‘Ridge hangs on to early scores
Thirteen minutes in to the Corydon Central football season, the Panthers found themselves down three scores.
It was an early test to see how fast the Panthers could recover from quick blows. Grading out, Corydon Central put the score behind them and rallied with two passing touchdowns by quarterback Lannis Buck and a running score by Austin Kopp to earn praise from first-year coach Andrew Smith.
The Corydon Central defense tightened, to give itself a chance, not allowing Southridge to score in the second half. The Raiders, however, ran out the clock for nearly all of the fourth quarter to escape Corydon with a 28-20 victory.
‘Once we found our sea legs, so to speak, we found our groove and started to play well on offense,’ Smith said. ‘Then we got some stops on defense. It’s hard to dig out of a hole against a good football team to come all the way back. We had some resiliency and showed what we were about.’
Southridge capitalized on two long runs and a Corydon Central turnover to build a 21-0 lead. On its first drive, Mitchell Mundy carried the ball along the right side for a 33-yard score.
Possessions for Corydon Central early in the game didn’t pan out well, with the first two resulting in an interception thrown and a fumble lost.
The fumble lost, combined with a penalty, gave the Raiders field position 18 yards from goal. Corydon Central forced a fourth-and-short at the 9, but Nolan O’Brien gained four yards for the first down. Three plays later, O’Brien scored from the 1-yard line.
Corydon Central gained some traction on its third drive, but it stalled at midfield, forcing a punt. Flipping to the second quarter, Southridge moved the ball quickly due to a late-hit penalty and an 11-yard gain by O’Brien. Breaking through the Panthers’ defense, Southridge running back Ross Eckert scooted 40 yards to put the Raiders ahead 21-0.
‘It was almost like we were trying to find ourselves a little bit at the beginning,’ Smith said. ‘To be honest, we played at the start the way we practiced this week. It was kind of lethargic and slow. It was like we weren’t ready, and it showed.’
A 10-play touchdown drive by the Panthers put them on the scoreboard. Buck scrambled on a third down to complete a 16-yard pass to Jordan Watson. Pass plays to Watson and Austin Kopp moved the ball along. The last two plays featured a sideline 13-yard snag by T.J. Mathes, tip-toeing the line. Mathes capped the drive with an inside slant catch from Buck, who later ran in the 2-point conversion.
Southridge seemed destined to score again when O’Brien scampered for a long run down to the 13. The 47-yard advancement was stopped by a saving tackle by Tyler Jones.
The drive ended with a Raiders’ fumble, recovered by Corydon Central Junior All-State performer senior Cameron Ayres.
Corydon Central, behind the zig-zag running effort of Buck, made quick work of the 97-yard drive to come. On the second play, Buck made plenty of defenders miss and went from the left side of the field to the right for an 82-yard gain.
The drive ended with an inside shovel pass from Buck to Jones for a touchdown from the 2, putting Corydon Central within one score, 21-14.
Bouncing back, Southridge put together a two-minute offense for a score just before the half. Facing a third-and-10 with one minute left, O’Brien had a carry of 49 yards to inside the 20-yard line. Fullback Eckert punched the score in with nine seconds showing and eventually a 28-14 halftime edge.
‘That was a tough point in the game,’ Smith said. ‘We were climbing right back in the game, getting it to one possession, and we give up one big play. Often, those are the difference in the game. We didn’t get the stop we needed.’
The score, however, didn’t deflate the Panthers as they headed into the second half.
‘We were let down, but we weren’t done,’ Smith said. ‘We came out in the second half ready to play.’
Kopp carried the load for a bit in the backfield, using runs of six, 10 and 12 yards to set up a touchdown. As cramps began to slow the game with players being ushered to the sideline for treatment, Corydon Central had to make a temporary quarterback change in the red zone.
With Alec Saulman in the shotgun, he bobbled the hand-off to Kopp as numerous Raiders flooded the backfield. Fending off many tackle attempts, Kopp fought his way to the goal line for a touchdown at the left pylon.
The second straight bad snap on an extra-point try resulted in a 28-20 score.
During the final 15 minutes of the season opener, Southridge overcame a fumble but managed to dominate possession. The Raiders ran 24 plays to Corydon Central’s four in the closing stretch. Southridge drove to the 1-yard line late before taking a knee.
Keeping Southridge off the scoreboard in the second half gave the Panthers a chance at the full comeback.
‘We had some personnel in to keep people fresh,’ Smith said of defensive adjustments. ‘Some of these guys were making plays they didn’t need to make. We had to fix them and get some early season adjustments taken care of. Some of our young guys were getting in some bad spots, but you do that game one; teach and learn. They are good football players.’
On the defensive side, Smith said Jones’ speed helped prevent bigger gains for the Raiders.
‘(Ben) Woodward played well for us,’ Smith said. ‘Wade Thomas was all over the field for us. Sometimes he is so aggressive he overplays the play. You like that in a way. We have to keep getting guys better.’
Buck and Kopp each had more than 100 yards rushing. Buck had 105 on nine carries, while Kopp was at 104 on 18 attempts.
Throwing the ball, Buck was 12 of 18 for 137 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. Jones led in receiving with 41 yards on three catches. Mathes had four receptions for 38 yards.
‘I think we were pretty balanced offensively,’ Smith said. ‘Our Q had some running yards, and our running back had some yards. We threw the ball OK. Buck tried to force some big plays and, if he would have checked down, some guys were wide open. That’s part of the process of learning. Everybody wants to make the big play. The two turnovers hurt us, but we have to work on finishing our drives off.’
Southridge rushed for 378 yards, attempting only two passes. Mundy ran for 137 yards (20 carries), while Eckert had 125 (nine carries) and O’Brien had 84 (10 carries).
Up next fort the Panthers is a key Mid-Southern Conference and rivalry game with North Harrison in the Big Cat Classic. The Panthers have dominated the series recently, winning six straight meetings.
‘The kids will be excited for next week, but we are going to need to really prepare,’ Smith said. ‘(The North Harrison Cougars) are a good football team. Having seen them last year and toward the end of the year, they are going to be a good football team. They are going to do the same thing (Southridge) did to us tonight. We have a lot of work to do in adjusting to it. They know already what they need to work on.’
North Harrison will head to Corydon Central Friday; kickoff set for 7 p.m.
Southridge 14 14 0 0 ‘ 28
Corydon Central 0 14 6 0 ‘ 20
S ‘ Mitchell Mundy 33 run (Jose Ariza kick); S ‘ Nolan O’Brien 1 run (Ariza kick); S ‘ Ross Eckert 40 run (Ariza kick); CC ‘ T.J. Mathes 5 pass from Lannis Buck (Buck run); CC ‘ Tyler Jones 3 pass from Buck (run failed); S ‘ Eckert 1 run (Ariza kick); CC ‘ Austin Kopp 1 run (pass failed).