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Panthers run by Paoli

Panthers run by Paoli
Panthers run by Paoli
Corydon Central defensive lineman Steven Sallee wraps up and pulls down Paoli quarterback Garrett Tolen for a sack in the first half Friday. Photo by Brian Smith

The Corydon Central Panthers marched into Cook Field with the intention to be physical. They succeeded.
The trip to Paoli, a team coming off three straight wins by an average of 39 points, was all Corydon Central. The Panthers pounded the ball in the ground and held the Paoli option offense mostly at bay to score a lopsided 36-15 victory Friday night.
Making it five straight wins, Corydon Central running back Josh Allen eclipsed the 100-yard rushing mark for the sixth consecutive game, also adding a pair of touchdowns to his resum’. The senior finished with 177 yards rushing on 19 carries. Fellow running back Austin Kopp had two scores along with 70 yards rushing on 14 tries.
‘They are both good runners coming over the ball,’ Corydon Central coach Mike Spencer said. ‘Their legs don’t stop. Our linemen did a good job. A few linemen came to me and said, ‘Come at us. Right now we can take care of business.’ And they did.’
Key to the start was the Panthers’ defense. They needed two key stops deep in Paoli territory in the first half to get going. On the Ram’s first possession, they marched the ball down field quickly before facing a fourth-and-goal at the 10, only to get stopped.
Capitalizing on the turnover on downs, Corydon Central hit a pass play over the top. Lannis Buck delivered a strike to T.J. Mathes for a 75-yard touchdown. The completion was the only one for Buck, who had just four attempts.
Paoli’s next drive was a long one again that was stopped on a fourth down at the 29. Linebacker Nathan Schmitt delivered a big hit on Paoli quarterback Garrett Tolen as his pass attempt fluttered incomplete.
Corydon Central later fumbled away a key drive to the red zone, but the defense quickly put the ball back in the hands of the offense. A punt return by Kopp to the 21 set up prime field position. Three hand-offs later, Kopp scored from the 6-yard line. A Schmitt run for two points put the Panthers up 14-0 at half.
All first half, Corydon Central was able to stop the normally potent Paoli option offense. The Rams, however, were playing without quarterback Brett Balsmeyer, who was out with an injury.
‘We played a really good game against a really good team and shows where we are at this point in the season,’ Corydon Central’s Alex Engleman said. ‘I think we bared down and did what the coaches asked us to do. It comes down to basic fundamentals. They are a good option team, and we wanted to be the more physical team.’
Inside linebackers Jacob Wallot and Schmitt were tough for the Rams to get past. Wallot finished with 14-1/2 tackles and a sack, while Schmitt had 11 tackles. Defensive lineman Steven Sallee was heavy in the action as well with 9-1/2 tackles and a sack.
‘I said all along the key was controlling the quickness (Paoli) has with the full back and quarterback,’ Spencer said. ‘If you aren’t physical with them on the inside, they can be quick down the field. They are little water bugs. They can move.’
The secondary was stout as well, holding Tolen to 4-of-12 passing for 75 yards. Twenty-five of those came on a one-handed sideline catch by Austin Moore.
‘The coaches did a really good job to get us prepared in the secondary,’ Engleman said. ‘We knew what they would run and were ready.’
Engleman would come up with an interception in the third quarter to spoil a Rams’ drive.
Corydon Central’s offense continued to pound away on the ground in the second half. Bouncing a run out to the left and sprinting along the sideline, Allen had a 76-yard TD run early in the third quarter. The big gain put Corydon Central up 20-0.
Paoli finally scored before the end of the third when Tolen connected with Dawson Easterday for a 19-yard score.
Answering back, Corydon Central put together a 10-play scoring drive featuring runs by Alex Newton, Buck and a majority to Kopp. Producing the points, Kopp scored from the 3.
Both teams would add another touchdown before time ran out.
For the Rams, Becht paced the Rams’ offense with 74 yards rushing while Tolen had 60 yards.
The Panthers were led by Allen and Kopp on the ground. Buck chipped in 24 yards rushing, while Schmitt had 20 yards.
‘We gave it to the running backs,’ Engleman said of the offense. ‘A lot of credit goes to our line because I saw them playing physical today.’
Veteran coach Spencer has pushed the motto of playing Friday to Friday, improving each week. The key win over Paoli, a Class 2A regional champ last year, is a positive sign.
‘This whole stretch for us is important,’ Spencer said. ‘We have to put ourselves in position to be ready each Friday and, hopefully, come tournament time we are in position to be a really competitive team in that sectional. We play with a lot of heart and, if we keep doing that, we’ll be fine in this process.’
The schedule does get tougher, but the Panthers return home in the process. They will host rival Charlestown at 7 p.m. Friday. Corydon Central (5-1) will seek to keep its 4-0 Mid-Southern Conference record unblemished against the Class 3A No. 15 Pirates.
Some added emotion to the game will be the return of the Corydon Central football program’s winningest coach, Darin Ward, who departed the Panthers to take over the Charlestown program last spring.
‘The momentum is our way heading into some better teams like Charlestown and Brownstown,’ Engleman said. ‘The season is looking pretty good.’
Corydon Central 6 8 6 16 ‘ 36
Paoli 0 0 8 7 ‘ 15
CC ‘ T.J. Mathes 75 pass from L. Buck (kick failed); CC ‘ A. Kopp 6 run (N. Schmitt run); CC ‘ J. Allen 76 run (conversion failed); P ‘ D. Easterday 20 pass from G. Tolen (L. Becht run); CC ‘ A. Kopp 3 run (T.J. Mathes pass from L. Buck); P ‘ A. Moore 11 pass from G. Tolen (B. Nunez kick); CC ‘ J. Allen 13 run (L. Buck run).