Chariton — After four tough losses, the Knoxville Panthers traveled to Chariton Friday night and came back with their third victory of the season, outlasting the Chargers by a score of 34-8.
The Panthers received the opening kickoff. On their first three plays from scrimmage, Gerritt Davis and Colton Spaur combined for three consecutive first-down rushes, all over 10 yards. Davis did not attempt any passes on this first drive, nor was it necessary, as Spaur took it the last yard-and-a-half to put the Panthers on the board first and early. With Tanner Dunkin's first extra point of the evening, Knoxville was up 7-0.
Following the first Charger three-and-out of the evening, the Panther offense got back to work and stayed on the ground for the first plays. Davis' first pass attempt was to Derek Glover, good for 12 yards.
Davis and Spaur maintained the rushing attack as the Panther offense kept control for the remainder of the first quarter. Less than a minute into the second, Dunkin caught a Davis pass for the Panthers' second strike of the night. Another successful PAT put the Panthers up 14-0.
The Charger offense continued to struggle. Rusher Marcely Pape appeared to have an opening to make something happen, until he ran into Ryan Douglas, who walloped Pape and likely stopped a long gain by the Chariton speedster.
On fourth down, the Chargers attempted a fake punt, but it did not fool the Panthers, who took over on their own 32. It did not take long for the Panther offense, on the legs of Spaur once again, to bring the score to 21-0.
Chariton made strides on the ensuing possession, until a pass got away from Christian Bengtson and fell into the hands of Glover. Two plays later, Davis was intercepted by Chasen Blue.
Aaron Crossett had been displaying his defensive prowess all night. He sacked Bengtson twice on this drive and once again, brought up fourth down for the Chargers.
Not learning from their first fake punt attempt, the Chargers tried to do it once again. On the home side of the field, Spaur - this time on special teams - ended up with the football and ran it in for another Panther touchdown, bringing the score to 27-0. The extra point attempt failed, and the score remained there at halftime.
As the second half opened, the Charger offense continued to struggle. When Knoxville's offense returned to the field, Dunkin took over for Davis at quarterback. His first drive was a three-and-out. On the first play of the Chargers' second possession, Bengtson was inttercepted once again by Glover.
The Panthers were forced to punt and Blue was able to provide Chariton with a 27-yard return. Once again, the Charger offense was dominated by the Knoxville defense, capped off with a fourth-down sack by Crossett.
Two Knoxville possessions later, Dunkin scored the Panthers' final touchdown of the night, a two-yard rushing touchdown. A late hit in the end zone by Chariton resulted in a 15-yard penalty against the Chargers on the ensuing kickoff.
The Chargers would find the end zone, late in the game. Pape took off on a 52-yard run. Chariton successfully completed a two point conversion to bring the final score to 34-8.
Knoxville Coach Troy Rider was pleased with his team's victory.
"We just came out and played hard," Rider said. "We came out and we executed well, we got some of those mistakes that we've been making in terms of penalties the past few weeks. Our kids played well."
"We played well as a team and we kind of picked it up from the past couple weeks," Crossett said.
"It feels good to get a win under our belts finally," Spaur said. "Hopefully we can go get Norwalk next week."
Norwalk suffered its first loss of the season Friday night when Pella shut them out 27-0. Rider is optimistic about Knoxville's chances against them next week.
"I think we're going to be up for it. I think it's one, it's certainly going to be difficult. Norwalk's a very good team, a very good program, but I think it's one we might sneak up on them and surprise them a little bit," Rider said.
The Panthers will host Norwalk at Ken Locke Stadium on Friday, Oct. 12, at 7 p.m.
In other Marion County football news, the Pleasantville Trojans won their first game of the season, defeating Southeast Warren 31-7. Melcher-Dallas handed Wayne of Corydon its first loss of the season, 48-26, in a Saints' rebound after last week's loss. Pella Christian fell to Van Meter, 33-13.
Look for full reports on your Marion County football teams in the Oct. 12 Journal-Express.