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Stalled drive, late fumble hamper Panthers in 20-14 loss

Corydon Central football coach Jason Timberlake didn’t need to say much during the post-game huddle after his team’s 20-14 loss to Paoli Friday night.
The players knew exactly how and why the squad suffered its sixth straight setback: they snatched defeat from the jaws of victory. Not once, but twice.
Two times Corydon Central was inside the Rams’ five-yard line and two times the team came up empty.
In a season where miscues have been magnified ten-fold, it was just another in a long line of growing pains for a club coming off its best season ever.
‘Mistakes in critical situations,’ Timberlake said. ‘By far, as an entire team, the effort on both offense and defense was better than it had been. But mistakes will kill you.
‘When you get the ball deep in their territory, you can’t afford to let up on a play and hope someone else picks up your man. You can’t fumble the ball. You just can’t make mistakes, period. I don’t care who the team is, if you make the mistakes that we’re making, you are going to get beat.’
One of the slip-ups came midway through the second quarter, when the club marched 40 yards in seven plays. With the ball at Paoli’s five-yard line on first and goal, and the home team leading 14-8, it looked as if the Panthers were going to blow the game open.
Instead, they blew up.
The team was called for a false start. Junior quarterback Josh Windell was sacked for a six-yard loss and injured his arm. Corydon was whistled for an illegal shift. Then it was called for holding. Freshman back-up quarterback Richard Armstrong was thrown for a nine-yard loss.
By the time the fiasco was over, Corydon was faced with fourth-and-forever from the Rams’ 37.
The Panthers punted the ball and held Paoli on downs. Then Corydon went three-and-out and punted back.
Five plays later, the Rams knotted the score when David Conley rambled in from nine yards out . The extra point try failed, which set the halftime score 14-all.
The visitors’ second possession of the third quarter ended in the game’s final touchdown.
Senior running back Matt Smith darted untouched through the heart of the Panthers’ defense and rambled 65 yards for the score, his second of the game. The PAT conversion try failed, however, which provided a glimmer of hope for the hosts.
Corydon mounted a long, 15-play drive that carried from the third to fourth quarters, and got into the red zone before turning the ball over on downs.
The home team’s defense forced a Paoli punt as Corydon took over at the Rams’ 39.
On the third play from scrimmage, Windell connected with Shaun Walker for a 24-yard pass. Jason Ward carried the ball nine yards to the Rams’ six.
But there would be no joy in Mudville: Windell fumbled the snap. It looked as if the signal caller fell on the ball to retain possession, but Paoli emerged from the pile with the pigskin to effectively end the game.
‘We should have scored there, and we should have scored before halftime. If we punch the ball in there, we’d be up at the half 21-8 or at worst 21-14. Again, mistakes in critical situations killed us,’ Timberlake said. ‘I see this game as one we lost. Paoli didn’t beat us. We beat ourselves.’
Despite the heartbreaking loss, there were quite a few bright spots.
Corydon’s Billy Saulman gave his team a 7-0 lead in the first quarter on a five-yard option run around left end. On the first play of the second period, he scored again on a 70-yard romp along the left sideline.
Walker gained 109 yards on eight catches. It was the first time a Corydon receiver had topped the century mark since 2001, when Nevin Dunaway picked up 104 yards in a 25-21 loss to Paoli.
The Panthers (0-6) will be on the road Friday night against another Patoka Lake Athletic Conference opponent. West Washington is coming off its third win of the season.
To date, the Senators (3-3) have defeated Eastern Greene (2-4), Paoli (2-4) and Springs Valley (1-5).
‘They are a good, solid football team,’ Timberlake said. ‘They always field good teams up there. We just have to avoid the mistakes and the big plays that always seem to kill us.’