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Panthers no match for Daniel, Pirates

Panthers no match for Daniel, Pirates
Panthers no match for Daniel, Pirates
Corydon Central quarterback Chase Burton, center, pats the head of receiver Mitch Akers (44) after connecting for a touchdown pass in the fourth quarter of the PanthersÂ’ 49-6 loss to Charlestown in the Class 3A Sectional semi-final. Photos by Brian Smith (click for larger version)

The end to the 2012 football season didn’t go the way Corydon Central would have preferred the script to read.
Class 3A No. 2 Charlestown has steamrolled the competition all season, winning by around 50 points in each game. Friday’s Sectional 23 semi-final, a rematch of last season, was avenged by the host Pirates, 49-6, amid a dreary, cold and rainy night under the lights.
‘We came out kind of flat and had no answer for their offense,’ Corydon Central coach Darin Ward said.
It was a treacherous first half for the Panthers. Bringing down Charlestown quarterback Aaron Daniel was a challenge, while four turnovers hampered any offensive spark from Corydon Central.
Daniel tallied six consecutive touchdowns ‘ five rushing and one passing ‘ during the first 14 minutes.
‘We showed no capabilities of tackling Daniel or (Seth) McCutchen,’ Ward said. ‘I think we turned it over and gave them a short possession, and it opened up the floodgates. Credit to them, they’re a great football team.’
Charlestown’s offense was in sync when it hit the field. On its first possession, Charlestown scored when Daniel ran in from the 30. Following a Corydon Central fumble lost, it set up a short field and another Daniel score, this time from the 24.
Corydon Central’s best drive came down 14-0. Going for it on fourth-and-short near midfield with a Chase Burton quarterback sneak, the Panthers picked up the first down. The drive eventually reached the Pirates’ 34. On fourth-and-12, Burton connected with Akers for a nine-yard pickup, but he was wrapped up by a host of Pirates short of the first down.
Charlestown then drove the ball 75 yards for another score in less than two minutes, ending with a Daniel 6-yard TD run.
‘It’s just a blitzkrieg,’ Ward said. ‘We may have tackled Daniel three times in the first half but hit him plenty of times, but just wouldn’t wrap up. His desire to want to win and be successful tonight and all year long was a lot more than our desire to want to tackle him.’
Daniel briefly left the game in the first quarter with an injury but soon returned to polish off a drive with a 5-yard run to the right pylon.
The athletic Daniel scored again in the second quarter. When facing a fourth-and-14, he kept the ball on a fake punt, racing 47 yards up the right sideline for another score.
In all, Daniel ran for 163 yards on nine carries and completed 6 of 9 passes for 64 yards including a 20-yard pass to Tyler Odle.
McCutchen ran 18 times for 130 yards and a score.
Corydon Central’s offense was again stymied by the Pirates defense. They were held to 130 yards of total offense, much of it coming from Burton. The senior completed 7 of 21 passes in the rain for 104 yards.
‘They’re a great football team.’ Ward said of Charlestown. ‘I think people really underestimate how good they are defensively. They play with a lot of team speed and are physical.’
Charlestown had shut-out four of its last five opponents coming into the sectional semi-final. However, the Panthers were able to score with 9:45 to play when Burton connected with Akers for a 39-yard score. The touchdown would be the lone points for either team in the second half, which was accelerated with a running clock. Akers finished the game with five catches for 88 yards. Tyler Ross caught two balls for 16 yards.
Logan Behagg paced the defense with 12-1/2 tackles, while Justin Yates had nine.
The season started off well for the Panthers, who won their first six games, including victories over Perry Central, Clarksville and Paoli, all which had won their sectional openers.
Rough waters hit with a pair of shut-out losses to Charlestown and Brownstown Central.
‘We probably overachieved early in the year with our schedule, but we had a good week-one game then the win at Paoli,’ Ward said. ‘We won the games we were supposed to win. It’s tough. (Charlestown) may be the exception next year, coming off an 11-3 year, losing 18 seniors and only having eight (returning seniors). Inexperience and lack of depth and injuries hurt us down the stretch at running back and some other positions.’
Ward said it was difficult to graduate 18 seniors from the 2011 regional championship team then have eight seniors, some being limited role players, coming into 2012. The underclassmen were limited with varsity experience and it paid a toll down the stretch, Ward said.
‘8-3 still ranks up there with some of the better seasons we’ve ever had,’ Ward said. ‘This senior class won a lot of football games and played good football over the years. They set the standard for the teams to come.’
During the previous four seasons, all under Ward, the Panthers have accumulated a 34-12 record.
At halftime Friday night, Ward said he told the players to finish the game out strong, which he was pleased to see.
‘It’s to get our young guys to commit as we move toward the future,’ Ward said. ‘We’ve struggled this season, and I take responsibility for it. It’s been a year where we faced quite a bit of adversity with suspensions, sicknesses and injuries. Just making a commitment to be at practice toward the end of the year was big for us.’
Getting better from the experience is something the Panthers will look to do in 2013. Top playmakers Burton and Ross will be lost to graduation. Yates, a junior All-State performer a season ago, also will graduate.
‘We’ll get through this week, have a banquet in a few weeks and try to have fun with it. I’m bad when it comes to talking to seniors today, but I’ll have time next week to reflect,’ Ward said.
As far as the off-season, the coaching staff will tackle issues of strength levels and mental toughness.
‘We need to go hard in the off-season and open up competition,’ Ward said. ‘I’m ready to get better. We have glaring issues with strength levels and toughness. It starts with me and the coaching staff. We need to get physically and mentally tougher.’
Burton closes his career as Corydon Central’s all-time leader in several statistical quarterback categories. His 2,202 passing yards this season sets the mark. Career records were also sets for passing yards (4,897), touchdown passes (56) and interception-per-attempt ratio (one interception per 43 attempts).
In 2012, Burton tallied 21 passing touchdowns while completing 137 of 229 attempts.
Ross also entered the record books for setting the single season mark with 936 receiving yards. He also is tied for most receptions (50) in a single season. He also had 12 touchdowns. For his career, Ross caught 96 balls for 1,832 yards and 27 touchdowns.
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