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PREP FOOTBALL: Elizabethtown on the defensive during its open week (11/06)

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By Nathaniel Bryan

 

By NATHANIEL BRYAN nbryan@thenewsenterprise.com ELIZABETHTOWN — The Elizabethtown Panthers haven’t had a hard time finding the end zone this season. Averaging area bests in points per game (42.4) and passing yards per game (314.7), offense is definitely a strong suit for the Panthers, who are ranked seventh in Class 3-A in this week’s Associated Press poll. But the Panthers’ defense is on the far opposite end of the spectrum of success. By giving up 48 points and 643 yards of offense to visiting Washington County last week, the Panthers ended their regular season by allowing an average of 24.6 points per game and 362.3 yards per game. The only squad in the seven-school area the Panthers are better than in the latter category is Fort Knox, which has lost 30 consecutive games and 39 of its last 40. Elizabethtown has given up 23 more points than the other 12 schools in 3-A’s top 13. “That’s definitely where we’re putting a majority of our time,” said second-year Elizabethtown coach Brad Todd, whose team is off this week and hosts the Frankfort Western Hills Wolverines next week in the first round of the 3-A state playoffs. Part of Elizabethtown’s problem is youth. The Panthers do have seniors Chris Gohman and Trevor Deneen in the secondary, but not a consistent single senior starter in their front eight, although Thomas Jacobs does see time on the line and at end. Four of Elizabethtown’s better defensive players are extremely young in freshman Devante Clarkson, sophomores Victor Cox and Dominique Barnett and junior Edmund Allen, who didn’t play much last year after transferring from out of state. “That’s part of it, but that should not be an excuse because at this point of the year, everyone has a year of experience under their belt,” Todd said. Another part of Elizabethtown’s defensive woes stems from lackadaisical play once the Panthers take a big lead. Three times this season, Elizabethtown has blown leads of two touchdowns or more. They won two of those contests, but lost on the road to Louisville Holy Cross, which is ranked eighth in 1-A by The AP. “I think sometimes we get in a mental attitude of ‘Well, we can just outscore ‘em,’ and it’s come back to haunt us,” Todd said. “We start getting lax and our fundamentals start getting bad.” Those are fundamentals as in plural. “We’ve got to do a better job of getting off the blocks, running to the football and finding the football,” Todd said. For the most part this season, the Panthers’ defensive woes have been masked by Elizabethtown’s offensive prowess. The spread-attack Panthers, led by senior quarterback Micheal Thomas and wide receivers Deneen and Gohman, have one of the top passing games in the state. Deneen is one of the best No. 2 options on any squad, while Gohman should finish his career high on the KHSAA’s touchdown and yardage list and Thomas could surpass 4,000 yards if the Panthers make it to the regional championship. “It’s great. We’ve got kids who have been making plays all year,” Todd said. “But eventually you’ll have a week where you just don’t play well offensively. Or you run into a team that just stops you. Or you have nasty weather. And when any of that comes up, you have to be able to rely on your defense. We keep telling them that defense is what will win championships for you.” Nathaniel Bryan can be reached at 505-1758