Brock Wood lowered his shoulder and rumbled 43 yards on South Shelby’s first possession of the second half. The touchdown brought the visiting Cardinals to within 22-6 just two minutes after halftime.
But Monroe City had a bigger punch on their sideline in the form of Cole Pennewell.
The Panthers bruising fullback punished the South Shelby defense time and time again to the tune of 162 yards on the ground.
Pennewell found the end zone three times as the Class 1 No. 3-ranked Panthers disposed of their Clarence Cannon Conference rivals, 38-6.
“Like coach told us, this kind of puts us in the driver’s seat,” Pennewell said of the win. “This win was very important for the conference and the districts.”
Pennewell scored the first two touchdowns of the game, both on 1-yard runs to help Monroe City (3-0) race out to a 22-0 lead at the half. His 2-yard plunge late in the fourth quarter sealed the win.
“I have to give all the credit to my line,” he said. “If they don’t block for me, I don’t get any yards so it starts with them, 100 percent.”
The Panthers defense also showed up to play Friday night. Pennewell and Alex Wilson teamed up to force a fumble on the Cardinals’ first possession. Nathan Mehrer recovered the ball near midfield, which helped set up Pennewell’s second score of the game.
South Shelby’s next possession ended in a turnover on downs. The Cardinals marched inside the Monroe City 20 before the Panthers defense stiffened.
“We discussed before the game, whoever’s defense was better was going to win this game,” Pennewell noted. “And our defense really stepped up and helped us get this win tonight.”
Despite being known for a ground attack offense, Panthers quarterback Blake Hays teamed up with Nehemiah Batsell late in the first half for a highlight reel-type touchdown. Hays scrambled to his left and found Batsell in the front of the end zone for a 24-yard score. Batsell was able to keep his toes just inside the pylon as he stretched out to haul in the catch.
“Whoa, he just made a spectatular catch on that play,” Monroe City head coach David Kirby said of the score. “I am looking forward to watching that play later on tonight on our video.”
The touchdown came with 32 ticks left in the first half.
After South Shelby’s touchdown to open the second half, the two teams traded punts over the next three possessions.
Zach Osborn all but put the game away with a 28-yard score with 5:23 left in the game. The score put the Panthers in control, 30-6.
“We knew they had been crashing down on the run and slanting towards Cole’s side, so we had Gage (Bottoms) and Zach run our double handoff and he made a really dynamic play happen,” Kirby explained. “The offensive line blocked it really well and once Zach got past the first level, he made some video game moves out there.”
Osborn finished the game with 68 yards rushing on 13 carries.
Bottoms, who had runs of 23 and 10, added 40 yards on just five carries.
Hays called his own number four times and gained 52 yards to go along with 69 yards through the air. He also intercepted a pass in the fourth quarter on defense.
Batsell caught three passes for 47 yards, while Dawson Shivley had one reception for 22 yards.
Wood led the Cardinals with 91 yards rushing on nine carries.
The Panthers outgained South Shelby (2-1) 391-147.
“I was real happy with the physical nature we played,” Kirby said. “South Shelby is a very good ball club and we knew we would have to come out play very aggressive and I thought our kids stepped up to the challenge tonight.”