NORTH VERNON — With about three minutes remaining, Jennings County attempted an onside kick that caught visiting Floyd Central sleeping.
Unfortunately for the Panthers, the football went just 9 yards and then stopped cold on the sopping wet field.
It was that kind of night for Jennings County as the Panthers fell just shy of capitalizing on several opportunities and came up short against the Highlanders, 12-8.
The setback keeps the Panthers, 1-7 overall, at the bottom of the Hoosier Hills Conference with a 1-5 mark. They close out HHC play next Friday against Jeffersonville before competing in IHSAA Class 5A Sectional No. 8 action, beginning Oct. 19.
The Highlanders (2-6, 2-4), meanwhile, did just enough to hold on to the win as they kept the ball entirely on the ground and rolled up more than 200 yards rushing. They also put the clamps on Jennings County’s offense, limiting the hosts to less than 100 total yards.
Ahead 12-0 and just 14 yards away from a third score, Floyd Central fumbled the football and watched as Panther junior linebacker scooped up the loose pigskin and bolted 81 yards the opposite to suddenly put his team within striking distance.
But that would be the lone highlight of the game for Jennings County. The attempted short kickoff failed to go the required 10 yards, and the Highlanders ran out the clock.
Floyd Central fumbled the opening kickoff, but escaped unscathed after the Panthers came up short on a fourth-and-2 play just 12 yards from the end zone. Jennings County also came up empty on fourth-and-short situations three other times throughout the contest and couldn’t connect on a handful of wide-open pass plays that had the Highlanders thinking run.
“Not taking advantage of those opportunities is killing us,” Jennings County coach Scott Buening said. “The same thing happened to us last week, and we’re just not cashing in.”
With their passing game washed away by the consistent downpour and senior running back Tommy Taylor still on the sidelines with an injury, the Panthers were once again a one-dimensional offense with tailback Preston Teltow.
The 168-pound junior pounded out 88 yards on 27 carries but had a tough time getting key real estate at crucial times as the Highlanders loaded the box in waiting.
Floyd Central countered with a dual-attack as backs Chase Herron and Garry Posey. Each registered more than 100 yards rushing and a touchdown.
The Panthers’ defense turned in a stout performance, registering several big stops, including a goal-line stand in the third period. Wilson led the charge, along with seniors Jordan Diss, Darron Lovegrove, Conner Montgomery and freshman Ethan Chandler.
“They’re playing hard,” said Buening. “We just have to learn to put things together and finish off opportunities.”