PANAMA - A pair of teams looking to bounce back from Week 10 losses - Afton and Panama - square off Friday night in a first round Class A football playoff game here.
4 The Eagles suffered a 41-28 loss at Ketchum that relegated them to third place in District A-7.
4 The Razorbacks were handed a 43-15 loss at the hands of Pocola in a game that prevented them from winning a second straight A-8 championship.
“The laws of physics kinda came into play,” quipped head coach Daryl Williamson. “They were bigger and stronger. It doesn't matter how much heart you have, when that R.J. Hershel (Pocola's standout running back) started rolling downhill, it was awfully hard for us to stop him.”
Hershel rushed for 293 yards and five touchdowns as the Hogs suffered their first district game in two seasons.
“Panama is good - I don't just don't know how tough their district actually is,” Gardner said. “They are definitely a football school and a football community. Not many Class A schools suit up 46 kids. We will have to play well to win.”
The Razorbacks went 10-2 a year ago, falling to Woodland in the second round.
Running backs James Ritter and Josh Moss have accounted for 2,4,84 yards and 31 touchdowns.
Ritter is the second-leading rusher in Class A with 1,457 yards (an average of 10.26 yards per game) and 21 TDs.
Moss has chipped in with 1,027 yards and 10 scores.
Quarterback Ronnie Shirey, a converted wide receiver, has thrown for 658 yards and six touchdowns with just two interceptions. He's completed 41 of 80 passes.
Travis Gilmore has caught 32 of Shirey's completions, netting 557 yards while scoring three times.
“It doesn't matter if they have 46 - they can only play 11 at a time,” Gardner said. “Man for man, I think we're pretty evenly matched.”
The Eagles have been led offensively by Shawn Free, T.J. Korb and Ryan Markes.
Free has scored 14 touchdowns and has two conversions while Korb has accounted for 10 TDs and three conversions.
“Coach Gardner does a good job,” Williamson said. “Their formations are crisp - they remind me a lot of us. They give you a lot of multiple looks, the trips, slot trips, run the I some and some unbalanced. That No. 4 (Korb) is a good player.”
Free also is one of the state's leaders in sacks with 19.
The winner of Friday's game moves on to face either No. 3 Woodland or Crescent next Friday in the second round.