CAMANCHE, Iowa — Despite a strong season, Camanche is currently on the outside looking in.
Sitting at 19 in the first Iowa RPI rankings, the 4-2 Indians will need a good finish and potentially some help if they want to move into the top 16 and make the playoffs for the first time since 2010.
"I've been telling the team we kind of control our own destiny," head coach Dustin Coit said. "Win out, take care of what we can take care of and then we go from there, see where the RPI lands us and hopefully we can get in."
Some help has already arrived as Camanche got a big boost last week with the season debut of senior L.J. Henderson. Henderson had to sit out 90 days after transferring from Clinton but made his impact felt right away in the Indians' 28-12 win over Louisa-Muscatine. He ran for 63 yards and two touchdowns, caught three passes for 50 yards and led the team with 11.5 tackles at linebacker.
"It was an unbelievable feeling to play something you love, especially after waiting so long," Henderson said. "I go hard every practice, preparing for when I did come back. ... They put me in the best position possible to play up to my potential, and that's what happened."
Henderson transferred to Camanche over the summer — citing family as well as athletics and academics as reasons — and participated in offseason workouts but still had to sit out the first five weeks of the season. There was certainly an itch to get on the field, as Henderson even tried to get Coit to play him in some JV games.
It's added an appreciation for the remaining games on the schedule.
"However long we go, it's going to be rewarding playing in them, no matter what," Henderson said. "Even though I didn't get to play those first five weeks of games, these last few are definitely going to be worth it."
Also a standout basketball player, Henderson could have decided not to stick it out and turn his attention to getting ready for what is expected to be a highly anticipated basketball season. But in his mind, that wasn't really an option.
"Football has always been something I've loved to play. It's one of my passions, right along there with basketball," he said. "When I start something, I don't want to quit. Stick it out and the reward is always going to be worth it."
Last year, Henderson had 74 tackles and four sacks for the River Kings, so there wasn't a question about what he could add defensively for the Indians. But as he showed Friday night, he'll have a pretty big role in Camanche's offense as well.
"We knew what he could do," Coit said. "During the season, up to that point, even when he was on scout team, he was making plays, making our No. 1s look silly at times. ... We moved him around quite a bit, we had him in the slot, had him in the backfield a bit. He's so explosive and so fast that, we get him the ball in space and see what can happen."
Camanche currently sits in a four-way tie for second place at 1-1 in Class 2A District 5. None of its remaining opponents have a winning record, but the Indians know they'll be tested with games against perennial power Mount Vernon and last year's district champion West Liberty still on the schedule.
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But with Henderson fresh and motivated to get as much out of this football season as possible, the Indians feel like they pose a real threat.
"It's just another thing that teams have to prep for, and we're just glad he's eligible and able to play," Coit said. "Even without him, we're solid, but adding him, we're confident going in we can compete and win the last three.
"He's a difference-maker, a game-changer."
Henderson isn't sure what is next for him after high school. UNI looked at him in the spring as a potential football recruit, and he's had some interest from some smaller schools to potentially play both sports.
Currently, he's still undecided.
"That's the million dollar question right now," Henderson said. "It will be based off family, where I feel most comfortable and where I can have the best potential at the next level."
Playoff-bound?: The first Iowa RPI rankings were released Monday, and it could be a light postseason for the Quad-City area as just two teams outside the metro area are in the top 16 of their respective classes.
The RPI is calculated by combining 37.5 percent of a team's winning percentage, 37.5 percent of its opponent's winning percentage and 25 percent of its opponents' opponents' winning percentage. It's used to fill out the postseason field after the district championships have been decided.
Unbeaten Easton Valley is fifth in 8-player, behind fellow district foe Turkey Valley, which is ranked second. The two teams play each other next week. Midland is 21st but could move up if it wins its next three games.
At 3-3, Durant is 22nd in Class A while 4-2 North Cedar is the top area team in Class 1A with an RPI of 21.
The biggest cluster of teams with a chance of making the playoffs is in Class 2A. District 5 leader Tipton is 14th, while fellow district foes Camanche, Louisa-Muscatine and West Liberty are 19th, 20th and 21st, respectively.
With the district champion assured a spot, the other three teams will have some work to do to try and get into the top 16 and earn a second playoff berth.