FLOYDS KNOBS — When Jennings County visited Floyd Central a month ago, the Panthers gave up a whopping 54 points in a lopsided defeat.
On Friday night, Jennings cut that number in half in its return visit for a sectional semifinal contest. But unfortunately for the Panthers, their offense couldn’t dent the scoring column in a 27-0 loss.
“Our kids were aggressive,” Jennings coach Dustin Roller said. “Our kids’ felt comfortable in what they were doing. We got downhill and aggressive, and that’s our style. We want to shut teams down before they can get in a rhythm, and our kids bought into that tonight. We had a couple of big plays broken on us, but our kids fight like crazy, and that’s what makes you proud as a coach.”
The Panthers (3-7) couldn’t overcome five turnovers, four of which came on their four second-half possessions. Quarterback Conner Byram was intercepted three times, and Jennings fumbled twice, including once at the Highlanders’ 2-yard line.
“We knew we had to be consistent tonight,” Roller said. “We didn’t feel like we were consistent offensively against them last time, and it kind of got us again. When you shoot yourself in the foot, it’s tough to overcome those things.”
Trailing 20-0 at halftime, the Panthers took the second-half kickoff and drove 68 yards in 14 plays to the Floyd Central 3. But on the 15th play, as Preston Teltow was fighting to get close to the goal line, the Highlanders (8-2) stripped the ball and recovered at the 2.
Jennings’ final three drives ended in an interception, a fumble and an interception.
“The tough thing is, you put your (quarterback) in a tough position,” Roller said. “Get down big, you have to throw the football. Our bread and butter, as everybody knows, is to run the football, and you get down 20-0 late in the second half, you have to start trying to throw.
“The kid was trying to make plays,” he said. “I have nothing but faith and love for my quarterback, and he tried to do the best he could.”
Byram finished 5-of-20 for 48 yards. Teltow ran for 88 yards on 23 carries. Dakota Bott carried eight times for 28 yards, and Nick Nixon added four carries for 25 yards and three catches for 30 yards.
Nixon also played a big role on a defensive unit that kept Floyd Central in check most of the night.
“We played a lot more aggressive tonight,” Nixon said. “The first game, we were kind of timid, kind of laid back. Tonight, we flew around. It’s still not the result I wanted.”
The Panthers tripled their win total from last season with three wins in Roller’s first year as head coach.
“The thing that makes my job so special is, I work with the greatest kids I could, and I work with the greatest coaching staff I could, and that comes from my heart,” Roller said. “These kids fight like crazy, these coaches are away from their families, their kids and they put in hour after hour. The kids and coaches I have make my job easy, and that’s what makes it so great.”