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Prep Football | Nashville advances to final four with win over Pana

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Nashville's Isaac Turner (4) fends off Carterville’s Blake Burkey (12) on a run during the second quarter of a game this season in Nashville

NASHVILLE — The Nashville Hornets scored three straight touchdowns in the second quarter and a field goal at the start of the third quarter to break open a tie ballgame to beat Pana, 43-19, on a cold Saturday afternoon before a full house on both sides of Nashville High School football field.

“This week was very different from what we normally do because we knew we were going to get many looks from them – they probably played five or six different defenses we saw on film and we really got that today, so early on we were changing plays at the line of scrimmage,” said Nashville coach Stephen Kozuszek. “I thought our kids handled that well. Early on we moved the ball on the ground and later on they loaded the box and that opened up some things for us to take some shots down the field and luckily we hit on them. Isaac Turner had a big game and Ben Reid with a huge post play that put us up three scores was a big turning point in the game.”

Nashville (11-1) will host St. Teresa Catholic (12-0) next Saturday in the semifinals. 

“I have not seen St. Teresa on film, but we know they are very talented. We faced their running back – he is probably the best small school running back in the state – when he was a sophomore and he was a load then.”

Senior running back Connor Gladson rushed for 101 yards on 34 carries with four touchdowns scored.

“They’re a hard-hitting team, so I felt I had to scrap it out,” Gladson said. “My yards per carry probably weren’t great, but when I needed to punch it in I punched it in.”

Senior quarterback Kolten Gajewski completed 10-of-23 passes for 297 yards and one touchdown pass.

“The defense they run, we knew it was going to be hard to get anything up the middle running the ball, so the passing game was going to be crucial,” Gajewski said. “Deep balls are fun to throw. I had a lot of pressure, so a lot of the time I didn’t know if some connected because I was on the ground The 78-yard touchdown pass to Ben Reid was one we drew up this week and we knew it was only going to work one time, so I think we picked a perfect time.”

Senior wide receiver Isaac Turner caught seven passes for 189 yards with one touchdown and the senior Reid having caught just the one pass, but it was the 78-yard touchdown pass to put the game away at the end of the third quarter.

“I have a strong connection with Kolten and it’s one we work on every day and our connection on the deep balls is really good,” Turner said. “At the beginning of the year it wasn’t the best, but it’s gotten better every week.”

After Pana (11-1) had tied the game on a one-yard run by Monte Weddle with 1:48 remaining in the first quarter Nashville took over on their own 30 after the kickoff and needed just four plays, including overcoming a 10-yard holding penalty that set up 2nd-and-18 from the Pana 45 where Kolten Gajewski connected with Turner for the touchdown. The extra point was blocked leaving the Hornets with a 13-7 lead eight seconds into the second quarter.

The Nashville defense stopped the Panthers on downs at the Hornets 33 and the offense took over driving 67 yards on 12 plays with Gladson scoring from the 11. The two-point conversion pass failed and the Hornets led 19-7 with 4:40 left in the half.

With less than a minute left in the half Josh Burns recovered a Brenden Schoonover fumble at the end of a 15-yard pass reception at the Pana 27. However, three incomplete passes and a zero yard run resulted in the Hornets turning the ball on downs.

Pana, who had won the coin toss and deferred to the second half started their drive at their own 30 and was immediately set back on a holding penalty. After an 11-yard rushing gain Lynch fumbled the ball and Kade Ridgeway recovered at the Pana 19.

It took five plays with Gladson running for four of them and the final four yards for the touchdown. Eduardo Garibay kicked the extra point and the Hornets led 26-7 just 2:27 into the second half.

After forcing a 3-and-out and a punt Nashville took over on its own 41 and immediately Gajewski found Turner down the right sideline for 38 yards. Eight plays later the drive stalled at the Pana seven. Garibay was called in and drilled a 24-yard field goal to up the lead to 29-7 with 5:13 left in the third quarter.

Pana took over at its own 27 and drove the length of the field on 10 plays helped by a facemask penalty to score on a 16-yard touchdown pass from Lynch to Ace Armstrong. The two-point conversion run was short leaving the score 29-13 with 2:37 remaining in the quarter.

The Panthers successfully recovered an onside kick a the 50. However, three plays later Turner intercepted Lynch at the 20. Following a two-yard run and an incomplete pass Gajewski and Reid connected on the 78-yard touchdown pass down the middle of the field. Garibay kicked the point again and the Hornets led 36-13 with 53.7 seconds left in the third quarter.

“Every week I go for the deep routes and those are the ones I like,” Reid said. “We named the play mail. I knew it was coming, so all I had to beat the man and keep going.”

Pana started its next drive on its 30 and three plays later Lynch faked a handoff to Evan Swisher and ran around left end for a 61-yard touchdown. The extra point kick hit the right upright leaving the score 36-19 with 11:46 left.

After both teams were stopped on downs on four straight possessions the Hornets took over on the Pana 11. Three plays later Gladson scored from the four for his fourth touchdown run of the game. Garibay’s kick was good again and the Hornets led 43-19 with 1:20 remaining.

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