PENDLETON–It is possible that, somewhere in the state of Indiana, there is a more exciting and electric high school football player than Arabian junior receiver Eli Pancol. But fans of Pendleton Heights will need some heavy duty convincing to believe it.
It isn’t likely that Greenfield-Central will believe it anytime soon either.
Pancol caught 11 passes for 202 yards and four touchdowns and added an interception on defense as the Arabians knocked off the Cougars 34-28 Friday night.
With the victory, Pendleton Heights improved to 4-0 for the first time since 2000. Greenfield-Central fell to 2-2 with the loss.
Arabian coach Jed Richman said the Cougars played into the hands of quarterback Christian Conkling by covering Pancol with one defender.
“They almost overplayed the strong side of the formation,” Richman said. “They single covered Eli. Christian just kept taking what (defense) gave him, they kept putting one guy on Eli, and Eli made them pay.”
Trailing 7-6 in the second quarter, Conkling and Pancol began collecting.
Conkling found Pancol on touchdown plays of 15 and eight yards to send the Arabians into the locker room at halftime with a 20-7 lead.
The Cougars bounced back, scoring first in the second half on a 21-yard touchdown pass from Andrew Leslie to Orlando Mojica to cut the lead to 20-14.
But the theme for the second half would be answers, and Pancol had the perfect response.
He hauled in a pass from Conkling that turned into a career-long 88-yard touchdown pass, stretching the Arabian lead to 27-14.
Richman said the Arabians not only answered the Cougars repeatedly, but also tackled adversity due to several injuries to regular players.
“I thought it was a big step for our program because we’re kind of beat up,” he said. “We were without about four or five starters, but we were able to beat a talented team without those guys. We pulled together as a team and got it done. It was fun to watch.”
Braden Brown scored on a 17-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter for the Cougars to, once again, cut the lead to one score at 27-21.
But Conkling turned back to Pancol to keep the Cougars at bay. This time, a 15-yard scoring strike gave the Arabians a 34-21 lead.
Conkling finished the game an efficient 15-20 for 233 yards and the four touchdowns. Most importantly, no turnovers for the Pendleton Heights offense. Having a weapon like Pancol to throw to has improved Conkling’s confidence.
“Christian threw into double-coverage a couple times, which I was on him about,” Richman said. “But Eli went up and got the ball. When you’ve got a guy like that, it opens things up for the other guys and he’s a real equalizer.”
The Cougars scored a final touchdown with just over three minutes left, but the Arabians were able to run out the clock and clinch the win.
Pendleton Heights will now focus on New Palestine, also 4-0 and the next opponent for the Arabians this Friday. Richman says time will tell if his injured players will be ready to go against the Dragons.
“They’ve only given up 18 points in four games, so their defense is top notch,” Richman said. “I think that’s the strength of their team. We just need to quiet the noise, stay to ourselves, and focus on getting better each day. I want to go down there and compete. None of the injuries are season ending, it’s day to day.”
Kickoff at New Palestine is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Friday night.