Hounds Edged 21-27 by Panthers on Homecoming

Ashwin Prasad

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North Central senior and wide receiver Richard Hamilton scored two touchdowns, including the game-winning score with 51.8 seconds to hand CHS (5-2) their first Homecoming defeat in 16 years, 21-27.

A sluggish first half gave way to a thrilling fourth quarter packed with twists and turns. The Panthers’ 13-7 lead suddenly became a 21-13 Hounds advantage, and it took a diving catch along with Hamilton’s intervention to turn the tide. 

On the very first play, Christian Williams, senior wide receiver and quarterback, fumbled a handoff, setting the tone for a nervy, uncertain start. While the Hounds recovered that fumble, the Panthers drove into the red zone before North Central senior and quarterback Harry Abell lobbed a pass that junior cornerback Owen Schafer snagged for an interception.

Hamilton then had a punt return touchdown wiped out by a holding penalty, but senior safety Garrett Sharp blocked a field goal. Sophomore quarterback Zach Osborne, however, threw an interception, continuing a pattern of slow starts. This time, however, he couldn’t recover, and was benched for Williams.

After exchanging punts, the Panthers crowd began jeering at the Greyhound faithful. They were immediately silenced, however, when a snap rolled through the QB’s leg and scooped up for a touchdown by senior Jake Weaver. The 7-0 score held up through halftime.

But it didn’t hold up for much longer.

Hamilton streaked through a huge gap for a 95 yard kick return touchdown to equalize the score. The Panthers added a short field goal on the next possession to open up a 10-7 lead. The Hounds offense was sputtering, and momentum was wearing red and black as the third quarter wound down.

The tide began to turn when Schafer bagged his second pick of the game, taking advantage of a brutal miscommunication to give the Hounds much-needed field position at the NC 41. Facing third and 2 at the 12, though, sophomore running back JD Rogers committed a backbreaking fumble to snuff out another opportunity. The Panthers clawed their way to the Carmel 10 before curiously settling for a field goal on a fourth and 2, and a 13-7 lead. 

Then, the fireworks began. Senior wide receiver Zach Gish returned a kickoff 32 yards, and Williams lofted a beautiful 60-yard touchdown pass to senior wide receiver Colton Parker. Senior linebacker Kyle Lozen then tipped and picked off a pass, and Rogers bounced off a tackler to score from 11 yards out. The roaring Hounds crowd suddenly could see the finish line with 5 minutes to go.

The Panthers had answers. Junior running back David Smith, who had been stifled all game, broke out a 20 yard dash. Sharp couldn’t hang on to an interception, and Abell threw a 29 yard touchdown pass to a diving Theran Johnson to bring the Panthers within two to stun the crowd. Heavy pressure by Lozen ruined the two-point conversion attempt, and the Hounds were hanging on to the lead with 3:15 left.

A masterful read-option by Williams gained 20 yards, but senior running back Dylan Downing was stuffed on a third and two at the Carmel 43 with 1:30 to go. Rogers had to punt the ball back.

Abell and Hamilton then dealt the death blow, connecting for 40 and 31 yards in consecutive plays. For good measure, they added a two point conversion to pad the lead to six.

Williams valiantly attempted to pull off the miracle, completing two 10 yard passes on fourth and third down. At midfield, however, he was strip-sacked before he could attempt the Hail Mary.

NEXT WEEK

It doesn’t get any easier for the Hounds, who take on defending state champions Warren Central (4-2) at home. The Warriors cruised 28-14 against Pike, one week after losing a double-overtime thriller to Ben Davis.

EXTRA POINTS

North Central snapped a 13 game losing streak to the Hounds, making up for last year’s memorable 41-40 triple overtime thriller.

Downing, after a quiet 68 yard performance last week against Lawrence North, was held to just 12 yards and 7 receiving yards.

Senior linebacker Dominic Padjen and Sharp had eight tackles each to lead the team.

Senior and Student Body President Madeline “Maddie” Heath was crowned Homecoming Queen at halftime.

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