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    FOOTBALL: Wildcats end Panthers' playoff hopes

    Doug Daniels
    Friday, October 7, 2016

    A solid start, a dreadful finish. Pinckneyville held a 7-0 lead on Anna-Jonesboro last Friday night, but for the final 36 minutes of the game the Wildcats ran wild, scoring 50 unanswered points to win 50-7 at home.
    A-J rolled to 341 total yards of offense while the Panthers managed only 90. The Wildcats had 20 first downs in the game, PCHS picked up only 6.
    “I thought we really forced them to work for almost two quarters,” said Panthers head football coach Todd Thomas. “We just kind of unraveled. We couldn’t get anything going offensively. We gave them two short fields. We fumbled and gave them a short field, they punched that one in. We almost gave up a safety on a bad snap, gave them a short field after that, the punt team didn’t cover real well. You don’t want to give a team like Anna two short fields back-to-back. We dug ourselves in a hole.”
    In the beginning, the Panthers were in charge. The Wildcats received the opening kickoff and had a second down and three from the Pinckneyville 43-yard line when PCHS’s Alex Howard stripped the ball way from an Anna-Jonesboro running back and took it all the way to the end zone for a defensive touchdown. Dylan Carns’ extra point made it 7-0 Panthers with 9:04 to go in the opening quarter.
    A-J drove from their own 45 down to the Panthers’ 10 for a first and goal on their next possession, but after a couple of short gains were stuffed at the goal line by the Pinckneyville defense on fourth-and-one, forcing a turnover on downs with 2:06 on the first quarter clock.
    But after picking up a first down at their own 18, the Panthers fumbled the ball back to the Wildcats, who took advantage on the first play of the second quarter with a 19-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Bryce Osman to receiver Caleb Clover. The two-point coversion put Anna-Jonesboro up 8-7.
    The Panthers lost yardage on their next possession and allowed A-J to return their punt to the PCHS 27-yard line. Seven plays - including a conversion on fourth-and-one - later, Osman took it in for six on a keeper run from twelve yards out. The extra point try was blocked by Pinckneyville’s Chase Witbracht, firing up the Panther sideline as the offense prepared to try and respond.
    The Panthers picked up their second first down of the half on a run by quarterback Brian Kling, but faced a fourth-and-three from the A-J 47 moments later. In an attempt to draw the Wildcats offsides, Pinckneyville actually drew themselves offsides and turned a manageable fourth-and-three into a fourth-and-eight punting situation. The Wildcats then blocked Carns’ punt and recovered at the PCHS 43 with 2:58 remaining in the half.
    “That was a bad series,” said Thomas. “Nick (Cannon’s) helmet came off, he had to come out for a play. He’s our long snapper, so we had issues there. It’s like things went from bad to worse, and it’s hard to regroup when you’re playing a team like Anna. I heard that music every time they scored and it got to be old.”
    That blocked punt began a series of disastrous events for the Panthers. Trenton Turner, who led A-J with 77 yards on 13 carries for the game, picked up two first downs on the ground for the Wildcats and later plunged into the end zone from a yard out with 48.5 seconds left in the second quarter. The two-point pass was good and Anna-Jonesboro led 22-7.
    The ensuing kickoff bounced away from the Panthers and was recovered by the Wildcats at the PCHS 18-yard line. Clover picked up a first down at the Pinckneyville 2 on a running play, setting up Turner’s second touchdown of the night. In the final minute of the half, the Panthers had gone from being within a touchdown to being down 28-7, and A-J refused to let up after the break.

    A positive for the Panthers was getting linebacker-running back Chase Fulkerson back into the lineup for the first time this season after he missed the opening five weeks with an injury. The 5’11, 240-pounder carried the ball 7 times for 43 yards and had 9 tackles on defense (7 assist, 2 solo).
    “(Fulkerson) is a presence in there at Mike linebacker,” Thomas said. “He did a great job playing through blocks and clogging stuff up, their fullback couldn’t just drive through there. I thought he had a very good game for his first game back. Our trainer (John Rosecrans) has worked very hard keeping him in shape. He’s a definite plus, he can make some things happen. Hopefully we’ll get Stetson Lappin back this week, he had a concussion (against Du Quoin), so we’re adding a little bit more depth. Hopefully we can be enthused enough to go out and play hard and have a good Senior Night.”
    Howard (10 carries, 40 yards), B. Kling (11-9), Draeden Kreger (1-3), Ryan Brueggemann (3-2) and Colton Kling (1-0) also ran the ball for PCHS. B. Kling completed passes to Carns (1 catch, -1 yards) and Brueggemann (1-(-6)), and seemed limited by an injury sustained to his throwing arm.
    “Brian was really struggling,” said Thomas. “(Trainer John Rosecrans) has been working with him, hopefully it will be worked out by (week seven). His elbow and shoulder both (were banged up), it really limited what we were able to do. We only ran 12 plays in the first half, 35 total, and 10 of those were our sophomore group against their young kids. Basically we ran 25 plays, and most of them from our own half of the field. You don’t want to do too much and get yourself in trouble in a situation like that. It limits what you want to do, but we’ve got to move on, try to get better and stay positive.”
    Now eliminated from playoff contention, Pinckneyville (1-5, 1-2) will try to end their two-game skid at home in week seven against Nashville (4-2, 2-1) on Senior Night at Quillman Field. The matchup makes the Hornets the sixth team thus far the Panthers have faced with a .500 or better record.

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