NORTH VERNON — Orange cones and barrels can be seen lining many streets along the way to the Jennings County High School football field, but a few more could have marked the Panthers’ sideline signifying a team under construction.
Throughout Friday night’s varsity contest with Batesville, the hosts found patches of smooth play both offensively and defensively, but also encountered several rough patches, and it was those patches where the visitors gained enough advantage to escape with a 33-20 victory.
Costly turnovers and the inability to convert on a pair of key fourth downs hurt the Panthers down the stretch. Coach Rick Zimmerman, who returned to the Jennings County helm after a six-year absence, had his squad trailing by just 20-13 at intermission.
The two teams traded scores in the third quarter, but a pair of fumbles midway through the final period kept the Panthers from regaining any momentum after the Bulldogs scored early into the fourth to take a 33-20 lead.
With less than three minutes remaining, Jennings County finally found some consistency as quarterback Jake Hahn mixed short passes with hard runs by Ethan Chandler to drive the ball down field.
But just as soon as the Panthers started rolling, they suddenly came to a stop as three incomplete passes gave the ball back to Batesville, which ran out the remaining seconds to seal the win.
Hahn finished the night with 89 yards passing after completing 11 of 19 attempts. His 10-yard toss to senior tight end Justin Pettit on the first play of the second quarter enabled the team to tie the contest at 7-7.
The Panthers also relied on the one-two running punch from Chandler and Austen Grunden, who combined for 132 yards on 26 carries. Grunden’s 7-yard score with 4:44 remaining in the first half closed the gap to 20-13, while Chandler punched in a 2-yard score with 14 ticks left in the third.
Jennings County surrendered more than 300 total yards, including a combined 134 yards from Batesville senior Zach Mears.