Creston/O-M (1-6) football opens postseason play Friday against district foe Class 3A No. 7 Lewis Central (5-1). The matchup for the Panthers poses a tough one, but will be the second go around between the Titans and Panthers (Week 3, Sept 11. 34-7 loss).
Creston/O-M head coach Brian Morrison said the game plan will draw similarities from the one in Week 3 against the Titans, with the Panthers closing up defensive “C and B” gaps to prevent the run.
Morrison mentioned the success of the Titans moving the ball on the ground as one area of focus for the Panthers. The Titans ran for 194 yards in Week 3, with Logan Katzer being the leading rusher at 136 yards.
In Week 3, the Panthers trailed by three at 10-7 through the first quarter before the Titans pulled away. With “big plays” being a back breaker for the Panthers at times, Creston/O-M has limited long-distance plays in prior weeks and kept opponents within reach (have lost three games by one score).
Morrison mentioned the need to limit long-distance plays from the Titans, who have the ability to be explosive on all parts of the field. One aspect that can counter those plays is Creston/O-M’s special teams, which can make the field and each drive longer for LC.
On special teams, the Panthers are one of the better punting teams. With Derek Paup as the punter, the Panthers average 36.9 yards per punt (38 punts made). Last week the Panthers had a kick return for a score called back due to a blindside block.
With the return of Brance Baker in the lineup, Morrison also thinks it will help the secondary and offense. Baker missed time after suffering a shoulder injury in the second quarter against Lewis Central.
Since his return in Week 6 against Harlan, he’s had nine receptions for 102 yards and has intercepted one pass which was returned for a touchdown. Baker, a senior, will be one of many players on the Panthers who will embark on their final postseason for Creston/O-M football.
Baker is second overall on the team in receiving with 159 yards on 14 catches. The leader for the Panthers is Colby Burg, who has 266 yards on 24 catches. Burg has the high in receiving touchdowns with two.
Creston/O-M has an three-man stable at running back in Gage Skarda, Briley Hayes and Garon Wurster. In that respective order, the trio has run for 184, 180 and 153 yards. Hayes has the only score among the three.
On defense, the Panthers are led in tackles by Wurster, who has posted 38 1/2 stops (12 solo, two for a loss). Avery Fuller leads in sacks with four. Colby Burg has six interceptions, which puts him tied for seventh in the state and second overall in Class 3A.
Lewis Central is led offensively by Jonah Pomrenke (1,103 yards passing), Katzer (693 yards rushing) and Thomas Fidone II (617 yards receiving). The trio have combined for 30 all-purpose scores. Defensively, the Titans have forced 12 turnovers.
Kickoff is slated for 7 p.m. in Council Bluffs.