No. 5 Panthers drop Paoli
‘I had a smile across my face,’ said Corydon Central senior Lucas Windell.
That smile came after the Panthers scored three touchdowns in the final 4-1/2 minutes of the first half. The scoring would hold up, as the Class 3A No. 5 Panthers defeated Class 2A No. 10 Paoli last Friday, 21-6, in Corydon.
The meeting was a clash of unbeatens and teams that put up a lot of points and don’t give up many.
It was a highly charged second quarter that put Corydon Central in front. A drive of 92 yards featured big runs from Windell. A 47-yarder was busted loose when Windell broke a tackle at the line of scrimmage. Following positive gains from Jeremiah Windell, Lucas capped the drive with a 10-yard run up the middle.
Paoli had spurts of big gains, including the next drive when Lee Wroblewski ran 22 yards for a first down and was followed by 15 extra yards when Corydon Central was whistled for a late hit.
The Panthers defense stood up to the challenge, landing two tackles for a loss to force a punt.
Two plays into Corydon Central’s next drive, quarterback Chase Burton threw a deep go route to Tyler Ross down the left sideline. Ross made the catch with his arms stretched, then beat the Paoli defense to the endzone for a 79-yard touchdown.
‘I thought he over-threw him on that score,’ Corydon Central coach Darin Ward said. ‘I thought it was 10 yards over-thrown, but Tyler accelerated and made a heck of a catch.’
Up 14-0 with 58 seconds left, Corydon Central looked to hold the Rams defense before halftime. Paoli then took a chance and aimed to score quickly, but the attempt backfired when Brian Wilson’s pass was intercepted by Panther cornerback Tyler Fessel. The senior streaked down the right sideline before being forced out of bounds at the 35 with 11.3 seconds left.
Corydon Central then made the decision to go for a late touchdown, which paid off. Burton found Jeffery Durham open in the middle of the field at the goal line for a score as the horn sounded. Austin Bray’s extra point put the Panthers up 21-0.
‘Fessel got the pick, took it down to get us in field position,’ Ward said. ‘Me being conservative, I wanted to run and try to kick a field goal. But we went with that go route when they were in cover three. Austin Bray, as the inside receiver, did a nice job occupying the safety; it left Jeffery wide open. And when you’re running wide open, sometimes those are the hardest to catch.’
Bray, like many of the Panthers, were excited about the final five minutes.
‘That gave us momentum going into the half,’ Bray said. ‘It put us in a comfortable position to start the second half. We were pumped up to keep going.’
Paoli opened the second half with a 65-yard scoring drive. It was capped by Wilson taking the ball in from the 1.
From that point, it came down to clock management and field position. Paoli put together one more strong drive, but it stalled at the 38. Corydon Central’s running game picked up first downs along the way to keeping the clock going.
‘I, literally, in the fourth quarter with six minutes to go, thought it was still the third quarter,’ Ward said. ‘There were some critical stops in the fourth quarter to force punts. We moved the ball a little bit, but we got the ball to midfield. It extended field position and kept the clock rolling.’
The Panthers went into the game knowing how the Paoli offense could be dangerous with its veer option attack. The key was to not give up big plays.
‘It hits so fast,’ Lucas Windell said. ‘We hit the first thing we see and hope they have the ball. You have to trust the guy next to you to make the tackle if the guy you hit doesn’t have it. Our line did a good job on both sides; they worked hard.’
Ward said the game plan was to expect Paoli to get first downs and move the ball but to look for key times to make big stops.
‘Paoli had a real nice game plan,’ Ward said. ‘These types of games, when teams are even like this, it comes down to either mistakes or big plays. We got some explosive plays. Our defense stuck with the ‘bend but don’t break’ tonight.’
The win moves the Panthers to 6-0, their best start in school history.
‘It feels good,’ Bray said of the record. ‘We’ve stayed together since flag football. I was a waterboy for guys like Josh Windell, and I just couldn’t wait to get to this point. It feels great to be 6-0, and we want to keep winning.’
‘I just want to cry because I love my teammates,’ Lucas Windell said. ‘We work hard and can’t wait for sectional time to show everyone what we got.’
Lucas Windell led the offense with 149 rushing yards. He had one catch for 13 yards while leading the team with 11-1/2 tackles.
Bray had 40 yards rushing, while Jeremiah Windell contributed 19 yards. Burton completed four passes for 140 yards and two touchdowns.
Paoli was held to 228 yards of offense, with 183 coming on the ground.
Corydon Central, which jumped to No. 4 in the Class 3A poll, will travel to Charlestown (4-2) Friday for a 7 p.m. kick off.