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Lions skin host Panthers

Lions skin host Panthers
Lions skin host Panthers
Corydon Central’s Anthony Martin breaks through the Salem defense for a first down during Friday night’s game at Corydon. Photo by Wade Bell
Wade Bell, Sports Writer

In the animal kingdom, if an African lion and an American panther met face to face in a fight, the lion would most likely win, being bigger, stronger and faster. So was the case Friday night during the football game between the Salem Lions and host Corydon Central Panthers. The Lions were able to stay fresher and stronger on the field for 48 minutes. The result was a 36-20 win, moving Salem ahead of Corydon Central in the Mid-Southern Conference race.

“I think a big part of it was just, it’s the difference in two programs,” said Corydon Central coach Aaron Humphrey. “Our linemen, three of them go both ways, and their linemen only play one side of the ball. That’s when that shows up in the fourth quarter.”

The Panthers got the ball first, and the Lions only allowed Corydon Central to get four yards past midfield. When Salem got the ball, Reese McCoskey ran to near midfield on the punt return. Danny Bowling ran the ball 18 yards on the next play for a first down, then Porter Howey ran 11 yards. Bowling gained three more on the next play. Howey took the ball from there for 15 yards and Salem was on the board first with six. Bowling got in for the conversion, and the Lions had an 8-0 lead.

Corydon Central had better results on its next possession. The Panthers worked the ball both on the ground and in the air. Their biggest play of the possession came when Tyler Fessel hit Drew Smith for a 34-yard gain to the Salem 20-yard line. Three plays later, Fessel hit Jalen Fowler again for six points. Fessel also threw on the conversion, this time to Chandler Money, and the game was tied at 8, the score at the end of the first period.

“We had to throw it,” said Humphrey. “They were playing cover zero and, when they do that, you’re kind of outnumbered in the box running it, so you’ve got to throw it.”

The second quarter was a busy one.

Salem moved the ball through the air again to the 20-yard line. Bowling got the call again on the next play, running the ball into the end zone, and Salem’s lead was 15-8.

The Panthers went three and out on their next possession. Again, Salem dominated with three running backs moving the ball to the Corydon Central 26-yard line. On the next play, Payton Arthur faked out the entire Panthers’ defense and ran the ball himself for the 26 yards for six more. Jonny Talley put the ball through the uprights, and the Lions’ lead ballooned to 22-8 with 4:33 left in the half.

With time running out, Corydon Central ran a hurry-up offense. Cameron Freed completed four of the next five pass plays, moving the ball to the five-yard line. With 10 seconds left in the half, the Panthers called timeout. On the next play, with time running off the clock, Freed ran into the end zone to score. Corydon Central worked for two more but came up short on the conversion.

Salem led 22-14 at halftime.

“At times, when we protected well up front, we were able to get the ball down the field,” Humphrey said. “When we didn’t protect well, they ended up getting pressure on us and made a sack or got home.”

Corydon Central went for an onside kick to start the second half, but Salem retained possession. On the sixth play of the possession, Fowler intercepted a Salem pass, bringing the Panthers’ fans to their feet. Corydon Central, however, failed to convert off the turnover. Salem later returned the favor as McCoskey intercepted a Panthers’ pass.

Neither team reached the end zone in the period with the Lions maintaining the 22-14 lead.

Corydon Central ran five running plays into the fourth quarter then went to the air, completing two of three passes. The Panthers carried the ball down to fourth down and inches. On the next set, Corydon Central was called for a false start, which moved the ball back to the nine. On the next play, Fessel found Koleton Kaiser to score a touchdown. The Panthers failed to get the conversion, however, leaving the score at 29-20 with 9:29 left in the game.

From there, it was Salem’s game. The Lions got two more touchdowns. Bowling scored on a 7-yard run, and Howey later burned the Panthers for 27 yards and six more. Talley got both extra points, and the game ended with Salem out front 36-20.

“I was pleased with the way our guys played for three quarters,” Humphrey said. “We were a little stagnant offensively the third quarter, and our defense was on the field too long, so then you’re going to wear them down. Then, the fourth quarter they opened things up and punched the one in late. Overall, I’m proud of my guys’ effort, and we’ll get back to work next week.”

Money had seven carries for 35 yards rushing. Most of the Panthers’ yardage came in the air where they completed 14-of-35 pass attempts for 168 yards.

Bowling had 15 carries for the Lions for 98 yards rushing, and Howey had 84 yards on 13 runs with the ball. Arthur had four carries for 37 yards. Salem connected on 5-of-10 passes for 84 yards.

“He’s their best football player,” Humphrey said of Bowling. “He’s a hard-nosed, good kid that’s a heck of a football player. He’s an all-conference type of football player.”

The Panthers go on the road Friday to Charlestown for a 7 p.m. start.

“We just keep chugging,” Humphrey said. “We knew it was going to be a dogfight from the start. Our guys are great about coming back and going to work on Monday because you can’t sit around and feel sorry for yourself. The MSC every week is a new opponent and a good opponent. … we’ll be better next Friday than we were tonight. It doesn’t get any easier with Charlestown next week. We’ll be on the road, and we’ve just got to fix our correctable mistakes and be better next week.”

Salem                               8   14     0   14 – 36

Corydon Central             8     6     0     6 – 20

Salem-Porter Howey, 15 yd run (Jonny Talley kick); Corydon Central-Jason Fowler, 8 yd pass from Tyler Fessel (Chandler Money from Fessel conv); Salem-Payton Arthur, 20 yd run (Talley kick); Salem-Arthur, 26 yd run (Talley kick); Corydon Central-Cameron Freed, 5 yd run (conv fails); Corydon Central-Koleton Kaiser, 9 yd pass from Fessel (conv fails); Salem-Danny Bowling, 7 yd run (Talley kick); Salem-Howey, 27 yd run (Talley kick).