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Panthers take down Red Bud in opener

 
By Justin Walker
Posted on 8/27/2018, 5:12 AM

RED BUD -- Coming off a winless season, it wasn't a good sign when Pinckneyville's first offensive play of Friday's opener resulted in a turnover.

But the Panthers not only shook off that potential omen, they also went to beat Red Bud, 17-7, and begin a fresh start with a winning record.

"It was super good for this bunch," said Pinckneyville coach Tod Rushing. "They needed that monkey off their backs. We went 0-9 last year but four of those games were close and we had chances that dissolved in our own hands. Now they know what it feels like to win. They needed to feel that again."

The monkey was still there after junior quarterback Hunter Riggins was intercepted on that first play. And the Musketeers would've had an early lead if not for a touchdown-saving tackle by sophomore Jordan Lee.

Then on the very next play, Lee returned the favor with an interception of his own. The Panthers didn't turn the ball over again despite playing on a wet field that resulted in some comical snap situations.

"Hunter played a really good game on both sides of the ball," Rushing said. "After he threw that interception, he didn't dwell on it. He's got a very short memory. He played outstanding after that."

Pinckneyville's first points came on a 34-yard field goal by sophomore Ben Restoff with 3:33 left in the first quarter. Riggins connected for a 40-yard touchdown to Devin Kitchen early in the second period and Riggins took in a 1-yard run with 6:28 left in the half.

Those plays, along with two PAT kicks by Restoff, gave the Panthers a 17-0 lead at the break.

Red Bud scored the only points of the second half on a short run with 5:34 left in the third quarter.

"We couldn't get anything going in the second half but we did a good job of them out of the end zone," Rushing said. "We just played so hard. We got tired late and fought through it. There was a lot of cramping but the guys kept their wits."

Pinckneyville's defense was led by senior Chase Fulkerson (nine tackles), Stetson Lappin and Draeden Kreger.

Fulkerson was also the team's leading rusher with 10 carries for 43 yards. Lucas Downard had nine carries for 35 yards and Darian Harris rushed 10 times for 42 yards. Riggins completed three of his six passes for 74 yards, with Kitchen catching two of them for 69 yards and Kreger hauling in the other.

Rushing said the biggest stat of the night was penalties -- the Panthers were flagged just twice and both were of the five-yard variety.

Pinckneyville's next game is at home against West Frankfort, which is coming off an eye-opening win against Anna-Jonesboro.