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NORTH VERNON — With a rematch against Floyd Central looming, it’s obvious that the Jennings County football team will have to utilize its strength to the maximum to have any chance of a sectional upset Nov. 1.
Going on the road in a playoff atmosphere is tough enough, but the Panthers lost 54-30 to the Highlanders during the regular season. When Jennings County has been successful, it has controlled the game, and the clock with its rushing attack.
When Jennings County (3-6) was at its best, posting three wins in the middle of its schedule, its running game took a leap to a higher level.
“Our offensive line did a consistent job getting into the second level against Madison and Bedford,” offensive line coach Jeff Morrison said of two of the Panthers’ victories. “That means our offense line has been taking care of the defensive linemen and the linebackers, so running back Preston Teltow can run to the outside for big gains and touchdowns. In our first couple of games, against Greensburg and Batesville, we weren’t able to do that.”
Teltow rushed for 188 yards and 3 touchdowns against Bedford, and most likely it will take that kind of performance to win at Floyd Central.
Teltow knows he can’t do it by himself.
“I give a lot of credit to the offensive line,” he said. “They’ve opened up some pretty big holes for me.”
The Jennings County offensive linemen share mutual respect with Teltow.
“We have a very good relationship with Preston,” center Dakota Short said. “When he was interviewed on the radio after the Bedford game, he thanked the offensive line. But, he needs to get credit too. He’s really good at breaking arm tackles. He’s not even 200 pounds, so he can’t run over people like (last year’s starter) Tommy Taylor did. Preston’s more elusive than Tommy was. Both Preston and our other running back, Dakota Bott, are really good at hitting holes in the line of scrimmage.”
Class 5A Sectional 14
Nov. 1: Jennings County at Floyd Central, 7 p.m.
Nov. 1: Franklin Community at Whiteland, 7 p.m.
Nov. 8: Sectional championship, 7 p.m.
It takes synergy within the line to create those holes.
“We have great communication,” Short said. “We’re smarter this season because we know more about our down-blocking scheme. As the center, I have to make the first play call at the line when we’re in a pass-blocking situation. After I make my call, I make sure that I look to the left and to the right to make sure everyone heard it. We all have to know where we’re each going to be and who we are going to block. My responsibility is the “A” gap between the center and the opposing guard.
“When the ball is snapped, we have to get our jobs right. Because we do a lot of combo blocking, we have to talk to each other and make sure who will stay with the defensive end and who will cover linebackers that might be coming our way.”
It will take a huge game from Jennings County’s offensive line to keep the potent Floyd Central offense off the field.
“During practice, the offensive line practices underneath a chute to maintain a lower center of gravity,” Morrison said. “That’s helped make us more consistent in getting to the second level of our blocks because it helps us maintain our power. The coaching staff has really challenged our linemen to get more physical this year.”
The offensive linemen have responded to the challenge.
“The first sack we gave up this year was in our fourth game, against Columbus East,” Morrison said. “Last year, we were giving up two or three sacks each game. We’re not making the mental mistakes we were making in the past that led to those sacks. In the past, players sometimes tried to do too much.”
The key to the offensive line’s productivity this year has been the ability to dictate action at the line of scrimmage and trust their other teammates.
“We’ve been able to move every defensive line this season, even No. 1 Columbus East,” Short said. “When we have a breakdown, quarterback Connor Byrum can scramble and get rid of the ball quickly to avoid getting sacked.”
The Nov. 1 game at Floyd Central begins at 7 p.m.
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