LOWELL — “It’s the greatest feeling in the world. I don’t know how to describe it other than that,’’ NorthWood quarterback Trey Bilinski proclaimed after he and the Panthers escaped the windy Inferno with a chilling 21-14 victory over Lowell in Friday’s rugged semistate football championship.
Bilinski scored the go-ahead touchdown with 1:53 remaining as NorthWood advanced to a No. 1 vs. No. 2 state-title showdown of 14-0 teams next Friday against top-ranked Indianapolis Roncalli at Lucas Oil Stadium. Kickoff for the Class 4A final is at 3:30 p.m.
The Panthers trailed the Red Devils 14-13 with 5:07 left as they took possession on their own 41.
On a fourth-and-8 at the Lowell 23, Bilinski hit Bronson Yoder in stride in the left flat for a 22-yard pickup to the Lowell 1, then tallied on the next play. The senior then completed a two-point conversion pass to Yoder, who was just getting started.
The sophomore then intercepted a deflected pass at the Panther 28 with 31 seconds to go as NorthWood clinched the victory.
Coach Nate Andrews’ Panthers set a school record for wins and earned their first trip to the finals since 2005, the year they won their lone title, that in 3A.
Surging Lowell saw its 7-game winning streak snapped to finish 8-5
Durable workhorse running back Trevor Espravnik carried 43 times for 188 yards and put the hosts up 14-7 with a 1-yard TD run early in the fourth quarter.
NorthWood answered with a 70-yard drive capped by a Bilinski to DeAndre Smart 9-yard touchdown pass late in the third quarter. But the extra point was wide after the Panthers were penalized for a sideline violation, moving the ball back, and leading to the ultimately frenzied finish.