NORTH VERNON – Special teams doomed Jennings County on Friday against a New Albany team more than ready to capitalize on the situation.
The Bulldogs used a long return to set up their opening score just minutes into the contest and took advantage of two more similar scenarios to roll to a comfortable halftime lead and then cruise to a 42-13 victory.
The Panthers, now 0-3, matched New Albany in rushing and passing yards, but were at opposite ends at how quickly they accumulated them, with the visitors scoring all six of their touchdowns on scoring drives of four plays or less. That included a 71-yard kickoff return just moments after Jennings notched its first score following a 13-play drive that took more than eight minutes to accomplish.
“There are three phases to this game, and it was the special teams phase that killed us,” said Panthers coach Scott Buening. “Our special teams put our defense in the hole all night, and you can’t do that against a team as good as New Albany.”
The problem Buening was concerned about revealed itself early on as the Bulldogs’ Ravon Wright took the opening line-drive kickoff past midfield. Following a personal foul penalty on Jennings County, the visitors set up shop just 36 yards from the end zone and needed just three plays to score as quarterback Michael Diehl connected with Keaton Stout on a 25-yard touchdown pass.
After forcing Jennings to punt five plays later, New Albany ripped off another lengthy return to the Panthers’ 43-yard line. This time it took just one play to find pay dirt as Diehl bolted through the defense for a long score just two minutes after their first.
The Panthers quickly found themselves trailing 14-0 and never found a way to recover.
Jennings County’s most impressive offensive output came early in the second quarter after the Panthers took over on their own 24. Behind the hard-nosed running of 264-pound senior Tommy Taylor, the hosts plowed down the field to pull to within a touchdown.
The senior carried the ball seven times for 50 yards, while senior quarterback Ryan Cowan also connected with Conner Montgomery on a 25-yard pass to help keep the drive alive.
Taylor finished with 139 yards on 26 carries, while Preston Teltow added 46 on 10 carries, including the 3-yard scoring plunge.
But, unfortunately for Panther fans, New Albany quickly silenced their cheers when Nick Haley took the kickoff all the way back just four seconds later.
To make matters worse, Jennings fumbled the ball away on its next possession deep in its own territory, setting up yet another quick score for the Bulldogs to make things 28-7. New Albany would add two more scores in the third before the Panthers answered for the last time.
“I’m disappointed in the way we allowed New Albany to have the short field,” Buening added. “There’s no excuse for it.”
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