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Panthers hope to repeat last year’s success

Simply put, the 2002 season of Corydon Central football was one for the ages.
The Black and Gold Brigade won a school record nine games and lost just twice while climbing to the 10th spot in the Associated Press Class 3A polls.
Along the way they recorded six shutouts, won by an average of 18.7 points per game, and recorded their first opening-round sectional victory since 1992. The only losses were to Brownstown in the fourth week of the season and to Franklin County in the second round of the sectional.
Prior to 2002, it took eight seasons ‘ from 1994 to 2001 ‘ to win nine games, with four winless campaigns in the mix.
So how do you follow the most successful season in school history?
Third-year head coach Darin Ward (12-9) says he’s not sure what lies ahead for his team.
‘Anything is possible. I don’t think you want to put pressure on guys and say we can go 9-2 again,’ Ward said. But he added: ‘We think we can win every game we play. We’re always going to play our hardest and to the best of our ability. Usually the team that makes the least mistakes and turnovers usually has a pretty good chance of winning. That’s what we’ve strived for in the last three years. Is nine wins possible? Sure. Is nine losses possible? Probably. You are capable of doing anything.’
Corydon, which graduated 14 seniors and has just eight this year, opens Friday night at Perry Central in Leopold. Kickoff is set for 8 p.m.
One of the biggest graduation losses came in the form of fullback/linebacker Jon Windell and linemen Michael Tuchscherer and Justin Albin, who were the epitome of Corydon Central’s squad in 2002: hard-nosed and gritty with a win-at-all-costs attitude.
This year, Ward says, it’s been a struggle to replace the leadership of Windell and the other seniors both on and off the field.
‘The toughest thing about this team is just getting them to work. We’ve got to block out that we’re good or think we’re good,’ Ward said. ‘They seem to think that just because we were 9-2 last year that we’re good. We have to get past that and start developing some leaders to keep people in check. We can go down to Perry Central Friday and get whooped again.’
Junior Alex Zimmerman is vying for the quarterback slot, vacated by the graduation of two-year starter Justin McPherson. A freshman, Josh Windell, is also competing for the position, Ward said.
‘The two guys we’ve got our eye on are Zimmerman and Windell. Zimmerman is a great leader, understands what needs to be done, but he has some limitations physically. He’s a little slow afoot and a little weak in his throwing arm. They’re things he’s aware of.
‘Windell has got pretty good feet, he’s athletic, got a strong arm, but he lacks that mentality of really understanding what we’re wanting to get accomplished offensively. In fairness to him, he’s only been with us for two weeks.’
The backfield won’t be completely bare, however. Two key returnees come in the form of 5-8 senior backs Corey Thatcher and Zac Robson, who combined for a slew of yards and touchdowns last year.
‘The thing this year is Thatcher and Robson are going to play together and be in the game at the same time. Robson may line up as a fullback at times, too. And when we need to give one of them a rest, we can bring in Jason Ward, who is one player I’ve been really impressed with in two-a-days. He’s a hard-nosed sophomore who likes to hit, has deceiving foot speed, and quicker than what he looks,’ Ward boasted. On the other hand, ‘He’s not going to bust a trap like (Jon) Windell did last year. People will catch him.’
Defensively, Justin Lynton, a 5-10 senior, returns to the lineup; David Terhune, a 6-1 sophomore, steps up from the JV level. Casey Tuchscherer, a 6-1, 225-lb. junior lineman, will likely be a focus of the opposing trenchers.
Other players likely to be heard over the PA system include junior offensive tackle Jon Huff, defensive lineman Richie Snyder, and junior wideout/defensive back David Bradstock, whom Ward calls the team’s best blocker.
Several athletes have made their way to the varsity football team, including sectional champions Brandon Wood (track), Tyler Williams (wrestling), Jonathon Robinson (basketball), and Kyle Savely (basketball).
‘We have some guys who have achieved things in other sports, and it’s good to see them bring their success and leadership and those types of qualities to this team. They’ve won sectionals and things,’ Ward said.
‘Kyle Savely, I guarantee every basketball coach in the Mid-Southern Conference except for Randy (Gianfagna) is pumped that he’s playing football and hopes that he gets hurt. He’s an elusive player, and guys like that don’t get injured. We’re probably looking at a wideout position or defensive back for him.’
Ward said the first four games of the season ‘ at Perry Central, at Clarksville and hosting Salem and Brownstown ‘ will go a long way in gauging how good the Panthers will be in 2003. The only thing that concerns Corydon’s coach in the preseason is the lack of competitiveness shown by the players in practice.
Hopefully, he said, it will change Friday night: ‘It’s kind of ironic and weird. No one would have given us a chance before last season, and now there are expectations on this team. People stop by now and ask how many we are going to win.
‘Two years ago, it was ‘Hey, are you going to win one this year?’ There’s some pressure there and, hopefully, the kids see that as a challenge and want to work hard to do good things for this school and this community.’