DUNLAP — A strong second half helped Concord beat NorthWood in a clash of state-ranked Northern Lakes Conference football teams.
The Class 5A No. 5-ranked Minutemen (3-0, 2-0) trailed 7-0 at halftime on the way to besting the 4A No. 9 Panthers (1-2, 0-1) by a 24-14 score Friday, Sept. 6 at rainy Jake Field.
The contest featured five takeaways by the Concord defense — three fumble recoveries (Carter Neveraski, Jen’Dariun Greer and Grayson Mast) and two interceptions (Neveraski and Spencer Arnold) — and 97 penalty yards (47 against NorthWood).
The Minutemen beat the Panthers for the 11th straight time at home.
The last time NorthWood won in Dunlap was in 1997.
“The positive thing of the whole deal is that in back-to-back weeks we certainly didn’t start the game the way we wanted to start the game,” said Concord coach Craig Koehler. “Obviously, we have some resolve.
“(NorthWood) dominated the first half in the flow and intensity of the game. We made the plays down in the red zone to keep us in it.”
Ethan Cain’s 12-yard touchdown pass on a slant route and a extra point kick by Ariel De La Paz allowed Concord to lead 24-14 with 2:23 to go.
The scoring drive took seven plays following a NorthWood punt featured a 28-yard pass by Cain to Neveraski and 20-yard run by Roemello Moon.
Concord recovered a NorthWood fumble on fourth down and five plays later, De La Paz thumped a 50-yard field goal from the left hash. The left-footers’ kick put the Minutemen up 17-14 with 7:53 left in the game.
The game was tied 14-14 heading to the fourth quarter. On the second play of the fourth period, De La Paz missed a 46-yard field goal attempt wide to the left.
After Concord players pounced on a NorthWood loose ball at the Panther 45, the Minutemen took three plays to forge a 14-all tie on a 3-yard run by Moon and kick by De La Paz at 2:34 of the third period. The quick march featured a 27-yard diving catch from Cain by slot receiver Jack D’Arcy and 15-yard run by Neveraski.
Concord took the ball deep into NorthWood territory when the Black Crunch defense stopped the Minutemen on fourth down-and-1 at the Panther 13 and took over on downs with 5:05 remaining in the third period.
With its first possession of the second half, NorthWood went on a seven-play, 89-yard TD drive. A 30-yard pass from Nate Newcomer to Jaden Miller and kick by Jerson Sanchez put the Panthers ahead 14-7 with 8:23 left in the third quarter. The second play of the drive was a 50-yard run by Kyle Sellers.
Five plays after the kickoff to open the second half, Neveraski dashed 44 yards for a TD and De La Paz booted the conversion as Concord pulled even at 7-7 at the 10:36 mark of the third quarter.
The drive featured a 24-yard pass completion from Cain to D’Arcy and 13-yard aerial to Jake Eakins.
NorthWood took its 7-0 lead on the third offensive possession of the night as Miller ran 20 yards for a touchdown and Sanchez tacked on the extra point to make it 7-0 with 11:46 left in the second quarter.
The 89-yard scoring drive took 10 plays and featured a 16-yard run by Ben Mestach on third down and a 33-yard scamper by Miller on second down.
NorthWood had two more TDs taken off the board in the first half.
Arnold intercepted a Newcomer pass in the end zone four minutes into the second period.
An ineligible receiver-downfield penalty against the Panthers nullified what would have been a 14-yard TD pass from Newcomer to Sellers.
Concord had the ball five times in the first half with all the drives ending on punts.
Besides TD drive, the Panthers had the ball on five other occasions in the first two quarters. NorthWood punted twice, had a Newcomer pass picked off at the Minutemen 5 by Neveraski and then lost a fumble as the first half ended.
“I felt like we were pretty physical and ran the ball pretty well,” said Panthers coach Nate Andrews. “We played great defense for 90 percent of the snaps. It’s just the big plays hurt us and the second chances. What an incredible high school football game.”
Cain completed 14-of-28 passes for 235 yards and one touchdown. D’Arcy caught five passes for 96 yards and Neveraski gathered in five for 73.
Neveraski also ran 10 times for 45 yards.
Newcomer (109 yards), Miller (99), Sellers (54) and Mestach (23) led a NorthWood rushing attack that gained 285 yards.