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Program deserves praise for grueling sectional drive

Program deserves praise for grueling sectional drive
Program deserves praise for grueling sectional drive
Members of the senior class pose with the sectional trophy after beating Heritage Hills, 13-12. The 18 seniors are, front row from left, Lucas Windell, Jordan Crosier, Jeremiah Windell and Greg Carver; second row, Harrison Rinzel, Miles Walker, Nick Lawton, Austin Bray, Jeffery Durham and Josh Pare; back row, Jackson Wilkerson, Taylor Wolfe, Houston Janusz, Robert Rogers, Nick Schroeder, Thomas Pickman, Ben Aich and Tyler Fessel. Photo by Brian Smith (click for larger version)

Sectional champs.
Coach Darin Ward and his Corydon Central football players never shied away from talking expectations before, during and at the current moment of the 2011 season.
Now, for the first time in school history, the football team, packed with 18 dedicated seniors, can say they are sectional champs.
As the trophy sat aimlessly in the Corydon Central press box during the pre-game Friday, that piece of hardware had a much bigger meaning when the fourth-quarter clock hit 0:00.
Celebration ensued. Hugs from parents, brothers, sisters, girlfriends, former players and other appreciative people greeted the players and coaching staff after the Panthers upended Heritage Hills, 13-12.
The Patriots, winners of 11 sectional titles dating back to 1996, had to watch the Panthers glow with pride as they witnessed history made at the soggy Corydon Central field.
There were so many hugs and tears of joy that it took several minutes to realize assistant principal Jerry Hickey was holding the sectional trophy in one hand and a microphone in the other. Taylor Wolfe was the first to reach Hickey, ready to wrap his arms around the prize.
After the announcement, yet another boisterous, well deserved celebration.
‘I couldn’t be more proud of this team,’ Wolfe, a senior, said.
Some may have had doubts after two Mid-Southern Conference losses at the tail-end of the regular season. Just like any sport, it is tough to go undefeated, and the Panthers came up short in pulling it off.
A narrow loss at Charlestown on Sept. 30 and another at Brownstown Central on Oct. 14 knocked the Panthers from a chance at a share of the conference title. One of the expectations was to win the conference, and they came up just short.
The mood at field level after the loss to the Braves to end the regular season was a variety of emotions. Sure, there was anger and disappointment, but, in a larger sense, one could see determination and focus on the next goal ” sectional.
A week later, the Panthers proved they were the better team, whipping the Braves, 35-13, in front of the Corydon faithful. Then came the revenge game at Charlestown. A two-minute game-winning drive ensured a spot at the sectional final.
‘I hate to say it, but losing a game may have helped,’ Ward said after Corydon Central beat Heritage Hills Friday, 13-12. ‘I think Charlestown was a good team, and we didn’t play well. Going up to Brownstown opened our eyes up that we needed to make some changes and refocus.’
Then came Friday.
Against a historically strong Heritage Hills team, the Panthers caught breaks and took advantage. There were two fumbles by the Patriots and two eventual game-breaking missed PATs from Heritage Hills. Corydon Central went up 13-0 when Jeremiah Windell had a long touchdown sprint to the end zone to start the second half. From that point, the Panthers held on.
‘We represent the town, the school, and we finally got one for coach Ward,’ Windell said. ‘It means a lot to me and a lot of these guys.’
The effort and determination during the postseason run cannot be questioned about these players, including the 18 seniors. Through three games, penalties have been limited, while the Panthers have yet to turn the ball over.
‘That right there is the key component in being successful and being focused,’ Ward said.
It all comes down to work and dedication. That’s what builds not only sectional contenders, but champions.
‘Our hardest-working kids are our best football kids, and our best football players are our hardest-working kids. There is a direct correlation to that,’ Ward said.
The ride isn’t over yet.
The Panthers, one of eight teams left in Class 3A, will board a bus Friday afternoon and head to Evansville to take on Memorial in the regional. While the Tigers may not have a gaudy record (7-5), they play in the tough Southern Indiana Athletic Conference.
While the celebration continued Friday night, there is no doubt this team will be refocused and ready to tackle Memorial come 8 p.m.