By Chris Parsons / Staff Wilson
CORBIN — The Knox Central Panthers answered the bell in the second half Saturday, coming away with a hard-fought 14-7 win over Karns, Tenn. in the opening game of the 18th Cumberland Falls Pigskin Classic.
After a surprising start to the game, Panther coach Scottie Scott Russell said he had to challenge his team at halftime and they stepped up to that challenge.
“This Karns bunch is a good football team and they came out and surprised us by throwing the football around,” he said. “I told the kids that they’re out here playing just like us, we just have to go back out there and want it more.
“It’s like any game, where if one side of the ball isn’t playing well, the other side has to go out and pick the team up and we did that with a few good defensive stands,” he added.
Jeffery Canady got the only two scores of the game for Knox Central, but Jonathan Gist was the MVP of the game, and rightfully so.
Gist carried the ball 19 times for 143 yards, closing things out in the final four minutes with seven straight carries to secure the win as time wound down.
Russell had plenty of praise to heap upon Gist, and his entire team for that matter.
“I was just proud of our kids for fighting through this and getting the win,” Russell said. “We had some kids cramping up and stuff, but they really sucked it up and battled back.
“I can’t say enough about Jonathan,” he added. “I knew that once teams started keying on Jeffery (Canady) that Jonathan would have to step up. He did a super job for us tonight by just gutting it out and getting the yards we had to have.”
It looked as though the Panthers would have an easy go of things early, using a seven-play drive on the first possession of the game to take a 6-0 lead when Canady went old school with a leap over the top to get in the end zone just three minutes into the contest.
After a series of turnovers and punts, Karns scored on a 14-yard pass from Matt Nauman to Nathan Rivera with six minutes to go in the second quarter. That’s where things stood at halftime as the two teams traded interceptions to close out the half.
Just as they did in the first half, the Panthers struck early after the break when Canady scored from six yards out after another Panther interception. The two-point conversion put Knox Central ahead 14-7 with 5:14 to play in the third quarter.
Knox Central’s defense forced the Beavers to punt and turn the ball over on downs on each of their next three possessions to seal the 14-7 win. Armani Wardlaw added four sacks for the Panthers.
With the win, the Panthers improve to 2-0 on the season and get set for the third bowl appearance in as many weeks as the travel to Manchester where Johnson Central will await in the Appalachian Bowl.
By Chris Parsons / Staff Wilson
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