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Course reversal

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Connersville kicker Cole Martin (27) follows through on an extra-point attempt, while holder Gavin Lynch watches, last Friday at Spartan Field. Martin, Lynch and the Spartans go on the road for the first time in three weeks tonight, traveling to Jennings County.
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Connersville senior Breydan Shafer lines up at the wide receiver position last week against Rushville in the War on 44 football game at Spartan Field. Tonight, the Spartans travel to Jennings County for a non-conference game.
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Shane McClain (58) and Warren Toole (3) combine to make a tackle on a Rushville runner last week at Spartan Field. The Connersville Spartans will go in search of their first win in 2018 tonight, traveling to Jennings County.

By GRADY TATE - gtate@newsexaminer.com

Still in search for a turnaround to their 2018 season, the Connersville football team is looking at no better time than tonight to apply the brakes.

Traveling to Jennings County to take on the Panthers, the Spartans see a football team that is in a similar situation to their own.

The Panthers have won just once this year, a 41-13 victory over another 1-4 team, Brown County. It should be noted, however, that two of those losses came to quality programs in Columbus East and New Albany.

Both teams have struggled keeping opponents out of the end zone, the Spartans surrendering 45 points per game, and Jennings County giving up 40.

Offensively, the Panthers also hold a slight edge over CHS, scoring 14.4 per game compared to 11.8 for the Spartans.

Connersville, however, hopes to have turned that corner, as well. Last week's 28 points against Rushville nearly matched the combined point total for the team (31) through its first four games.

Across the field from them, Jennings County doesn't have a stand-out running back to carry the load to victory. Instead, the Panthers have a plethora of capable runners that could make things even more difficult to deal with.

Six players have at least 19 carries, and all of them are near or over 100 yards for the season.

That list includes Lance Bailey (39 carries, 91 yards), Levi Peacock (36-88), Brooks Wathen (26-160), Justin Brogdon (25-106), Branden Harris (23-114) and Drew Goins (19-83).

In spite of so many choices at running the football, the Panthers will still throw the ball on occasion. The team averages more than 16 pass plays per game, quarterback Lance Bailey having completed 27 passes for 422 yards and three touchdowns. Aaron Martin and Owen Deaton have also attempted throws for JCHS.

The Panthers have a pair of primary receiving targets, as Jared Corya and Dylan Elkins have hauled in 22 of the team's 30 completions in 2018. Corya leads the tandem with 14 catches for 213 yards, followed by Elkins with eight grabs and 143 yards. Both have two touchdown catches.

Deaton paces the defensive unit, leading the team with 43 tackles on the year. He is followed by Tyler Wathen with 23.

On their side of the football, the Spartans primarily turn running duties over to Landon Cerqua, the CHS junior coming into tonight with 93 carries (18.6 average per game) and 352 yards (3.78). Last week against the Lions, Cerqua enjoyed his best night of the season, eating up 148 yards on the ground and scoring three touchdowns.

While Cerqua will get a large share of the carries, coach Adam Kelly is taking a bigger and bigger look at Warren Toole out of the backfield. After getting only four carries in Connersville's first three games, the Spartan receiver has been given the ball 20 times in the past two contests.

It's paid off for CHS, as Toole's average per carry (4.67 yards) is tops on the team.

Other options include Gavin Lynch, Colten Glover, Jacen Beckman, Colten Sizemore and quarterback Adam Kelly.

Toole is also a threat to catch the ball, his five catches and 63 yards second best for the Spartans.

Leading the team downfield is tight end Evan Shafer, the sophomore coming into tonight's game with six catches and 111 yards.

Connersville is in search of its first win of the season, a task that will only get more difficult down the stretch, as the team will confront Eastern Indiana Athletic Conference powers East Central, Lawrenceburg and Batesville, to close out the regular-season schedule.



Game time: 7 p.m. at Panther Stadium.

Coaches: Adam Kelly, 20-46 in 7th year at Connersville. Rick Zimmerman, 27-80 in 11th year at Jennings County.

Sagarin ratings: Jennings County, 25.37, 239th overall, 54th in 4A. Connersville, 12.46, 279th overall, 58th in 4A.

Last outing: Connersville lost to Rushville, 55-28. Jennings County lost to Madison, 36-14.

Opponents' records: Connersville 12-13. Jennings County 11-14.

Series last 30 years: No meetings.