The final gun had yet to fire, but it already was time for Jennings County quarterback Conner Byram to manage a smile.
Byram had just hooked up with wide receiver Keegan Beineke on a 39-yard touchdown pass with 11:39 remaining in the game that gave the Panthers a 41-7 lead over Greensburg.
It was over, and Byram knew it. He looked over at his sideline and acknowledged that the celebration would start shortly. Jennings County added a safety that made the final 43-7.
The Pirates (0-2) had beaten the Panthers (1-1) by a combined 63-13 in the previous two meetings. This was different.
Byram accounted for four touchdowns, throwing for three, to go with 194 yards passing, and rushing for one.
“I felt incredibly confident,” Byram said. “Once I got the first touchdown, I felt like a lot of weight was off my shoulder. Our offense was just on target all night.”
The Jennings County offense was on fire with 420 total yards, including 228 on the ground. The Panthers’ Adam Driver rushed for two touchdowns on 3- and 14-yard runs.
Jennings County coach Dustin Roller said the team was hitting on all cylinders.
“It wasn’t just our offense that was playing well,” Roller said. “Our defense was staying after them all night, and we put up an impressive game.”
The Panthers defense kept the Pirates at a standstill for much of the night, forcing four turnovers, including two interceptions.
Greensburg’s only score came from its first possession.
“These boys wanted to prove something tonight,” Roller said. “They made a statement against a solid team, and they showed they are hungry for another win.
“It’s this type of success that will resonate with these guys all season.”
Jennings County put the first points on the board when Byram faded back to throw but decided against it and went for a burst up the middle 10 yards for the score. The extra point failed.
The Pirates didn’t take long to respond, as quarterback Drew Foster ran three yards up the middle to put Greensburg ahead 7-6 after the first quarter.
After a fumble from Foster that was recovered by Panthers’ defensive back Ethan Chandler, Byram threw a beautiful pass down the middle to Keegan Beineke for a 25-yard score and a 14-7 lead after a two point conversion.
Byram didn’t stop there. After the Pirates gave Jennings County solid field position by flubbing a punt snap, Byram threw a bullet to Justin Pettit for a 40-yard touchdown and a 20-7 lead.
With 1:25 remaining in the half, the Pirates were able to push the ball up the field to the Panthers’ 14, but an overthrown pass by Foster was intercepted by Panthers defensive back Cole Chandler in the end zone.
“We put the pressure on early, and we didn’t let go,” Roller said. “A lot of people have been doubting how good we are, and whether we are just an offensive team. Tonight, we proved that we can be good on both sides of the ball.”