Kingsley-Pierson soars past Ar-We-Va in playoff opener
KINGSLEY — Whether or not you want to put an asterisk next to it because of this year’s expanded playoff format, the Kingsley-Pierson football team did something Friday which they’ve only done once before — win a playoff game. The Panthers did so by topping Ar-We-Va 64-29 in the 8-player first round pod.
K-P Head Coach Geoff Olson said the team really wanted to grasp this playoff opportunity with all of the circumstances surrounding the 2020 season that have changed the landscape of football and daily life.
“We talked before the game about how the weird year with COVID took stuff away from us at the beginning,” Olson said. “We lost some players to COVID, but you lose something, you get it back and we got back this opportunity, with the postseason format now, to play our best ball when we needed to and we did that tonight. As weird as it has been, we have that opportunity right now, otherwise in the normal format, we wouldn’t be here.”
Olson, who is in just his second season as head coach for the Panthers, said he didn’t know much about the playoff history at the school. That’s pretty understandable as there hasn’t been much of a playoff history for the team. Kingsley-Pierson’s only postseason win prior to Friday came in their first postseason appearance back in 1981 as they went on the road and beat Albert City-Truesdale 10-6 in the 1A first round. The Panthers ended up losing in the semifinals 20-18 to Greenfield. That game was held in Kingsley as the semifinal contests weren’t moved to the UNI-Dome in Cedar Falls for another 17 years.
Kingsley-Pierson made the playoffs again in 1985, losing 42-0 to eventual 1A runner-up Maurice-Orange City. They were up a class to 2A in 1991 as they shared a team with Remsen-Union when they lost 46-8 to Emmetsburg in the first round.
Kingsley-Pierson never made the playoffs in 11-player football again, returning to the postseason in 2010 as an 8-player team and losing to eventual champion Armstrong-Ringsted 56-14 in the first round. The same opponent bounced the Panthers 38-14 the next year in the first round and the team’s most recent playoff appearance ended in a 52-14 loss to eventual state champion Marcus-Meriden-Cleghorn in 2015.
The nearly 40-year drought came to an end Friday as the Panthers scored a season-high in points against Ar-We-Va.
Quarterback Jackson Howe completed a pair of touchdown passes to Damon Schmid in the win. Howe ended 5-of-11 passing for 116 yards with three of the receptions going to Schmid who ended with 67 yards. Josh Harvey added one catch for 32 yards and Emerson Pratt, the team’s defensive leader with 7.5 tackles, caught the other pass for a 17 yard gain.
Schmid scored on a 75-yard kickoff return as the only other score which didn’t come in the rushing game.
Howe scored a pair of rushing touchdowns as he finished with 46 yards on 16 carries.
The bulk of the rushing attack was handled by Harvey who had 241 of the team’s 287 rushing yards and scored four touchdowns.
“We were doing our job, getting the blocks right so I could make my moves outside,” Harvey said. “We got really good blocks on the outside and it was our line that was doing everything for me. They were the ones allowing me to make the plays.”
Harvey averaged over 12 yards per carry in the game as he surpassed 1,000 yards for the season. The night included his longest touchdown of the season on a 65-yard play with 1:49 left in the third quarter on the first play of the drive after a touchback. The score set the running clock in motion for the first time at 57-21.
Ar-We-Va did answer on a 23-yard pass from Will Ragaller to Cooper Kock to momentarily disable the running clock with 7:23 left in the fourth quarter, but after K-P recovered the onside kick attempt, Harvey scored on the very first play of the next drive for a 41-yard touchdown run which put the differential back to a running clock situation.
Jackson Boustead intercepted a pass on Ar-We-Va’s next possession, one of three turnovers by the Panthers in the game along with a Grant Schroeder interception and Kole Reis fumble recovery.
While Olson liked the turnovers, he said his defense has things to improve on after giving up 29 points to a Rockets team which ends their season at 3-5.
“We need to limit our missed tackles,” Olson said. “We did a better job in the second half, but in the first half we had opportunities to hold them for a lot less gains than they got and we just tackled pretty poorly. Also, a couple things in the secondary where we let them behind us. They didn’t make the catches, but they had the opportunities.”
The Panthers (4-4) advance to play Newell-Fonda (6-1) in the next round. The Panthers lost the regular season meeting 32-22 and the team will look to avoid the slow start they had in the last meeting with the Mustangs.
“We had our opportunities in that game. We had three red zone trips stalled out in the first half and then got down there again the first possession of the second half and fumbled it, so we had four drives in the red zone that we got nothing out of,” Olson said. “We’ve really got to focus on, when we get down in there, getting those balls in the end zone. It will be interesting to see how we both adjust from last game. The chess game between coaches will be interesting.”
Harvey said the team’s experience against the Mustangs and the two other ranked teams the Panthers have lost against will be beneficial going into the rematch with Newell-Fonda who opened the playoffs with a 54-6 win over West Bend-Mallard.
“We’re looking forward to the challenge,” Harvey said. “It should be a good challenge for us. We’re excited to go out there and show what we’re capable of doing.”