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PANA — Pana’s junior quarterback Max Lynch, number 6, rounds the corner of the Piasa Southwestern Birds’ defense during action on Friday night at Brummett Field in Pana. Lynch led the Panthers to a 41-0 win over the Birds as Pana remains unbeaten in South Central Conference play at 5-0. At right is Ace Armstrong, number 4, of the Panthers.
PANA — The Pana Panthers football team scored on the opening drive of their South Central Conference game with the Piasa Southwestern Birds Friday night at Brummett Field and never looked back. The Panthers, ranked seventh in the state in Class 2A, celebrated homecoming with a 41-0 shellacking of the Birds.
Pana needed slightly more than 100 seconds to complete the 6-play, 62-yard drive to get on the board first. The touchdown was a 19- yard connection from junior quarterback Max Lynch to senior Brenden Schoonover – their first of two touchdown combinations – and senior Bo Christer kicked the extra point for a 7-0 lead.
Pana had seven positions in the first half and they scored on 6 of them.
“It’s just amazing these kids keep coming out, just performing better every week,” Head Coach Trevor Higgins said after the game. “The execution of the plays, they did a really good job with that and I think our coaching staff put together a really good game plan against their defense so our offense was able to move the ball. I’m really happy for the kids.”
L ynch had a great night with 191 yards rushing on 9 carries and 2 rushing touch- downs. He was 7-of-10 in passing for 129 yards and 3 touchdowns.
“Every game he gets more reps and sees more types of defenses he’s just going to get better,” Higgins said of his junior quarterback.
Pana’s second possession was a 58-yard, 6-play drive in which L ynch hooked up with Schoonover once again for 29 yards with 6:15 to go in the first. Schoonover took the pass along the far sideline, worked his way back toward the middle of the field and juked several defenders on his way to the end zone. Christer’s extra point kick was good for a 14-0 Pana advantage.
Caught deep in their own territory, Pana was force to punt on their next series and they gave Southwestern a short field, the visitors start- ing at the Pana 26. But the Panthers’ defense stiffened and gave the ball back to the offense at the Pana 29 with less than a minute to play in the quarter. This started a 4- play, 71-yard drive, culminating with a 19-yard scamper by Lynch for a 20-0 lead at the 8 second mark. Christer’s point after attempt was blocked.
Southwestern opened the second quarter with the ball, but were force to punt back to Pana. It only took one play – an 88-yard run from L ynch -to make it a26-0 Pana advantage with 9:30 left in the half. Pana faked the point after kick and Carter Hocq found Haden Stark in the back corner of the end zone for the 2-point conversion and made it 28-0.
On Southwestern’s next possession, Austin Henschen picked off Quinten Strohbeck’s pass attempt and put the Panthers’ offense in business at the Pana 32. It took 8 plays to go 32 yards and Schoonover, running from the wildcat formation, punched it in from a yard out on fourth-and-goal. It made the score 35-0 with 4:02 left in the half after Christer nailed the extra point try.
A four -and-out by the Birds gave Pana one more scoring opportunity in the half and they capitalized on it, going 52 yards in 4 plays, the last 33 yards, a L ynch-to- Kyle Kuhn connection to make it 41-0. A rare extra point miss by Christer with 31 seconds left in the half put Pana in the driver’s seat and the second half was played with a running clock and many substitutions on both sides of the ball.
Pana’s defense completely dominated the Birds, allow- ing just 56 yards of total offense. Piasa had 30 yards rushing and 26 through the air.
On offense, the Panthers’ Austin Henschen had 49 yards rushing and Ryan Kaiser got 16. Receiving yardage was 78 for Schoonover on 3 catches and Stark had 21 on 3 grabs. Kuhn had catch good for 32 y a r d s .
While Coach Higgins was happy with this win, now halfway through the season, there are three conference games left with play-off impli- cations. Friday, Oct. 1, Pana is at Litchfield, then return home on Oct. 8 for a tough battle with Greenville. The final two games are on the road – a non-conference tilt at Nokomis on Oct. 15, then the season wraps up at Carlinville on Oct. 22.
“We can be happy and enjoy this win for now, but we can’t be satisfied. We got to want to continue to get better,” Higgins said.
In other South Central Conference games Friday night, Greenville downed Litchfield, 49-16 and Carlinville defeated Staunton, 48-13. Vandalia was a 55-34 winner over Gillespie. In non-conference play, Paris got by Hillsboro, 3-0.
Pana is the only unbeaten team left in the SCC at 5-0. Greenville is 4-1 with Carlinville, Southwestern and Vandalia all at 3-1.