PREP FOOTBALL: Panthers rack up over 400 yards of offense in beating Bulldogs

MIKE MATHISON/The News-Enterprise Elizabethtown’s Camran McNeil scored on an 15-yard run with 6:44 left in the first quarter in Friday’s game at John Hardin. The Panthers won, 37-6. McNeil finished with 93 yards and two touchdowns on 13 carries and intercepted a pass.

Elizabethtown needed a fast start after last week and that’s exactly what it got.

“It was a good start for us. I’m glad we were able to come out here and get going,” Panthers junior Camran McNeil said. “We needed this to get our momentum going again. We’ve got a big game coming up next week with Central (Hardin). This was a good boost for us.”

Elizabethtown ran for 282 yards and threw for 124 more in Friday’s 37-6 victory at John Hardin.

“We played our game tonight,” McNeil said. “We did the stuff we do regularly do every day at practice. We had a good week of practice and we came out tonight and executed.”

Eight Panthers ran the ball. Leading the way was McNeil, going for 93 yards and two touchdowns on 13 carries. TJ Allen totaled 89 yards on six chances and Love Grimes 66 yards and a score on five attempts.

The offensive line opened holes to the tune of 7.62 yards per carry.

“Our dogs are working hard out there,” McNeil said of the O-line. “They’re working hard in the weight room. They’ve improved a lot and been doing a great job for us this year.”

Elizabethtown scored on its first three possessions for a 21-0 lead with 1:23 left in the first period.

Quarterback Clay Games scored from the 1 just 95 seconds into the contest. It capped a four-play, 50-yard drive.

McNeil went 15 yards on third-and-2 with 6:44 to play and then Games found Camden Williams for a 39-yard catch-and-run on fourth-and-10. Brandon Parsons kicked the three PATs.

“We’ve got to break that somehow and that’s up to me,” John Hardin coach Chris Engstrand said of his squad falling behind quickly. “I’ve got to figure that out. I’m going to spend a lot of time this weekend — No. 1, self-reflection; and No. 2, figuring out how we can get the train on the tracks before it every gets derailed. We just can’t get doing and we have to figure out how to do that.

“I’m gonna call some close buddies who have been through this same thing and ask, ‘What did you do to turn it around from that standpoint’ because we need some answers.”

McNeil scored from the eight after the teams exchanged fumble recoveries — Nicholas Surley for the Bulldogs and Zack Stone for the Panthers — with 6:22 left in the second quarter for a 27-0 halftime lead.

Elizabethtown’s defense held John Hardin to 52 yards of offense in the first 24 minutes.

“Our run defense is amazing and it was again tonight,” Williams said. “We were playing our game. We were reading run and the linebackers — Camran McNeil, Zach Klockow and Joseph Becherer — and our ends were doing a fantastic job getting in their backfield.

“Everybody played wonderful.”

The Panthers’ defense allowed 129 yards of offense, had two fumble recoveries and two interceptions.

“Our kids play pretty smart most of the time,” Elizabethtown coach Mark Brown said. “We told them what to expect. They got off blocks real well in the first half. I think they were pretty focused. The second quarter got pretty sloppy once we got ahead there a little bit.”

McNeil intercepted an Isaiah Harris pass on the third play of the second half and Grimes scored from the 3 six plays later and Parsons’ PAT made it 34-0 at 8:07 of the third quarter.

Klockow recovered a fumble three minutes later and Parsons’ 21-yard field goal with 22.1 seconds left in the period began the running clock.

“Everybody got to share in it tonight,” Brown said. “TJ is a quick little running back. We’ve got some kids who aren’t speed burners, but they’re awful quick with their cuts and he does a real good job. He played a real good game. I was happy we got to spread the ball around tonight.”

The Bulldogs’ Malaki Nation scored with five seconds left in the game on a 75-yard punt return.

John Hardin (0-3) visits Meade County (2-0) next week.

“We make a great stunt in the backfield, a seven-, eight-yard loss and we don’t wrap up,” Engstrand said. “With four minutes to go we were at 20 missed tackles. I don’t care who you play, if they can break 20 tackles, it’s a painful procedure.

“We’ve also got to hold onto the football.”

Harris, a sophomore, stepped in to be the starting quarterback.

“I thought he played with a lot of courage,” Engstrand said. “To be a sophomore, come out here and kind of get thrown into it because we had to suspend our starter, it’s one of those things — next guy up. I thought he played well tonight considering — A) it’s his first start; B) that’s his old middle school crew. I’m really proud of him.”

The Panthers (2-1) totaled 406 yards of offense and welcome Central Hardin (3-0) next week.

Mike Mathison can be reached at 270-505-1758 or mmathison@thenewsenterprise.com.

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