Playoff plunder

Written by Paul Harder, The Observer November 08, 2013 10:21 am

Kyle Johnson, 2, and the Imbler football team will host Perrydale in the opening round of the Class 1A playoffs at noon Saturday.
Kyle Johnson, 2, and the Imbler football team will host Perrydale in the opening round of the Class 1A playoffs at noon Saturday.

Imbler hosts Perrydale Pirates in playoff opener

Imbler lost half its starting roster from last season, all of whom were all-district players last season. 

It wasn’t a matter of if the Panthers would patch the holes, but when. 

It doesn’t appear that the Imbler boat headed to the playoffs is taking on any more water. After a 56-24 loss to Dufur in week two, the Panthers have won seven straight games, scoring 64 points per game during that stretch.

“We just needed to find out where the kids needed to be playing,” Panthers head coach Lee Lowe said. “The boys have made a lot of progress and bought in to the system. They understood it was going to be hard work, and they did it.”

The most notable change was moving junior Luke Silbernagle into the fullback role.

That diverted some attention off of running back Joe Griffin.

Silbernagle ended up running for 192 yards on 33 carries. He led the team in receptions with 28 for 445 yards.

“Luke took the pressure of Joe,” Lowe said. “Defenses had to think about him.”

The added wrinkle allowed Griffin, a junior, to run for 1,472 yards this season. He scored 30 touchdowns on the ground, while averaging 12 yards per carry. 

He also caught 25 passes for 661 yards and 11 touchdowns.

Defensivley, the Panthers moved senior Kyle Johnson, the team’s quarterback, into the secondary.

“Kyle is a great athlete,” Lowe said. said. “We needed some height in the secondary, and Kyle was the perfect fit.”

The Perrydale Pirates are hoping to reopen those holes in the ship in the opening round of the Class 1A playoffs at noon Saturday.

“They have a very good coaching staff,” Lowe said. “There’s also a lot of history in that program. Rankings and those things don’t matter when the game starts.”

Perrydale finished second in Special District 1 with a 4-1 record, but the Pirates didn’t win much out of the district, going 5-4 overall.

Perrydale also lost to Dufur this season, 54-8. The Pirates had a close game against Pine Eagle, 40-26, a game the Panthers won 62-0.

The one thing about the rankings that does matter before the game is home-field advantage.

Imbler is No. 3 in the state, which means No. 13 Perrydale will make its way east for the game.

Lowe likes that fact, but is still trying to figure out the forecast.

“I’m not sure if it’s going to rain or not,” Lowe said. “That can make a big difference in how the game is played.”

Rain or shine, the Panthers should be fine. 

Imbler ran a run-balanced attack this season. The Panthers ran the ball 345 times, but a lot of those carries came with large leads in the second half. 

Johnson threw the ball 166 times for 1,799 yards this season, completing 60 percent of his passes.

Later in the season, Johnson showed that he could use his legs to move the chains as well. The signal-caller ran for 413 yards on 44 carries with six touchdowns.

“Our goal is to be balanced as possible,” Lowe said. “You want the defense to have to think about every possible option you can throw at them. 

“If it does rain, we’ll still keep to that mindset.”

Johnson proved he could during a downpour against Powder Valley. He completed 8-of-10 passing for 298 yards with four touchdowns.