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Lions put an end to Panthers’ season

Lions put an end to Panthers’ season
Lions put an end to Panthers’ season
Seniors Blake Lawson (77) and Chase Straub (64) battle through the line to try to get to Salem running back Danny Bowling. Photo by Ross Schulz
Ross Schulz, Contributing Writer

The Corydon Central Panthers’ 2020 season came to a close in disappointing fashion Friday night on a wet, cold evening in Salem, as they fell 36-7 in the first round of the 3A Sectional 32. The Panthers struggled to field onside kicks all evening, which gave the Salem offense ample opportunities to put pressure on the Panthers’ defense and break the game wide open by halftime.

Salem began the game with a methodical drive down the field behind a large offensive line to open the scoring with a Peyton Arthur touchdown run from nine yards out with 7:08 remaining in the quarter.

The Corydon Central offense looked to match the Lions on its first possession and moved the ball well, converting a fourth-and-1 near midfield on a Tyler Fessel quarterback keeper. The drive stalled near the 20-yard line when Fessel completed a pass to senior Nolan Adams a couple yards short of the line to gain on fourth down. Adams went to make a move toward the first-down marker when he slipped on the wet field.

The Lions again moved down the field, and running back Porter Howey scored from 30 yards out to extend Salem’s lead to 14-0. The ensuing kick-off, an onside kick recovery for Salem, started a bad trend for the visiting team.

Arthur, the Salem signal-caller, converted a big fourth-and-4 to keep the drive moving. Howey finished things off from five yards out to put the Lions ahead 21-0.

The Corydon Central defense came up big after again being put in a tough spot following another onside kick recovery. The offense couldn’t get it going, however, and Salem was able to get the ball back and score again, this time by way of receiver Reese McCoskey.

Salem took a commanding 28-0 lead to the break.

Salem opened the second half with an almost unbelievable third onside kick recovery. Corydon Central’s defense came up big and stopped the Lions to give the Panthers’ offense the ball and some momentum. Fessel hooked up with senior Drew Smith for a big gain down to the Salem 20-yard line to ignite the Panthers’ sideline for the first time all evening. Senior Chandler Money was heavily used on the drive that finally saw Corydon Central get on the scoreboard with a three-yard run from Fessel.

On Salem’s next possession, the Lions faced a fourth-and-short about midfield. Arthur kept the ball and tried to move for the first down, but the big guys up front stopped him short for Corydon Central and, for the first time all night, the Panthers had all the momentum and looked to cut the deficit to two possessions. However, the Panthers’ positivity was deflated after a three-and-out and a bad snap on the punt attempt led to a turnover.

Howey scored from eight yards out to begin the fourth period and close the scoring for the night at 36-7.

Howey, a junior, finished the night with 20 carries for a game-best 119 yards and three scores. Arthur had 15 carries for 90 yards and a TD. Salem totaled 340 yards of offense, including 292 on the ground.

For Corydon Central, Fessel led the team with 29 yards on eight carries. He punched in the only touchdown of the night for the visitors. It was Fessel’s 12th score of the season.

Sophomore Jalen Fowler led the team with 70 yards on four receptions.

The Panthers only totaled 215 total yards on the evening.

Corydon Central closed the season with a 5-4 record, the first winning season since 2015.

The graduating senior group came in as freshmen during coach Aaron Humphrey’s first season at the helm.

“This group of seniors are a very special group,” Humphrey said. “I can’t thank them enough. They have left the program in a better place than they found it four years ago. They have changed the culture of the program. The leadership they have shown has been tremendous. I’m excited for these young men. I can’t wait to see all of the great things they will accomplish in their next chapter of life. They have made a lasting impression on the program.”

The Panthers graduate a number of impact seniors, including Smith, Money, wide receiver Koleton Kaiser, kicker Ethan Lisher, wide receiver/defensive back Jaeden Singleton, lineman Jacob Stanley, tight end/outside linebacker Houston VonSchmittou, center/lineman Chase Straub and lineman Blake Lawson.

The Panthers will return eight starters on each side of the ball for 2021, including a sophomore trio of Fessel, Fowler and running back Anthony Martin and junior wideout Nolan Adams. Fowler, Adams and Martin play defense as well and will be joined by returning linebackers Hunter Schmitt and Michael Basham. Junior defensive backs Owen Shiremen, Bruce Beard and Jacob Deardorff will also return.

Juniors Dakota Jones, Dawson Ray, Wesley Wolfe, Kobe Pollock, Austen Ayres and Dylan Welch will have to lead a group to replace a number of losses along the lines on both sides of the ball.

“They will have to raise the bar from a leadership perspective because of this group of fine young men,” Humphrey said.