DUNLAP — Concord football coach Craig Koehler and NorthWood's Nate Andrews shared the same sentiment after Concord's thrilling 24-14 victory over the Panthers on Friday night.
It was just a great high football game.
Concord, ranked No. 5 in Class 5A, scored twice in the final 7:53 to edge No. 9 (4A) NorthWood to improve to 3-0 overall and 2-0 in the Northern Lakes Conference.
"This is the second straight week we struggled to get going ... I mean they dominated the first half,'' Koehler said. "But our kids were resilient and we started to make some plays in the second half and get the win. I'll tell you, NorthWood is a very good football team and they'll win a lot of games this season.''
NorthWood led 7-0 at halftime thanks to a 20 yard touchdown run from senior Jaden Miller on the first play of the second quarter.
Things could have been even better for the Panthers, as they had two touchdowns called back by penalties and also had a pass picked off in the end zone that bounced off two different players before Spencer Arnold came up with the ball on a ricochet.
But Concord took the opening kickoff of the second half and drove 80 yards in five plays, with senior Carter Neveraski bursting through a big hole in the NorthWood line to go 44 yards for the tying touchdown at the 10:44 mark of the third quarter.
The Panthers came right back with an 80-yard drive of their own, with quarterback Nate Newcomer first gaining 49 yards on a running play and then finding Miller for a 30-yard score to put NorthWood up 14-7.
After getting a huge fourth down stop on their own 11, the Panthers drove to midfield, before a fumble on a handoff was recovered by Concord.
On the first play from scrimmage, Cain found a diving Jack D'Arcy for a 30 yard gain to the Panther 18. Two plays later, Roemello Moon scored from three yards out to tie the game going into the fourth quarter.
"We just put the ball on the ground too much tonight,'' Andrews said. "You just can't expect to beat a good team like Concord with the turnovers and penalties we had. I thought we played great defense on 90 percent of the snaps tonight, but those other 10 percent ...''
Concord senior kicker Ariel DeLaPaz, who was nursing a hamstring injury and didn't punt in the game, just missed a 46-yard field goal early in the fourth quarter, before booming a 50-yarder at the 7:33 mark of the final quarter – again after a NorthWood turnover – to give Concord it's first lead.
The Minutemen would score the game-clinching touchdown with just 2:23 left, when Cain threw a perfect pass on a crossing pattern to D'Arcy for a 13-yard touchdown pass.
Unfortunately for Concord, it looked like DeLaPaz reinjured his leg in the ensuing kickoff and had to be helped through the handshake line after the game.
"I just can't say enough about the NorthWood coaching staff and the way they mix things up both offensively and defensively,'' Koehler said. "We wanted the kids to be able to see some of the things they were doing – especially on the front six of their defense – and then get settled in. Thankfully, we were able to do that tonight and still be in the football game at halftime.''
Playing with a wet football all evening thanks to a consistent drizzle, Cain completed 15 of his 29 passes for for 225 yards and the touchdown to D'Arcy.
Incredibly, on a night that NorthWood turned the ball over four times, Concord had just one fumble and recovered that one. The Minutemen's defense has now forced nine turnovers the past two weeks.
"It seemed like everytime Concord needed a big play, they came up with one,'' Andrews said. "They have a lot of weapons and I thought they did a good job of spreading thing around so our defense couldn't key on anyone tonight.''
Newcomer rushed for 154 yards on 23 carries, while completing seven of his 18 passes for another 127 yards. Miller also had a strong game for the Panthers, finishing with 94 yards rushing and 90 receiving.
D'Arcy, just a sophomore and 140 pounds soaking wet, caught five passes for 75 yards to lead the Minutemen.
Concord will travel to Wawasee next Friday for another NLC contest, while NorthWood will try to bounce back from two straight losses when they host Goshen.
It's the Minutemen's 13th win in their last 15 games against NorthWood.
CONCORD 24, NORTHWOOD 14
Scoring By Quarters
NW — Jaden Miller 20 run; Jerson Sanchez kick; 11:46.
C — Carter Neveraski 44 run; Ariel DeLaPaz kick; 10:36
NW — Miller 30 pass from Nate Newcomer; Sanchez kick; 6:26
C — Roemello Moon 3 run; DeLaPaz kick; 2:34.
C — DeLaPaz 50 field goal; 7:33
C — Jack D'Arcy 13 pass from Ethan Cain; DeLaPaz kick; 2:34.
NorthWood: Rushing — Nate Newcomer 23-154, Jaden Miller 14-95, Kyle Sellers 3-47. Passing — Newcomer 7-18-127, 1 int., Sellers 0-1 1 int., Miller 0-1. Receiving — Miller 5-90, Ben Mestach 1-19.
Concord: Rushing — Ethan Cain 9-60, Carter Neveraski 8-53. Passing — Cain 15-29-225. Receiving — Jack D'Arcy 5-75, Neveraski 5-70, Amarion Moore 4-54. Interceptions — Spencer Arnold, Neveraski.