ELKHART — It's just a rumor that NorthWood quarterback Nate Newcomer sold popcorn during halftime of his team's 47-34 victory over Elkhart Memorial on Friday.
But that may be the only thing Newcomer didn't do.
The talented junior rushed for 189 yards on a pair of touchdowns, completed 10 of his 16 passes for 197 yards and two more scores and even threw in a defensive interception for good measure, as the Panthers improved to 5-2 on the year and 4-1 in the Northern Lakes Conference.
"I thought coach (Boonie) Boocher had a good game plan tonight and Nate ran it well,'' Panther head coach Nate Andrews said. "They were putting eight men in the box early, so we threw the ball a little and had some success, which really opened up our running game. I'm very pleased with our offense tonight.''
And well he should be, as NorthWood finished with 590 total yards – including 393 on the ground.
The one thing the Panthers didn't do well on the night was defend the kickoff, as Memorial returned two kicks for touchdowns, the first by Lashawn Whitener (79 yards) in the first quarter and the second by Tyren Mason (99 yards) in the third quarter.
"We knew all about their speed coming in and we really weren't planning to kick the ball deep,'' Andrews said. "But we got a little cocky after we had three or four kicks go into the end zone and you saw what happened. We can't allow that to happen so we'll have to get better in the next few weeks.''
In addition to the two kickoff return scores, the Crimson Chargers finished with 400 yards from scrimmage on the night, with junior running back Derrick Woods Jr. rushing for 145 yards and a pair of scores, while adding three catches for 67 yards.
But it was the defense that may cause a sleepless night for Memorial coach Scot Shaw.
"We just got handled upfront,'' Shaw said. "I'm getting tired of seeing us make the same mistakes every week and too many of them are by guys that have played a lot of football. We'll find out next week where this team wants to go. We've talked about still being able to make a run in the sectional, now it's time to find out how many kids believe.''
The Panthers jumped on the Chargers early, scoring three times in the first quarter, to offset Whitener's kickoff return.
Senior Ben Mestach scored on a 3-yard run to complete a 78-yard, nine-play drive the first time the Panthers had the football. Newcomer completed a 38-yard pass to Jason Borkholder (remember that name) on the game's first play.
After a three-and-out by the Memorial offense, Newcomer drove the Panthers downfield again, this time finding Borkholder for a 25-yard touchdown pass to make it 13-0.
After Whitener's score, Newcomer again found Borkholder for a touchdown, this one coming on a perfectly thrown 50-yard pass and it was 19-7 NorthWood with five minutes still to play in the first quarter.
Newcomer and Jaden Miller would each score on short touchdown runs in the second quarter, while Memorial scored on another big play, this coming from Woods Jr. out of the Wildcat formation, a 68-yard touchdown run.
The Panthers would eventually push their lead to 47-14 in the third quarter on long touchdown runs by Newcomer (55 yards) and Mestach (43), before the Chargers' big-play capabilities rose up again, as Mason caught a kickoff from Jerson Sanchez with his heels nearly in the end zone and returned the kick 99 yards for a touchdown.
Memorial would score twice in the fourth quarter, including an 89-yard touchdown run by Ivan Soen on the game's final play.
Charger quarterback Tyler Lehner was injured in the fourth quarter when he took a helmet to the back and didn't return. Woods ran the offense out of the Wildcat for much of the fourth quarter and also at different times in the game.
And while the Panthers' offense with Newcomer running the football (and Bronson Yoder in 2018) isn't a true Wildcat, Andrews admits there are several components that are alike.
"What they were doing with Woods was just getting an extra blocker out there in front of him, which is something we like to do and it's one of the reasons our quarterbacks have been so successful the last few years,'' Andrews said. "Anytime you can get an extra helmet out there in front of the runner, it's a good thing.''
With the loss, Memorial falls to 1-6 overall and 1-4 in the NLC. They'll travel to Wawasee next Friday, while NorthWood plays a big NLC game at Warsaw.
NORTHWOOD 47, MEMORIAL 34
Scoring By Quarters
NW — Ben Mestach 3 run; run failed; 9:44,
NW — Jason Borkholder 25 pass from Nate Newcomer; Jerson Sanchez kick; 6:16.
M — Lashawn Whitener 79 kickoff return; Christian Santiago kick; 6:03.
NW — Borkholder 50 pass from Newcomer; run failed; 4:58.
NW — Jaden Miller 2 run; Sanchez kick; 9:00.
M — Derrick Woods Jr. 68 run; Santiago kick; 8:27.
NW — Newcomer 5 run; Sanchez kick; 5:52.
NW — Newcomer 55 run; Sanchez kick; 9:20.
NW — Ben Mestach 43 run; Sanchez kick; 4:06.
M — Tyren Mason 99 kickoff return; Santiago kick; 3:50.
M — Woods Jr. 1 run; Santiago kick; 11:21.
M — Ivan Soen 86 run; no kick; 0:00
NorthWood: Rushing — Nate Newcomer 17-190, Ben Mestach 8-91, Jaden Miller 17-66. Passing — Newcomer 10-16-197. Receiving — Jason Borkholder 3-113, Kyle Sellers 1-52, Jaden Miller 4-31. Interceptions — Newcomer, Sellers.
Memorial: Rushing — Derrick Woods Jr. 16-145, Ivan Soen 4-91, Tyler Lehner 7-33. Passing — Tyler Lehner 11-19-134, 1 int; D'Arjon Lewis 1-3-4, 1 int. Receiving — Woods Jr. 3-67, Donye Higgins 3-12, Damien Funnell 2-16.