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Experience, numbers on Panthers’ side

Experience, numbers on Panthers’ side
Experience, numbers on Panthers’ side
Corydon Central linemen and tight ends go through a series of one-on-one drills during a practice last week. Photo by Brian Smith (click for larger version)

The sidelines at Corydon Central have gotten deeper and rich with experience and youth.
Out this season for the Panthers is not only 17 seniors, but 25 freshmen. They make up a solid roster of 65 football players, a number Corydon Central hasn’t seen in many years.
‘With 65, it makes it tough to keep up with all the young guys,’ Corydon Central coach Darin Ward said. ‘It’s a good thing to have this big freshman class. It is the biggest freshman class in my time here. I think (assistant coach and former head coach) Jason Timberlake’s final year as head coach, which is the current senior class, may have started out with around 25.’
While the large freshman class is promising for the future, the senior class has its eyes set on continuing the success of the previous two seasons. Last year, Corydon Central posted an 8-2 record. Both losses came by seven points or fewer to Brownstown Central and Indian Creek.
‘The seniors now have been there, and they have become proud of what they’ve accomplished thus far,’ Ward said. ‘We hope to learn from (last year). These guys hopefully have realized how close they are to being at that level, not to just play with teams that are good, but beat them.’
Ward said there are big holes to fill in Seth Rennirt (13 touchdowns), Brandon Dunaway (eight touchdowns), lineman Daniel Shireman and linebacker Tyler Jones.
‘We’re going to miss those guys a lot,’ Ward said. ‘That is where we hope these juniors and seniors will step up and fill those voids.’
A more balanced attack will be part of the Panthers’ offensive firepower. Twin brothers and seniors Jeremiah and Lucas Windell will see time in the backfield. Both bring experience to the running back position, combining to rush for over 1,000 yards last season. Ward said a crop of younger players will see carries as well in Austin Bray and Alex McAfee.
‘Bray is a scat back that gives a different look and can hide behind linemen,’ Ward said. ‘McAfee is just a sophomore that will work his way into reps with the veterans.’
Quarterback Chase Burton returns for his junior year after throwing for 1,091 yards last season. He also tossed 16 touchdown passes and had three interceptions.
‘Chase gained valuable experience as a sophomore last year,’ Ward said. ‘We’re always working hard on him about his foot work and making better reads.’
Tyler Ross, a tall rangy receiver, returns as one of the top targets. Jeffrey Durham, making the switch from quarterback to wide receiver, will also be a pass-catching option. Mitch Akers and Tyler Fessel will see time at wide out.
Harrison Renzil is the team’s third-year tight end.
‘This year, we plan to get him more involved in the passing game,’ Ward said. ‘Last year, we did a lot of max protect with him. But he is our valedictorian. He is one of the smartest kids I’ve ever coached.’
One of the team’s big strengths will come on both sides of the line. Justin Yates anchors the offensive line as the center and is surrounded by experience in Jordan Crosier, Greg Carver, Thomas Pickman and Nick Lawton.
Defense has been key to Corydon Central’s recent success, and the experience of the front seven should keep that going.
Seniors Jackson Wilkerson and Taylor Wolfe are key on the defensive line, along with Yates and Crosier.
The Windell brothers play key roles at linebacker, with Jeremiah leading the team in tackles a year ago with 73 solo stops. Nick Schroeder, who Ward says has grown and matured, will also see time at linebacker.
The cornerback spots will see Ben Aich, Fessel and Bray.
‘We’re still looking for a free safety to step up,’ said Ward, who has been experimenting with Brayden Lander, Rinzel and Durham at the spot.
With the graduation of Dunaway, an all-state punter his junior year, the Panthers need to fill the gap in the kicking game. Bray and Ross have practice kicking, but the jobs are still up for grabs.
Overall, the Panthers bring back a lot of playing experience.
They enter the season ranked No. 9 in the AP media poll and No. 10 in the IFCA coaches’ poll.
‘Obviously, we aren’t going to hide from anybody,’ Ward said. ‘We’ve had success the last few years, and teams are going to give us a good shot.’
‘We hope to get to Brownstown in week nine with that game meaning a whole lot to our program and school. We want it to be for the conference championship,’ he said. ‘But, Charlestown returns a strong quarterback and Salem, in week eight, under (coach) Mo Moriarity, will be better than they were weeks one through three.’
It also begins in the first week. Ward cited opening opponent Perry Central as a team that plays tough physical football. The Panthers follow that game with a battle against county-rival North Harrison.
‘Our two non-conference games (Perry Central and Paoli) are going to be ranked in their respective classes at some point,’ Ward said.
The Panthers take the field against at Perry Central Friday at 8 p.m.