The Elida Tigers playoff hopes became a reality Saturday when they earned their first state football playoff berth in the program’s three-year history.
Seeded sixth in the six-team playoffs, the Tigers (5-4) play at defending state champion Lake Arthur (6-3) 7 p.m. Friday in a rematch of their regular-season game.
Lake Arthur beat Elida 34-25 in a 6-man District 2 contest three weeks ago. Lake Arthur won the district title, with Elida finishing in a three-way tie for second.
“We’re excited about (making the playoffs),” Elida coach Clay Ferguson said. “Our offense is good, but we need to work on the defense and make different adjustments against Lake Arthur’s spread offense.”
Senior Angelo Rivera scored three times in the third quarter to help Lake Arthur overcome a 19-6 halftime deficit.
“They went over to a spread (offense) and we had a hard time stopping it,” Ferguson said. “The third quarter we were flat and then we picked it up in the fourth.”
Lake Arthur coach Jose Porras said Elida hurt the Panthers with big plays in the first meeting.
“We were in the red zone three times in that game and turned the ball over twice,” Porras said about the first meeting. “In the second half the kids just battled back and we kept chipping away before we were back on track.”
Ferguson said he rented portable lights for practice to help the Tigers — who played two night games this season — acclimate to playing under the lights.
“The difference playing at night, then during the day, is that it is cooler. It’s also difficult to judge the distance between people and the glare from the lights,” Elida quarterback Jordyn Tivis said.