The Monroe City football team relied on three touchdowns in the fourth quarter to defeat South Shelby 42-22 on the road Friday night.
The Clarence Cannon Conference rivals were knotted at 22 through the first three periods, but Monroe City rose to the challenge with 20 unanswered points and stingy defense over the final 12 minutes.
"I never saw any panic," Monroe City coach David Kirby said. "We had to fight back and look at ourselves and try to straighten up. Our kids responded really well."
Monroe City improves to 5-1 overall and 4-1 in the CCC.
Keenan Batsell starred in the Panthers' backfield for 173 yards rushing and four scores in the victory. He posted a pair of touchdowns in the fourth.
"Keenan ran really well tonight," Kirby said. "He's starting to understand that he's 195 pounds and he's very strong and fast. He's using his body and playing much better behind his pads and he ran with a much more aggressive purpose."
Blake Hays connected with Zach Osborn for a touchdown pass in the final stanza to help the Panthers pull away.
Hays, the Panthers' starting quarterback, threw for 57 yards and added 111 yards rushing, while the all-purpose standout Osborn rattled off three carries of 24-plus yards toward his total of 96 yards on the ground.
"When we got our groove going, we sustained drives and put ourselves in good positions to stay ahead of the chains," Kirby said.
South Shelby's Brock Wood returned the opening kickoff for a touchdown to give the host Cardinals an early lead on their homecoming.
Monroe City scored midway through the first quarter to make it 6-all before going up 14-6 at the intermission.
Wood nearly covered the whole field for a touchdown run on a third-down play to keep South Shelby neck-and-neck in the third.
"We were just out of position and I take the fall for that," Kirby said of the breakdown. "We weren't lined up the way we were supposed to."
South Shelby (1-5, 0-4) produced more points in Friday's game than its past three weeks combined against Macon, Clark County and Palmyra.
But Monroe City made stops when it mattered most.
"There are about 130 plays in a football game," Kirby said of his message to his players. "Let's not get fixated on one play that happened but rather let's focus on the here and the now. If we do that enough, good things will happen."
The Panthers are scheduled to play a non-conference game at Class 4 Helias Catholic next Friday night.