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Quarterback Chase Nelson (11) runs with the ball during Central football’s loss to South Albany on Saturday

INDEPENDENCE — A slow start, missed opportunities, penalties and more made for a frustrating afternoon as the Central Panthers lost 21-8 in football to South Albany on Homecoming Day in Independence.

“It’s a long Homecoming week, and the coaches need to take full responsibility for not having our guys ready,” Central coach Joel Everett said. “We’ve got to do a better job of getting our guys’ heads right.”

The game ended with some hard feelings and a scuffle on the field after the final buzzer, leaving the status of a few players in doubt for this week. Sidelines cleared as coaches and adults went out to restore order.

“I’m really upset with our players on that,” Everett said. “I don’t know what happened. I was just kind of reacting to it at the end, trying to stop guys from hurting themselves.”

Central went into the day looking for an upset and a second straight win. The Panthers were coming off a 54-14 victory at Crescent Valley. But it was South Albany that got off to a big, opportunistic start that seized control on the scoreboard early.

For Central, the inability to convert key downs throughout the game and get into the end zone wound up leaving a bitter, losing taste as the team dropped to 2-5 for the season and 1-4 in Special District 3.

The Panthers’ only game this season with fewer points scored came in its 47-7 loss to league-leading Silverton. Not that Central didn’t have chances to get more points against South Albany. In fact, it was a so close but no cigar kind of day for the Panthers, who came away scoreless twice at the 1-yard line.

“Two yards was the difference on the scoreboard, that’s for sure,” Everett said.

Central’s rough start literally came at the start. On the first play from scrimmage, the Panthers ran up the middle and fumbled. South Albany recovered at the Central 33. On the next play, the RedHawks (now ranked No. 7 in the state, 5-3 overall and 3-3 in league) scored on a pass play. Eighteen seconds had elapsed in the game.

Central failed to make a first down after the kickoff. Its punt gave South Albany the ball in very good field position. The RedHawks capitalized with a six-play, 42-yard touchdown drive, and the score was 14-0 after just 3:59. Later in the first quarter, Central drove 57 yards to the South Albany 3, only to be stopped for no gain on third down and then have its fourth-down play denied at the 1. Central got on the board late in the first half thanks to a special teams play. Junior Aaron Cooper and senior Manuel Vega led a charge through the South Albany blockers and a blocked punt.

Junior Benson Craig tackled the RedHawk with the ball just across the goal line and in the end zone for a safety, a bit of a tough break for Central, which almost got possession at the 1 but settled for the two points.

Central got the ball again at the RedHawks 47 and got to a fourth-and-goal at the 1 with first-half time running out. The Panthers snapped the ball with one second left, but junior quarterback Chase Nelson’s sneak was plugged at the line of scrimmage, leaving the score 14-2.

South Albany received the third-quarter kickoff and used more than 7 ½ minutes to march 55 yards in 13 plays and score again for a 21-2 advantage.

In the fourth quarter, Central’s offense joined the party. The Panthers covered 63 yards in 11 plays and found the end zone on a 9-yard pass in the flat from Nelson to junior Myles Crandall.

Nelson was 7 of 10 in the air for 54 yards on the drive, with juniors Javier Landeros, Kohler Hernandez and Dominic Castanon also making receptions. Central’s defense had a good game overall and in a lot of ways, helping keep the Panthers in it.

Vela had a key sack in the first half to stop one South Albany drive. Sophomore Andrew Eanes recovered a RedHawks fumble in the end zone in the third quarter.

It just wasn’t a complete game for the Panthers, who have lost their share of close games this season. Now the Panthers must try to focus on their final game of the season and on rival Dallas, which is ranked 11th in the state.

The Dragons will play host to Central on Friday in a 7 p.m. game that is doubly big for Dallas because a win would clinch a state playoff spot.

Central and Dallas didn’t meet last season; their April 9 game was canceled. Two years ago, Dallas won the match-up 56-17 at Dallas. Central had won 28-14 at home the year before. The Panthers have to patch up things and regroup – quickly.

“Everyone wants to beat their rival,” Everett said. “If we beat Dallas, it’s going to make this season a lot easier to swallow.

y STEVE BRANDON Itemizer-Observer INDEPENDENCE — A slow start, missed opportunities, penalties and more made for a frustrating afternoon as the Central Panthers lost 21-8 in football to South Albany on Homecoming Day in Independence. “It’s a long Homecoming week, and the coaches need to take full responsibility for not having our guys ready,” Central coach Joel Everett said. “We’ve got to do a better job of getting our guys’ heads right.” The game ended with some hard feelings and a scuffle on the field after the final buzzer, leaving the status of a few players in doubt for this week. Sidelines cleared as coaches and adults went out to restore order. “I’m really upset with our players on that,” Everett said. “I don’t know what happened. I was just kind of reacting to it at the end, trying to stop guys from hurting themselves.” Central went into the day looking for an upset and a second straight win. The Panthers were coming off a 54-14 victory at Crescent Valley. But it was South Albany that got off to a big, opportunistic start that seized control on the scoreboard early. For Central, the inability to convert key downs throughout the game and get into the end zone wound up leaving a bitter, losing taste as the team dropped to 2-5 for the season and 1-4 in Special District 3. The Panthers’ only game this season with fewer points scored came in its 47-7 loss to league-leading Silverton. Not that Central didn’t have chances to get more points against South Albany. In fact, it was a so close but no cigar kind of day for the Panthers, who came away scoreless twice at the 1-yard line. “Two yards was the difference on the scoreboard, that’s for sure,” Everett said. Central’s rough start literally came at the start. On the first play from scrimmage, the Panthers ran up the middle and fumbled. South Albany recovered at the Central 33. On the next play, the RedHawks (now ranked No. 7 in the state, 5-3 overall and 3-3 in league) scored on a pass play. Eighteen seconds had elapsed in the game. Central failed to make a first down after the kickoff. Its punt gave South Albany the ball in very good field position. The RedHawks capitalized with a sixplay, 42-yard touchdown drive, and the score was 14-0 after just 3:59. Later in the first quarter, Central drove 57 yards to the South Albany 3, only to be stopped for no gain on third down and then have its fourthdown play denied at the 1. Central got on the board late in the first half thanks to a special teams play. Junior Aaron Cooper and senior Manuel Vega led a charge through the South Albany blockers and a blocked punt. Junior Benson Craig tackled the RedHawk with the ball just across the goal line and in the end zone for a safety, a bit of a tough break for Central, which almost got possession at the 1 but settled for the two points. Central got the ball again at the RedHawks 47 and got to a fourth-and-goal at the 1 with first-half time running out. The Panthers snapped the ball with one second left, but junior quarterback Chase Nelson’s sneak was plugged at the line of scrimmage, leaving the score 14-2. South Albany received the third-quarter kickoff and used more than 7 ½ minutes to march 55 yards in 13 plays and score again for a 21-2 advantage. In the fourth quarter, Central’s offense joined the party. The Panthers covered 63 yards in 11 plays and found the end zone on a 9-yard pass in the flat from Nelson to junior Myles Crandall. Nelson was 7 of 10 in the air for 54 yards on the drive, with juniors Javier Landeros, Kohler Hernandez and Dominic Castanon also making receptions. Central’s defense had a good game overall and in a lot of ways, helping keep the Panthers in it. Vela had a key sack in the first half to stop one South Albany drive. Sophomore Andrew Eanes recovered a RedHawks fumble in the end zone in the third quarter. It just wasn’t a complete game for the Panthers, who have lost their share of close games this season. Now the Panthers must try to focus on their final game of the season and on rival Dallas, which is ranked 11th in the state. The Dragons will play host to Central on Friday in a 7 p.m. game that is doubly big for Dallas because a win would clinch a state playoff spot. Central and Dallas didn’t meet last season; their April 9 game was canceled. Two years ago, Dallas won the match-up 56-17 at Dallas. Central had won 28-14 at home the year before. The Panthers have to patch up things and regroup – quickly. “Everyone wants to beat their rival,” Everett said. “If we beat Dallas, it’s going to make this season a lot easier to swallow.”

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