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    FOOTBALL: Hornets sting Panthers in OT, 36-35

    Doug Daniels
    Friday, October 21, 2016

    There’s little question that it was the best game the Panthers had played all season long, but unfortunately for them, Nashville was one point better. Pinckneyville took a 21-0 lead into halftime, but couldn’t hang on to it after the break as the Hornets rallied back for a 36-35 victory in overtime after a two-point conversion on their second possession after regulation time ran out with a tie score.
    A couple of ill-timed penalties, an onside kick recovery by Nashville, and an outstanding individual performance by Hornet running back-receiver Ethan Reid, who had 13 catches for 111 yards, 10 carries for 48 yards and 4 total touchdowns ultimately spelled defeat for PCHS.
    “By far our best effort,” said Pinckneyville head football coach Todd Thomas. “I’m proud of our kids, they’ve hung in there. It hurts not getting that one, but by far our best effort of the year. Yeah, we made some mistakes in the third quarter. The onside kick was a big change of momentum, but all in all, I can’t fault our effort and we’ve got to build on that for next week.”
    It was all Panthers in the first half, as Alex Howard’s return of the opening kickoff gave PCHS great field position at the Nashville 48-yard line. A 15-yard flag on the Hornets aided Pinckneyville’s cause, setting up a first down at the 13. Panther quarterback Brian Kling converted a fourth-and-one from the four with a keeper up the middle, then scrambled left, then right on a 1-yard touchdown run to make it 7-0 with 6:27 to go in the first quarter.
    After both teams punted on their next drive, the Hornets were moving the ball early in the second quarter, but on third-and-four from the Pinckneyville 36, PCHS’s Lucas Downard forced a fumble recoverd by fellow Panther Jeremy Opp at the 29-yard line.
    Kling would again cap off a successful drive, turning that turnover into points with a 34-yard touchdown run, and Dylan Carns’ extra point put Pinckneyville up 14-0 with 5:31 to go in the half.
    Three plays into the Hornets’ next possession, they coughed it up again. Again, it was Downard forcing the fumble, this one picked up by B. Kling and returned to Nashville’s 42.
    The Panthers kept pounding the ball on the ground with Howard and Chase Fulkerson, and then on first-and-goal at the Nashville 6, Ryan Brueggemann took a pitch from B. Kling in for another touchdown with just over 30 seconds left in the half. PCHS went into the break up 21-0.
    “Brian did a good job and made some good decisions,” said Thomas. “We simplified some things this week, adding some checks in at the line with our option stuff. He did a good job with that, our linemen did a good job sorting that out.”
    The third quarter, however, would be a disastrous one for Pinckneyville. Nashville’s Arturo Garcia took a handoff 34 yards on the first play from scrimmage for a first down at the PCHS 48. Hornet QB Andrew Kash then found Reid for a 21-yard completion and another first down, then the two connected again a few plays later for a 16 yard touchdown pass and catch.
    Sensing an opportunity to steal all the momentum, the Hornets rolled the dice by kicking onside after the score and recovered it cleanly at the Panthers’ 46. This time Nashville benefitted from a 15-yard penalty on the Panthers, and capitalized when Kash found Neil Kachuba for an 11-yard touchdown pass with 8:04 on the third quarter clock.
    Then it was the Hornets’ turn to turn a turnover into points. A Panther fumble gave Nashville the ball at their own 47, and eight plays later Reid was in the end zone for the second time following a 7-yard run. The extra point tied the score at 21-21 with 1:56 still to go in the third.
    Pinckneyville’s next drive stalled near midfield thanks in part to a pair of false start penalties, and the Hornets would again drive deep into PCHS territory with a chance to take the lead, but the Panthers’ defense came up with a huge stop on fourth-and-three from the 4-yard line to force a turnover on downs with 4:45 to go in regulation.
    With 96 yards to go in front of them, though, the game clock was working against the Panthers. They got all the way to their own 41 before time ran out with the score still knotted.
    The Hornets went first in overtime, and Reid quickly put them up a touchdown with a 10-yard run on the first play. But the Panthers answered, scoring on a 4-yard run by Howard. Thomas initially had his team lined up to go for the two-point conversion and the win, but another false start nixed that idea and forced a game-tying extra point by Carns.
    “Those are key things, very fundamental things,” Thomas said. “We’re young in a lot of positions, we’ve just not put it together. Those penalties hurt, but again, we’re right there. Those things are going to happen. I can’t fault our effort, I can’t fault our focus this week and in the game.”
    In the second round of OT, the Panthers got the ball first and scored on a 3-yard run from Fulkerson, and Carns sent the extra point through to make it 35-28 Pinckneyville.
    Nashville scored on third-and-six when Kash connected with Reid for his fourth touchdown, then found the play-maker again in the corner of the end zone on a two-point conversion to keep the Hornets alive in the hunt for a share of the conference championship.
    “(Reid) is a player,” Thomas said. “We knew that coming in, they’ve moved the ball on everybody in every way, shape and form. Double tight pounding it, spread stuff throwing it, quarterback draws, they are very difficult to defend. I thought it was a very physical game, I think we pounded the rock pretty good. That’s what we’ve got to do.”
    Kash was 20-for-28 passing for 167 yards and also ran for 68 yards on 14 attempts.
    For the Panthers, Howard amassed a whopping 144 yards rushing on 25 carries. Also contributing to PCHS’s total of 332 rushing yards were B. Kling (11 carries, 89 yards), Fulkerson (13-43), Brueggemann (9-32), Downard (1-7) and Colton Kling (2-10). B. Kling completed 1-of-4 passes, a 30-yarder to Downard.

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