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Corydon Central’s Mitch Akers stretches and pulls in an interception during the first half of a 24-16 win in Paoli Friday night. Photo by Brian Smith (click for larger version)

Corydon wins battle of unbeatens

Showdown vs. Charlestown looms Friday

September 26, 2012 | 09:58 AM

For the third consecutive year, when Corydon Central met with Paoli on the gridiron, the Rams entered undefeated and left with a loss.

The streak stayed intact Friday when the Panthers came away with a 24-16 win in Paoli.

Class 3A No. 5 Corydon Central gained an early upperhand, pulling ahead 17-0, before the Class 2A No. 11 Paoli offense could pick up a first down.

Mid-Southern Conference showdown
Who wins Friday's battle of the unbeatens in the Mid-Southern Conference.
Corydon Central by 6 or less
Corydon Central by 7 or more
Charlestown by 6 or less
Charlestown by 7 or more
On Paoli's second possession, its first play resulted in a fumble that Corydon Central lineman Justin Yates pounced on. Despite field position 18 yards from the end zone, penalties and a bad snap hampered moving forward. A 16-yard pick-up on a Chase Burton pass to Brayden Lander moved the ball to the 30.

It set up Cory Thomas nailing a 47-yard field goal, tying a school record (Kerry Zimmerman in 1978 and Jason Becker in 1993). Even more amazing about the kick was Thomas inadvertently left his tee on the sidelines, thus booting the ball off the ground a la college and NFL kickers.

"He had the wind behind him, which helped him out," Corydon Central coach Darin Ward said. "Getting the field goal, getting points after showing success with the offense, gave us something to show for our effort."

Penalties also hurt Corydon Central's initial drive.

Following the field goal, Corydon Central's defense came up with another turnover. Paoli's first play on its next drive was a Tyler Line pass that was intercepted by Mitch Akers down the left sideline.

With momentum, Burton connected with Dylan Jensen on big pass play, then 11-yard runs from Alex McAfee and Burton advanced the ball down field. The drive ended when Burton connected with Tyler Ross for a 21-yard touchdown pass.

It's the sixth consecutive game Burton-Ross have combined for a passing TD.

Paoli's veer offense struggled early, punting on its fourth possession after three plays.

Corydon Central extended the lead to 17-0 with a 13-play, 64-yard drive capped by a Burton 1-yard sneak. The signal caller also picked up a key fourth-down conversion on the drive, picking up just enough yards to satisfy the chains at the 19-yard line.

Ward complimented the improved play of the Panthers defense.

"It's nice to see us play more physical on the line of scrimmage," Ward said. "Our linebackers really are coming into their own, playing downhill with confidence. We have confidence in our secondary, including Akers making a big pick."

Paoli was held to 172 yards rushing, which made up the Rams entire offense due to an 0-for-6 night for passing.

A bulk of the 172 yards came on one play. Paoli's Garrett Strange took a pitch on a sweep, made it through the line of scrimmage, zig-zagged near midfield to eventually race 62 yards for a score.

The play cut Corydon Central's lead to 17-7 with 6:37 before halftime.

"We got 10 points, then to 17, we're feeling good," Ward said. "But we gave up one big play before the half, lacking some backside pursuit on the sweep play, really gave (Paoli) life."

Paoli drove the ball inside the 10 before the half, but an incomplete pass on fourth down turned the ball over.

A downpour of rain to start halftime wasn't friendly to the Paoli marching band and fans, soaking everyone in attendance. The brief shower only lasted during the halftime, but it soaked the field.

Paoli caught a break after Corydon Central's first drive of the new half stalled. A muffed punt allowed Paoli's Aaron Key to advance the ball to the Corydon Central 9-yard line.

Corydon Central stuffed a pair of running attempts then a fumbled snap forced the Rams to settle for a Strange 30-yard field goal.

"The three-and-out then a poor punt gives them the ball at the 9 and put our defense in a tough spot," Ward said. "Holding them to a field goal was big. You run the defense out there, not expecting to defend the goal line, but they did."

Paoli pulled within one point, 17-16, when it scored on a drive that started in the third quarter and rolled into the fourth. Luke Becht punched in the score from the 3.

Firing back, Corydon Central scored on its next drive with a big play in the run game. Shane Brown took a carry up the middle, split the Rams defense and headed for paydirt. The 60-yard scamper launched Corydon Central to the eventual final score, 24-16.

"That's staying true to what we have to do," Ward said of the run. "We have to pound the ball in there and wear defenses out. It was pounding lead up the middle, and he broke it. We can't allow teams to just play coverage."

Ward added that he sees the confidence in the offensive line improving, and it paid off in aiding Brown to the score.

McAfee led the Panthers in rushing with 76 yards on 18 carries, while Brown contributed 63 yards.

Burton continues his stellar season statistically, completing 15 of 26 passes for 171 yards. He currently sits sixth in the state in passing yards with 1,469.

Ross caught eight balls for 93 yards and is tied for fifth in the state with 615 receiving yards. Akers snagged two balls for 31 yards.

The Panthers defense was led by Yates with eight tackles. Jensen had an interception before the first half ended, while Jason Wisman and Steven Sallee had a sack each.

Up next for Corydon Central will be another battle of unbeatens, this time with the Mid-Southern Conference top spot on the line when Charlestown visits Friday at 7 p.m.

"We know them well, but we may be a little bit different than they are used to seeing from us the last couple years," Ward said. "It'll be a big challenge. They're ranked third in the state and power rankings are in top 50 of the state."

The Pirates lead the state in points per game, averaging 60.8.

"They have a talented quarterback, and they'll fly around defensively," he said. "It's good to see the Mid-Southern playing well and getting recognition around the state."

Charlestown won the regular season meeting last year, 21-19, while Corydon Central won in the sectional semi-final 33-28.

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