CEDAR FALLS, Iowa — Logan-Magnolia has waited 22 years to make its return to the UNI-Dome.
Panther coach Matt Straight knows that all too well. He was the star of the 1990 Lo-Ma team that won the Class A state championship in Cedar Falls with a 33-13 win over Madrid.
As a head coach, he's guided his alma mater into the postseason nine times. And on a number of those occasions, including this season, he's had teams he thought could reach the Dome.
Straight has been knocked out of the playoffs with a one-point loss twice and in overtime once. His last two teams lost in the quarterfinals.
“You get a little discouraged when you get a team that you think that you can get out there and do some things, and you keep coming up short,” he said. “But at the same time, the kids have been pretty consistent all year. We knew we had a pretty good shot at it.”
The No. 6 Panthers (11-1), who moved down a class this year, will meet unranked Hinton (9-3) in a Class A semifinal at 1:06 p.m. Friday. The winner advances to the Nov. 15 championship.
The Blackhawks will be making their first appearance at the UNI-Dome. After finishing third in their district, they won three consecutive road games in the playoffs.
In most years, this game would be played quickly because both teams have traditionally relied on a ground game. Lo-Ma uses a wishbone while Hinton runs out of a double-wing set.
But this season, the Blackhawks have also used a shotgun spread formation with dual-threat quarterback Morgan Wenzel. They're a physical team with two wins over No. 4 West Lyon.
Straight said his team needs to match Hinton's physical play. The Panthers are coming off a dominant performance last week, when they mauled No. 1 Woodward-Granger 46-14.
Running backs Paul Hutson and Caden McDonald, who have combined for more than 3,000 rushing yards and 50 touchdowns, led the onslaught. That duo, and a defense that leads its class by allowing 8.1 points per game, will be counted on again Friday.
“With us and our offense, we have to run the ball,” Straight said. “If we can do that with some success, we give ourselves a chance. On the other side of the ball, we have to stop their double-wing offense and get them back in their shotgun set and see if we can defend it.”