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Panthers look to continue climb in MSC

Panthers look to continue climb in MSC
Panthers look to continue climb in MSC
Corydon Central head coach Aaron Humphrey watches his Panthers complete tackling drills during a recent practice. The Panthers will begin their season Friday at Brownstown Central. Photo by Alan Stewart
Alan Stewart, Contributing Writer

A season after posting the best record in the Aaron Humphrey era, Corydon Central is looking to continue the ascension toward the Mid-Southern Conference elite.

The Panthers finished 5-4 last time out, including an overtime setback to arch-rival North Harrison, two losses to Salem and undefeated league champ Silver Creek. Combined, those teams had a record of 23-8 in 2020.

“I would expect us to continue up the ladder and up the hill. The last two years we’ve been in an overtime game with North Harrison, and we need to go beat them this year. They are a top-tier program in the MSC, which has a lot of top-tier programs as there are every year,” said the fifth-year head coach. “We’re going to find out right where we are in week one with Brownstown, then down the road we’ll have Silver Creek. Salem is going to be good this year. North Harrison, of course, and you’ve got to expect Charlestown to be better as they weren’t their normal selves last year. There’s just no gimmies in the conference.”

To improve on last season’s effort, Corydon Central will have to offset the graduation losses of eight players, including last year’s bell cow back, Chandler Money (751 yards), and No. 3 receiver, Koleton Kaiser (263 yards, four touchdowns) as well as its starting quarterback, junior Tyler Fessel (590 yards and 11 scores rushing, 1,192 yards passing with eight TDs), who had off-season knee surgery and isn’t expected to return in time for the Panthers’ gridiron campaign.

Humphrey won’t have to look far to fill the signal-calling spot as 6-foot-1, 170-pound senior Nolan Adams returns to the quarterback position, which he played as a sophomore. Adams showed his athletic versatility last season as he emerged as the club’s No. 2 receiver with 286 yards and a touchdown. Adams will pull double-duty on Friday nights as he’ll play safety on defense, as well.

“With Nolan at quarterback, I think we’ll be OK,” Humphrey said. “We’d love to have Tyler Fessel back but, with his injury, it’s not looking like he’ll be back. But the good news is Nolan started as a sophomore, so it’s not like he hasn’t started games for us. We feel real comfortable with his abilities and what he’s able to do.”

Junior Jaylen Fowler is the top holdover in the receiving corps, pulling down 20 catches for 309 yards and five scores as the leading Panthers’ receiver in 2020, while classmate Anthony Martin ranked as the No. 2 rusher with 501 yards and four scores as well as two receptions for 33 yards out of the backfield.

Though not a complete list, Humphrey noted several other key Panthers who will be leaned upon in 2021, including about a dozen seniors.

“From a strength standpoint, we’ve got some returning linemen and returning backers who have played a lot of football the last two or three years,” he said. “Dakota Jones up front is going to be a three- to four-year starter and will anchor the line. Austin Ayers is a solid backer for us on defense. Owen Shireman will be a good receiver and defensive back.

“Hunter Schmidt is our middle backer and kind of our quarterback on defense. He’s a two-year starter for us,” the coach said. “Michael Basham is another backer who started a game or two as a freshman, and we’ll be looking to him.”

Humphrey believes the team has to develop some depth through competition.

“We’re competing along the line both offensively and defensively, and we’d like to develop some receivers,” he said. “We’ve kind of switched schemes a little bit, and we hope that’ll be an advantage for us. We’ve just got to be better at keeping people out of the end zone.”

Corydon Central adds Providence to its regular-season slate for the first time since 1998, replacing Clarksville, which pulled its charter membership from the Mid-Southern Conference in the off-season.

“It’s tough to find a game anymore with the way schedules are made years out. Luckily with Providence, they had an opening and we wanted to stay close and not have to travel two or three hours to play a football game on a Friday night,” Humphrey said. “It’s a good matchup for us, and Providence is usually consistently a sound program in Southern Indiana.”

The Panthers will open their season Friday at Brownstown Central before playing at home the following week against Paoli. Other home games this season include Scottsburg (Sept. 10), Eastern (Sept. 17), Charlestown (Oct. 1) and Providence (Oct. 8). The annual Big Cat Classic against North Harrison is scheduled for Sept. 3 in Ramsey.