PANORA — The playoff system in Iowa has been changed for, at least, the next two years, and for Class 1A schools, among others, the road to the postseason is now much more problematic.
Panorama was 9-2 overall last season, losing for the second consecutive campaign in the second round of the playoffs after outscoring their opponents by a combined 394 (35.8 ppg) to 205 (18.6). That second round will now be the first, as instead of the top four teams in eight districts qualifying for the postseason, only the winner and runner-up in each of the seven eight-team districts will advance, along with two at-large teams determined by a points system.
“I think we can be a playoff team, if we can come together quick enough,” veteran Panther head coach Lyle Alumbaugh said Tuesday. “There are some good teams in our district, but I believe we are going to be one of them.”
Panorama will be joined by Eagle Grove, Madrid, NW Webster, Ogden, South Hamilton, Van Meter and WCV in the newly reconstituted 1A District 6. The Panthers open their season Friday at Des Moines Christian before hosting Woodward Academy Sept. 2 in their two non-district contests.
The team ran for 45 touchdowns and 2,417 yards last year while passing for nine scores and 1,256 yards while the defense intercepted 17 passes and recovered nine fumbles.
Replacing huge chunks of the offensive numbers is the task at hand, as the leading returning rusher will be Matt Webner, who ran for 236 yards and two scores on 25 carries while catching one TD on eight receptions for 71 yards.
The only other offensive weapon with mentionable numbers who returns is senior wideout Levi Leiferman, who snagged 36 aerials for 536 yards and four scores. He, however, will miss at least two games, with Dalton Bennett — a key piece along both lines — also likely to miss some time with an injury.
Freshman Luke South will be handed the quarterback duties and will have to adjust to the varsity level on the fly. Brody Rickheim and Webner will be in the backfield or possibly the slot position, with Blaine Barber and Trey Cobb seeing offensive duties as well.
Ethan Hupp will be given the nod at center, with some combination — the status of Bennett effecting the lineup — of Victor Barrosa, Jeremy Randol, Nick Parker and Daniel Jensen likely to play up front, as may Colton Sloss and Justin Rolfes.
Sloss and Jensen will start at tackle on defense, with Randal and Rolfes the likely choices at defensive end. Webner and Cobb will go at outside linebacker, with Rickheim and Gunnar Grunsted in the middle. Grunsted’s 39.5 tackles was second on the team last year and is the tops among the returning players, with Bennett having made 35 stops.
Leiferman was an INA First Team All-State defensive back last season. He led the state as a sophomore with nine interceptions but had just five picks last year as teams, wisely, avoided throwing in his direction.
South, Spencer Hunt and Barber will battle for corner back time, with Garrett Simmons or Tanner Godfrey going at safety.
“I don’t want to be too committed to anything right now,” Alumbaugh cautioned. “We have a lot of guys who are going to see a lot of playing time, but it may take a game or two for it to work itself out.”
If it does, expect another season of playoff football in Panora.
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