Sluggish Panthers rally by Clarksville, improve to 4-0
It wasn’t the prettiest of efforts, but Class 3A No. 6 Corydon Central rallied from a halftime deficit to keep Clarksville out of the end zone in the second half to score a 31-14 win Friday night in Corydon.
Clarksville had its way most of the night offensively, tallying 370 total yards. Turnovers, however, became a problem in the second half for the visiting Generals.
Out of the half with a 14-10 lead, Clarksville looked destined to march down the field after recovering a fumble. Down in Corydon Central territory, Clarksville running back Christian Brown coughed up the pigskin. Scooping up the ball was Panther lineman Dylan Jensen, who raced by foes to the end zone to reclaim the lead for Corydon Central, 17-14.
Clarksville’s next possession resulted in another turnover. Quarterback Aiden McEwen launched a deep ball along the sideline that was bobbled by Panthers linebacker Alex McAfee, who then pulled it in for an interception.
Converting the turnover into points, Corydon Central drove 66 yards on five plays to score. Signal caller Chase Burton had completions to Brayden Lander and Mitch Akers before connecting with Tyler Ross for a 4-yard TD pass.
Corydon Central coach Darin Ward said he didn’t want to depend on turnovers, but rather stopping long drives much sooner.
‘You can’t rely on turnovers,’ he said. ‘They were moving the ball all night for 10-, 12-yard gains, then we don’t tackle when we need to. I told them after the game we have a tough stretch coming in the next few weeks. We will get beat handily given the effort we gave tonight moving into the next few weeks and the remainder of the season.’
Clarksville fumbled away its next possession when the ball was recovered by Akers. Set up with solid field position, 13 yards from the end zone, the Panthers scored quickly. Burton rewarded the Akers recovery with a 10-yard touchdown pass to the left corner of the end zone.
Corydon Central held on to the 31-14 lead for the remainder of the contest.
Ward, however, was disappointed in the effort his team gave, especially in the first couple quarters.
‘We were flat to start then kind of moped around and gave a poor effort,’ he said. ‘You can blame coaches; you can blame players. We all take responsibility for this.’
Only four plays were needed for Clarksville when the Generals zoomed 81 yards for the game’s first score. McEwen had a 24-yard pass to Nathaniel Jones that set up a 54-yard touchdown pass to Brandin Hardin on a wheel route.
Ward’s concern was a lack of a pass rush, allowing McEwen, who completed 14 of 21 pass attempts for 189 yards, time in the pocket.
‘There wasn’t much of a rush,’ Ward said. ‘I don’t know why you wouldn’t want to pin your ears back as a defensive end type player and go after the quarterback. They should have been excited for this type of ballgame.’
Corydon Central put points on the board early in the second quarter when kicker Cory Thomas booted a 42-yard field goal through the uprights.
Then, similar to the scores in the second half, a turnover led to Corydon Central points. McEwen’s pass was intercepted on the next play from scrimmage by Jason Wisman, who tip-toed the sideline to stay in bounds.
Corydon Central capitalized on the short field (21 yards) to score on a McAfee 4-yard plunge.
Clarksville responded by marching 67 yards in two minutes to take a halftime lead. McEwen tossed a 4-yard pass to Marquise Parrish as the clock read 0:00. The score gave the Generals a 14-10 halftime lead.
‘We let them walk down the field with two minutes to go,’ Ward said. ‘They went 70 yards basically due to our lack of effort. Their quarterback just stood back there all day to throw because our defensive linemen weren’t wanting to get a rush. It puts a lot of pressure on the secondary.’
The offense didn’t click early on either for Corydon Central. The Panthers’ first four possession came up empty, including a lost fumble and an interception.
Burton finished the game 13 of 18 passing for 141 yards while also rushing for 27 yards. Lander was the top pass catcher with 81 yards on six catches. He also had 10 tackles.
Despite the discouragement with the offensive and defensive lines, Ward lauded the effort of younger players, including junior linebacker Logan Behagg who had 12 tackles and a sack.
‘Logan Behagg is playing well, being sound and taking on a leadership role with the defense,’ Ward said. ‘Alex McAfee is sound and always making plays. He had a big pick running down the sideline. He always puts himself in good situations. Brayden Lander was more active tonight tackling people. Our leaders are our seniors, and they need to lead by giving effort. They didn’t do that tonight.’
Scheduled next for the Panthers is welcoming winless Eastern (Pekin) on Friday night. The next two after the Musketeers feature games against undefeated Paoli and Charlestown.
‘We have the opportunity to be a very good football team, but, likewise, we showed tonight we can be an average football team,’ said Ward, who picked up his 50th career win. ‘But average down the stretch will get us beat.’