NAPPANEE — Away from his team, minutes after a 35-21 win over Jimtown, NorthWood coach Nate Andrews kept muttering the same four words.
“We got the bag,” Andrews said.
The bag is the Dr. Robert Abel Traveling Trophy, which has been awarded to the winner of the football game between the Jimmies and Panthers since 2017.
NorthWood has never lost possession of the bag, as the fifth-ranked (Class 4A) Panthers extended their win streak to seven games over Jimtown. Andrews improved to 6-0 over Jimtown.
“We get to keep the bag,” Andrews said. “I’m really proud of my team. We were sloppy a lot, but it’s the first game and week one. You’re going to have that. There’s a lot of things we’ve got to clean up. “
NorthWood didn’t seem to miss William & Mary recruit Bronson Yoder, who rushed for over 2,300 yards last year.
The Panthers totaled 275 yards on the ground against the Jimmies. Quarterback Nate Newcomer rushed for 120 yards on 20 carries, while Jaden Miller added 85 yards rushing on 13 carries.
Newcomer also completed 6-of-11 passes for 67 yards. His 17-yard touchdown pass to Joe Newcomer tied the game at 7 with 7:40 left in the first quarter.
On the ensuing kickoff, NorthWood's Noah Blosser recovered a Jimtown fumble at the Jimmies' 23-yard line. The Panthers took advantage of the mistake and scored, as Nate Newcomer's two-yard touchdown run gave NorthWood a 14-7 lead with 4:43 left in the first quarter.
Jimtown's offense then took its turn in an entertaining first quarter. Cole Thompson's 33-yard kickoff return gave the Jimmies the ball at their own 43-yard line. Eight plays later, Jimtown tied the game at 14 after getting a one-yard scoring run from quarterback Clay Campbell.
NorthWood's defense then got stingy, while the Panthers on offense continued to roll. NorthWood took a 28-14 lead in the second quarter after getting scoring runs of 10 and eight yards from Miller.
"Those are going to be the usual suspects," said about Miller and Nate Newcomer's play. "Jimtown played really, really tough."
The turning point of the game came in the second quarter with the game tied at 14. After a NorthWood punt and a 15-yard punt return from Nick Snyder, the Jimmies had the ball at the Panthers’ 35-yard line. But Jimtown came away with no points, as Isaac Daniels missed a 42-yard field goal with 5:45 left in the second quarter.
“The referee made the wrong call,” said Jimtown coach Mike Campbell. “He apologized later for it. We actually had the catch and a second foot down and we would have had a first down (inside the 20-yard line). It was a drive killer.
“But the bottom-line tonight is that (NorthWood) was little more physical than us and were the better team tonight. We can't worry about calls and things like that because you're going to get those things."
Andrews' defense forced two incompletions and five yards rushing on the drive Daniels missed a field goal.
"It was a great defensive stand," Andrews said. "I'm really proud of those guys. We could have let them score and we didn't. We remained tough. We then went down the field and scored ourselves, so that was a big 14-point swing."
Trailing 28-14, Jimtown gambled to start the second half and attempted an onside kick. NorthWood's Joas Miller recovered the ball and set up the Panthers in great shape at their own 44-yard line.
An eight-play scoring drive followed for NorthWood, capped by a five-yard touchdown run by Ben Mestach with 8:30 left in the third quarter.
Campbell explained why he attempted the onside kick.
"We wanted to try to change the momentum a little bit because we weren't really stopping them a whole lot," the Jimtown coach said. "As a coaching staff we thought we should go for it and we almost got it."
Jimtown got off to a great start and led 7-0 after the opening drive of the game. Clay Campbell's 64-yard touchdown pass to Johntu Reed gave the Jimmies the early lead. Reed beat his defender and caught the ball at the 15 and eventually scored.
Clay Campbell completed 10-of-20 passes for 161 yards, while Thompson rushed for 72 yards on 10 carries.
"We battled until the end," Mike Campbell said. "We've just got to continue to get better. We're all disappointed about tonight, but we'll come together and keep battling."
NORTHWOOD 35, JIMTOWN 21
Scoring By Quarters
J — Johntu Reed 64 pass from Clay Campbell; Isaac Daniels kick; 10:49.
N — Joe Newcomer 17 pass from Nate Newcomer; Jerson Sanchez kick; 7:40.
N — Nate Newcomer 2 run; Jerson Sanchez kick; 4:43.
J — Campbell 1 run; Daniels kick; 1:14.
N — Jaden Miller 10 run; Sanchez kick; 3:07.
N — Miller 8 run; Sanchez kick; 1:19.
N — Ben Mestach 5 run; Sanchez kick; 8:30.
J — Dustin Whitman 13 pass from Campbell; Daniels kick; :10
Jimtown: Rushing — Cole Thompson 10-72, Campbell 13-30, Oscar Zelaya 1-21. Passing — Campbell 10-20-161. Receiving — Johntu Reed 5-98, Dustin Whitman 3-45. Fumble recoveries — Tony Pletcher.
NorthWood: Rushing — Nate Newcomer 20-120, Jaden Miller 13-85, Veshon Malone 7-42, Ben Mestach 2-33. Passing — Newcomer 6-11-67. Receiving — Mestach 3-29, Malone 1-10. Fumble recoveries — Noah Blosser. Sacks — Jake Lone 2, Jason Borkholder.