NICKERSON – A statistical standoff at halftime was reflected on the scoreboard Friday as Larned battled to a 7-6 halftime lead. But Nickerson took control with a pounding running game that pushed the Panthers to a 27-7 Central Kansas League football victory.
The Panthers converted a 36-yard pass completion and a 37-yard scoring run to break the game open. Nickerson ran 76 offensive snaps to 47 by the Indians, who stalled after halftime.
Larned coach A.B. Stokes was disappointed with the Indians’ second half. The Panthers shut down Larned’s leading receiver Damontay Phillips and limited the Indians’ outside run game. Larned committed turnovers on their first and last drive of the game.
“We really missed several opportunities in the third quarter to put points on the board,” Stokes said. “We let them off the hook on those two plays when we felt like we had forced them into a punt situation. That really took the air out of us.”
Nickerson pounded out 357 yards rushing on 54 attempts. Peyton Kuhns led with 26 attempts for 145 yards. Tanner Schrag added 102 yards on nine carries. Schrag passed for 46 yards.
The Indians had 32 rushes for 128 yards, led by Anthony McConnell’s 15 carries for 84 yards and Wes Davis with 13 attempts for 54 yards. Carson Smith completed six passes for 104 yards. Brock Skelton had four catches for 71 yards.
Nickerson (4-1, 4-1 CKL) plays Hoisington (3-2) and Larned (2-3, 2-3 CKL) plays state-ranked 3A Phillipsburg (5-0) at home.
An errant pitchout to Larned’s Anthony McConnell was fumbled and Nickerson recovered at the 49-yard line. Staying on the ground the Panthers moved to the 2-yard line where quarterback Tanner Schrag dove in for the score for a 6-0 score.
Larned answered behind the power running of Davis and McConnell which moved the ball to the Nickerson 29. With 3:56 remaining in the first quarter Smith hit Shevin Martin with a 29-yard pass. Logan DeMond’s extra point kick have the Indians a 7-6 halftime lead.
Penalties and mistakes negated several good plays as the two teams battled to a standstill at halftime.
Nickerson speedster Trystan Isley returned the second half kickoff to the Larned 41. Behind the running of Isley and Kuhns the Panthers aggressively moved into scoring position and with 8:24 remaining in the third stanza, Kuhns scored on a 2-yard run. Kyle Elliott’s conversion kick gave the Panthers a 13-7 lead.
Late in the third quarter a big play by the Panthers delivered a key turning point. Nickerson quarterback Tanner Schrag scrambled and found T.J. Powell for a 36-yard completion that seemed to rock the Indians. With 1:44 left, Kuhns scored on an 11 yard run on an 88-yard drive and Nickerson had taken control, 20-7.
A similar play happened in the fourth quarter.
Nickerson had a first down with three yards to go on the Larned 12 yard line. Three straight penalties left the Panthers facing a fourth down-and-34 but a busted play scramble by quarterback Schrag resulted in a 37-yard touchdown run and the Panthers held a commanding 27-7 lead.
NICKERSON 27, LARNED 7
L 7 0 0 0 – 7
N 6 0 14 7 – 27
N—Tanner Schrag 2 run (kick blocked), 6:17; L—Shevin Martin 29 pass from Carson Smith (Logan DeMond kick), 3:56; N—Peyton Kuhns 11 run (Kyle Elliott kick), 8:24; N—Kuhns 2 run (Elliott kick), 1:44; N—Tanner Schrag 37 run (Elliott kick), 3:58
RUSHING—N—54-357; Kuhns 26-145; Schrag 9-102; Trystan Isley 10-59; Jarron Kaufman 9-51; L—32-128; Anthony McConnell 15-84; Wes Davis 13-54; Martin 1-(2-); Smith 3-(-8).
PASSING—N—Schrag 2-7-1, 46; L—Smith 6-13-1, 104; Davis 0-1-0.
RECEIVING—N—T.J. Powell 1-36; Noah Salazar 1-10; L—Brock Skelton 4-71; Martin 1-30; Damontay Phillips 1-3.