NorthWood Panthers win NLC title

The NorthWood Panthers captured their first out-right Northern Lakes Conference title in nearly 20 years on Friday, Oct. 7. Andrews field was lit up and alive as Panther fans crowded the stands, cheering for their team as the No. 2 Panthers defeated the Warsaw Tigers 61-24.

This was the thirteenth time the Black Crunch had shared at least a portion of the NLC title. The most recent was in 2004, when the Panthers shared the title with Concord and Wawasee.

In the second quarter, NorthWood scored 38 unanswered points, including a touchdown and 2-point conversion just before the half, giving them a 54-10 lead at the break.

“The performance this team just put on was stunning,” said assistant coach Dave Wilson said. “The magic is always in the players.”

Magic.

That’s the one word Wilson kept using during the post-game celebrations. Fans rushed the field after the game to congratulate the Panthers. Everyone huddled around the coaching staff on the far east end of the field. Athletic Director Norm Sellers presented the team it’s NLC plaque, but not before head coach Nate Andrews shared his emotions with his team.

“The performance we talked about all week, we saw it in your eyes,” Andrews said.

On the offensive side of the ball, the Panthers rolled right over the Tigers’ defense.

Bronson Yoder and Brayton Yoder scored four touchdowns each for the Panthers–all but one in the first half. Brayton carried the ball 7 times for 103 yards, and Bronson had 10 carries for 48 yards. Under center, Trey Bilinski went 16-for-21 with 262 passing yards and two touchdowns.

Warsaw was coming off a 38-14 over Wawasee in week 7. Senior quarterback Michael Jensen was 15-for-26 with 178 passing yards and three touchdowns. The NorthWood’s defense was able to hold Jensen to 7-for-24 and just 89 passing yards and intercepted the QB twice.

Defensively, the Black Crunch came in a like a wrecking ball. While limiting the Tiger’s run game and intimidating their quarterback, the defensive line was outstanding. Leading the charge was junior Jacob Chupp with four solo tackles and four assisted tackles. Falling in line was senior Dylan Brugh with two solo tackles and five assists along with one sack for a loss of two yards. Sophomore Noah Alexander also finished with two solo tackles and three assists.

Following their NLC victory, the Panthers closed out the regular season with a 43-12 win over Plymouth. After going scoreless in the first quarter, the Panthers managed 16 points before the half. The defense stuffed Plymouth, allowing just six points in the second quarter. That would be the last the Pilgrims saw of the endzone. NorthWood went on to score twelve points in the third and added 15 more in the fourth. Bilinski finished 16-of-22 and 223 passing yards with four TDs.

On the defensive side of the ball, senior Drew Minnich finished with four solo tackles  and nine assists, while Brayton finished the game with five solo tackles and one assist.

In the upcoming sectionals, the Panthers will hit the road to take on Columbia City at 7:30 p.m.

 

Tradition of Excellence

Nappanee, Ind.– At the northern end of the city lies the high school. You can’t miss it. The parking lot is home to one of the town’s two water towers. The entrance driveway bodes an electronic welcome board, flashing the date, time, temperature and any other news the front office at NorthWood High School deems necessary for the community to know on their way in and out of town.

The the soccer field lies to the north side of the building. To the south, the football is nestled against a wooded area with the scoreboard facing the main road on the far east side of the field. Along the backside of the school is a second gym, the baseball and softball fields. And every weekday, August through June, a little more than a thousand students crowd the halls. NorthWood brings together the two communities of Nappanee and Wakarusa. The school prides itself on having a long-standing tradition of excellence: Excellence in the classroom, excellence in the community and excellence in extracurricular activities.

Like any small town in Indiana, NorthWood is the driving force for unifying the community. It’s a gathering place for those with a love of sports, especially on Friday nights, August through October. In Nappanee, people gather at Andrews Field. To the football team, it’s an iconic field. To the student body, it’s a place to have fun and get rowdy cheering on the boys of fall. To the community, it’s a place to set aside difference and show support for the same cause.

The football field at NorthWood has a history of winning–a tradition of excellence. All of this started with Coach James “Jim” Andrews. Andrews was a four-sport athlete at then- Nappanee High School including MVP in football. He graduated in 1965 and attended Manchester College. After graduating from college, Andrews began his coaching career at Pierre Moran in 1969, before moving to NorthWood the following year. When he finally became head football coach in 1972, his team posted a 4-6 record. That was the only losing season Andrews would have for the next 19 years.

Sadly, Andrews’ legacy came to an end on March 8, 1992, when he was killed in a car accident. His coaching career ended with 150 wins to 67 losses. His teams won five Northern Lakes Conference championships, six sectional titles, three regional titles and twice were state runner-ups. Andrews was a 7-time District 2 Coach of the Year and served on the Indiana North All-Stars coaching staff in 1982 and 1987.

Shortly after his death, NorthWood named the field after him. Nappanee Chamber of Commerce honors an annual recipient with the Jim Andrews “Educator of the Year” Award. Bremen High School established the Coach Jim Andrews Memorial Plaque traveling trophy that is given to the winner of the NorthWood-Bremen football game each year. Andrews was survived by his wife, Sheri and three children, Trevor, Nate and Kelli. Now, nearly 24 years after his father’s death, Nate Andrews has returned to NorthWood as the head football coach.

In 2013, Nate was coaching the football team at Western High School in Russiaville, Ind. Following the team’s last loss of the season, he informed the young men that he was leaving and going back home. NorthWood welcomed him with open arms and he is on his way to having the same success as his father. Currently, the 2016 team is undefeated and ranked No. 2 in the Indiana high school sports poll. With an Andrews’ leadership, Andrews Field may very well see two more successful decades. With Nate Andrews coaching on the very field named after his father, NorthWood can continue the tradition of excellence.