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NAPPANEE â€” Tanner Cleveland rushed for a career-high 178 yards and a TD and quarterback Will Kirkwood ran for three scores and passed for another as the NorthWood Panthers hammered the Northridge Raiders 34-14 on a cool and rainy night at Andrews Field.
NorthWoodâ€™s third straight victory evened their season record at 3-3 (3-1 in the Northern Lakes Conference) and extended a series domination of the Raiders that now stands at 34-1 in favor of the Panthers, with the lone Northridge win coming nearly 25 years ago.
The Panthers controlled the game from the start, using a 28-yard, game-opening kickoff return by Dominic Miranda to set up a nine-play, 65-yard drive that culminated in a one-yard run by Kirkwood to put NorthWood up 6-0 after the PAT attempt was partially blocked. The Black Crunch defense forced a quick punt by Northridge, but it got a good roll and died at the NorthWood one-yard line.
Not fazed in the least by being backed up to their own goal, the Panthers promptly marched 99 yards, mostly on the legs of Tanner Cleveland, until Kirkwood raced in from 12 yards out, trampling two Raider defenders at the goal line. Tanner Cleveland raced around left end for the two-point conversion and the Panthers had a 14-0 lead just one minute into the second period.
After finally managing to cross midfield on their next series, Northridge was again forced to punt when Panther middle linebacker Albert Gongwer sacked Raider quarterback Tanner Love on third down. After Tanner Cleveland and brother Blake took turns rushing the ball across midfield, Kirkwood hooked up with senior wide receiver Nick Graber on a 47-yard touchdown pass in which Graber broke several tackles on his way to paydirt. The PAT attempt was again blocked but the Panthers still led 20-0 with three minutes remaining in the half.
The damage was not complete, however, as the Panthers forced yet another Raider punt, taking over on their own 42-yard line with 2:16 remaining in the half. Kirkwood quickly found Blake Cleveland for 17 yards, then Tanner Cleveland ripped off a 30-yard run behind masterful perimeter blocks from Graber and Trent Sauceda. Two plays later, Tanner Cleveland burst into the end zone from five yards out and Brendan Widnerâ€™s PAT made it 27-0 NorthWood at the half.
To their credit, the Raiders came out of the locker room battling, taking the second half kickoff and driving all the way to the NorthWood 36-yard line before new Raider quarterback Payton Carson coughed up the football where it was pounced upon by Panther defensive tackle Tanner White. After the Cleveland brothers moved the ball to the Northridge 18-yard line on four carries, Kirkwood picked up his third rushing TD of the evening, following Blake Cleveland on an option right and breaking two tackles to reach the goal line. Widner nailed the PAT and the Panthers led 34-0 with 7:34 remaining in the third quarter.
At that point, NorthWood head coach Scott Hoover began to substitute freely on both offense and defense, with the result being that the Raiders eventually pushed across two meaningless fourth-quarter scores, both on short rushes by Northridge sophomore Cameron Ridenour, to make the final score look closer than it really was.
NorthWood finished with a whopping 320 yards rushing, thanks to the continued outstanding job of the mighty front line, anchored by standout center Jake Snider, and also including guards Zach BeMiller and Ben Rethlake, tackles Corbin Johnson and Zach Telschow, and tight end Dustin Yoder. Kirkwood only attempted six passes but completed four of them for 97 yards and the score to Graber. The Black Crunch defense was led by six tackles including a sack by Albert Gongwer, while Travis Bear and Merle Mullet added five stops each. Daniel Miller and Tim Coleman also combined for a sack and White added four tackles and a fumble recovery.
Northridge finished with 151 yards on the ground, most of it against the NorthWood reserves, with Ridenourâ€™s 66 yards and two scores leading the way for the Raiders. Travis Schlabach also picked up 64 hard-earned yards on 15 carries. Love was 2 of 5 for 29 yards before leaving with an injury, and Carson completed six of 10 throws for 61 yards in the second half. Safety Craig Kasten led the Raiders with 10 tackles, while Logan Bontrager contributed eight stops.
NorthWood (3-3, 3-1 NLC) remains at home Sept. 28 to battle winless Elkhart Memorial (0-6, 0-4) in the annual Homecoming game. Northridge (1-5, 0-4) travels to Goshen to face the 1-5 Redskins.
â€˘ NORTHWOOD 34, NORTHRIDGE 14
At Andrews Field, Nappanee
Northridge 0 0 0 14 â€“ 14
NorthWood 6 21 7 0 â€“ 34
NW â€“ Will Kirkwood 1 run (kick failed)
NW â€“ Kirkwood 12 run (Tanner Cleveland run)
NW â€“ Nick Graber 47 pass from Kirkwood (kick failed)
NW â€“ Tanner Cleveland 5 run (Brendan Widner kick)
NW â€“ Tanner Cleveland 27 run (Widner kick)
NW â€“ Luke Edwards 6 run (Widner kick)
NR â€“ Cameron Ridenour 6 run (Trevor Ouimet kick)
NR â€“ Ridenour 10 run (Ouimet kick)
Yards Rushing 320 155
Yards Passing 97 90
Passing (Comp/Att/Int) 4-6-0 8-15-0
Penalties (No./Yds.) 5-55 6-55
Punts (No./Avg.) 1-35 3-38
Fumbles (No./Lost) 1-0 2-1
Rushing â€“ NorthWood (Tanner Cleveland 23-178, TD; Blake Cleveland 7-41; Kirkwood 6-32, 3 TD; Edwards 5-35; Swarkcan 3-[-1]; Bunch 1-17; Chumas 2-17; Weldy 1-1; Sellers 1-0); Northridge (Ridenour 18-66, 2TD; Schlabach 15-64; Love 3-; Carson 4-13; Kasten 1-15)
Passing â€“ NorthWood (Kirkwood 4-6, 97 yds.); Northridge ( Love 2-5-0, 29 yds.; Carson 6-10-0, 61 yds.)
Receiving â€“ NorthWood (Graber 2-64, TD; Tanner Cleveland 1-16; Blake Cleveland 1-17); Northridge (Schlabach 4-46; Ridenour 3-35; Kasten 1-9)