For most of the first half in Friday night’s season-opening 27-19 loss at Batesville High School, Jennings County senior fullback Dakota Bott was controlling the game with his powerful rushes into the center of the line.
Those runs also set a tone that the Panthers were going to attempt to muscle the hosts.
When Jennings County held a 19-14 halftime lead, it appeared an upset might be in the works.
Jennings County running back Austin Grunden (7 rushes for 71 yards) also kept the Batesville defense off pace with slashes to the outside.
But Batesville came out of the halftime locker room with a solid plan and the Panthers failed to net a first down on their first five possessions of the second half. Meanwhile, Batesville outscored the Panthers 15-0 in the second half.
Batesville was paced in the second half by Zach Mears, who had three rushes for 56 yards, including a 30-yard touchdown run with 10:20 remaining in the fourth quarter for a 20-19 Batesville lead.
After a three-and–out by the Panthers, the Bulldogs scored a six yard rushing touchdown from Connor Schuck with 1:49 left to finish the scoring at 27-19.
“You have to give these guys credit,” Panthers head coach Dustin Roller said of his team. “They worked their tails off for the duration of the contest, but Batesville had a better game plan than us and were able to capitalize on our little errors.”
“We had a solid game plan,” Roller said. “Our rushing attack proved to be effective early against them, but their defense absolutely woke up and prevented us from getting any momentum in the final quarter.”
“My hat is off to them for having a great second half and controlling us,” he said.
The Panthers finished with 140 total rushing yards, while Grunden having 71 while Bott had 58.
Batesville (1-0) finished with 215 total rushing yards.
“We have always been a good rushing team,” Roller said. “Dakota and Austin played real well for us, but we have to learn to play a tough four quarters against teams like them in order to succeed this season.”
Batesville got the first points on the board from the first play of the game when Jacob Koehne went untouched on the outside for a 79-yard touchdown.
This didn’t stop the Panthers, as they immediately responded with a touchdown from Bott, but a failed extra point from Wes Furgason kept the Panthers trailing 7-6 after the first quarter.
After a touchdown pass from Schuck to give Batesville the lead 14-6, the Panthers scored two consecutive touchdowns in the second quarter, one from a 10 yard pass from Conner Byram to Keegan Beineke, and a 3-yard rush from Byram to post a 19-14 lead at the half.
Byram finished with 57 yards passing with one touchdown, all receiving yards from Beineke.
“We have to get better after this,” Roller said. “We had this game in the bag, but we made silly mistakes that cost us in the end. We can only go up from here.”