Panthers blanked by Jimtown in opener

By Steve Sittler
JIMTOWN — The total yardage wasn’t all that different, but a pair of costly turnovers and two rare touchdown passes from Jimtown quarterback Brody Olson to tight end Carter Gill proved to be the difference as the Class 3A #4-ranked Jimmies defeated the NorthWood Panthers 27-0 in the season opener for both teams.
On a beautiful cool night at Knepp Field, the Jimmies took advantage of a Panther turnover on the first series and used the sturdy legs of senior running backs Devan Emerson and Tanner Adams, plus a 15-yard late hit penalty on NorthWood, to march 51 yards to pay dirt. Emerson took the pigskin the final 11 yards and the PAT kick by junior Trey Zufan made it 7-0 Jimmies less than three minutes into the game.
NorthWood made a valiant attempt to answer, as junior quarterback Will Kirkwood quickly marched his team to the Jimtown 24-yard line, but the drive was stalled by a penalty and Brendan Widner’s 41-yard field goal attempt was wide left. As the second quarter began, the Panther defense appeared to have stopped a Jimmie drive near midfield but on third and long, Olson found Gill wide open behind a broken coverage and the lanky senior raced 47 yards for the score to give the Jimmies a 14-0 advantage.
On the next series, the turnover bug bit NorthWood again as Kirkwood was intercepted by Jimmie sophomore defensive back Marquis Schieber, who returned the pick 39 yards to the NorthWood seven-yard line. Three plays later, Adams bulled in from the one and the Jimmies led 20-0 at the 8:18 mark of the second period after Zufan’s PAT was no good.
The second half proved to be a defensive struggle, as NorthWood forced Jimtown punts on their first two series while the Jimmies stopped the Panthers on downs twice deep in their own territory, once on a botched shotgun snap and the other on a sack by the relentless Adams. Finally, with 10 minutes remaining in the game, the Jimmies took over on their own 42-yard line and drove 58 yards in eight plays, most of it on the legs of Emerson and Olson. The Black Crunch defense valiantly stuffed Jimtown inside the five-yard line, but on fourth and goal, Olson executed a masterful play fake and found Gill wide open in the corner of the end zone to make it 27-0 Jimmies with six minutes left to play.
To their credit, the Panthers continued to battle as Kirkwood completed passes to Gino Chumas, Tyler Minnich, and Dustin Yoder, while brothers Blake and Tanner Cleveland each had big runs, moving the Panthers deep into Jimtown territory once again. Unfortunately, the drive ended at the Jimmie eight-yard line on another bad fourth-down snap and Jimtown ran out the clock to seal the win.
It stayed that way for most of the rest of the game, with the two defenses rising up to make one stop after another. Jimtown ended one Panther drive with a sack by Eric Forrest and the Panthers killed a Jimmie rally with another sack by Carden at the NorthWood 15-yard line. Finally, with just 2:24 remaining, NorthWood took over at their own 29-yard line. Nine then calmly marched his charges to the Jimtown 17-yard line on nine straight passes, completing five of them including two huge fourth-down grabs by Derek Yoder, one good for 32 yards and the other for 20 yards. Onto the field trotted sophomore kicker Connor Beckwith, who conjured up visions of Panther greats Ryan Burkhart and Brandon Williams by drilling a 34-yard field goal through the uprights with just 3.9 seconds remaining to tie the score at 10 all and send the game to overtime.
The Jimmies got the ball first in the extra period, in which each team gets the ball on the 10-yard line with four chances to score. The Panther defense stuffed Pollard and Lertola on three straight plays, forcing the Jimmies to attempt a field goal which Zufan nailed to give his team a 13-10 lead. NorthWood then took their turn and on the second play, Miranda lunged down to the one-yard line, leaving his team just 36 inches from victory. Jimtown then showed some defensive mettle of their own, stuffing Nine on a quarterback sneak to make it fourth and a yard. Unfortunately for the home squad, another very costly mistake then occurred as the Panthers, going for the win, tried to get a last-second play change in, and inadvertently ended up with 12 men in the huddle. The five-yard penalty pushed the ball back to the six-yard line and Hoover wisely chose to go for a field goal to send the game to another OT, but a poor snap and a wobbly hold caused Beckwith to push his kick wide right and set off a Jimmie celebration.
The Panthers finished with 92 yards on the ground, led by 40 yards from Blake Cleveland and 22 on just three carries from his younger brother Tanner. Kirkwood finished 14 of 26 passing for 115 yards and two interceptions, while Minnich and Yoder each made four catches for the Panthers.
For Jimtown, Emerson topped the century mark, rushing for 118 yards and a score while Adams added 65 yards and a TD. Olson attempted just three passes, but completed two of them for a total of 50 yards, both touchdowns to Gill.
• JIMTOWN 27, NW 0
At Knepp Field, Jimtown
Jimtown 7 13 0 7 – 27
NorthWood 0 0 0 0 – 0
J – Devan Emerson 11 run (Trey Zufan kick)
J – Carter Gill 47 pass from Brody Olson (Zufan kick)
J – Tanner Adams 1 run (kick failed)
J – Gill 3 pass from Olson (Zufan kick)
NorthWood Jimtown
Yards Rushing 92 252
Yards Passing 115 50
Passing (Comp/Att/Int) 14-26-2 2-3-0
Penalties (No./Yds.) 4-30 5-50
Fumbles (No./Lost) 3-0 1-0
Leading rushers – NorthWood (Blake Cleveland 12-40; Tanner Cleveland 3-22); Jimtown (Emerson 14-118, TD; Tanner Adams 13-65, TD)
Passing – NorthWood (Kirkwood 14-26-2, 115 yds); Jimtown (Olson 2-3-0, 50 yds., 2 TD)
Leading receivers – NorthWood (Tyler Minnich 4-29; Dustin Yoder 4-28; Dylan Risser 2-22); Jimtown (Gill 2-50, 2 TD).