Panthers defense up to task
Seven sacks, four interceptions and a safety.
That’ll usually get it done defensively, and it did Friday night for the Corydon Central football team.
On a night when the program honored its 50th season, welcoming back players from the 1960s to 2010s, the current Panthers hard-nosed defense was up to the task of delivering a win.
Offensively, Corydon Central struggled against Silver Creek, but an Alex McAfee touchdown run on the opening drive of the second half gave the Panthers a lead they wouldn’t surrender.
Holding Silver Creek to minus-21 yards rushing, Corydon Central defeated the visiting Dragons, 15-6, moving to 2-0 in Mid-Southern Conference play.
‘We played really well defensively from the second quarter on,’ Corydon Central coach Darin Ward said. ‘We put a lot of pressure on the quarterback. They were non-existent with their run game, so we knew it would be a lot of pitch and catch.’
Silver Creek’s lone scoring drive came with a short field late in the opening quarter. Needing to go 35 yards for the score, four plays of positive yards for the Dragons moved the ball to the 2. However, a holding penalty and a sack pushed the Dragons into a third-and-goal at the 20. Back-up quarterback Jake Meadors tossed a pass to Austin Hasting in the right front of the end zone for the score.
From that point on, it was nearly nothing but the Panthers defense.
With 3-1/2 minutes before the half, Meadors had a pass picked off by Corydon Central’s Oscar Serrano, his first of two on the night. His return, along with a face-mask penalty, placed the pigskin at the 8. Two plays later, Lannis Buck completed a pass to Brayden Lander, getting the ball inside the 3, setting up fourth-and-goal.
Kicker Cory Thomas came on and split the uprights from 20 yards out, putting the Panthers on the board. They would trail 6-3 at half.
Before the half, however, Meadors tossed the Dragons’ third INT, this time picked off by Shane Brown. On Silver Creek’s first drive, it was spoiled by a Lander interception of starting quarterback Brooks Howell, who would leave the game with a first-quarter injury.
‘We had some secondary guys in good positions,’ Ward said. ‘A lot of those interceptions, you always see the guy that got the pick, but it’s an underneath guy knocking a route off that causes the window to get all muddy for the quarterback. We told the secondary guys to play with patience and there would be opportunities for them to get some interceptions.’
Out of halftime, Corydon Central put together its best drive. McAfee had a gain of nine yards to start. A Silver Creek penalty for an illegal helmet contact (three would be called during the game, two on the Dragons) moved the ball to midfield. Facing a third-and-long, Buck connected with Lander on a vertical route to pick up 39 yards and a first down. The play, the longest gain of the day to that point, signified a sigh of relief for the Panthers.
‘That helped a bunch,’ Ward said. ‘If we get stuck there, we have to punt the ball still being down 6-3. It was a pivotal play and good check. Brayden signaled it because he felt he could get down the field, so it was a good senior move by him and throw by a sophomore quarterback.’
Three plays later, McAfee strolled four yards into the end zone to give the Panthers a 10-6 lead.
Seeking to keep the momentum, the Corydon Central special teams pounced on Silver Creek’s Bobby Haines after he muffed the kickoff, tackling him at the 5.
After a loss of three on a Brad Graham run, Meadors dropped back for a pass in the end zone. Seconds later, Corydon Central lineman Morgan Jones tackled Meadors from his blindside for a safety.
‘We had good kick coverage after the score to get them stuck down there around the 4,’ Ward said. ‘You stuff them a few times, then I cringe throwing it out of the end zone if I’m the other coach.’
Getting the ball back after the safety, Buck completed a pass of 16 yards to Josh Allen. Buck added to the drive with a scramble toward the red zone.
Once the drive stalled at the 6, the Panthers called on Thomas to convert his second field goal of the game. It was the first time since the 1988 season the Panthers hit two field goals (equaling a school record) in a game.
Silver Creek’s next possession was short lived. A pass to Drew Sherrow gained 40 yards, but the next pass was picked off by Serrano, his third interception in as many games.
Ward said he came away impressed with Silver Creek, a program in its third season after a lengthy hiatus. The scores were a stark difference from a pair of blowouts a season ago.
‘(Silver Creek) was a lot better than we anticipated as a staff upfront,’ he said. ‘We came into it thinking they would probably be the worst defense we’ve played so far, but they were, by far, the best. They played really well up front defensively, and their linebackers were tough to account for. Their effort across the board was probably better than our effort tonight.’
Meadors completed 11 of 23 passes for 161 yards with Hasting catching six balls for 80 yards.
For Corydon Central, Buck completed 7 of 11 passes for 98 yards. As a team, the Panthers tallied 242 yards after managing only 35 in the first half. McAfee led the running game with 68 yards on 17 carries. Alex Newton had 26 yards, and Ezra Paden had 21. Lander led the wideouts with 47 yards on three catches, while Cody Catlett had two catches for 28 yards.
Among the seven sacks registered by Corydon Central, two each went to Nathan Schmitt and Morgan Jones. Jason Wisman, Logan Behagg and McAfee had one each. Once again, Behagg paced the team in tackles with 8-1/2.
‘We’re playing sound. We are playing hard defensively,’ Ward said. ‘We were disappointed the way we played offensively because I thought we made major strides coming into the North Harrison game. We had a little let-down tonight upfront, but it allows us this week to create competition in practice to get ready for Clarksville.’
The Panthers (3-0, 2-0 MSC) will hit the road Friday in MSC action to take on Clarksville (0-3, 0-2). The Panthers have won four straight in the series, including a 31-14 decision last year.