifinals at 2:15 p.m. Saturday in Hillsboro Stadium.
The Lakers defeated the No. 2 seed Dufur 40-30 Saturday.
In other scores: Lowell, the No. 1 seed defeated St. Paul 60-22. Camas Valley cruised past Adrian 52-28.