To view this site, you need to have Flash Player 8.0 or later installed. Click here to get the latest Flash player.
Imblerís Joe Griffin (1) goes up to defend a pass against Adrianís Chase Walker Friday during a 46-44 win. (PAUL HARDER/The Observer)
Imbler got a taste of the new realization of what it takes to get into the right position for the playoffs, even though the postseason is a long ways away.
There’s no easing into the schedule anymore.
“You have to get the tough games on the schedule before league starts,” Imbler head coach Lee Lowe said. “It’s a matter of trying to get the best seed possible for the playoffs.”
A young, scrappy Adrian team nearly dealt the Panthers a loss in the opening game. A miraculous rally from a 22-point deficit gave Imbler a 46-44 win.
Imbler had no time outs and a huge hole to dig out of in the fourth quarter.
“We did enough things wrong to lose the game,” Lowe said. “But in the end, we did enough things right to get the win.
“That’s why it’s nice to have a game to ease into things.”
Imbler lost half its starters to graduation last season. All four were first team all-league members. That left role players to fill in the vacancies.
Austin Insko did just that. He caught to passes during the fourth-quarter rally that led to the win.
“We knew that we could play well,” said Insko. “There wasn’t any doubt that we could make plays on the field. It just took us a little while to do it.”
Insko reeled in an 8-yard slant following a punt play gone awry for the Antelopes.
Senior quarterback Kyle Johnson then hit Insko in the helmet. The play ended with Insko catching the ball, breaking a tackle and cruising into the end zone for a 52-yard completion.
Insko finished with those two receptions for 61 yards.
Imbler didn’t get the ensuing onside kick after Insko’s second touchdown, but did get the final break it needed to have a chance to win the game.
Adrian’s running back coughed up the ball on the first play of the drive and Calvin Shaffer jumped on it.
Facing, potentially, the final offensive play of the game on fourth down with seven yards left to go, Johnson hooked up with junior Joe Griffin on a fly route. The ball had the perfect amount of loft to allow the speedy Griffin to race under it. The result, a 35-yard touchdown pass. After a two-point conversion, Imbler led 46-44, and went on to win the game after a turnover-on-downs.
With one hurdle down, the next comes this Friday. Imbler will take on Dufur. The Rangers advanced to the second round of the Class 1A state playoffs last season.
Then it’s on to Sherman and St. Paul, respectively.
The Huskies went on to the second round of the state tournament, while the Buckaroos fell to Camas Valley in the state championship game.
Needless to say, the non-league schedule is now a daunting task with the new system put in place by the Oregon Schools Activities Association.
Unlike the current college situation, where schools schedule teams they know they can beat, local high schools don’t.
“We’re not the only school that’s doing it this way,” Lowe said. “If you’re trying to get your team into the best position for the playoffs, this is what you have to do.
“Of course the key is to stay healthy and try to get wins. The health thing is just as important.”
There is one other thing you can do if you do lose. There’s always rooting for the team that beat you to win out. That’s what Adrian did last season, and will be doing again this season. Of course the Panthers aren’t done with the Antelopes just yet. They’ll be watching, and hoping Adrian can get some more wins too.
“It’s a funny system,” Lowe said. “You have to win out to get into the right position, but you also have to hope the team you just beat can win too.
“Adrian is a good team and they’ll get their share of wins. The first game is always the toughest. I know that we learned a lot from it. I’m sure they did too. We’ll just have to wait to see how it all shakes out.”
Imbler will travel to Dufur for a
7 p.m. kickoff Friday. The Panthers came out on the right side of a 52-28 game last season against Dufur.