Panthers strong, but drop opener
Halftime in Leopold presented two vastly different sidelines. On one side, Perry Central was fairly silent for much of the first half, after being held scoreless, while, across the field, the Corydon Central crowd cheered as the Panthers kept the Commodores off the scoreboard.
Corydon Central and coach Darin Ward were where they wanted to be at halftime, within striking distance of knocking off the Class A No. 8 Commodores.
Yet, in the second half, a tough roughing-the-punter penalty helped Perry Central fuel a 12-play, 82-yard drive to score its first touchdown of the game. The Commodores went on to win the first contest of the football season, 14-0.
‘We just need to clean up some of the mistakes we made,’ Ward said. ‘Our effort was good tonight. We can’t fault our effort, and I told our kids that. We have to build on that for next week, but this is still a loss. We can be happy about the effort, but it is still a loss and we have to go and correct things.’
Corydon Central opened the second half with a solid drive. Quarterback Dylan Harl completed consecutive passes ‘ an 11-yard strike to Garett Ross and a 5-yard completion to Brandon Dunaway ‘ to get things going.
The completions and a short run by Tyler Jones moved the ball into Perry Central territory. However, an offside penalty on fourth-and-one forced a punt. Dunaway’s punt pinned the Commodores at their own 18-yard line.
On Perry Central’s third play from scrimmage, Ross broke up a pass attempt, forcing a fourth-and-long situation. On the punt, Corydon Central’s Seth Rennirt ran into the kicker while going for the block, and was penalized, allowing a Perry Central first down.
‘We get that roughing the punter when we are set to get good field position,’ Ward said. ‘We came out in the second half with a great drive, picking up several first downs. Then, it turns into a field position game. Even if we don’t get anything, we punt and they are buried deep. We are always going to keep the ball around midfield.’
T.J. Hall then capitalized for Perry Central, breaking loose down the left side of the field for a 42-yard run, moving the ball to the 5. Quarterback Dakota Huff then carried the ball in from five yards out for the score with 3:28 to play in the third quarter.
On Perry Central’s next possession, a key pass play from Dee Jay Shaw to Hall for 32 yards prompted the Commodore’s second touchdown drive. Mickey Wilkerson later ran in from 2 yards out for the score. A successful 2-point pass put the Commodores up 14-0.
Corydon Central’s final possession featured a pair of completed passes to Ross, but the drive stalled on the Panthers’ own 43-yard line. It was the last drive of the game for the Panthers.
‘That is one of those things, with some inexperience and not being in some close games over the past couple of years,’ Ward said. ‘You get backed up and have to react positively.’
Ward said he knew both teams would try to grind the ball out on the ground. The Panther defense held their own for much of the game. Perry Central finished with 222 yards rushing. Hall gained 123 on 22 carries for the Commodores.
‘Perry is a physical team who is going to run the football,’ Ward said. ‘We took a bend-but-don’t-break attitude out there. We want to challenge guys at the line of scrimmage. We knew coming in that this was going to be the physical play we want to establish each week to prove we can play with teams like Perry.’
A trio of Panthers reached double figures in tackles, including Jones with 14. Lucas Windell tallied 12 stops, and Dunaway had 11. Jordan Crosier also came up with a fumble recovery in the first half.
The defense made a big stop in the first quarter when Jones read a shovel pass, stopping their opponents on fourth down inside the 20-yard line.
Offensively, the Panthers were able to move the ball but couldn’t find the end zone.
‘We had good field position all game,’ Ward said. ‘We had a fourth-and-short play and fumbled on the sneak. We ran a nice corner (pass) route, and I thought Brandon Dunaway was interfered with. You know, we had opportunities. I thought we ran the ball effectively at times. There was some really positive things on offense to take away, and our kicking game was real sound.’
Harl finished the game with 8 of 14 passing for 60 yards. Dunaway caught four balls for 33 yards, and Ross had three catches for 27 yards.
Rennirt led the rushing attack with 51 yards on 14 carries.
Corydon Central now prepares for the Big Cat Classic Friday in Ramsey against rival North Harrison. The Cougars defeated the Panthers 36-29 last season.
‘We’ll take this game (Perry Central) in for about 10 or 15 more minutes, then our focus goes straight to North Harrison,’ Ward said. ‘It is a rivalry game. We want to go into that game with an improvement on our mental mistakes and keep that physical mindset.’
Corydon Central 0 0 0 0 ‘ 0
Perry Central 0 0 6 8 ‘ 14
Perry Central ‘ Huff 5 run (kick failed); Perry Central ‘ Wilkerson 2 run (Hall pass from Shaw)