Caverna and Russellville found offense in the fourth period Friday night as a 13-0 Panthers lead after three quarters blossomed into a 34-13 for them.

“It was a whole lot closer than the score indicated,” Russellville coach John Myers said. “I really felt like our in the fourth quarter, even when the game was close, our offensive line finally came around and got the job done.”

The Panthers’ offense appeared to receive a spark from a great play by the Colonels’ defense.

Seven seconds into the fourth quarter, Caverna’s Curtis Adams scooped up a fumble by Russellville’s Dustin Sydnor and returned it 15 yards for a touchdown.

Alex Vincent hit the first point-after kick, but a penalty forced him to re-kick and the it was blocked by the Panthers. That left the Colonels trailing, 13-6.

Russellville had been held to 169 yards of offense in three quarters, so it appeared the Colonels were back in the game with the score. Caverna had gained 165 yards in three quarters.

But the Panthers were able to answer.

“Our last two drives were impressive drives and that’s because our offensive went out there and decided to fire off the ball (and block),” Myers said.

They put together a 6-play touchdown drive that ended with a 1-yard scoring lunge by quarterback Jordan Hinton. John Starks added the PAT and the lead was 20-6 with 10:05 to go.

The drive began at the Panthers’ 45-yard-line after the Colonels attempted a high, short kick. The ball was recovered by Russellville. Caverna was also whistled for two personal fouls on the drive that aided the Panthers.

The Colonels were not done yet.

They responded with a 5-play drive that ended with a 36-yard touchdown pass play from Bartley Weaver to Adams. Adams caught a quick slant and beat the defense to the end zone. Vincent kicked the extra point with 7:01 showing on the clock and cut the lead to 20-13.

Russellville stopped the comeback with their next two offensive drives. The first lasted six plays and ended with a 15-yard touchdown pass from Hinton to Justin Rust and the second was a 2-play drive that was capped by a 76-yard touchdown run by Sydnor.

Caverna coach Nick Stephens said his team showed moxie in the fourth quarter.

“We challenged our kids at halftime, of course we were down 13-0, but we felt like we could’ve been up except for a dropped touchdown pass,” Stephens said.

The Colonels opened the game with Carrington Maxey at quarterback hoping to run the option a little more. Then they ran a play where Weaver shifted to tailback, took a pitch from Maxey and rolled right. Downfield, Chad Nuckols slipped behind the Panthers’ defense, but he was unable to hold onto the pass from Weaver.

After that the Russellville defensive line spent much of the night disrupting the Colonels’ passing game.

“I was impressed by their entire team’s speed on defense. We told our guys (Andre Smith) was quick and he was back there in our backfield,” Stephens said.

“Our defensive line is what’s made us all year. That Andre Smith is hard to handle,” Myers said.

Nuckols had a solid night running the ball for the Colonels. He carried it 11 times for 122 yards. Caverna had 136 team rushing yards on 23 attempts.

Weaver completed 15 of 31 passes for 113 yards. Maxey attempted two passes and completed one for five yards.

Adams caught four for 71 yards, while Nuckols had three catches for 33 yards.

The Panthers finished the game with 342 yards of offense and 242 came on the ground. Sydnor ran 23 times for 186 yards, while Hinton completed 4 of 15 passes for 100 yards.

The loss dropped the Colonels to 2-5 overall and 0-2 in Class A, District 2. The Panthers improved to 6-1 and 2-0.

Caverna travels to Crittenden County Friday night for a 7:30 p.m. game.

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