While the Concordia offense was struggling to find its footing in the early going against the Chapman Irish, the Panther defense was firmly planted.
Through nearly two quarters, the Panther offense, averaging better than 35 points per game, had just one touchdown, two turnovers and a punt, but the defense kept Chapman in check.
By the time the defense gave up a touchdown in the third quarter, the Panthers were up 26-0 and on their way to a 32-13 North Central Kansas League win over the Irish Friday night at Harold M. Clark Stadium.
Chapman, in its first 10 possessions of the game, had eight punts and two turnovers.
Concordia limited the Irish to just 82 total yards in those 10 possessions.
“Our defense played really well, really well,” Concordia coach Tim Lambert said.
The Panthers, now 4-2 overall and 3-1 in League play, have won three straight games heading into Class 4A district play.
Concordia has outscored its last three opponents 129-34.
The Panthers will open district play at Colby on Friday night.
“We still need to get better. I think we still have improvement to make. I don’t think we have played as well as we can,” Lambert said, “At the same time, we are playing pretty good, but pretty good is not good enough.”
Neither team could get much going offensively early on in a matchup of teams with identical records.
Concordia had a fumbled punt, and fumble deep in Chapman territory.
The Irish punted on its first six offensive possessions.
The Panthers finally got untracked following a short Chapman punt that gave them the ball at the Irish 47-yard line.
A 16-yard run by Trevor Nordell, an 11-yard run by Drake Hake and a 5-yard run by Nick Thomas gave Concordia a first and goal.
Nordell scored on a 5-yard run. The two-point conversion attempt failed, and the Panthers led 6-0.
Concordia, on its next two possessions, turned the ball over on downs and fumbled.
The Panthers got the ball back following a Nordell fumble, when Brentin Hake stripped the ball away from Chapman’s Robert Walsh.
“He just took it away from a kid. They got about six yards on a play, and Brentin just stripped it as the kid was going down,” Lambert said.
Concordia went 63 yards in seven plays.
Nathan Gieber lofted a 24-yard touchdown pass to Alan Garcia with 33 seconds to play in the first half.
Nordell was stopped short on the two-point conversion run, and the Panthers led 12-0.
“It was probably disheartening for them,” Lambert said of the touchdown that put the Panthers up by two touchdowns heading into halftime, “It had a dual effect in that it gave us a cushion and a little more confidence.”
Concordia got the ball to start the second half, and went 63 yards in seven plays.
Gieber completed a 33-yard pass to Nordell that give the Panthers a first and goal at the Chapman 1-yard line.
“They had a linebacker who was going to have to guard Trevor man to man. We thought we could get up the seam on him, and we did. It was a big play for us,” Lambert said.
Shea Crum scored one play later.
Hake ran in the two-point conversion to up the lead to 20-0.
Gieber completed four of seven passes for 72 yards.
The next three offensive possessions resulted in punts.
Concordia would put together an 82-yard, 11-play drive that Nordell finished off with a 2-yard touchdown run with 10:37 to play in the game that made it 26-0.
Chapman responded with a 48-yard scoring drive.
Logan Lexow scored on a 3-yard run. The extra point closed the gap to 26-7.
Concordia recovered an onsides kick attempt at its own 49-yard line.
Joshua Pounds finished off a seven play drive with a 9-yard touchdown run with 4:47 to play in the game, and the Panthers led 32-7.
Chapman would got 78 yards in 13 plays and score on an 8-yard pass from Tyler Harris to Logan Lumkuhl with seven seconds to play that made the final score 32-13.
Concordia rolled up 415 yards of total offense to 213 for Chapman.
Hake carried 15 times for 114 yards for the Panthers.
Fullback Nick Thomas finished with 89 yards on 11 carries.
Nordell had 88 yards on 20 carries with a touchdown.
Chapman had 125 yards rushing in the game.
Lexow carried 10 times for 71 yards.
Walsh had eight carries for 59 yards.