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Panthers blank Salem, eye Brownstown

Panthers blank Salem, eye Brownstown
Panthers blank Salem, eye Brownstown
Though Salem linebacker Ian Fetz is hanging on, Corydon Central sophomore running back Austin Kopp stretches for — and reaches — the end zone on fourth and goal from the three-yard line in the first half of Friday night's 14-0 Mid-Southern Conference victory over Salem. Kopp had this touchdown to go along with 74 yards rushing on the night. Photo by Alan Stewart

Points were hard to come by, but, after Friday night’s gritty, 14-0 victory over host Salem, Corydon Central’s football team is right where it wants to be heading into this Friday night’s big home matchup against Brownstown Central: in the conversation for a Mid-Southern Conference title.
Undefeated and No. 2-ranked Brownstown hasn’t lost a MSC game in 19 straight outings, but Corydon Central head coach Mike Spencer said all he’s wanted for his team ‘is a shot.’
‘That’s not a bad place for us to be. When you look at the beginning of the season, there were some questions and people who had questions, and I thought our kids would come around,’ Spencer said. ‘The thing they’ve done is fight like a junkyard dog. They don’t want to give up anything.
‘We’ve got a shot. We’ve got ourselves in the spot that we want. We played a pretty good ballgame against Charlestown and just didn’t get out with a win in that one, but I know Brownstown is a very good team. Reed (May) does an excellent job there, and they are the ones leading the conference. We have to prove ourselves. We have that opportunity; at least we put ourselves in the position where we have that opportunity.’
A steady, cold rain throughout the game at Salem cut down on passing opportunities and turned the affair into a ground-and-pound battle for field position.
The opening quarter was scoreless until the Panthers (6-2, 5-1 MSC) churned out an 11-play, 53-yard drive that ended with a three-yard run around left end by sophomore running back Austin Kopp with 36 seconds left on fourth-and-goal. A conversion pass was off the mark, ending the first-half scoring at 6-0 in favor of Corydon Central.
Each club had three possessions and combined for five punts in the second quarter, with Corydon Central threatening but coming up just short on a pass to the end zone as time expired, keeping it a 6-0 ballgame at the intermission.
The game’s only other trip to the end zone came with 2:10 left in the third after junior quarterback Lannis Buck juked a couple of Lions’ defenders and made his way to the end zone from six yards out. Buck passed to junior wideout T.J. Mathes for the conversion, setting a 14-0 score that held the rest of the way.
‘Nights like this in the rain, it just tightens everything up because handling the ball is not easy. Actually, I thought we threw and caught the ball well at the end of the half in our two-minute drill and had a shot to score there at the end, but, under the conditions, I thought we handled that pretty well,’ Spencer said. ‘I was a little disappointed a lack of consistency a time or two, but we’ll be able to work on those things and get them fixed. One thing that I really like about this team is they play with a lot of heart. Series after series they go out and try to do their job the way it’s supposed to be done, and they seem to be playing well together.’
Defensively, Corydon Central couldn’t have played much better, giving up only 49 yards of offense and six first downs to the Lions (3-5, 2-5). In the second half, Salem was held without a first down.
‘As long as our defense was playing the way it was playing, we were not going to take a chance of giving them an opportunity, so we turned it into a ground-and-pound type of game. They knew it, and so did we. Sometimes you have to be able to handle that,’ Spencer said. ‘They played so well because they played together. Against what they were doing, it is a responsibility defense. You have to depend on your buddy to do what he is supposed to do, and you have to do what you’re supposed to do and, when that happens and everybody comes together and does the right thing, it’s beautiful. But when you try to play somebody else’s spot, you can get hurt. … ‘
The Panthers gained 13 first downs on the night. Kopp had 24 carries for 75 yards, senior Josh Allen had nine carries for 46 yards, Buck rushed for 41 yards and Nathan Schmitt rushed four times for 13 yards. Buck was 6-for-12 passing for 81 yards.
‘We got yardage and didn’t get results with a lot of scores, but the thing that really kept us where we didn’t have to take any chances was our defense. The clock was on our side, and we were just not going to give them an opportunity to get back in the game because of a mistake made under these types of conditions. We turned it into a very physical type of game,’ Spencer said.
Both teams were penalized four times each for 35 yards.