It has been an injury-plagued season for the Crosby-Ironton Rangers football team, but the season is far from over.
The 3-4 Rangers (2-4 in Sea Range Conference) host the Eveleth-Gilbert Golden Bears (1-6), at John Davies Field 7 p.m. Wednesday.
On Oct. 12, the Bears upset International Falls 27-15 to create many scenarios for the Section 7, Class 3A seedings.
The top three spots are locked up with Greenway, Hermantown and Proctor. Virginia and International Falls play each other Wednesday. If the Falls and C-I win, C-I should get the fifth seed while Falls will get the fourth.
If Virginia wins, C-I could drop as low as seventh. According to Rangers coach Craig Johnson, there are many circumstances that could affect the post-season.
For Eveleth-Gilbert, just getting to the playoffs is all the momentum the Bears need. If they beat C-I, they'll make the playoffs. If C-I wins, E-G is done for the year.
It won't be easy for C-I as injuries have taken away any momentum the Rangers gathered early in the year. Coming off victories over Aitkin and Virginia, C-I ran into Greenway (7-0) and long-time nemesis International Falls.
After a win over Two Harbors, the Rangers once again ran into a tough Osceola, Wis., team and Proctor.
Starting quarterback Ben Baratto was knocked out of the Greenway game and missed the Falls game. Running back Steve Perpich missed Friday's game with Proctor and is questionable for Wednesday's game.
"Our reaction to the injuries hasn't been good," said Johnson. "We became demoralized and lost our swagger. We've shown at times some emotion and intensity but we haven't done that consistently."
The best case is everyone plays on senior night for the Rangers. If not Johnson will need one of his other seniors, or maybe an underclassman, to step up and take charge.
"We've been talking with our seniors," said Johnson. "We've had a tough time overcoming injuries from a mental standpoint, maybe not from a physical aspect. We've talked to the seniors to step up and play above their level."
They'll need that to overcome a dangers Bears team. Second-year coach Wayne Roberts has given his team a chance at the playoffs which makes them a scary team to face.
"They are employing a new offense which involves different formations," Johnson said of E-G. "They seem to have one back they like to go to. They line up in multiple formations to get him the ball.
"I wouldn't call them a passing team, but their special teams play has been very good. They've run two fake punts for touchdowns. They blocked a punt for a touchdown and returned a fumble for a touchdown on a kickoff last week."
The Rangers will need to get a passing game that has struggled all year off the ground. With Baratto out two weeks and still hampered with a deep-thigh bruise, Johnson wants to get the aerial attack efficient and explosive.
"We never really have gotten our passing game in sync all year," he said. "Part of that was Baratto being hurt. The last couple of games we've thrown better."
Receivers Nick Douvris and Bryan Brown will have to step up as will the offensive line. If Perpich can't go, then the passing game could be the key to a Ranger win.
win Northern Lakes
The Staples-Motley Cardinals could tie for the Northern Lakes Conference title for the first time with a win over the Perham Yellowjackets.
The Cardinals (5-2 overall, 4-1 in the conference) host Perham 7 p.m. Wednesday and only need to win to earn the honor. Perham (5-2, 3-2) comes into the game after blowing out Wadena-Deer Creek 53-14 Oct. 12, while the Cardinals knocked off Crookston 17-14.
The Cardinals are tied for the conference lead with East Grand Forks and Crookston, which play each other Wednesday. S-M beat both Crookston and EGF, but lost to Warroad.
Against Perham, it's usually a good match up and Cardinals coach Ryan Beachy expects the same.
"They're pretty decent," he said. "They're not as big as they have been in the past but they're quicker in their offensive and defensive lines."
The Cardinals will make some changes with their formations on offense as well as getting to the line and getting their plays off quicker to confuse Perham.
"We'll get to the ball a little faster," said Beachy. "Perham does some shifting with their linemen and we'll try to catch them off guard. They'll do some blitzing and we'll try to slow that down by going on some quick counts."
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