The Palmyra football team got off to a rough start but responded with seven unanswered touchdowns en route to a 46-8 win over South Shelby on Friday.

The Palmyra football team was jarred with a rude awakening in the opening minutes against South Shelby on Friday night.

The undefeated Panthers fumbled on their first possession, and the visiting Cardinals promptly made them pay with a 9-yard touchdown pass from Brock Wood to Daniel Burke.

The rough start for Palmyra continued when Jacob Kroeger was sacked on back-to-back plays.

A red-faced Palmyra coach Kevin Miles called for a timeout. 

“Coach was not real happy with us,” senior Tristen Gottman said. “Our goal every week is to score on our first drive and then make a stop, and we didn’t do either of those.”

Something must have clicked during that timeout. 

The Panthers responded from that point forward with seven unanswered touchdowns on the scoreboard en route to a 46-8 Clarence Cannon Conference home victory.

Palmyra improves to 4-0.

“We seem to have slow starts,” Miles said. “We were a little hesitant, and I tip my hat to South for coming out and playing better in the first quarter than we did. Our kids weren’t ready. But we settled in, played better and ended up getting on top. It was a process.”

Three plays after the timeout, Kroeger found Gottman over the middle for a 16-yard touchdown pass to pull to within 8-6 with 4:51 left in the first. 

The Panthers tightened on defense to force a turnover on downs at their own 8 on South Shelby’s next drive. Gottman made a key stop on third down before a host of Palmyra defenders teamed up to tackle Burke for a loss of six yards on fourth down.

Palmyra defense makes big stop at the goal line on fourth down to force turnover on downs. 9:14 2Q. pic.twitter.com/jhilhuforr

— Courier-Post Sports (@HCP_Sports) September 15, 2018

“Once we get going we’re pretty red-hot and nobody can really come against us,” Gottman said of the defensive unit. “Our defense has the potential to be superior.” 

“After that drive, we settled in and started playing better defensively,” Miles added. 

The Panthers moved South Shelby backward on its next drive to force a three-and-out and had prime field position at the Cardinals 34 after a 17-yard punt.

Palmyra needed just four plays to cover 34 yards and extend its lead when Kroeger ran for a 5-yard keeper to take a 14-8 edge with 4:22 left in the first half.

Kroeger keeper for 5-yard touchdown run. Lehenbauer to Haerr for 2-point conversion. Palmyra leads 14-8. 4:22 2Q. pic.twitter.com/HCAk3e5wBq

— Courier-Post Sports (@HCP_Sports) September 15, 2018

Gottman intercepted South Shelby deep in Palmyra territory to give the Panthers the ball with 43 seconds left until halftime.

That’s when backup quarterback Corder Lehenbauer went to work. Prized for his strong arm, the junior threw a trio of incomplete passes before connecting with his counterpart Kroeger for a 37-yard completion with 2.6 seconds left in the first half. 

Lehenbauer then weaved through the pocket and ran for 11 yards as the horn sounded to take a 20-8 advantage. 

Lehenbauer runs for 11-yard touchdown on final play of the first half. @Palmyra_R1 leads 20-8 at halftime. pic.twitter.com/3xuEAOhMZT

— Courier-Post Sports (@HCP_Sports) September 15, 2018

“Jacob (Kroeger) asked me to put him at wide receiver and bring Corder (Lehenbauer) in because Corder really throws a good ball,” Miles said. “On the touchdown Corder saw an alley and made it in for a nice play.”

The Panthers defense didn’t let up in the second half, forcing a punt on South Shelby’s first drive of the third quarter. Gottman and Brady Barnett recovered fumbles to end the Cardinals’ next two possessions.

Gottman ran for an 8-yard score with 1:38 left in the third, and Dalton Perkins caught a 12-yard touchdown from Lehenbauer to extend the lead to 24 just over two minutes into the fourth.

Dakota Compton rushed for a 5-yard touchdown to make it 40-8 with 4:39 remaining. Ross Arch added a 24-yard touchdown run with 1:10 on the clock to cap the scoring. 

South Shelby punted on both of its drives in the final period.

Palmyra held the Cardinals to 162 yards of total offense on the night for an average of 2.9 yards per play. The Panthers finished with 376 yards of offense with 286 coming on the ground. 

Mason Scholl led Palmyra with 6 1/2 tackles in the victory. Dylan Redd made six stops and four for loss, while Tucker Aeschliman and Gottman posted 5 1/2 tackles a piece.

Lehenbauer completed 3 of 7 passes for 74 yards and ran for 65 more, while Kroeger added 89 yards on the ground.

Palmyra hosts Highland next Friday night.