|Sat, Oct 25, 2014 02:17 AM
|Issue of October 22, 2014
August 27, 2014 | 09:26 AM
The newcomer on Corydon Central's schedule proved to be a tough one.
Class 2A No. 7 Southridge was coming off a sectional championship year (lost in regional to Paoli) and was waiting the arrival of the Panthers Friday night.
Although thunderstorms were an issue near Corydon, Huntingburg proved different. It was heat and humidity that bounced off the synthetic turf surface at Raider Field, calling for added water breaks during play.
Southridge's key returning player, running back Conner Craig, was a tough one to bring down. Doing most of his damage in the return game, Craig had three touchdowns, leading the Raiders to a 49-26 victory.
During a water break, Corydon Central running back Zach Mason gets a drink of water before returning to action. Due to the heat and humidity, players were given extra time to rehydrate during time-outs and stoppages in play.
"The one thing we wanted to do was keep the ball away from (Craig) because of his speed on the return game," Corydon Central coach Mike Spencer said. "We knew his return game could hurt us. We didn't cover punts well enough because he ran through two or three tackles."
Spencer, making his debut on the sideline as head coach of the Corydon Central program, had previously coached at Perry Central, the Panthers' traditional opening game. That series, which started in 1997, wasn't renewed.
Although Southridge jumped out to a 21-0 lead, Corydon Central eventually found some flow to the game. Josh Allen finished the contest with more than 100 yards rushing while reaching the end zone three times.
Four of the seven scoring plays from the Raiders were of 45 yards or more. Craig was part of three.
After Corydon Central's second drive stalled after one first down, trailing 7-0, Craig caught a punt by Alex Newton at his own 20. Darting to the right sideline, Craig eluded would-be tacklers before cutting back left to score an 80-yard TD. It would be one of two punt returns for a touchdown for Craig.
"It wasn't that our punters didn't do a pretty good job getting the ball down the field, but, maybe, we punted too well," Spencer said. "We got the ball down field, but gave him enough room to run. We could not fill the lanes well enough. It really hurt us. It's something we have to coach and our kids have to work on."
Corydon Central's defense had opportunities to halt drives by the Raiders in the opening quarter. Craig picked up a fourth-and-1 with a 13-yard gain leading to a play-action pass touchdown from quarterback Luke Stetter to Brett Nordhoff.
To go up 21-0, Southridge picked up a first down on a third and long then faced a fourth-and-5 at the Panthers 15 when the first-quarter horn sounded. Using a pass play, Stetter completed a throw in the flat to Guadalupe Perez for an eight-yard gain. It led to Perez scoring from the 2.
Corydon Central's first possession of the second quarter was impressive, despite starting running back Alex Newton sidelined with an injury.
The 72-yard scoring drive was led by Allen. He had carries of 12, 12 and 11 yards as the Panthers crossed midfield. A mix of Zach Mason, Jordan Watson and a sneak by quarterback Lannis Buck provided Allen some relief.
For the score, Buck ran a bootleg to the right and into the bright red end zone. The extra point, however, was missed by Mariah Jo Nye.
With the appearance in the game, Nye, a member of the girls' soccer team, became the second female to play for the Panthers. The first was Kathleen Trumbo, the first female varsity football player in Indiana, in 1989.
Southridge would add two more touchdowns before halftime.
Craig broke free from several tackles during a 45-yard run with 3:47 before the break. Then, with less than two minutes before halftime, Craig found pay-dirt once again. Fielding a punt, Craig returned the pigskin 64 yards, putting the home team up 35-6 at half.
"I really liked our intensity after the first part of the game," Spencer said. "We came back and moved the ball. We went out with our big strong unit and took it down to score. Once we got some momentum, we got in trouble with the kicking game."
Craig had another big run — 58 yards — to start the second half to put the Raiders in the red zone. Justin King finished off the drive with a score. Mitchell Munday had Southridge's final touchdown, a 65-yard scamper before the end of the third quarter.
Craig finished with 138 yards on eight carries, while Munday had two carries for 70 yards.
Corydon Central's offense started to find a groove in the second half, putting three touchdowns on the scoreboard.
Buck completed consecutive passes to T.J. Mathes for moderate gains. Nathan Schmitt, lined up at fullback, had a carry of 28 yards before slipping at the 6. Two plays later, Allen scored from the 1.
Continuing to work on the passing game, two possessions later, Buck hooked up with Mathes for a gain of 22 yards. Schmitt again sprinkled in a sizable run of 26 yards, followed by Buck picking up first downs with completions to Mason. It was Allen polishing off the scoring drive with a 4-yard run.
"The second half was good for us," Spencer said. "We got to work on our timing with our passing game. We found out we need to work on our blocking technique more. We had a number of times we blocked well and made decent plays. We're going to build on this and get after the next one."
Late in the fourth quarter, Buck had a run of 26 yards to pick up a first down. The game's final score was Allen trotting in from the 6.
Allen finished with 101 yards rushing on 17 carries. Schmitt had four carries for 64 yards. Buck rushed for 29 but was sacked four times, twice by Ross Eckert.
In the passing game, Buck completed 9 of 15 passes for 95 yards. His counterpart, Stetter, was 3 of 6 for 23 yards.
Mathes led the team in receiving with four snags of 51 yards. Mason had three catches for 38 yards.
Neither team had a turnover. Corydon Central won a pair of offensive categories total yards (329-312) and first downs (17-9), but it was the big plays of Southridge that proved too much.
Defensively, linebacker Jacob Wallot had 6-1/2 tackles for Corydon Central, while Wade Thomas had 3-1/2.
Spencer said the heat and humidity took a toll on the players. For the trip an hour west, the staff packed ice towels to help keep players cool.
"We have to get deeper," Spencer said. "Nights like this, you have to be. We have guys that are working really hard, but, when you are playing both ways on a night like this, there is only so much you can play. When we had to reach down in with our young kids, they put a good effort in, but we haven't had enough time to get them to the skill level they need to be. They will get there."
Spencer said he was proud of the effort to finish the game well.
"We build on all the positives, then learn from the things that got us in trouble," he said.
A rivalry game at North Harrison is up next for the Panthers. The Cougars, however, didn't play in week one due to inclement weather canceling two attempts to play at Crawford County.
Corydon Central has won the last five meetings against North Harrison, winning 40-6 last season.
Corydon Central 0 6 6 14 26
Southridge 14 21 14 0 49
S B. Nordhoff 17 pass from L. Stetter (G. Perez kick); S C. Craig 80 punt return (G. Perez kick); S G. Perez 2 run (G. Perez kick); CC L. Buck 13 run (kick failed); S C. Craig 45 run (G. Perez); S C. Craig 70 punt return (J. Ariza kick); S J. King 3 run (J. Ariza kick); CC J. Allen 1 run (run failed); S M. Mundy 65 run (J. Ariza kick); CC J. Allen 4 run (pass failed); CC J. Allen 6 run (J. Allen run).