Cavaliers regroup in second half; hold off Pana
By Eric Becker
PANA (Sept. 21, 2017) – The Pana-Carlinville football rivalry has certainly had its moments over the years.
The only team to have beaten the Cavaliers each of the last two years hosted the Cavies in a week four battle of the lone undefeated teams remaining in the conference.
A scary fourth quarter injury to Panther quarterback Jacob Beeson overshadowed a strong offensive performance by both teams. In the end, the Cavaliers pulled out a 55-39 victory to remain the only unbeaten team in the South Central Conference.
“This game was about momentum swings at the end of the day,” said Carlinville head coach Chad Easterday. “We survived one more than they did. When it turned our way, I was very proud of our team that we smelled some blood in the water and took care of some things. Definitely very proud of the effort.”
The first half was an absolute track-fest offensively, with the Cavies blowing a 20-0 lead to fall behind 33-28, only to regroup for a halftime lead of 34-33.
Carlinville held the Panthers to just one second half score as the game tamed down after the break.
The Cavies had an interception on its first possession of the game, and Pana took over, marching down field. But Josh Hinzman broke up a fourth down pass to the end zone intended for Cody Klein, keeping the game scoreless.
But there would be four touchdowns in final 7:14 of the opening quarter. Carlinville got the first three, with a Jarret Easterday to Kyle Dixon touchdown pass of 19 yards starting the barrage of points.
After a fumble recovery on the ensuing kickoff, the Cavies again got going, driving 16 yards and scoring on 10-yard pass from Easterday to Dixon to make it 12-0.
Carlinville recovered another Pana fumble two plays into the next drive, and went just 17 yards in six plays, with Easterday scoring from the one, making it 20-0.
Pana answered on a Beeson 68-yard touchdown strike to Jared Beyers. It was 20-7 after one quarter.
Then it really got interesting. Pana would score 26 of the next 34 points to take the lead. A 66-yard touchdown pass from Beeson to Ben Holthaus made it 20-14.
Before fans could settle in and the sirens stopped from going off, Carlinville scored again as Tyler Hughes took the ensuing kickoff 78 yards for a touchdown, making it 28-14.
The next three scores belonged to the Panthers. A 58-yard drive was capped by a Jack Clark two-yard score to make it 28-20 with 7:15 left in the half.
Pana then recovered an onsides kick, and drove 49 yards in two plays, capping it off with a 42-yard touchdown pass from Beeson to Klein.
Carlinville drove down field but lost the ball on downs at the Pana six-yard line.
A 12-yard run was followed by an 82-yard pass from Beeson to Jared Beyers, putting Pana on top for the first time, 33-28 with 2:14 left in the half.
Carlinville countered. Getting a go-ahead touchdown pass of 39 yards from Easterday to Hinzman, making it 34-33, which is the way it would go into the half.
“We forced two turnovers early in the half, that made the difference in the ball game,” C.Easterday said. “We capitalized on them. Had a little lull there, but then I thought our coaching staff did a phenomenal job at halftime with some real key adjustments that I thought were key in the second half.”
The Cavies first possession of the second half resulted in a 13-play, 94-yard drive, consuming 5:28 of game clock.
Easterday completed all four passes on the drive, but the run game of primarily Tucker Hughes enabled Carlinville to get a one-yard plunge from Tu.Hughes on a third and goal scenario. It was 41-33 with 3:13 left in the third.
The quick-striking Panthers again showed their ability to take very little time to score.
On the second play of the next drive, Beeson completed a 64-yard pass to Jack Armstrong, making it 41-39 late in the third quarter.
Carlinville used a seven-play drive bridging the third and fourth quarter, getting a Jake Ambuel 14-yard touchdown reception from Easterday, and with 10:21 left in the game it was a two-possession game at 48-39.
Pana went three and out, giving the Cavies some needed momentum. They drove 68 yards in just under four minutes, all on the ground.
Garrett Campbell had a 25-yard run, but it was Easterday’s 20-yard touchdown run which made it 55-39.
It was a scary moment for Pana on the first play of the next drive as Beeson scrambled for a four-yard run, but as he was reaching out of bounds was tackled from behind and he would land in the bench area.
The game would be stopped for several moments as first responders took him to the hospital via an ambulance. Beeson suffered no concussion and a slight shoulder injury that might sideline a couple of weeks, according to a weekend report.
The game resumed with Dixon intercepting an Armstrong pass with 4:51 left in the game. Carlinville ran out the clock with eight run plays.
“They live and die with the big play – as do we,” C.Easterday said. “You got very similar teams and we knew this was not going to be a 6-0 game by any stretch of the imagination, nor did we attempt to try to be. So we tried to contain them the best we could and did it when it mattered the most.”
Easterday completed 19 of 25 passes for 232 yards and four touchdowns, with one interception.
Hinzman caught four passes for 107 yards. Dixon had six catches for 51 yards and two scores and Ambuel caught seven passes for 46 yards.
Tu.Hughes rushed for 133 yards on 25 carries. Campbell added 78 yards on 12 attempts.
Beeson completed seven of 15 passes for 363 yards and five touchdowns. Beyers caught two passes, both touchdowns, for 150 yards.
The Cavaliers outgained Pana 488-468 in total yardage, including 256-105 on the ground.
Carlinville had 25 first downs to 13 for Pana, and held a time of possession edge of 33:12 to 14:48. Defensively, Max Rogers had nine tackles, five solo to lead the way.
Carlinville travels to Roxana on Friday night to meet the 0-4 Shells. Game time is 7 p.m.
Jake Ambuel of Carlinville hurdles a pair of Pana defenders en route to the end zone during the fourth quarter Friday at Pana.
Josh Hinzman breaks up a pass play on fourth down in the end zone early Friday evening as Pana’s Cody Klein can’t quite get a grasp. Photos/Eric Becker