By John Stepp For The Endzone
“For the first time this season, we played a complete game.”
Those were the words of Knox Central Panthers’ Football Coach Scott Russell after his team rolled to an easy 47-16 win over the visiting Clay County Tigers.
It’s the second win in a row for Russell’s squad, after dropping back-to-back games for the first time since 2009. While the Panthers improved to 5-2 on the season, Russell knows that his squad has still not reached their potential, but saw flashes of it against the Tigers.
“It was an important game for us. We’ve played in spurts here and there this year. We’ve come out and played well early or started out slow and turned it on,” said Russell. “This is what you want to have once district time comes around. You want your team to start out good and then just continue throughout the ball game. I feel like we pushed the pedal to the metal this week and took care of them early.”
The Panthers relied heavily on their ground game to get the win. Knox Central racked up 333 yards on the ground, with four different players rushing for over 60 yards and scoring touchdowns.
Senior running back Jonathan Gist led the Panthers with 105 yards and three rushing touchdowns. Quarterback Matthew Barger added 83 yards and a touchdown, while running backs Jeremy Stewart and Jacob Mills finished up with 64 and 60 yards, respectively, with one touchdown apiece.
“(Gist) G’s one of those players who wants to show you that he can play. He had a problem with his shoulder last week, so we let that rest a little bit this week, but he showed that he is still around,” said Russell. “The biggest thing that we got out of last week is that we had other players step up.”
The Panthers’ offense was not the only reason for their domination of the Tigers, though. The Knox Central defense shut down Clay County in every facet of the game, limiting them to just one offensive touchdown.
“We done a lot of work this week. We changed the personnel up just a little bit and have some kids going both ways, but they did a great job,” said Russell. “We told our kids, ‘Listen, if you do your job and do what you’re supposed to do, then we’re going to stop people. But if you start doing your own thing, that’s when they’re going to gash you.’ I was proud of the way they played, especially up front this week.”
Knox Central got off to a hot start to open the game, marching their opening drive 65 yards to a Barger one-yard touchdown, to take a 6-0 lead. After forcing the Tigers to punt three plays later, Barger returned the kick 60-yards for his second score. Barger then found wide receiver Jeffrey Adams on the two-point conversion that made the score 14-0 with 5:13 left in the first quarter.
Gist took over in the second quarter, scoring three touchdowns. He opened the quarter with a two-yard run, pushing the Panthers’ lead to 20-0. After a 19-yard touchdown run by Mills, Gist scored two more times, and extended the Knox Central lead to 40-0 heading into halftime.
The Tigers would score their first touchdown of the night to open second half, as Sam Carr scored with 3:48 remaining in the third quarter. Clay County’s other touchdown came off an Arnold Arnett kickoff return.
The teams played to a running clock the entire second half, as the Panthers kept a commanding lead for the duration of the game.
With the win, the Knox Central improves to 1-0 in district play and will be off next week, before traveling to Rockcastle County on Oct. 18.
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By John Stepp For The Endzone
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