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PANA — The Pana Panthers football team opened the 2021 campaign with a 46-26 win over the Vandalia Vanals in a key South Central Conference match-up at Pana’s Brummett Field.
The game was delayed due to lightning for about 30 min- utes, but when the game started, that’s when the real lightning struck. Vandalia won the toss, but opted to defer until the second half and kicked off to Pana. Senior Brenden Schoonover fielded the kick-off at the 11- yard-line, running up the middle of the field. He then cut to the far sideline and out-raced the rest of the Vandalia defenders to the endzone for an 89-yard return in 21 seconds giving Pana the lead, 6-0. Bo Christer added the extra point for a 7-0 Pana lead before some fans had even settled into their seats.
“Brenden is just an exciting player,” Head Coach Trevor Higgins said. “We are blessed here at Pana. We lose one great athlete and there is another one waiting in the wings. That run really electrified the crowd.”
Pana’s offense rolled up 454 yards in total offense. They got 211 yards through the air and 243 on the ground. Junior quarterback Max Lynch was the offensive firecracker for the Panthers. He led the team in rushing with 104 yards and collected another 135 through the air, connecting on 6-of-12. He connected on an 11-yard TD pass to Ace Armstrong in the third quarter and had a 36- yard rushing touchdown in the second quarter.
“He’s really coming into his own,” Higgins said of L ynch’s performance. “He’s a great two way athlete and has good football sense.”
The Panthers had a 26-7 halftime lead and Christer accounted for 6 of those points with field goals. The left-footed senior drilled a 35- yard field goal with 24 sec- onds left in the first quarter and a 38-yard field goal with 2 seconds to play in the half.
“We’re really happy with the progress Bo has made this season,” said Higgins. “He really didn’t do a whole lot of kicking during the spring because he was also in soccer. But, he’s really worked on his kicking and has come a long way.”
In the second half, Schoonover went around right end for a score and Christer’s extra point gave Pana a 33-7 lead at the 7:35 mark. During the ensuing drive, the Vandals were forced to punt from their own 27, but the Panthers fumbled on the punt return and
Vandalia recovered at the 37. That was Pana’s lone turnover on the night. It would lead to a 63-yard drive for Vandalia and quarterback Matthew Hagy connected with Carson Ruot for an 11- yard TD pass. With the extra point, it was a 33-13 Pana lead with 1:42 left in the third.
Each team traded touch- down in the fourth quarter to make it final, 46-26.
Pana returns to action on Saturday afternoon, Sept. 4, with a 2:00 p.m. contest at Hillsboro.