By ADAM PRUIETT
FLOYDS KNOBS —
The Floyd Central football team was determined to get the play right.
Or maybe the Highlanders were just setting Jennings County up.
Either way, a handoff to Gaige Klingsmith that went the opposite direction of where the Highlanders had been consistently running the ball resulted in a 74-yard touchdown run that got the offense chugging along en route to a convincing 54-30 victory Friday night against the visiting Panthers in Hoosier Hills Conference action.
“It was just a good game,” senior defensive back Logan Vaughn said. “We practiced hard all week, and we came out here to play. It worked out well for us.”
Floyd Central improved to 6-2 overall and 5-1 in the HHC heading into a much-anticipated matchup on the road with New Albany in its regular season finale.
“It’s going to be a big one,” Vaughn said. “I can’t wait to play it.”
“You have that circled on your calendar every year,” added fellow senior Nick Uhl. “It’s what you want. It’s going to be incredible.”
Floyd Central showed off its explosive side against Jennings County (3-5, 3-3 HHC).
In addition to his 74-yard jaunt to the end zone, Klingsmith added TD runs of 10 and 48 yards. Vaughn registered a 64-yard punt return for a TD, senior tailback Gabriel Kennedy motored 55 yards to paydirt and junior quarterback Colton Kimm connected with senior wide receiver Brandon Stout for a 16-yard score. Sophomore running back Blake Carl capped the scoring by cruising 85 yards to the end zone.
Jennings County’s Matt Cornett intercepted Kimm on Floyd Central’s first possession, but Vaughn got the Highlanders on the scoreboard after the defense forced a Panthers three-and-out when he received a punt and followed a crushing block by Stout down the right sideline for a touchdown.
“I’m always trying to make something happen on a punt return,” Vaughn said. “It was Senior Night, I wanted to do something big. I’ve got to give (credit) to Brandon Stout. He gave one big hit for me.”
After another three-and-out by Jennings County, Floyd Central was backed up to its own 9-yard line after a holding call. Kimm found Uhl in the flat for 14 yards, which set the stage for Klingsmith and his offensive line.
To that point, the Highlanders had attacked the Panthers running almost exclusively toward the right side of the field. When Klingsmith was given the ball and headed left, Jennings County was clearly caught off guard and Floyd Central’s junior standout had nothing but open field in front of him resulting in a 74-yard touchdown.
Two possessions later, Klingsmith scored from 10 yards out for a 21-7 lead, and he followed on the next drive with a 48-yard TD run to boost the Highlanders lead to 28-7. Klingsmith finished with 235 yards on 22 carries.
Although Jennings County netted a field goal heading into halftime, Floyd Central seized momentum in the second half as Klingsmith shot past the 200-yard mark on the first play of the third quarter with a 27-yard run.
Kennedy then proved once again that he is a threat to score whenever he touches the ball. Both of his carries in last week’s win over Bedford North Lawrence resulted in lengthy touchdown runs. On his lone carry Friday night, Kennedy collected a 55-yard touchdown run for a 35-10 lead.
On Floyd Central’s next possession, the Highlanders went to the air. Kimm hit junior wide receiver Adam Wallace for 34 yards and senior Austin Carl with a screen pass for 19 more. He then tossed a 16-yard scoring pass to Stout in which Stout out-jumped two defenders to corral the ball as the advantage swelled to 42-10.
Jennings County moved the ball past midfield only twice in the first half against the Floyd Central defense, but the Panthers did manage to score both times. On the second play of the second quarter, quarterback Conner Byram dropped a deep pass just past the outstretched hand of a Highlanders defensive back and into the arms of Keegan Beineke for a 45-yard touchdown that cut Floyd Central’s lead to 14-7.
After Klingsmith’s third touchdown before halftime, Jennings County got the ball back with 1:40 left and drove 55 yards to set up a 32-yard field goal by Adrian Kirchner as time expired. Running back Preston Teltow picked up 24 yards on a run on the drive that brought the Panthers to within 28-10.
A set of missed opportunities for Jennings County when the Panthers were down 21-7 late in the second quarter may have prevented the score from being closer at intermission. What initially appeared to be a successful wide receiver pass from Beineke to Nick Nixon for a long gain was wiped out due to a penalty. On the next play, Nixon was wide open down the left sideline on a wheel route, but Byran underthrew him on a play that appeared to have TD potential.
The disappointment from the lack of execution on that series was amplified on the initial play after the punt when Klingsmith went the distance on the 48-yard TD.
Teltow and fullback Dakota Bott both had big games running the ball for Jennings County, although much of their yardage was gained in the second half against Floyd Central’s reserves. Teltow carried the ball 23 times for 232 yards, with 34 coming in the first half. All but 6 of Bott’s 118 yards on 12 carries came after halftime.
Junior Garry Posey had a 3-yard touchdown run for Floyd Central, while Kimm finished 5 of 10 for 91 yards with a touchdown and an interception.
“Coming off last year being 2-8, there’s nothing sweeter,” Uhl said of the win. “I’m really looking forward to next week (against New Albany).”
FLOYD CENTRAL 54, JENNINGS COUNTY 30
Jennings County 0 10 7 13 — 30
Floyd Central 14 14 14 12 — 54
FC — Logan Vaughn 64 punt return (kick failed), 4:18
FC — Gaige Klingsmith 74 run (Adam Wallace pass from Colton Kimm), 1:23
JC — Keegan Beineke 45 pass from Conner Byram (Adrian Kirchner kick), 11:10
FC — Klingsmith 10 run (Ryan Lenz kick), 3:36
FC — Klingsmith 48 run (Lenz kick), 1:40
JC — Kirchner 32 field goal, 0:00
FC — Gabriel Kennedy 55 run (Lenz kick), 11:20
FC — Brandon Stout 16 pass from Kimm (Lenz kick), 4:56
JC — Dakota Bott 1 run (Kirchner kick), 2:50
FC — Garry Posey 3 run (run failed), 8:48
JC — Bott 11 run (kick failed), 5:49
JC — Bott 24 run (Kirchner kick), 1:51
FC — Blake Carl 85 run (pass failed), 1:30
Jennings County (5-20-85-1): Byram 5-20-85-1.
Floyd Central (5-10-91-1): Kimm 5-10-91-1.
Jennings County (40-376): Preston Teltow 23-232, Bott 12-118, Nick Nixon 3-21, Michael Ater 1-3, Byram 1-2.
Floyd Central (37-443): Klingsmith 22-235, Blake Carl 5-102, Kennedy 1-55, Nick Uhl 3-19, Kimm 2-12, Stout 2-10, Posey 2-10.
Jennings County: Nixon 3-34, Beineke 1-45, Adam Driver 1-6.
Floyd Central: Adam Wallace 1-34, Austin Carl 1-19, Stout 1-16, Uhl 1-14, Lukas Quinkert 1-8.