CMA holds off Panthers, 27-20

CULVER — Culver Military Academy’s fourth-quarter defensive stands left football head coach Andy Dorrel sounding like a philosopher Friday night — in a good way.
Stuck in a hole by a pair of fourth-quarter offensive turnovers, the Eagles’ defensive unit responded each time with a takeaway of its own — a fumble recovery by linebacker Mixon Holmes and game-icing interception by senior cornerback Joel Tinney — to hold on for a 27-20 win over visiting rival NorthWood at Oliver Field.
“It’s hard to measure a young man’s character and will to win until he’s facing adversity on the field,” Dorrel said. “Last week our team showed its will to win with a goal-line stand at Tippecanoe Valley. Tonight we showed it with two goal-line stands in the fourth quarter. I’m fortunate to feel I can coach young men with such a will to win.”
And the Eagles’ defense needed every ounce of that will. Ahead 27-20 and driving midway through the fourth frame, CMA’s second fumble and third turnover of the game gave the Panthers new life.
Behind its balanced rushing attack, NorthWood drove to the CMA 35. On the ninth play of the drive, NorthWood quarterback Will Kirkwood dropped back to pass, but CMA’s Leo Sete knocked the pigskin loose and Holmes scooped it up, seemingly sewing up the victory.
“Our offense made it really tough on our defense,” Dorrel said. “Our defense rallied; we made big plays and NorthWood made big plays. Fortunately we made one or two more plays than (NorthWood) did.”
However, NorthWood’s Tanner White covered up a loose ball two plays later at his own 43. After CMA yielded a pair of passing first downs, Pierre Byrne, who prevented a Panthers touchdown at the end of the first half with a break-up in the end zone, tipped away a toss with big yardage written on it.
“It was a total team effort,” Dorrel said. “Pierre Byrne just made some gritty plays at the corner position. Frank Slykas, David Dilts, and Bravid Duke, a sophomore, made some huge plays.
“It’s hard on a coach in a game like this with so many emotional swings,” he added. “I’m fortunate to have defensive coaches Kevin Danti, Andy Strati, and John Rogers. I give them a lot of credit for putting together a defensive game plan that held NorthWood to 20 points.”
Three plays after Bryne slowed the Panthers, Tinney delivered the final big play of his consequential night.
In addition to his fourth-down interception on his own 22 with just more than a minute to play, Tinney also scored the go-ahead touchdown — the game’s final tally — on a 35-yard jaunt with 1:11 left in the third frame, and outran coverage for a 37-yard scoring strike from quarterback Hayes Barnes to put the Eagles up 13-6 with 3:50 left in the first stanza. Tinney finished with 69 yards rushing and 40 yards receiving.
“Joel Tinney is a very talented athlete,” Dorrel said. “He scored two touchdowns and should have had another, and had an interception to seal the game. Those are big-time plays.”
Also for the Eagles, senior Beau Ecksten started off the game with an impressive 85-yard kickoff return for a touchdown, and Barnes churned out a 36-yard tackle-shedding score to put CMA up 20-6 with 8:56 left in the first half.
Freshman Tanner Cleveland paced the Panthers with 68 yards on 13 carries, highlighted by a 7-yard carry to knot the game at 20-all with 4:27 left in the third frame.
Also for NorthWood, Luke Edwards tied the score with a first-quarter 8-yard run, and Blake Cleveland scored from 20 yards out with 2:28 to go in the first half.
The Eagles travel to Heritage Christian next Friday, while NorthWood hosts Concord in its Northern Lakes Conference opener.
At Culver
Score by quarters
NorthWood: 6 7 7 0 — 20
CMA: 13 7 7 0 — 27
Scoring summary
First quarter
C — Beau Ecksten 85 run (kick failed), 11:47.
N — Luke Edwards 8 run (kick failed), 6:55.
C — Joel Tinney 37 pass from Hayes Barnes (Ryan Graf kick), 3:50.
Second quarter
C — Barnes 36 run (Graf kick), 8:56.
N — Blake Cleveland 20 run (Brendan Widner kick), 2:28.
Third quarter
N — Tanner Cleveland 7 run (Widner kick), 4:27.
C — Tinney 35 run (Graf kick), 1:11.
NorthWood stats
Rushing: 45 carries for 188 yards (T. Cleveland 13-68, B. Cleveland 11-50, Will Kirkwood 8-28, Luke Edwards 6-25, Dominic Miranda 6-23, Gino Chumas 1(minus)6).
Passing: Kirkwood 8-20-1, 73 yards
Receiving: Trent Sauceda 2-15, Travis Bear 1-14, Tyler Minnich 1-11, Dylan Risser 1-10, Dustin Yoder 1-10, Chumas 1-9, B. Cleveland 1-4).
Leading tackler: Risser 4
First downs: 22
Fumbles-lost: 2-2
Penalites: 4-22
Punts: 2-28
CMA stats
Rushing: 33 carries for 164 yards (Tinney 7-69, Barnes 17-55, Aramonti Phillips 5-29, Pierre Byrne 2-6, Ecksten 2-5).
Passing: Barnes 5-10-1, 57 yards
Receiving: Tinney 2-40, Byrne 2-8, Ecksten 9
Leading tackler: Frank Slykas 12
First downs: 14
Fumbles-lost: 8-3
Penalites: 7-68
Punts: 3-23.7
Records: NorthWood 0-2, CMA 2-0.