PANA — After starting the season 0-3 and beating the odds of making the Class 2A playoff, the Arthur-Lovington-Atwood-Hammond football team could not again beat the odds to upset the No. 2 seeded Panthers at Pana Friday night.

ALAH, the No. 15 seeded team, could not overcome early first-quarter Panther scoring.

By the end of the first quarter, Pana led 28-7. The Panthers took a 35-13 at the half and went on to win 49-19.

ALAH had chances to keep the game closer but could not capitalize in the red zone.

“I do think the game could have been a little closer,” said ALAH coach Ryan Jefferson. “We were down to our 3-yard line and also our 15-yard line and weren’t able to punch it in. If we score and make those extra points, that’s 35 offensively, and then they got a score late in the game where we went for it on our own 10 and didn’t get it, so we were backed against the wall but we had to go for it at that point.”

The most surprising part of the loss for Jefferson was the way Pana beat them. The Panthers finished with 405 yards on the ground and scored six rushing touchdowns.

“I thought we went in and competed, especially once we settled down a little,” said Jefferson. “I was disappointed in our run defense, because that has been one of our better areas, especially in the last five games. I thought if something were going to beat us, it would be the pass so that was a hard pill to swallow, knowing they rushed for well over 300 yards on us.”

Kaden Feagin rushed for 115 yards on 29 carries but was also lost 24 yards on sacks. Through the air, Feagin was 6-of-15 for 33 and one interception.

Feagin also returned three kicks for 118 yards, including 93-yard touchdown return.

Landon Waldrop ran the ball five times for 11 yards and scored a touchdown. He also returned an interception 89-yards for a touchdown return.

Mason Allen carried the ball five times for 11 yards. Max Allen carried the ball twice for 14 yards.

Noah Garrett caught two passed for 16 yards, and Jayce Parsons snagged one pass for four yards. Landon Waldrop earned 13 yards in the air on three catches.

Defensively, Feagin led the team with 15 tackles, and Noah Garrett followed with six.

A solid season

Despite the loss, the Knights fought through injuries and a slow start to accomplish the goal of making the playoffs.

“It was a year of adversity and I’m proud of how we responded,” Jefferson said. “Starting off 0-3 and then going on to win 5 of last 6 is a tough thing to do for any team, because of the mental aspect of knowing you’re very close to being eliminated from playoff contention every single game. We had a lot of injuries this year and then went through some Covid issues late in the year.”

The Knights have been without three or more starters in every single game, including this playoff game. ALAH was without two defensive linemen, one guard/linebacker and one defensive back.

“We toughed through it and the last half of our season and making the postseason is going to be a big thing for our kids going into next year,” Jefferson said.

Jefferson believes this strong end to this season and the playoff appearance was a building block for next season.

“I think we have a lot of momentum with how we finished this season,” he said. “This was our first time in 2A for awhile, so now we know what to expect.”

ALAH only had three seniors on the roster. One senior didn’t play until week seven, and another senior only was sable to played the first two games because he got a season-ending concussion. So ALAH played the season with one senior who was a full-time starter in Austin Abercrombie.

“This bodes well for our team next year as we got a lot of younger guys in and had guys step up,” Jefferson said. “Without those other two seniors playing their sparing amounts of time, we bring back 20-out-of-22 defensive starters and then beyond that have eight other guys who played good amounts of time or started at times due to injuries.”

Final record

The Knights ended the season with a 5-5 overall record and 5-2 in the Lincoln Prairie Conference.

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