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Braves steamroll Panthers in gridiron opener

Braves steamroll Panthers in gridiron opener
Braves steamroll Panthers in gridiron opener
Corydon Central senior quarterback Nolan Adams evades a trio of Brownstown Central defenders in the backfield, before rushing to the end zone for a rushing touchdown against the Braves Friday. Photo by Brandon Miniard
Brandon Miniard, Sports Writer, [email protected]

The start of the high school football season always brings hopes of improvement from the previous year. That hope burns as bright as the Friday night lights with the Corydon Central squad, notching a 5-4 record a year ago, their first winning campaign since 2015. The record, while not outstanding, is a sign of progress in the Aaron Humphrey era after winning only six games between 2017 and 2019.

While those hopes are typically at their highest in the season opener, Humphrey’s fifth year at the helm got off to an unfortunate start as the Panthers began their 2021 journey Friday. Not only did they deal with multiple player absences due to COVID-19, the depleted Panthers traveled to Jackson County to confront Mid-Southern Conference powerhouse Brownstown Central, a team they had lost to in their previous nine straight contests.

Despite a number of second-half miscues, the Braves used the running game to overwhelm the Panthers’ defense early en route to a 43-6 blowout.

“Brownstown is obviously a very well-coached team, and they just outperformed us, ” Humphrey said.

The Panthers looked to get off to a fast start after winning the opening coin flip. Upon receiving the opening kick, senior wide receiver Bruce Beard evaded defenders draped in red and black until finally being taken down at the Braves’ 30-yard line.

The huge opening gain mattered little as the Braves’ defense prevented an early score. The same could not be said for the Braves, who followed their strong defensive start with a pair of first-quarter rushing touchdowns, alongside a two-point conversion and made extra point to take an early 15-0 advantage.

While taken aback by the early run, the Panthers responded in the second period after senior quarterback Nolan Adams eluded a Braves’ blitz before running parallel to the right sideline all the way to the end zone. The Panthers had to settle for six points after the subsequent two-point conversion turned into a Braves’ interception.

Momentum quickly returned to the Braves as slotback Kiernan Tiemeyer took those six points right back on a 90-yard kick-off return. The subsequent extra point and another rushing touchdown by running back Jake Pauley gave the Braves a 29-6 advantage.

Matters got worse for the Panthers as a big hit in the second quarter spelled the end of the night for senior wide receiver Brandon Reynolds. After spending a few minutes on the ground, Reynolds was led away by team physician Dr. Brian Albertson and athletic trainer Jon Parsons to evaluate his left shoulder. Parsons said that the injury has the probability of being a shoulder separation.

“It’s 15-6, we kick off and they return it back. Then one of our best receivers gets knocked out. I think the wind just kind of went out of our sails,” Humphrey said.

The third quarter showed little difference despite a few defensive lapses and dropped Braves’ passes, adding a pair of rushing touchdowns from Tiemeyer and Pauley. The latter score extended the Braves’ lead to 43-6, triggering the Indiana High School Athletic Association mercy rule, allowing the clock to run until either a time-out, score or injury occurred in the second half when one team is up by 35.

The early departure coincided with a Panthers’ defense being run out of Blevins Memorial Stadium by Braves’ rushes. Led by Tiemeyer’s 144, the Braves ran for 406 yards, notching all of their touchdowns with the ground game, as well as converting 22 first downs on 47 attempts. The Braves’ defense had a dominant night despite the Adams touchdown, holding the Panthers’ offense to 110 total offensive yards and only three first downs. Eight of the Panthers’ nine possessions concluded with either turnovers on downs or punts and being tackled for loss 10 times.

“We’ve got to be in better shape, and our numbers weren’t great tonight,” Humphrey said. “The key for us is to just do our job every day, and tonight we didn’t do a good job with that.”

The loss was not only the Panthers’ 10th straight against the Braves, but their 28th in the last 30 meetings dating back to 1993. The Panthers’ last victory over the Braves came on Oct. 21, 2011, when they defeated the Braves in the first round of sectional, the first step in Darin Ward’s squad’s semi-state run.

Despite the brutal loss to begin the year, Humphrey knows that it was only the first of nine regular-season contests. While not as much in quantity for the Braves, the Panthers did experience some positives despite the loss.

“At times, we executed well,” Humphrey said. “The big problem was mentally. When the fatigue sets in, we didn’t follow our keys and do our job.”

The Panthers (0-1, 0-1 MSC) will try for their first win of the 2021 season, opening the home portion of their schedule, on Friday when they host Paoli at 7 p.m.

Corydon Central              0     6     0     0 – 6

Brownstown Central      15   14     8     0 – 43

BC – Pauley 2 run (Pauley 2-pt conversion); BC – Garvey 5 run (Wolka kick); CC – Adams 45 run (conversion failed); BC – Tiemeyer 91 run (Wolka kick); BC – Pauley 6 run (Wolka kick); BC – Tiemeyer 12 run (Wolka kick); BC – Pauley 15 run (Wolka kick).