After a 90-minute lighting delay, the Kahoka weather turned nice for Friday
night’s football game between the Centralia Panthers and the Clark County Indians.
Despite concerns regarding Clark County’s size, speed and returning crop of last year’s state quarterfinal team, Centralia won, 19-8.
The first quarter ended 0-0.
The first half ended 0-0.
But toward the second quarter’s end, discerning Panther fans saw hope of good things to come.
When the Panther defenses stood off consecutive red zone drives that saw Centralia backed up against the Clark County goal post Centralia eyes shown with glimmers of hope. “Centralia’s defense showed a lot of heart,” said one observer. “They knew their backs were against the wall and they knew they had to stand their ground to go into the second half with a zero-zero game.”
As they made their second-quarter stand, names such as Arends, Holiman, Littrell and Reinerd echoed across Indian Field as the announcer called the names of Panther tacklers who were crushing Clark County quarterback Landon Brunk’s scoring drives. “I think they made it a good point to stand their ground,” one observer said.
“Our defense did a spectacular job. Our defense kept us in the game,” said Centralia Panthers Head Coach Jim Newsted. “Two times they pushed us to the red zone and we held them out. Alex Arends did a great job tonight, I put him on the quarterback and he was there. So did Grafton Littrell.”
Arends led the defense with seven solo tackles. Nick Wheaton backed him up with six, five solo and one assisted. Littrell and Guy Moran pulled down five each. Littrell’s were all solo, Moran had four solo and one assisted. Wheaton and Littrell pulled down three interceptions, Wheaton two and Littrell, one.
The Panther defense held Clark County to 275 yards, 72 on the ground and 203 in the air.
The second half belonged to Centralia. Panther quarterback John Durant and running back Luke Hunter scored in the third, tailback Gus Stidham scored in the fourth, cartwheeling head-first over the goal line, atop some Clark County defenders. All three of Centralia’s touchdowns showed some flair. Durant’s involved torpedoing inches above Clark County’s artificial turf and depositing the ball inches on the far side of the goal line. Hunter gave a clinic in lateral shifts and unexpected zig-zagging as he headed east, then west, then back to the field’s center and then up the middle to score.
Durant led the team in rushing with 167 yards, followed by Littrell with 28 and Stidham with 25. Durant passed for 167 yards.
“John Durant had a fantastic game,” Newsted said as the team filed back to the locker room and to a Football Parents post-game meal. “John had a heck of a ball game, a world of difference between this week and last. He played with a lot more confidence, a lot more aware of what was going on. I thought we all got better this week.”
Durant led the Panther offense for 271 yards, 246 rushing and 25 passing.
“Clark County was big and strong but we used the angles and avoided the straight on power blocking,” Newsted said when asked how they beat Clark County’s size advantage. “Offensively we just kept plugging.”
“They came out and played hard,” said Ethan Alan, Clark County head coach, “and a lot of talent on defense, we got shut down on the outside… The quarterback, he was a great runner, I don’t know how many yards he got, but it was a ton. Vanskike, he was a tough player. They’ve got a lot of good players and they came out and executed and played harder than we did. Too many errors too many mental mistakes on our part.”
When it was over, Newsted made sure the team knew he approved of their improved play.
“Last week,” he told them as the Indians filed silently off the field, “Last week we had a hard time starting a game. This week we had a hard time finishing a game,” he said referring to Clark County’s eight-point fourth quarter. “Next we have to put it all together against Palmyra. Centralia, didn’t I tell you we could win this ball game? Didn’t I could tell you we could wear them down? Didn’t I tell you we had to fight the whole time?” To each question the players answered, calling back “yes.”
He continued: “I hope we’ve learned a lesson here, what we can do. You’ve got the confidence to know that now. Once you figured out the blocking, I told you to have patience on defense, and you did. You executed perfectly and executed quarterback powerhouses right down the field. That stuff was good. Those were state semifinalist come back from last year, it didn’t matter. Who says 180, 190 pound linemen can’t get off the ball and smash? They’re wrong, we showed them. I can’t explain how much better you guys played than last week, it’s 10-fold. Next week is our home-opener against Palmyra. We play like that, we’re going to win.”