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Panthers dominant in road TEC win over Golden Eagles

By RON GREESON - For The Courier-Times

CAMBRIDGE CITY – Knightstown took the lead late in the first quarter and never looked back in posting a 46-6 win over host Lincoln Friday night in varsity football action.

The result kept the Panthers in the thick of the conference title race with a 4-1 mark, and KHS is 4-2 overall. Lincoln fell to 1-5 both overall and in the TEC.

Knightstown’s defense was strong all night, and a defensive stand kept the game scoreless early-on before the Panther offense picked up the pace.

First, there was an exchange of punts as neither team could sustain a drive on its first possession.

But when Lincoln got the ball on its Homecoming Night for the second possession, the Golden Eagles recorded a couple of first downs with the help of a couple of Knightstown penalties, and LHS got the ball in the Knightstown red zone.

When sophomore Alex Bertsch converted his third pass of the possession, the Golden Eagles had a first-and-goal at the KHS seven-yard line. But after a first down run for two yards by Lincoln’s Alex Hokey, the Golden Eagle running back was stopped for no gain, then two incomplete passes sandwiched around a Lincoln procedure penalty turned the ball over on downs to Knightstown.

The Panthers didn’t take long, this time, to reach the end zone.

The first three offensive plays gained just eight net yards, and with a fourth-and-two at the KHS 18-yard line, senior running back Nick Walsh went back to punt for the second time in the game.

This time, however, the senior standout made a huge, unexpected play for the visitors.

Walsh handled the long snap back from center, looked at the line of scrimmage, and instead of booting the football away, ran through a hole in the center of the line, easily getting the first down and racing down the center of the field for 34 yards to the Lincoln 48-yard line.

Even a holding penalty on the Panthers at the end of the play, way downfield, did nothing to halt the sudden momentum swing to Knightstown.

After the penalty mark-off back to the KHS 42-yard line, quarterback Chase Richmond found wide receiver Aaron Reagan near the left sideline on the first play from scrimmage, and after the junior-to-junior connection, Reagan raced away down the sideline all the way for a 58-yard scoring play to break the game’s scoreless tie.

Walsh then booted the first of four straight successful conversion kicks, and the Panthers led 7-0 with just 1:40 left on the first quarter clock.

Things got even worse for the Golden Eagle offense when Lincoln got the ball on the ensuing kickoff. Lincoln had a run for a five-yard loss, another five-yard penalty, then an incomplete pass, setting up a third-and-20 play on the Golden Eagle 28-yard line.

Bertsch attempted a pass, which was intercepted by KHS’s Landon Carmichael.

Back on offense, this time with a short field, Ben Newby galloped for 21 yards and a first-and-goal at the Lincoln six-yard line. After Walsh ran for two yards, he made it to the end zone on a four-yard plunge on the first play of the second quarter. With the conversion kick, KHS led 14-0 and had taken firm control of the game.

Another turnover followed for the home team on the first play of the next drive. Hokey ran for five yards before the pigskin came loose, and the Panthers recovered the ball.

Ten plays later, Knightstown found itself with a fourth-and-goal situation on the Golden Eagle eight-yard line, and varsity Head Coach Chad Montgomery elected to have Walsh attempt a short field goal of 25 yards, but the kick was low and short, turning the ball back to Lincoln.

Cambridge City again struggled on offense, however, as a swarming KHS defense bottled up Hokey for a seven-yard loss on a running attempt, and then Walsh picked off another Bertsch aerial just inside the LJS 40-yard line and ran easily to pay dirt for another Panther touchdown. The Walsh kick made it 21-0 with 5:42 left to play in the second period.

Knightstown again stopped the Golden Eagles on the drive after the kickoff, forcing a three-plays-and-punt situation. The Panther offense re-took the field on its own 29-yard line, and despite another successful pass play from Richmond to Reagan for a first down and back-to-back runs by Walsh for another, the KHS drive stalled at the Lincoln 40-yard line.

A punt from Walsh pinned the Golden Eagles back to their own-15-yard line in the final seconds of the first half.

Then came the back-breaking play going into intermission.

A nine-yard run up the guy by Hokey put Lincoln at its 24-yard line, but when the Golden Eagles attempted a passing play to get a chunk of yardage, senior Max Muncy read the play perfectly, ran in front of the Lincoln receiver and intercepted the pass from Bertsch, running the interception back for the second defensive touchdown of the half for the Panthers, this one on the final play of the half.

Walsh kicked the extra point with no time on the first half clock, and Knightstown left the field with a dominating 28-0 lead.

When the Panthers received the second half kickoff, KHS kept the momentum going full force.

Freshman Mason Fields returned the kickoff to the LHS 46-yard line, and then Walsh ran for five yards. Richmond hit Robert Porter on an 11-yard completion for a first down. Richmond completed his first five passes of the game, all to Reagan, including the one scoring play.

Three straight Walsh carries moved the chains again, and then after a four-yard loss on a run from Richmond, Newby ran for a 21-yard touchdown to make the score 34-0.

When the extra point kick by Walsh was blocked, the score remained the same, and the IHSAA's "Mercy Rule" was not yet activated.

Shortly thereafter, the rule (a 35-point or more lead in the second half sets in motion a running clock) would be activated.

Again, Lincoln received the kickoff but could not move the ball on offense. Even a pass completion on third down from Bertsch to Hayden Pierce left the hosts with a fourth-and four situation at the LHS 45-yard line.

After a short pass, the KHS offense was back on the field at the Panther 31-yard line, and after a holding penalty set the visitors back to the 30-yard line on a second-and-11 play, Walsh made another big play for his team.

He ran right, broke free, and sprinted 70 yards for a touchdown, making it 40-0 after an unsuccessful conversion kick with 6:13 on the third quarter clock.

The score implemented the “Mercy Rule” running clock, and the remainder of the game raced along.

After the kickoff, with the third quarter draining away, three unsuccessful Lincoln pass plays forced a punt that was fumbled away by Knightstown.

Lincoln recovered and took advantage of this scoring chance, as on the first play from scrimmage, Bertsch passed 29 yards to Darian Bishop on the final play of the third quarter. A two-point conversion pass play failed, and the score at the end of the third quarter was 40-6, Knightstown.

With the fourth quarter underway, and a continuing running clock, the Panthers got a 43-yard run for a first down by Walsh, all the way to the Lincoln 21-yard-line.

But four running plays later, the Panthers turned the ball over on downs deep in Golden Eagle territory.

Lincoln got five net yards on two offensive plays, and had a third-and five situation at its own 17-yard line, when the Panther pass defense came up big again. This time, Newby picked off a Bertsch aerial and returned the ball to the LHS six-yard line.

On the first play from scrimmage, Newby ran six yards for the final score of the night with just under five minutes remaining on the running clock. Once more, the conversion kick failed and final score of 46-6 was set.

Still, the struggling Lincoln offense made another bid to score before the game’s end.

A KHS penalty on the kickoff return by Lincoln put the Golden Eagles at midfield to start the game’s final drive. A run for no gain was followed by a 40-yard pass play from Bertsch to Mason Dick, moving the ball down to the Knightstown 10-yard line.

After a one-yard run, Lincoln couldn’t connect on two passing plays into the end zone, the second of which was picked off by a Panther player after the scoreboard clock went to zero.

Montgomery was pleased with his charges on the field afterward, and pointed to Muncy’s big late first half pick-six as a big play in blowing the game open.

“The interception by Max put us in position to get the running clock in effect, which shortened the game for us, and put us in a great position to end this game quickly, and move on in our season,” Montgomery said with a smile. “It was a good performance for our kids versus a conference and possible sectional opponent. We have another one next week (Tri).”

As for Muncy, it was simply a matter of reading the play.

“We were prepared for that play, and I just took advantage of what I saw happening on the play,” the senior two-way standout explained.

When asked about what improvements have been made by his team since the early season conference loss at Winchester, Muncy talked about a couple of things.

“It was just a matter of getting to practice and working hard,” the senior who hopes to play collegiate football next season said. “The team is progressing well, everyone from our good linemen, Nick Walsh, and our new guys like Chase Richmond at quarterback are gaining confidence.”

Unofficially, Walsh ran 21 times for 258 yards for Knightstown, while Richmond was 6-of-8 passing for over 100 yards and a touchdown. The Panther defense intercepted four passes, and Walsh kicked four extra points.

Tri plays at Knightstown Friday in another crucial TEC tilt. Since Northeastern lost at Centerville Friday night in conference play, there are no unbeaten TEC teams left.

Knightstown 46, Lincoln 6

KNIGHTSTOWN`7`21`12`6`-46

LINCOLN`0`0`6`0`-6

Knightstown - Reagan 58-yard pass from Richmond (Walsh kick)

Knightstown - Newby 4-yard run (Walsh kick)

Knightstown - Walsh 38-yard interception return (Walsh kick)

Knightstown - Max Muncy 24-yard interception return (Walsh kick)

Knightstown - Newby 21-yard run (kick blocked)

Knightstown - Walsh 70-yard run (kick failed)

Lincoln - Bishop 29-yard pass from Bertsch (pass failed)

Knightstown - Newby 6-yard run (kick failed)

`K`L

First downs`13`5

Rushes/yards`37-316`18-1

Yards passing`117`129

Passes`6-8-0`8-24-4

Punts`2`4

Fumbles lost`1`1

Penalties/yards17-70`3-15

Individual Leaders

Rushing

Knightstown: Walsh 21-258, Newby 11-56, Richmond 5-2; Lincoln: Hokey 10-4, Sherwood 8-(-3).

Passing

Knightstown: Richmond 6-8-0, 117; Lincoln: Bertsch 8-24-4, 129.

Receiving

Knightstown: Reagan 5-106, Porter 1-11; Lincoln: Suttles 2-35, Pierce 4-25, Bishop 1-29, Dick 1-40.

Records: Knightstown 4-2, 4-1 TEC; Lincoln 1-5, 1-5 TEC.