Panthers' third-quarter gamble determined the outcome
By Blake Sebring, email@example.com
Saturday, November 19, 2016 12:48 AM
MONROE — There was lightning beforehand and wind, rain and cold during, but Friday's Class 1A semistate game at Adams Central was decided because of the thunder.
Facing a fourth-and-1 from the 50 late in the third quarter, Pioneer coach Adam Berry decided to gamble. Because of the conditions, punting would have required Cirque de Soleil performers just to catch the snap so Berry told his offense to stay on the field. The No. 3-ranked Panthers were leading No. 6 Adams Central 16-8 but the momentum and the game would be decided on the one play.
After getting the snap, Pioneer quarterback Jack Kizer took one step back, turned left and leaned forward toward the hole for the 1 yard needed. But there was no one from Adams Central there to fill the hole. Instead of falling forward, Kizer got another leg in front of him, found the opening and kept going down the sidelines for the rest of the way to score the game-clinching touchdown.
Pioneer won 22-8 because the Panthers were better between the tackles and in the mud. They ran for 315 yards on 53 carries, and that was without star running back Danny Gregorich who left the game in the first quarter with an ankle injury after carrying eight times for 74 yards. Kizer ran 24 times for 127 yards, and Keith Nies ran 16 times for 111 yards.
"We had a miscommunication with one our outside linebackers," Adams Central coach Michael Mosser said. "That was a big difference for us. That was a dagger. That hurt us."
Kizer's touchdown allowed the Panthers to dictate play the rest of the game, and the Jets had to gamble, but there was no way to throw accurately in the wind and rain. The Panthers just kept pounding the middle, and there was no way for Adams Central's defense to get the ball back.
"That was the biggest problem we had this year," Mosser said. "We knew that was going to be that way. Those guys up front took it to us, and we're good up front. They got holes and they stuffed us on offense and we couldn't get going."
The Jets gained 160 yards rushing, including 83 on 15 carries by Drew Schultz, but they couldn't put long drives together. The Panthers were just physically bigger and stronger.
"Their D line, they weren't the biggest guys but they were aggressive and they knew how to bring me down," Schultz said. "They were just hard-nosed."
Adams Central finishes what was supposed to be a rebuilding year 12-2, and Mosser will have plenty to rebuild with next season, including Schultz, who will be a senior and Logan Macklin who will be a junior.
"I'm very proud of this team," Mosser said. "It's heart-breaking to lose, but those kids gave everything they had all season. I can't ask for better kids with more heart and guts. We hate to lose, but I can't be more proud of our kids."
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