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PANA — Pana's season couldn't have started off much worse. 

After deferring the opening kickoff to Greenville in their Week 1 South Central match-up Friday, Comets wide receiver Drew Frey took it to the house for an 81-yard kickoff return. 

But the Panthers' defense didn't panic and on Greenville's next drive, they stopped run after run inside the 5-yard line. 

Pana took over on downs and was promptly tackled in the end zone, giving the Comets a quick 9-0 lead. 

The Panthers' defense stepped up even further as they kept Greenville off the scoreboard until midway through the fourth quarter, allowing Pana to take a 28-21 victory. 

Pana quarterback Jack Armstrong, filling the huge shoes left Illinois College's Jacob Beeson, struggled in the first half, repeatably trying to connect on long passes to wide receivers Cody Klein and Bryce Edmiston. 

"I feel great about the win but it was about the worst game I could have for myself, so it can only get better from there and I'm glad we got the win," he said. 

Armstrong lived up to his name in the third quarter, finally connecting with Klein on a 52-yard pass which put the Panthers up 20-9. 

"I kind of just throw it up for Cody and he goes up and grabs it. It's not too hard. You get him streaking down the middle with the safety and it's over," Armstrong said. 

While not all the passes were connecting, Armstrong also showed off his footwork, scoring on a 52-yard quarterback keeper to extend the Pana lead to 28-15. 

The muddy conditions led to some sloppy play with many penalties called and several personal fouls issued to both sides. 

In the third quarter, Edmiston was tackled from behind and had to be removed from the field by ambulance. The field conditions were so wet that the ambulance initially became stuck in the mud trying to get on the field. 

"Edmiston is a stud, he is quick and we didn't get to showcase his speed a lot on this field," Pana coach Trevor Higgins said. "Put him on a dry field one-on-one with anybody and he will make them miss."

Before leaving the game, Edmiston grabbed an interception on defense and returned a Greenville punt 75 yards for a touchdown in the second quarter. 

"Bryce is a dynamic player for us and he had a great game," Armstrong said. "I'm sad to see him in the hospital. I don't know what is going on there, but hopefully he will be able to be back on the field next week."

Higgins blamed himself for Pana's slow start in its season opener. 

"It seems like we are like this every year," Higgins said. "We started off slow. I didn't have the offense ready and prepared enough for this type of defense.

"Greenville came out and showed us looks that we weren't prepared for. Our defense kept up in the game and they made some great plays for us. In these sloppy conditions we are glad to come out of here with the win."

Blocking will be on the top of the list for improvements this week before the Panthers face Roxana next week. 

"We didn't run the ball very well and I thought we were going to be better than we were today," Higgins said. "And that's not just the line that is blocking from the receivers, just overall blocking."

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Contact Matthew Flaten at (217) 421-6968. Follow him on Twitter: @MattFlaten



Reporter for Lee Enterprises Central Illinois.

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