Palmyra at crossroads late in season

Palmyra running back Nolyn Richards moves past a Monroe City defender during a Sept. 24 game at Lankford Field.

PALMYRA, Mo. — Palmyra is looking for its luck to change after a couple of narrow losses in recent weeks with the Panthers football season at a crossroads as it enters crunch time.

The Panthers are looking for consistency after blowing out Clark County 41-0 on Oct. 1 and sandwiching that win in between road losses to Monroe City and Highland by a combined total of nine points.

“We just need to keep improving and stay the course,” said Palmyra head coach Kevin Miles. “I feel that we are getting things done. We just can’t seem to catch a break.”

At 3-4, the season can go either way for Palmyra at this point. Finishing with a winning record is still a possibility and the district title is not completely out of the question.

Brookfield and Trenton lead the Class 2 District 7 standings at 4-3, with Palmyra in a three-way tie with Macon and Maryville at 3-4. The Panthers have already defeated Brookfield and Macon.

Palmyra does not control its own destiny and would need to win out and have the teams ahead of them lose to earn the district championship. Perhaps a long shot, but the Panthers plan to work hard in the final two games of the regular season regardless.

“We still have goals set for ourselves that are attainable and we will continue to work to achieve those goals,” Miles said.

Although many key players from last year’s team that advanced to the Class 2 State Final Four graduated, there are still talented players with that postseason experience remaining.

One of those players is starting quarterback and 2020 All-Conference safety Collin Arch.

Palmyra’s success this season has hinged on a healthy Arch. In games that he’s played a full game, Palmyra is 3-1. The Panthers are 0-3 in games that Arch missed or left midway through the game due to injury.

Arch left last week’s game against Highland after being injured and did not return. The Panthers are hopeful he will be ready for this Friday’s home game against South Shelby, the last home contest of the season.

“Collin is a good leader and the quarterback, so he is pretty important to what we want to do,” Miles said. “We are hopeful (he will be able to play).”

Adam Goodwin filled in Arch’s absence last week, and rushed 12 times for 67 yards and a touchdown.

One of the key players for opening up Palmyra’s offense is bruising running back Nolyn Richards, who had 18 carries for 69 yards against Highland.

“Most definitely Nolyn is a very big asset to our team,” Miles said. “But Nolyn and Collin would be the first to tell you that without the offensive line, they would not be able to have the success they have had.”

The line is led by center and 2020 All-Conference selection Luke Triplett, who also starts on the defensive line.

Triplett’s linemate on the defensive side, Brayden Madden, led Palmyra with five tackles last week, while also having a sack.

“Brayden is a young man that is extremely fast off the ball and makes our team better,” Miles said.

Palmyra did a good job of stuffing Highland’s run game, limiting the Cougars to 60 yards on 24 passes.

It was Cougars quarterback Drew Mallet and the passing game that gave the Panthers problems in last week’s loss. Mallet went 14-for-24 for 252 yards and three touchdown passes.

Panthers defensive back Carter Crane was able to get an interception off of Mallet, but Palmyra is hoping to limit big plays in this week’s matchup against the Cardinals.

Miles said Palmyra will need to play fundamentally sound on defense and take care of the football on offense to be successful on Friday.

“We need to just keep working hard and play the game,” Miles said. “We were there on a lot of those plays (last week against South Shelby). They have made some great catches (on us).”

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