Magical postseason ends
Extra bleachers brought in nearly converted the Corydon Central football complex into a bowl Friday night.
With more than 3,500 people packed in, the Class 3A No. 8 Corydon Central football team took a shot at defending state champion No. 1 Indianapolis Bishop Chatard. The visiting Trojans were too much for the Panthers, winning 38-6, ending a remarkable season for Corydon Central.
‘Tonight’s crowd, the support we had from our fan base and having it at home really showed what this season meant to not only our players and school, but also to the community,’ Corydon Central coach Darin Ward said after the game. ‘It was a hell of a run. Hopefully, it continues to lay the foundation for our program and the future.’
Chatard put together a 54-yard drive on its first possession, converting three key third-down conversions. One was a Max VanVliet completion to Daniel Wagner, who picked up 16 yards. Four plays later, running back Ryan Kleinschmidt scored from the 1 to give Chatard a 7-0 lead.
A few breaks in the first half went to Chatard’s favor.
On Corydon Central’s next possession, Lucas Windell returned the ball to the 34 to set up ideal field position. Attacking on the first snap, quarterback Chase Burton threw a pass over the defense into the hands of tight end Dylan Jensen. The junior appeared destined for the end zone, but when he was tripped up by Aaron Hepp from behind at the 10, Jensen coughed up the ball. Jensen appeared to momentarily recover the ball in the end zone, but it was knocked away by a Chatard player. Instead of a touchdown, the Trojans brought the ball to the 20 on a touchback.
Chatard used runs of 19 and 23 yards from Kleinschmidt behind his big and powerful offensive line to set up another score. VanVliet tossed his one of three touchdown passes, the first to tight end Henry Hill on third-and-goal from the 8.
In the second quarter, Corydon Central had another miscue, this one on special teams. Chasing a Jackson Wilkerson punt downfield, a Panther touched the ball, causing the ball to be alive. Chatard fought for the loose ball and retained possession near midfield. The Trojans eventually turned the turnover into a Hepp touchdown reception.
‘We never recovered from that,’ Ward said of the mistakes. ‘We talked through the playoffs that you can’t turn the ball over or make mental mistakes. A couple of those plays in the first half cost us any momentum we were trying to get going.’
Corydon Central was able to get on the board in the second quarter with a 10-play drive. A run of 22 yards from Jeremiah Windell advanced the ball beyond midfield. Chase Burton passes to Austin Bray (22 yards) and Tyler Ross (12 yards) set up the touchdown. Capping the drive, Burton used a quarterback sneak from the 2 to make it 21-6 at halftime.
The second half was all Chatard and its defense.
Corydon Central managed just 171 yards of offense, with much of it coming off the first-half scoring drive and Jensen’s catch. The Panthers were held to 40 rushing yards, paced by 44 from Jeremiah Windell.
‘We just got beat by a better football team tonight, no doubt about that,’ Ward said.
Burton was able to complete 7 of 15 pass attempts for 131 yards. Ross caught six of the passes for 31 yards.
Offensively, Chatard was able to move the ball downfield behind 167 yards rushing from Kleinschmidt on 24 carries.
When quarterback VanVliet had the ball, he was effective, completing 15 of 22 passes for 172 yards. Dan Wagner had the first touchdown in the second half, part of his eight receptions for 99 yards. Pete Hartley added a touchdown in the fourth quarter.
‘They go hard, play hard, just a physical team,’ Ward said of the Trojans. ‘They have a lot of tradition on their side. We hope to build the foundation they’ve got through our program.’
Chatard (12-2) advances to the state final Saturday at 12:05 p.m. at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, where the Trojans will face No. 6 South Bend St. Joseph’s (12-2).
Jeremiah Windell led the Panthers in tackles with 14 solo stops and also had two for losses. Jackson Wilkerson recorded a sack and three tackles for losses.
The loss to Chatard concludes the best season in Corydon Central (11-3) football history. The 2011 Panthers not only set the high mark for wins (11), but captured the school’s first sectional and regional titles in football.
‘It’ll hopefully bring our young kids on board to come up and realize we can be successful here and build a strong program,’ Ward said.
The Panthers started the season with six consecutive wins and, after Mid-Southern Conference losses to Charlestown and Brownstown Central, they found their stride.
In the playoffs, they knocked off Brownstown Central and Charlestown in rematches then backed them with a sectional championship win over Heritage Hills and a successful trip to Evansville to beat Memorial in a thrilling regional championship game.
As freshmen in 2008, the Panthers went 1-9. Since then, along with the return of Ward to the sidelines, Corydon Central went 26-9 the last three years.
‘It’s tough to put those guys into words,’ Ward said. ‘They never quit. We could have been out three, four weeks ago. Could have went out last week. Their desire to want to be successful and succeed has always been there. And it wasn’t something that started just this year. It started a long time ago with this group. Everything they accomplished this year, they deserved over many years of hard work and dedication.’
The Panthers will graduate 18 seniors.