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Corydon Central's Jordan Watson (23) returns a kickoff through a host of Salem defenders before reaching the end zone Friday night. The Panthers went on to win 20-14 on senior night. Photo by Bob Brann/LifeInCorydon.com (click for larger version)

Panthers end skid, drop Lions


October 16, 2013 | 10:29 AM

After being outscored 63-6 in two losses the past two weeks, Friday night was gridiron gut-check time on both sides of the ball for Corydon Central.

As the final horn sounded, consider the test passed: the Panthers took advantage of a couple of miscues by visiting Salem and Corydon Central's defense came through in the second half to fend off the Lions on senior night, 20-14.

Corydon Central (6-2, 5-1 Mid-Southern Conference) scored via special teams, on the ground and through the air — and almost on defense — in a key victory that kept its MSC hopes alive with one conference game left in the season.

"We tried to preach to our guys that (Salem) is good enough to get some yards. We just needed to get some timely stops," Corydon Central coach Darin Ward said. "We really played well in the second quarter. We stepped it up on fourth down and had some third-down stops on defense. It's good to get a win on senior night."

Salem (4-4, 4-2 MSC) drew first blood on its opening possession as it went 91 yards in six plays. Running back Brent Garriott's 46-yard run set up a 36-yard touchdown run by the Lions' quarterback, Jordan McNeely. Chris Bravo's kick made it 7-0 with 9:22 to go in the first quarter.

"It wasn't like we knew that play was coming," Ward said. "We made a defensive adjustment after that and took that play away from them and did a much better job in the second half."

Salem forced a three-and-out but was unable to move the ball and punted from its own 17.

Sophomore Jordan Watson received the punt at his own 45 and ran up the middle of the field. Salem's Storm Thomas was about to make a tackle when Panthers senior Jacob Michel made a huge block, freeing up Watson to scoot back across to the left sideline to the end zone for a 55-yard touchdown return. Thomas' kick knotted the contest at 7-all.

After stuffing the Salem offense on its next possession, Corydon Central mounted a 15-play, 72-yard drive.

Using a steady diet of running from Alex McAfee and Ben Woodward, and benefiting from a pair of Salem penalties, Corydon Central marched inside the Lions' 10 before the drive stalled. Ward called on kicker Thomas, who booted the pigskin through the uprights from 24 yards out, giving the Panthers their first lead, 10-7, with 6:14 left.

Salem was unable to do manage much offense and punted away on its next possession, giving Corydon Central the ball with 1:47 left at the Panthers' 23 yard line.

The Panthers converted a pair of third-and-long situations with runs by McAfee and Alex Newton, then Buck was flushed from the pocket and gained 10 yards to put the ball at Salem's 31 with 18.5 left in the first half.

From the shotgun, Buck connected with McAfee for a score from 26 yards out to put the Panthers up, 16-7. Thomas kicked the PAT to push the advantage to 10, 17-7.

Thomas squib-kicked the ball, which was touched by Riley Kalb of Salem and then bobbled by the Lions. Corydon Central senior Oscar Serrano came up with the loose ball at Salem's 25 with 6.1 seconds left.

Buck threw a frozen rope to junior Josh Allen, who was brought down at the five-yard line for a 20-yard completion with a couple of ticks remaining. Thomas kicked a field goal as time expired, making the score 20-7 at the break.

"That was a huge momentum swing for us," Ward said of the two late scores. "Sometimes when you struggle on offense, you get in that two-minute drill and things move quicker and it helps you out. We got that touchdown and made a nice catch, then squib-kick it, recover the loose ball and are able to get a field goal after a pass nearly to the goal line. You never plan on scoring 10 points in less than a minute, but that was a big momentum swing, especially since we got the ball to start the second half."

The only score in the second half came from the Lions, which had a 59-yard TD bomb from Jordan McNeely to Jason Zink. The PAT kick was good and trimmed the deficit to six, 20-14.

Corydon Central threatened once the rest of the way. Logan Behagg intercepted a tipped pass attempt from McNeely and returned the ball 52 yards to Salem's 15. Two incomplete passes and a holding penalty that nullified a 15-yard touchdown run by Buck, Corydon Central was forced to attempt a 45-yard field goal from Thomas, which fell short.

Salem's last gasp ended, thanks to a sack by Behagg and a team-sack between Behagg and Alex Newton in Panthers' territory.

Corydon Central rushed for 121 yards and passed for 61.

Buck was 4 of 15 with one touchdown and one interception. McAfee had two receptions for 35 yards and a touchdown, Allen had one catch for 20 yards, and T.J. Mathes had one reception for six yards.

McAfee had 60 yards on 18 carries, Woodward had 28 yards on seven carries, Buck had 12 yards on six carries and Ezra Paden and Alex Newton each had a pair of carries for 11 and 10 yards, respectively.

Defensively, Behagg led the way with three sacks, 11 solo tackles and one interception. Jason Wisman had 10 tackles, Travis Phelps had one sack and 7.5 tackles, Steven Sallee had five tackles, Mitchel Holton had 4.5 tackles and Shane Brown, McAfee and Michel each had four tackles.

"We don't give praise enough for the guys on the line, but they do a good job for us," Ward said. "Mitchel Holton got in there, Sallee played well for us, Travis Phelps came up big on a few plays, Jacob Michel and Travis Phelps both played well. It's good to see the seniors come out and play well on senior night."

Newton had five punts, with a long one of 44, for 178 yards.

With the victory, Corydon Central controls its own destiny in the MSC race as it heads to Brownstown Central Friday night with the hopes of upsetting the undefeated Braves (8-0, 5-0).

"I like going up there and playing games," Ward said. "I know a lot of people don't, but it's a great atmosphere and I know they'll have their guys ready."

Twitter: @_alanstewart

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Corydon Democrat, 301 N. Capitol Ave., Corydon, IN 47112 1-812-738-2211 email