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Panthers flattened by aggressive Lions

Panthers flattened by aggressive Lions
Panthers flattened by aggressive Lions
Corydon Central senior quarterback Nolan Adams tries to run the ball before being tackled by Salem’s Justin Stephenson during the Panthers’ 48-0 loss to the Lions on Friday. Photo by Brandon Miniard
Brandon Miniard, Sports Writer, [email protected]

To say that the Corydon Central football team has not had a great season to this point would be a big understatement.

The Panthers have yet to win a contest this season, but their issues lie less with their record and more with their production both offensively and defensively. They currently have the second-worst offense in the Mid-Southern Conference, recording only 13 points in MSC contests and 20 points overall. The Panthers’ defense has equally suffered, allowing 114 points in MSC matchups and 156 overall. Only rival North Harrison has worse numbers with at least five games played.

In Week 5, the Panthers hoped to get rid of the zero in the win column when they were scheduled to host perennial MSC basement dweller Eastern (Pekin). Unfortunately for the Panthers, East Washington schools were in the midst of a COVID-19 outbreak that cost the Musketeers nearly a month of their season, denying the Panthers perhaps their best chance at victory in a brutal MSC.

While the week off offered time for rest, it did little to help the Panthers on Friday as they traveled to confront rival Salem, the team responsible for ending the Panthers’ season in last year’s sectional opener. Facing against a Lions’ defense that has allowed an MSC-best 35 points in conference play, the Panthers found themselves on the receiving end of their second-straight shutout, 48-0.

“We got behind the eight ball early. Salem’s a very, very good football team, a top-tier team in the conference,” said Panthers head coach Aaron Humphrey. “Once you get behind with them, you’re going to struggle to dig yourself out of the hole.”

After the Panthers opened the game by ultimately advancing two yards backward of where their opening drive began, the Lions needed only two plays to impose their will. Following gaining three yards on the Lions’ opening play, Kaleb Tucker fired a pass to Trevon Smedley before the latter trotted into the Panthers’ end zone for an early touchdown.

The first quarter was almost entirely spent in Panthers’ territory, and the Lions once again took advantage. After advancing to the Panthers’ 20-yard line on seven plays, Smedley once again showed off his wheels, breezing past the Panthers’ defense for a 21-yard rushing touchdown with just over four minutes to go in the period.

Getting possession of the pigskin shortly before the quarter ended, the Lions needed less than a minute into the second quarter to strike again. This time, Malikai Lee was Tucker’s target before taking the ball to the house to complete a 15-yard touchdown pass, increasing the Lions’ edge to 20-0. The Lions retreated to the locker room up 27-0 after Smedley once again ran into the Panthers’ end zone on a 13-yard rushing score.

While both teams sat in their locker rooms during halftime, Salem High School had a silent auction for Salem resident and middle school football coach Adam Humphrey, Aaron Humphrey’s brother, who is currently recovering from a heart transplant procedure. Having been an assistant coach with the Lions for years before becoming Panthers’ skipper in 2017, the sentiment from the Salem community touched Humphrey amid his team’s own struggles.

“I’m very, very happy with the way the community has reached out,” Humphrey said. “I went to school here and was an assistant coach here for a lot of years. The way they’ve stepped up to support my brother, I’m very proud of that and forever indebted to the community because it’s been huge for him and his wife.”

The goodwill between the Lions and Panthers did not last as a 36-yard Porter Howey rushing touchdown opened the second half. After the Panthers punted the ball away, Panthers’ senior running back Jaxon Wright got into a brief shoving match with Lions’ sophomore Evan Bowling and senior Cayden Colon before the scrum was quickly broken up by the teams and officials.

The Lions got revenge on the very next play as back-up quarterback Grant Mahuron launched a pass to Smedley near the Panthers’ 20-yard line. Panthers’ senior defensive back Bruce Beard nearly got his left hand on the ball, only to fall on his rear as Smedley turned toward the Panthers’ end zone to complete a 56-yard touchdown pass in the span of 15 seconds.

“I think that was just a little bit of a heated battle that leaked ’til after the whistle a little bit,” Humphrey said of the altercation. “It’s just one of those things where guys get a little frustrated and that kind of leaks, especially when one of their guys came late and hit (Beard). One of those things that happens, unfortunately; you don’t like to see that.”

Up 41-0, the Lions triggered the Indiana High School Athletic Association’s Football Mercy Rule, which stops the clock for only scores, injuries and timeouts on leads of 35-points or higher. The Lions made sure that would stay the case as Mason Gilstrap ran the ball to the house on a 23-yard rushing score just a minute into the final quarter, extending the Lions’ edge to the 48-0 final.

The Lions’ offense ran wild against the Panthers’ defense, 274 of their 374 total yards coming on the run. Howey led the way for the Lions with 111 rushing yards on 13 carries, followed by Danny Bowling’s 37 yards on seven carries and Smedley’s 34 yards on two carries. Smedley led the Lions’ receiving corps with 94 yards on two receptions.

Tucker had a solid night across the board, going 6 for 7 with 71 passing yards and two passing touchdowns along with 23 rushing yards on five carries. Mahuron’s 56-yard touchdown pass came on his only pass attempt.

As for the Panthers, their offense was the latest victim of the Lions’ suffocating defense, converting only four first downs compared to the Lions’ 14. The Panthers could only muster a paltry 113 total yards, led by senior running back Michael Basham’s 46 yards on two receptions. Senior quarterback Nolan Adams managed just 45 yards on 4-for-8 passing. Junior running back Hunter Schmitt led the Panthers on the ground with 10 yards on six carries.

The only thing that went in the Panthers’ favor in this matchup was penalties, losing 10 yards as opposed to the Lions’ 30.

“There wasn’t a whole lot we could do,” Adams said. “(Salem’s) just bigger and stronger than us; they’re just frustrating.”

Things don’t get much easier for the Panthers (0-5, 0-4 MSC) as they return home on Friday to host rival Charlestown (4-2, 2-2 MSC). Led by 6-foot-8 University of Kentucky commit Kiyaunta Goodwin, the Pirates already used their superior physical build to demolish rival North Harrison 39-7 in Week 4.

Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m.

Corydon Central             0     0     0     0 –   0

Salem                             14   13   14     7 – 48

S – Trevon Smedley 22 yd pass from Kaleb Tucker (Jonny Tally kick); S – Smedley 21 yd run (Tally Kick); S – Malikai Lee 15 yd pass from Tucker (kick failed); S – Smedley 13 yd run (Tally kick); S – Porter Howey 36 yd run (Tally kick); S – Smedley 56 yd pass from Grant Mahuron (Tally kick); S – Mason Gilstrap 23 yd run (Tally kick).