Quick-striking Wildcats down Panthers 38-0

Sep. 25—Going almost the entire first quarter without your team making a tackle isn't an ideal way to start a high school football game, and that's how visiting Riverton Parke began its Wabash River Conference game at South Vermillion on Saturday afternoon.

The host Wildcats scored the first two times one of their players touched the ball and had little trouble the rest of the way, winning 38-0 to remain unbeaten in conference play and to retain the traveling Milk Can trophy that hasn't traveled much lately.

Dallas Coleman went 85 yards with the opening kickoff for the Wildcats. "He said he was going to take it to the end zone and he did," South Vermillion coach Greg Barrett said after the game.

The Panthers then kept the ball for almost six minutes, getting into South Vermillion territory before being forced to punt. And the first play after that kick, which had gone out of bounds, Dalton Payton took a pitchout and went around the right side for 67 yards and another score.

"We just came out motivated," said Payton after a 214-yard rushing performance on only 13 carries. "We've had [the Milk Can] since 1997 [the two teams went many years without playing each other] and we can't let [the Panthers] have it back."

The tone had pretty much been set by those two long touchdown plays. But if it hadn't, a 94-yard, six-minute scoring drive in 14 plays — Payton scoring on a 4-yard run — on South Vermillion's next offensive possession certainly did.

"We've just got to get healthy," said coach Brad Sanders of the Panthers, "but that's no excuse. Our kids should have played better."

"We came out humble and hungry," Barrett said. "We haven't done anything yet [this season], but hopefully we can do some big things."

Linton, the top-ranked team in Class 2A that also won in one-sided fashion Saturday, is now in the Wildcats' sectional. "You have to do what you've got to do to beat No. 1," Barrett said.

The Wildcats also scored on their only other possession of the first half, sophomore quarterback Dom Garzolini throwing a touchdown pass to Parker Weir after a scoring pass to Weir had been nullified by a penalty four plays earlier. South Vermillion started the running clock early in the second half, after a touchdown pass from Garzolini to Ryan Straw, and kicked a field goal early in the fourth quarter.

Although the Wildcats scored on every offensive possession until time ran out with them in possession at the end of the game, their defense was also good. The Panthers managed just 66 yards of offense, Michael Fellows leading the way with 28 yards rushing and two recoveries of teammates' fumbles that kept drives alive, and the Wildcats kept Panther star Derron Hazzard from breaking loose for any big plays.

"I'm proud of our defense, which is much improved from a year ago," Barrett said. "These guys remember last year, when we scored a lot but also gave up a lot."

South Vermillion gained 379 yards in 40 plays, with Garzolini's 8-for-8 passing complementing the second big game in a row by Payton.

"It's my senior year," Payton said. "We've got to finish strong: win the conference, hopefully win the sectional . . . and get better."

"[The Wildcats are] a lot faster than we are, and they're pretty good up front," Sanders said, "but we could have given better effort . . . we should have everybody back [from injury] next week, and we've got the opportunity for our first winning season in a long time [since 2006 according to the John Harrell website]."

"[The Panthers are] much improved," Barrett agreed. "They've had great battles all year long."