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 When the Offense Catches Up, Gridiron Panthers Will See the Light

There are more than a few people disappointed that the Knightstown Panther football team has started the season by losing its first two games. In both contests, one play here or there could have turned the game around and the team could easily be 2-0.

The ball just didn’t bounce the way they needed it to.

But before you write off the third edition of coach Bob Prescott’s Panthers, let me tell you why this is my favorite team of the Prescott era.

They are winners.

I don’t care what the record says. These kids hate losing more than any team I’ve seen in recent memory. They never quit on the play. Youth and inexperience are the reasons why they have lost two games by a combined nine points.

Those deficiencies are cured during the season, not overnight.

Rewind to the Hagerstown game last week. The contest featured a defensive effort that was nothing short of tremendous.

That said, I’ll give you my top reasons, in chronological order that they occurred, as to why this football team will start to turn things around this Friday night.

• On the second Tiger possession inside the Panther 20-yard line, Jacob Wooldridge drilled quarterback Matt Golliher after he released the ball, planting him into the turf. On the next play, Golliher got happy feet and threw too early for the end zone pattern, killing the drive.

• The third Tiger possession ended after consecutive superb defensive plays by Anthony Forshey and Levi Blair.

• Ethan Pearson intercepted the ball on the next Tiger series, fumbled it away, and it was recovered by Cory Wisehart. Heads-up plays on the part of both veterans.

• In the second quarter, on 3rd-and-3, Zach Sanders made a clutch tackle for a five-yard loss that forced a Tiger punt.

• With a wide open receiver in the flats, Golliher threw a short, sure-thing pass. Wisehart deflected the ball at the line of scrimmage to end the drive. • Wisehart sacked Golliher on the next series to kill another drive.

All of those great defensive plays occurred in the first half. But it didn’t stop there.

On Hagerstown’s first possession of the second half, Sanders and Danny Ortman combined to sack Golliher.

On the last four possessions for Hagerstown, the Tigers ran just three plays and had to punt all four times. Those 12 plays resulted in a net gain of 22 yards.

Key fourth quarter defensive plays were turned in by Pearson (tackle for seven-yard loss), Aaron and Anthony Forshey, Kelton Lane and Sanders. All came on crucial third down situations and all ended drives.

Defensively, Knightstown easily played well enough to win the game. Offensively, the team fumbled the ball away on its best three drives of the night. Those aren’t mistakes due to a lack of talent. They are miscues that are corrected through experience. All three fumbles were committed by sophomores.

That’s why I’m here to assure you that brighter days are ahead for this Panther football team. They lost an 18-0 lead and were beaten by Centerville, 21-18. The Bulldogs then crushed Tri the following week, 40-14. Allowing 21 points to Centerville was a major accomplishment because that is a very talented offensive team with a number of two- and three-year starters.

Hagerstown managed to score just six points against the Panthers, one week after getting 14 against Clinton Central, a top 10 football team. The Tigers had to recover a fumble in the end zone to score those points.

If you love smash-mouth, fly-to-the-ball, aggressive defense, this edition of Knightstown football is one you want to watch play the game. The offense is struggling behind a line with virtually no varsity experience, but as the season progresses, those guys will get better too.

The schedule the rest of the way includes Wes-Del (1-1), North Decatur (a deceiving 2-0), Eastern Hancock (0-2), a tough Shenandoah (2-0) team, Tri High (0-2), a very talented Lapel (2-0) team, and Tri Central (0-2). Combined, the remaining schedule is playing at a .500 clip and that’s not exactly scary.

With this team, it all starts with the defensive unit, and if everyone stays healthy, the prognosis is excellent. The offensive struggles will likely soon go away. The seven remaining teams Knightstown will play combine to allow nearly 25 points per game. Three give up more than 36 points per outing.

Stay with these Panthers because the light is getting ready to come on.

 

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