Stout Panther ‘D’ stops Rams
Class 2A No. 4 Paoli’s defense has been stout, posting 10 shutouts and boasting an undefeated regular season record, dating back to October 2008.
However, the Rams’ defense met its match Friday when Corydon Central visited Paoli and lit the scoreboard for 21 points. The Class 3A No. 14 Panther defense was up to the task of shutting down the Rams, giving up just 104 yards of offense. The end result was a 21-3 victory for the Panthers, who are surging toward the sectional tournament.
‘This is the type of game we need to play as a team heading toward the tournament,’ Corydon Central coach Darin Ward said. ‘We hadn’t played a closer game since Brownstown. It was good to get a tournament atmosphere against a good team on the road. Paoli is a good football team. They haven’t lost a regular season game since 2008 and were defending regional champion in 2A last year. It’s a good victory for us.’
The defense for Corydon Central was key to the victory. Jeremiah Windell intercepted a Tanner Wroblewski pass on Paoli’s opening drive. Trevor Axsom turned around and picked off Panther quarterback Chase Burton on Corydon Central’s first offensive possession.
Paoli cracked the scoreboard in the early stages of the second quarter. Garrett Shepard split the uprights on a 38-yard field goal, giving Paoli its only lead of the game at 3-0.
Corydon Central quickly responded back with a nine-play scoring drive. Jeremiah Windell carried the ball seven times on the drive, pushing the ball to the 19. Burton then tossed a 19-yard touchdown pass to Brandon Dunaway at the front left pylon with 3:30 left in the half.
Paoli moved the ball late in the quarter, to inside the 30. On a fourth-and-five with 30 seconds left, Wroblewski threw an incomplete pass, turning the ball over on downs.
‘We got better in the second quarter, to only give up a field goal and to get that big fourth down stop was good for us,’ Ward said. ‘I think our kids got used to the speed and the patience in the alleys with the quarterback keeping the ball on the veer.’
The second half was all Panthers. Paoli was held to four yards of offense and ran just 10 plays.
‘This was the best football game they’ve played all year, a good first half and a real solid second half,’ Ward said.
Corydon Central elected to punt on a fourth-and-one at its own 44 in the third quarter. Dunaway’s punt pinned the Rams at the 17, but the next play was a momentum swinger. Paoli fumbled the ball, and it was pounced on by Lucas Windell, his first play back from being escorted to the sideline the drive earlier after an injury.
With the field position, Corydon Central was able to punch it in. Burton ran consecutive quarterback sneaks to cap the drive, including one on a fourth-and-inches. The second was for a touchdown, when he extended the ball beyond the goal line and over the top of the Paoli defensive line.
Paoli went three-and-out on its next two drives, while Corydon Central chewed the clock with long drives.
The first was a scoring drive that featured two explosive plays. Facing a second-and-17, Corydon Central unloaded a long pass play to Tyler Ross, covering 30 yards. Seth Rennirt followed with a 19-yard run, putting the Panthers in the red zone.
Jeremiah Windell capped the drive with a three-yard run up the middle, pressing the Panther lead to 21-3.
‘We kind of said if we took a snapshot of the first half and continue it in the second half, we would be fine,’ Ward said. ‘To get a key turnover and to finish that off with Chase’s touchdown. We then took time-out on that last drive to think the play over. We originally called a pass, but our line said, ‘Let’s just run the ball,’ and we did it.’
Corydon Central held the ball for all but one minute of the fourth quarter. Austin Bray highlighted the final drive of regulation that started at the Panthers’ own 16. He ran the ball six times for 33 yards, guiding the Panthers to inside the Rams’ 20. By the time the Panthers moved the ball down the field, time eventually expired, launching the Panther bench into celebration.
‘We chewed seven minutes off that last drive; we picked up first downs we had to have,’ Ward said. ‘We had some key stops defensively. We knew they weren’t going to beat us throwing the ball. It was just a matter of stopping the mid-line veer and the quarterback.’
Lucas Windell, among the state leaders in tackles, led the team with 12. Jeremiah Windell led the Panther offense with 91 yards on 18 carries. Rennirt finished with 17 carries for 80 yards.
Paoli (6-1) finished the game with 98 rushing yards.
‘I was proud of our staff,’ Ward said. ‘We came into the game offensively and defensively with a plan, and our kids had confidence in the plan. Last year, playing these guys, there was a lot of confusion, which a lot was brought on by us, the coaches. We had a simple game plan and stuck to it and let the kids play.’
The Panthers improved to 6-1 and will return to Mid-Southern Conference play Friday when they travel to play winless Salem at 7 p.m.