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    Panthers finish season on a high note

    Doug Daniels
    Saturday, October 29, 2016

    It was an often-exciting, yet often-frustrating season, but the Panthers finished it off in the best way possible this past Friday night, pouring 57 points on Dupo in their 57-30 week nine victory to finish 2016 with an overall record of 2-7. Pinckneyville led the Tigers all the way and got touchdowns from five different players, three by Colton Kling.
    C. Kling got his first score from 11 yards out with 9:23 to go in the opening quarter, capping off the game’s opening drive that went 63 yards in 7 plays. A flag on the extra point attempt shortened the distance for PCHS, allowing them to go for two and get it on a run by Alex Howard.
    The Tigers struck back with an 8-play, 46-yard scoring drive that ended early in the second quarter, but on the ensuing kickoff, C. Kling broke free for a 79-yard return for a touchdown and a 15-6 Pinckneyville lead after Dylan Carns’ extra point with 11:41 to go in the half.
    “Colton Kling’s kickoff return really swung the momentum our way after they scored,” said PCHS head coach Todd Thomas. “I have to give (Dupo’s) kids credit, they’d won one game, they’d been beaten soundly all year long, but they came out and played extremely hard. I think they had something to prove. Every time they came back and tried to make a little run, we answered. The momentum shifts were really in our favor. I think as the game went on, we were a little bit deeper than they were and were able to pull it out.”
    The defense built off that kickoff return by forcing a three and out, and the offense made it a two-score game by going 49 yards in 8 plays with Howard punching it in from three yards out for a 22-6 lead.
    The Tigers kept coming though, going 80 yards - all on the ground - in 8 plays to cut it to 22-14, but another big play by the Panthers extended the lead once more. This time quarterback Brian Kling busted a 59-yard touchdown run on PCHS’s second play following Dupo’s previous touchdown, giving the Panthers a 29-14 lead that held up at the half.
    C. Kling’s third touchdown more or less put the nail in Dupo’s coffin. A short punt set the Panthers up with a first and ten at Dupo’s 35, then B. Kling connected with Ryan Brueggemann for a 28-yard pass and a first down at the Tigers’ 2. That’s where C. Kling took it in from to put the game out of reach with 2:16 left in the third quarter.
    “(Dupo) has a couple weapons,” said Thomas. “They have a running back that’s as quick and elusive as anybody we’ve played this year. I thought he was a handful last year. We kind of contained him, but they’ve got a young fullback about 240-lbs. and he got some tough yards. He was a concern for me. They’re in a pistol wing-T with a lot of misdirection, we struggled to stop the buck sweep early. Once we settled down and started getting our run defense correct, we stopped it when we had to.”
    B. Kling, Chase Fulkerson and Tyler Rice each added touchdown runs in the fourth quarter for Pinckneyville.
    “Option football, a lot of times it doesn’t look real pretty for a couple plays, the next thing you know somebody blows an assignment and it’s a big play,” Thomas said. “You’ve got to be patient.”
    B. Kling had 138 yards rushing to lead the Panthers, who as a team racked up 280 yards on the ground. Howard (8 carries, 39 yards), Brueggeman (7-36), Fulkerson (4-34), Tyler Rice (1-25), C. Kling (5-14), Lucas Downard (5-0) and Darian Harris (2-4) also ran the ball for Pinckneyville. B. Kling was 2-for-4 passing, connecting with Carns (8 yards) and Brueggemann (29).
    The Panthers may have won just two games, but there were serious contenders in four others. Pinckneyville lost four games by one touchdown or less two games by a single point. After getting outscored 92-13 in weeks five and six against playoff teams Du Quoin and Anna-Jonesboro, PCHS rebounded to score 99 points in their last three games while allowing 80.
    “I’m happy with the way we finished up the season,” said Thomas. “It was a very rough start. We were very out of sync at the beginning of the year. We had a lot of injuries in the preseason which really put us out of whack. Howard gets hurt week three, so at one point at time we had five two-way starters out, so we were limited with what we could get done.”
    “We started off slow, we had a tragedy after week three. The Anna game was a rough game for us. Our kids could have really tanked after that big loss, but we kind of regrouped, came back the next week and had a chance against Nashville, had a chance against Carterville, then beat Dupo. I’m happy that our seniors won their last game, it’s a little disappointing because I think we’re a little better than what our record shows. In athletics the bottom line is learning about life lessons, and I think we really fought through some adversity and finished on a positive note which was wasn’t easy after getting beat bad against Anna like that.”

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