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Pana welcomes Arthur for first playoff game Friday, October 29

Tom Latonis Breeze-Courier Writer (PANA) — Preparations are well under way for the Pana Panthers as they get set to play their first post- season game in two years on Friday night. The Panthers, 9-0 and ranked seventh in the Class 2A statewide poll this week, welcome the Arthur- Lovington/Atwood- Hammond (ALAH) Knights.

Kick-off is at 7:00 p.m. Friday at Brummett Field in Pana for the round one play-off game.

Pana won the South Central Conference title on Friday night, Oct. 22, when they went to Carlinville and took down the Cavaliers, 27-13. In the southern bracket of the IHSA Class 2A football play-offs, they have the number two seed, right behind Decatur St. Teresa who is the first seed.

The Knights are coming off a 49-22 win over Villa Grove on Friday night. They finished tied for third in the Lincoln Prairie Conference with a 5-4 record. Areola was the champion of the league. ALAH opened the season with a three-game losing streak and ended the season with a three-game winning streak, although one of those was a forfeit win over Argenta-Oreana. In the southern bracket, they are seeded number 15.

The Panthers have been working hard in anticipation of this game.

“Things have been going well this week. The kids are excited,” Pana Head Coach Trevor Higgins said. “We’re glad to be a part of play-off football. It’s just a little different atmosphere than the regular season.”

Getting ready for the Knights, Higgins knows they have a powerful run game, led by running back Kaden Feagin. The 6-foot, 225-pound junior ran for 253 yards in last Friday’s game, scoring four rushing touchdowns and threw a 47-yard half- back pass for the fifth.

Five major colleges are looking at recruiting him, including Illinois, Notre Dame, Wisconsin, Iowa and Michigan.

“We’ve got to stop him defensively,” Higgins bluntly stated. “Offensively, I think we’re a pretty good match up with them, just hoping we don’t get a monsoon in the next couple of days and be a Mud Bowl number two.”

There won’t be a lot of different preparations for this game as was for the Nokomis game a couple of weeks ago.

“I think the game plan is very similar to what we did for Nokomis. They do a lot of the same things,” said the coach. “We just feel like we’ve got guys kind of all over the field and don’t really need to change much. We do have a couple of adjustments, obviously as every team does, but generally speaking, with our speed and athleticism, toughness of the defense, I don’t think we need to change much.”

This is the first post- season in two years, since COVID-19 wiped out the 202 football season and the abbreviated season of 2020 with no play-offs. The last play-off cycle, Higgins’ juniors and seniors were freshmen and sophomores. But the coach feels that won’t have an effect on his team.

“These guys have been around our program long enough to be part of the atmosphere of play-off games and now they get
to be a part of it,” said the coach. “I go back to Friday Night (at Carlinville). I think that game set us up. That was a play-off atmosphere. So, the experience we’ve taken from that game and what we can do better this week, I feel really good at where were at.”

And, the Panthers come into the game with no major injuries.

“As long as we can stay healthy – we’ve got a few dinged up here and there – but we’ve pretty much stayed away from all the big injuries, so as long as we stay healthy and these kids stay smart, I really dofeellikewecanbea factor later on in the play- offs,” Higgins said.

“Home or away, I feel like our fans are dedicat- ed to this team,” he said. “That’s one of the reasons we work so hard out here. We feel like this community just supports us so much that they deserve a long play-off run. We’re going to do everything we can to put on a show.”

The winner of this game will face the winner of the Maroa-Forsyth (7-2) – Westville (7-2) game which is set for 1:00 p.m. Saturday at Maroa- Forsyth.


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