The Palmyra football team cruised to a 24-0 shutout over Centralia in a Class 2 District 6 semifinal game.
Four weeks ago, Jarom Alexander and Peyton Plunkett ran wild over the Centralia defense. The two Palmyra running backs combined for over 300 yards rushing and accounted for all five touchdowns in a 35-0 win.
Centralia made it a point not to let the same thing happen Friday night.
But Palmyra quarterback Jacob Kroeger reminded Centralia he could do same damage with his feet as well.
Kroeger called his own number for an 87-yard touchdown run in second quarter for the only score of the first half.
Palmyra’s offense would follow suit in the second half as the host Panthers cruised to a 24-0 win over Centralia in a Class 2 District 6 semifinal game.
“He made a great read, took the right step and got vertical quick,” Palmyra coach Kevin Miles said of Kroeger’s score. “That is the reason why he is our guy back there. He made a lot of great decisions all game long and I am real proud of him for his effort and the job he did to lead our team tonight.”
Kroeger’s score came on the Panthers first possession of the game.
But the Palmyra offense could not gain any more traction the rest of the half.
The Centralia defense forced Palmyra into a pair of three-and-outs and an interception. The Palmyra offense gained just nine yards the rest of the first half after Kroeger’s score.
But just like it has all season, the Palmyra defense was there to pick up the team.
Palmyra stuffed the Centralia offense twice inside the red zone in the first half for a 7-0 lead at the half.
On the final play of the first half, Brady Barnett tackled Kaiden Davenport for a 9-yard loss on an attempted halfback pass from the Palmyra 6-yard line.
“He did a nice job of putting himself in the right spot,” Miles said of his linebacker. “He was going hard and made a great play. But I also thought on the backend of that our defensive backs were there as well. Just a great team effort on that play. I thought everyone did what they needed to do.”
The Palmyra offense got back on track in the second half. Alexander broke loose for a 46-yard rush on the first possession of the half before the offense stalled and was forced to punt.
After the defense forced a three-and-out, Plunkett rumbled 41 yards down to the Centralia 17. Four plays later Noah Mencer connected on a 31-yard field goal for a 10-0 lead with 5:07 left in the third.
The Palmyra defense forced a fumble on the next possession and the offense quickly cashed the turnover into points. Alexander gave Palmyra a 17-0 lead with a 13-yard score off the right edge.
“In the first half they brought another safety up and really cracked down on us to where we couldn’t have any gaps to run through,” Kroeger said of the Centralia defense. “So coming out of halftime we figured out something to stop that a little bit and we started getting four, five, six yards and more a gain. But it all started with the offensive line. They did great right out of halftime to help us open things up.”
Palmyra reached into its bag of tricks for the final tally of the game.
On a 39-yard field goal attempt, Mencer took the snap and floated a strike to Kroeger streaking down the left side of the field for a 22-yard pitch and catch.
“We have had that in our arsenal for awhile,” Kroeger admitted. “But just the ability to run it in a big-time game like that and put the dagger in somebody is big. Noah ran the play to perfection.”
After racking up 147 yards in the first half, Centralia was limited to 53 yards in the second half.
“That is what we hang our hat on all year is our defense,” Miles said. “And they were great again tonight. Centralia is a darn good football team. We knew they would be a tough test for us and our kids responded well. I am very proud of the way they played.”
Kroeger (85), Alexander (69) and Plunkett (56) accounted for 210 yards on the ground to lead the host Panthers.
Palmyra (9-2) will play host to Clark County next Friday for the district championship game.
Clark County knocked off top-seeded Macon, 28-18.
“We lost this game (semifinal) last year and were in shock so now that we are back in the championship game we hope we can keep it going and get another W there,” Kroeger said of playing for a district title.