NORTH VERNON — Friday’s sectional opener between Jennings County and Madison was a back-and-forth battle early.
The Panthers secured the game in the third quarter with an insurance score, and the defense and special teams came up big to give Jennings its first win this year, a 17-7 victory.
The Panthers (1-9) now face Seymour, which was a 24-6 winner against Silver Creek.
This is Jennings’ first sectional win since 2006. That was also against Madison.
“It was a total team effort, and the defense played really well,” Jennings coach Rick Zimmerman said. “Madison is a very good offensive team. I am proud of these kids.”
The first half featured three lead changes. On the Panthers’ second possession, wide receiver Zane Beineke converted on a 14-yard pass play on fourth down, but a penalty was called on the next play that stalled the drive. Jennings settled for a Dylan Boswell field goal and a 3-0 lead.
On the ensuing Cubs possession, Nathan Moore capped off a long and time consuming drive with a 16-yard pass from quarterback Andrew Frazier for a 7-3 lead.
Jennings responded on the next offensive series late in the first half. The Panthers were facing a fourth-and-goal, but that did not faze them. Beineke caught a 4yard pass from quarterback Brock Ernstes to put them ahead 10-7 at the break.
Jennings threatened to extend the lead, fumbled at the 1-yard line.
The Panther defense forced a three-and-out to get into great field position again. Tucker Marsh caught a 10-yard pass from Ernstes to extend the lead.
“Our secondary cover has been the best it has been all season,” said Marsh, who also plays defensive back.
Late in the game, with Madison forced to pass, the defense held up once again to preserve the win.
“It was nice to win with my senior buddies,” Jennings senior lineman Brendan Sutton said.
Jennings now focuses on Seymour.
“We have to keep fighting and keeping grinding,” senior Dakotah Pearson said. “We had a great week of practice with a lot of intensity and fire. If we keep doing that, I like our chances.”