By DANIEL RIORDAN
THE GOSHEN NEWS
At 2-3 in the NLC, NorthWood had the chance to play spoiler against host Warsaw Friday night. Instead, three turnovers that led to 21 Tiger points left the Panthers feeling sour in a 28-7 defeat.
Warsaw scored 14 points off two turnovers in the first quarter and then went on a back-breaking, 19-play, 96-yard drive in the second quarter that culminated with an Austin Head touchdown pass to Seth Fouts from 6 yards out with just 1:33 left in the half.
Fouts was a thorn in the side of NorthWood earlier in the game when his pick ended a NorthWood drive late in the first quarter.
Warsaw then ran the ball six straight times with bruising running back Tristan McClone capping the drive on a 4-yard scamper.
McClone rushed 29 times for 201 yards and two touchdowns before calling it an evening after the third quarter.
HIs first score of the game came with 3:50 left in the opening quarter, once again from 4 yards out.
NorthWood head coach Scott Hoover said McClone was tough to handle but his defense didn’t do a good enough job of wrapping McClone up.
“They’re still not doing the things they’re coached,” said Hoover of his squad.
The Panthers looked to crawl back into the contest when they opened the second half with an 8-play, 80-yard drive that ended with a Will Kirkwood touchdown pass to Travis Bear from 20 yards out. The drive was also aided by a Warsaw pass interference call that kept the drive alive.
After Warsaw’s ensuing drive stalled when a Caleb Klusman 45-yard field goal try was blocked, NorthWood appeared to be back in business. But the turnover bug jumped back up and bit the Panthers once again.
Warsaw’s Brett Fancil picked off another Kirkwood pass at NorthWood’s 25. The Tigers just needed one play to make the Panthers pay as Head found Tanner Balazs on a gorgeous fade route that Balazs took to paydirt. A Klusman point after try pushed the score to it’s final of 28-7. Klusman was four of four on PATs.
NorthWood had three more possessions after that but never threatened. Kirkwood threw another pick to finish with three on the night. But the senior signal caller also threw for 138 yards on 10 of 18 passing and rushed for 58 yards, keeping plays alive that should have gone for a loss or no gain.
Hoover was also impressed by the play of Luke Edwards on both sides of the ball.
“He’s a kid who plays for the right reasons,” said Hoover of the running back/defensive back.
But there were few things for Hoover and his staff to be happy with after the game. NorthWood fell to 4-4 on the season and 2-4 in the NLC. Warsaw upped its record to 6-2 and 5-1 in the NLC.
Warsaw travels to Dunlap Friday night to take on Concord with a chance to win a conference trophy. NorthWood hosts Plymouth to try and close out the regular season with a winning record.
And that was the challenge Hoover threw at his team after the game.
“What type of team do we want to be?” asked Hoover. “What type of season do you want to have. How do you want to finish?”
Kickoff Friday night in Nappanee is set for 7:30 p.m.