NorthWood football heading to state

Elkhart Truth photo/Sam HouseholderNorthWood players, from left, Micah Lehman (71), Will Ingle (47) and Andrew Miller celebrate after stopping Lowell on fourth down during the 4A northern semistate game Friday, Nov. 18, 2016, at Lowell. 

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.

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