NAPPANEE — Class 4A No. 2-ranked NorthWood found a different way to win a football game Friday against Northridge.
With their potent offense stymied, the host Panthers turned to their defense and running game to help upend the Raiders in Northern Lakes Conference play.
The Panthers (6-0, 4-0) held the Raiders to 137 total yards and nine first downs. Northridge's deepest penetration was to NorthWood's 29 in the second quarter. A fumble recovery by the Panthers' Dylan Brugh stopped that drive.
NorthWood, which went in averaging almost 48 points a game and allowing 22, rushed for 170 yards, with 127 of those yards coming in the second half. Bronson Yoder led the Panthers on the ground with 84 yards on15 attempts.
"We told our kids (after the game) that it's a character builder," said NorthWood football coach Nate Andrews. "We know that we're starting to get everybody's best shot. We didn't make a lot of the plays that we've made all year. I've been telling our kids that sometimes that's going to happen and to be ready for it.
"We were ready for a tough game. You've got to give Northridge a lot of credit."
Yoder's 63 yards rushing on NorthWood's first drive in the second half set up the Panthers' second touchdown, which was a 24-yard hook-up between quarterback Trey Bilinski and wide receiver DeAndre Smart. A little luck was involved as Northridge's Julius Graber tipped the ball into the hands of Smart in the end zone.
NorthWood ran the ball 26 times in the second half and threw only seven.
"We just wanted to win a game that way," Andrews said. "We might get only 1, 2 or 3 yards at a time. They hit us in the backfield a few times and that had not happened to us all year long."
A strong NorthWood ground game compensated for a sluggish passing attack. Bilinski completed just 7-of-19 passes for 86 yards.
A defensive change during the week paid off for the Raiders.
"We totally switched up our defense," said Northrdige coach Tom Wogomon, whose team dropped to 1-5 and 1-3. "We've played 4-3 defense ever since I was at East Noble. This was the first time we came out and played a "3" front. We did it because NorthWood gives you so many looks and so many adjustments. We said make it really simple and lets make it a numbers counting game and match up to your side. For us to make a wholesale switch like that is a testimony to these kids."
NorthWood's first touchdown, which came in the second quarter, was set up by a Drew Minnich interception. The hosts got the ball at Northridge 28 and three plays later, Landen Gessinger took a screen pass from Bilinski and scampered 10 yards for a score.
"I don't believe in moral victories," Wogomon said. "This hurts. But I definitely feel that this game is something that we can feed off of."
A standout for Northridge was punter Camm Nickell, who punted six times for a 42-yard average. His last punt went 60.
NORTHWOOD 14, NORTHRIDGE 0
Scoring By Quarters
NW — Landen Gessinger 10 pass from Trey Bilinski; run failed; 9:42.
NW — DeAndre Smart 24 pass from Bilinski; Bronson Yoder run; 2:36.
Northridge: Rushing — Mason Troyer 16-60, Conner Graber 13-50. Passing — Nick Hooley 6-17-41 (1 int.). Receiving — Josh Schlabach 3-9, Kyle Carson 2-22. Interceptions — Schlabach.
NorthWood: Rushing — Bronson Yoder 15-84, Brayton Yoder 8-48. Passing — Trey Bilinski 7-19-86 (1 int.). Receiving — DeAndre Smart 4-49, Bronson Yoder 2-27. Interceptions — Drew Minnich. Fumble recoveries — Dylan Brugh. Sacks — Minnich 2.