Panthers’ offense stalls vs. Raiders
Southridge had the stops and caused the turnovers to slow the Corydon Central offense.
A rugged first half by the Panthers’ offense caused its defense to stick on the field for long stretches. In the opening 24 minutes, Corydon Central picked up only two first downs and turned the ball over three times, all in the second quarter against visiting Southridge.
The No. 15 Raiders carried its defensive power to the offense, rolling to a 44-12 victory in Corydon on Friday in the Class 3A Sectional 31 semi-final. Moving on, Southridge has a date at Brownstown Central on Friday for the sectional championship.
‘It was the same story the first time around when we played them; we forced some passes and were sloppy with the ball,’ Corydon Central coach Andrew Smith said. ‘It came down to those mistakes, and you can’t get in a hole against (Southridge). They are too good of a football team.’
In the season opening game, on Aug. 21, the Panthers lost to Southridge in a closer game, 28-20.
On its second series, Southridge used an 11-play, 69-yard drive to reach pay dirt. Running the ball with quarterback Gaage Fetter along with backs Nolan O’Brien, Tucker Schank and Mitchell Mundy out of the wing-T, the Raiders picked up positive yards on each play. O’Brien had a run of 23 yards, while Schank had a 12-yard pickup. It all led to a 2-yard run to the right by Mundy to the end zone, giving the Raiders a 6-0 lead after a failed extra point.
Corydon Central’s most productive drive of the half came at the end of the first quarter. It was limited to one first down, coming on carries of eight and seven yards by tailback Austin Kopp.
The drive ended when Kopp was dropped for a loss and quarterback Lannis Buck threw an incomplete pass.
Southridge moved the ball along quickly after Alec Saulman’s punt landed at the Raiders’ 21-yard line. Mundy shook loose for a 23-yard gain. Two plays later, O’Brien ran through both levels of the Corydon Central defense for a 43-yard score.
Then the turnovers came for the Panthers. Zack Paden coughed up the ball on the next kickoff. Holding strong on defense, Corydon Central was able to keep Southridge from scoring points. Linebacker Jacob Johnson had a tackle for a loss on the drive, while Buck had a pass play well covered on fourth down.
Two plays after the stop, Buck was flushed from the pocket and his pass over the middle was intercepted by Mundy, who returned the ball to the 11.
Corydon Central’s defense limited the grand field position for the Raiders to a 22-yard field goal by Jose Ariza.
‘The defense did some things at times to help us out early,’ Smith said. ‘It was on offense where we weren’t hitting our marks. We had guys drop passes or we missed a guy completely throwing the ball. We had missed opportunities all around.’
Down 16-0, the Panthers tried to advance the ball in the final minute before the half, but another Buck pass was picked off, this time by Ross Eckert.
With 11.8 seconds left before the break, the Raiders took a shot and it paid off. Fetter sent a pass over the top to Schank on a wheel route. The grab led to a 38-yard TD, putting Southridge up 23-0 at the half.
‘Their defense is physical, and they get to the football quick,’ Smith said of Southridge. ‘No matter what you do or try to do, they get there real fast.’
Corydon Central’s offense started to pick up yards in the second half, but its first two possessions resulted in turnovers on downs. Buck moved the Panthers beyond the midfield stripe for the first time late in the third quarter while trailing 30-0. He had a key fourth-down completion to Jordan Watson to move the chains. The ball continued to move to the 24, but the Panthers eventually threw the ball away on fourth down due to Southridge pressure.
The next play, the Raiders put the game away with a 71-yard TD from Fetter to O’Brien on a play-action pass.
Handing the ball off to Kopp, the Panthers were able to get on the scoreboard with 9:17 to play. The back had runs of five and seven yards before breaking off a big gainer. He slipped through the right side, breaking a tackle, and was off to the races. Kopp scored on the 63-yard run, cutting Southridge’s lead to 37-6.
Both teams swapped scores in the final four minutes. Tristan Brown had a 1-yard TD plunge for Southridge, while Corydon Central fullback Jacob Wallot put one in from the 4 for the Panthers.
Corydon Central, after gaining 33 yards in the first half, closed with 247 yards of offense.
Most of the production came from Kopp, who closed his record-shattering season with 179 yards on 27 carries.
After the second week of the playoffs, Kopp sits third in the state in rushing yards (2,083) and touchdowns (31). Both are school records for a single season. His 9.9 yards per carry ranks second to his cousin, current Franklin College linebacker Jeremiah Windell, set in 2011.
With his senior year remaining, Kopp slid into first place in career rushing yards (2,654) and career touchdowns (37). He also set multiple single-game records during the season.
‘We have some guys coming back but lose some key guys,’ Smith said. ‘Our focus is developing guys in the offseason to plug in those spots. We’re going to focus a lot on leadership and team work along with the weight room. When we hit the field next year, we want to have those things working in our favor.’
Against Southridge, Buck completed 5 of 17 passes for 71 yards. The senior completed two passes to Alec Saulman for 24 yards. Weston Goodman (23 yards), Watson (15 yards) and Paden (nine yards) had one catch each.
Johnson was everywhere for the Panthers’ defense, leading the way with 16 tackles. He and Wallot (11 tackles) are juniors. Senior Ben Woodward, who battled injuries versus Southridge, closed his final high school game with 11 tackles. Fellow senior Cameron Ayres had nine tackles, including two for losses.
Southridge was balanced with its offense. O’Brien had 12 carries for 102 yards, Mundy 16 for 90, Schank nine for 48 and Brown four for 17.
Fetter completed 3 of 6 passes for 110 yards. The Raiders had no turnovers.
Corydon Central’s season ended with a 6-5 record, the seventh straight winning season for the program. For Smith, a first-year coach and the third head coach in as many seasons for the Panthers, he said the year was positive.
‘It was a good year,’ Smith said. ‘I called it a transition year because any year of a first-year coach, there are things getting in place and things you want to happen. It’s part of having a new system. It wasn’t a disappointing season. I told the guys we were proud of them but we weren’t satisfied. A 6-5 record is nice, but I’m not satisfied, and I know the kids aren’t right now. It makes us hungry.’
As the season went on, Smith said the teamwork improved.
‘One of the biggest things we had to get better at was the team-game aspect,’ he said. ‘We have to have all the parts working together to succeed. If you are out there working for yourself, you are going to make it tough on the team. It is about team. It’s a process of getting everyone on the same page and doing their job for the team.’
Corydon Central will graduate 11 seniors: Tristen Houghlin, Ezra Paden, Tyler Jones, Chris Saulman, Tyler Miller, Curtis Miller, Trevor Wiley, Buck, Watson, Woodward and Ayres.
Southridge 6 17 7 14 ‘ 44
Corydon Central 0 0 0 12 ‘ 12
S ‘ Mitchell Mundy 2 run (kick failed); S ‘ Nolan O’Brien 43 run (Jose Ariza kick); S ‘ Ariza 22 FG; S ‘ Tucker Schank 38 pass from Gaage Fetter (Ariza kick); S ‘ Ross Eckert 3 run (Ariza kick); S ‘ O’Brien 71 pass from Fetter (Ariza kick); CC ‘ Austin Kopp 63 run (run failed); S ‘ Tristan Brown 1 run (Ariza kick); CC ‘ Jacob Wallot 4 run (kick failed).