NAPPANEE — You don't want to face NorthWood's football team in the first round of the sectionals.
Under coach Nate Andrews the Panthers are now 6-0 to start the playoffs after rolling to a 49-3 win over Wawasee in Class 4A action on Friday at Andrews Field.
NorthWood also hasn't been tested in those six wins, as the Panthers have outscored their opponents, 285-60.
Next up for NorthWood (7-3) is a Class 4A sectional semifinal game at No. 10-ranked Leo (9-1) next Friday at 7 p.m. The Lions escaped with a 21-16 win over Angola on Friday.
What is the secret to the Panthers' success in the first round playoffs?
"I'd like to say it's a focus and a mentality that the second season is beginning," said Andrews. "I think having that mindset is really important to us."
NorthWood scored on seven of its nine possessions, with the running game igniting the offense. The Panthers rushed for 337 yards, including 256 in the first half.
Leading the way on the ground for NorthWood was quarterback Nate Newcomer, who rushed for 187 yards on 10 carries and scored two touchdowns in three quarters of action.
Newcomer's 30-yard scoring run with 9:16 left in the first quarter started the Panthers' scoring. His 80-yard touchdown run gave NorthWood a 28-0 lead with 3:37 left in the second quarter. Newcomer, who didn't play in NorthWood's 40-10 win over Wawasee during the regular season, has now rushed for 1,169 yards on the season.
Jaden Miller added 64 yards rushing on nine carries and Ben Mestach contributed 57 yards on the ground on four attempts and scored twice. Mestach capped NorthWood's second drive with a 35-yard scoring run and the Panthers took a 21-0 lead after Mestach scored from three yards with 6:51 left in the second quarter.
"They're seniors and this is the tournament," Andrews said about Miller and Mestach. "Along with running hard tonight, those guys also inspired people all week. They're something a little bit different about them right now. You hope to get that when it starts to smell this way and look this way (during the playoffs)."
NorthWood was just as impressive on the defensive side of the ball, as the Panthers allowed only 123 yards and seven first downs.
Wawasee, which ended its season with a 2-8 record, got its only scoring off the leg of kicker Evan Dippon. Dippon kicked a 34-yard field goal as time expired in the second quarter.
It's the sixth straight win by the Panthers over the Warriors. NorthWood has outscored Wawasee, 298-87, during that stretch.
"We have to get more players out," said first-year Wawasee coach Jon Reutebuch on what its going to take for his program to close the gap with the Panthers. "We have to get guys acclimated to what it's going to take to be successful. That means having discipline, working hard, getting in the weight room and getting stronger, faster and bigger. We've got a long ways to go. We've made some strides this season, but it's not going to be built in a day. It's going to take some time. This is not the way we wanted to finish the season.
"NorthWood's a good team. I'm not taking anything away from them. They were coming off a big win over (Northern Lakes Conference leader) Plymouth. We knew had the cards stacked against us tonight. We made a lot of errors tonight and you can't do that against a good team like NorthWood."
Andrews was irritated by the errors his team made in the first half. The Panthers had seven penalties for 45 yards over the first 24 minutes and had two bad snaps, with one taking placing during a punt attempt.
"We certainly didn't play with tremendous discipline," Andrews said. "Those penalties are showing up way too often. Sometimes, that's reflective of not being disciplined. We've got to get better and clean those things up. I think it's attention to detail."
NorthWood had no penalties in the second half against Wawasee.
"I didn't know that we didn't have any (penalties) in the second half," Andrews said. "Obviously, that was a point of emphasis (at halftime)."
For the Panthers in the second half, Newcomer tossed a 49-yard touchdown pass to a wide-open Jason Borkholder and Veshon Malone and Kyle Sellers each had one-yard scoring runs. Malone's touchdown gave NorthWood a 42-3 lead and started a mercy-rule running clock with 4:42 left in the third quarter. This is the first year for a running clock for high school football in Indiana.
"We've been involved with it three times," Andrews said. "We were on the good end twice and the negative end once. All three times were positives in our experiences."
NORTHWOOD 49, WAWASEE 3
Scoring By Quarters
N — Nate Newcomer 30 run; Jerson Sanchez kick; 9:16
N — Ben Mestach 35 run; Sanchez kick; 3:31
N — Mestach 3 run; Sanchez kick; 6:51
N — Newcomer 80 run; Sanchez kick; 3:37
W — Evan Dippon 34 field goal; :00
N — Jason Borkholder 49 pass from Newcomer; Sanchez kick; 9:14
N — Veshon Malone 1 run; Sanchez kick; 4:42
N — Kyle Sellers 1 run; Sanchez kick; 10:20
Wawasee: Rushing — Jesse Landeros 4-16, Parker Young 10-7. Passing — Young 8-21-62, Jordan Grindle 1-1-31, Jacob Meek 0-1. Receiving — Kameron Salazar 4-24, Gabe Moore 2-51, LaShaun Morris 1-11. Sacks — Nathan Larson.
NorthWood: Rushing — Nate Newcomer 10-187, Jaden Miller 9-64, Ben Mestach 4-57. Passing — Newcomer 6-8-101. Receiving — Jason Borkholder 2-65, Mestach 2-16, Miller 1-13. Sacks — Borkholder 2, Joas Miller, Mestach.